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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, October 2005

Interview 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 Google team?

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 beta?

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 work.

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 Bio

- Vinton contact

 
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