Vinton Cerf, the
'Nobel' Prize of the Internet, steps into Google
Google Cerf beta
«The next evolution of Internet
will involve many more devices, lots of them mobile.
We will find ourselves interacting through the Internet
with more than one device at a time - sometimes an ensemble
of devices will be combined to produce a service.»
Interview by Jorge
Nascimento Rodrigues, editor of Gurusonline.tv,
with Vinton in 2003 on the 30 years of the TCP/IP
The news is out in Silicon Valley with great fanfare.
But it is not hype as usual. Vinton Cerf, one of the
Founding Fathers of the Internet in the 1970's, just
joined Google as Chief Internet Evangelist and VP. He
tried to be crowned as "Archduke", but in
the absence of loyalists he was empowered as responsible
for identifying new enabling technologies to support
the development of advanced Internet-based products
and services for the meteoric Google.
Last year he was honored with the ACM Alan M.Turing
Award, sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of Computer
Science". The second half of the 20 Century owes
him, and his friend Bob Kahn, the design in 1972-1973
of the TCP/IP, the protocols that enabled the Internet.
His hiring is just the latest move from Google trying
to "grab" all the high profile talent to challenge
the big incumbent rivals in the software business. His
friend for more than 20 years, Eric Schmidt, the present
CEO of Google, said, "He is one of the most important
people alive today".
Vint - as he is known in the hi-tech community - just
left MCI where he worked for 11 years, most recently
as senior vice president of technology strategy. Verizon
bought the telco operator last May and Cerf confessed
that Google, the seven-year-old company, "is really
my dream job". He will continue to work from Herndon,
in Northern Virginia, far away from Mountain View, California,
where Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the start-up.
A place full of creative energy and in a fast move is
something that Vint likes. At 62 Cerf is full of projects
that will impact our future. He will continue his work
with the Jet Propulsion Lab of NASA on the incredible
project of extending Internet into inter-planetary space
to support space exploration.
Vint has a passion for science fiction and loves fine
wine and gourmet cooking. He confessed that he is "partial
to caldo verde" - the traditional Portuguese soup
-, he loves clams with bacon and sausage with herbs
when in Algarve (a kind of Portuguese Riviera, in the
South), and tastes pork ("porco preto" from
Alentejo) a lot. His experience with wines is "limited"
to Ports and Madeira wine, so he exclaims: "Obviously,
I need to spend more time in the wine country there!!!".
In this interview with Gurusonline he forecasts the
mobile environment for the Internet.
Why you accepted the challenge to become part of
I have been interested in focusing more of my attention
on applications of the Internet. Google had been my
'home' page for some years now and as the merger between
MCI and Verizon came closer, I began to give consideration
to other career path choices. After talking briefly
with Eric Schmidt [CEO of Google], an old and admired
friend, we concluded that I might be able to help Google
as it copes with rapid growth and expansion of its services.
«The world's knowledge at your
fingertips is a pretty exciting concept!»
For one of the Fathers of the Internet, what means
to be an active public brand of Google and Chief Evangelist?
I will be spending time with the various Google sites,
at Mountain View and around the world, listening to
and sharing internal information and encouraging groups
with similar problems to interact. I hope to help Google
bring its message to the public: that Google really
does want to help everyone cope with the ocean of digital
information that is rapidly accumulating. The world's
knowledge at your fingertips is a pretty exciting concept!
In the course of my travels, I hope I can also help
to identify new technology, new applications and new
people who might contribute to Google's success.
«Internet will take advantage
of an increasing amount of geographically-indexed information
so that information can be in association with your
current location or with a location of interest to you.»
Your work on the IPv6 Forum and the Internet of
the Future will continue? What can we expect for the
next Internet, in a broad sense?
I will continue to be a strong proponent of incorporating
IPv6 into the current Internet framework. The next evolution
of Internet will involve many more devices, lots of
them mobile. It will have more interaction modalities
including voice. It will take advantage of an increasing
amount of geographically indexed information so that
information can be in association with your current
location or with a location of interest to you. It will
have increasing communications capacity at core and
edge, including mobile. Increasingly, information of
all kinds will be readily available on demand (or pre-loaded
for consumption). We will find ourselves interacting
through the Internet with more than one device at a
time - sometimes an ensemble of devices will be combined
to produce a service.
«Our ability to link sensor
systems to information systems will likely increase
our ability to be alerted to environmental threats (earthquakes,
tsunamis, pollution, and perhaps deliberate manmade
attacks of various kinds).»
In your Google's new role as "antenna"
for the enabling technologies, what means the new paradigm
of "nano-bio-info convergence" (something
we can read now in the press communiqués of Google)
and in what sense your company can profit from that?
That's a pretty speculative question. I have been quite
excited about the prospects for neural interfacing since
my wife's successful cochlear implant in 1996. We know
a great deal about how to interface to the sensory nervous
system and I expect we will see news of ocular implants
in this decade. Our ability to link sensor systems to
information systems will likely increase our ability
to be alerted to environmental threats (earthquakes,
tsunamis, pollution, and perhaps deliberate manmade
attacks of various kinds). I am less competent to make
pronouncements about nano-technology other than to suggest
that when we start working on things at the molecular
level, some unexpected results may obtain. Perhaps in
the realm of computing - new processing and memory technology,
miniaturization several orders of magnitude smaller
than what we can produce today.
The Sky is literally the limit for Google? After
GoogleEarth, with NASA partnership, we will have a GoogleSpace
I have not had a chance yet to discuss the Google/NASA
interactions but of course, you know that I am working
with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on extending Internet
into inter-planetary space to support space exploration.
Google has permitted me to continue with that work and
I look forward to learning more about what Google and
NASA might do together. NASA has an enormous amount
of information collected from many space missions over
the past 40 years and this mass of information could
be made more readily accessible and usable with addition
of tools and methods used by Google for other information
sources. So I think there is good potential for joint
What is your personal view about this incredible
"journey" of Google from 1998 research project
of two young Stanford students, to the present?
It has been quite an odyssey for them and the early
Googlers. The rapid growth of the company, its footprint
in the Internet world and acceptance of its services
has been nothing short of phenomenal. In some ways,
though, this is almost to be expected in the Internet
world. The Internet creates a powerful and uniform platform
on top of which to produce new services. It has become
much more diverse with the addition of mobile access
(ground and air) and with increased bandwidth. Larry
and Sergey have been and continue to be key players
in the evolution of Google from its relatively narrowly
focused beginnings to its far-reaching scope today and
the journey has only just begun.
- Vinton contact