What Makes Vinton Cerf And Tim Berners-Lee Different From Al Gore?
wo decades ago, Vinton Cerf was the principal scientist at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (a government R&D lab, known more familiarly as DARPA) when it was assigned to construct an indestructible communications system—one that would survive a limited nuclear war. The result was profound. Indeed, the result was the Internet.
Tim Berners-Lee was a physicist engineer at Switzerland’s CERN laboratory when he wrote a program for what he later described as “a shared workspace” that would operate over Cerf’s Internet. Able to carry graphics, video, and sound, possessed of a simple navigation system, the program was named the World Wide Web.
Bottom line: Without Cerf and Berners-Lee, we might not be e-mailing, day trading, shopping online, dating online, reading electronic news, visiting “cybraries,” sending instant messages, and the rest. Some men and women invent nifty gadgets, and some invent new taste sensations. Vinton Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee invented a new way of life.
They’re still involved in cyberspace. Besides overseeing MCI WorldCom’s Net efforts, Cerf works with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (as a Distinguished Visiting Scientist) and leads the Internet Societal Task Force of the Internet Society, a nonprofit group that studies standards and policy issues. Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Consortium, which is based at MIT and has branches in Japan and France, monitors and develops new Web technologies and wrestles with such issues as Web addresses and privacy. In his new book, Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor (Harper San Francisco), Berners-Lee talks about where the Net has been, and where it’s going.