Vint Cerf Talks Up Future of the Internet

Not next year, but next millennium

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The Internet has come a long way in 30 years, but it is still very much in its infancy. Vint Cerf, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, who in a former life was one of the principle minds behind what we know as the Internet today, is looking far beyond just the next thirty years. He’s thinking about the next thousand years.

“Ninety-five percent of the universe is stuff we don’t understand,” Cerf told WebProNews anchor Abby Prince Johnson in an exclusive 20-minute interview. “The Internet is like that.”

That gives Google, with the stated mission of organizing the world’s information—a mission Cerf reiterates is one “we really believe in”—a formidable task. Google CEO Eric Schmidt once estimated such a task would take about 300 years to complete.

How’s that for a long-term strategy?

Cerf says the immediate future of the Internet involves mobile advancements. “Everyone, I hope, will have this information window on their hip.” The mobile sector isn’t without its challenges, the least of which is, as Cerf put it, “keyboards suitable for people three inches tall.”

The biggest challenge facing the Internet, mobile or otherwise, is keeping the network open, and Cerf called on the Obama Administration to remain true to its commitment to creating “an equal opportunity network” in order to foster more innovation. Cerf says this innovation will be made possible via an open and readily accessible network. “Innovation on the network in part is a consequence of the freedom to try things out.”

Cerf is a vocal supporter of Network Neutrality, and in 2008 posted a YouTube video announcing his endorsement of Barack Obama because of the candidate’s pledge to take a stand against telecommunication giants like AT&T and Sprint seeking to profit by creating controlled “walled garden” networks similar to their wireless phone networks.


Opportunities will also increase as broadband speed increases and as the cost of technology goes down. Cerf notes that he bought two terabytes of disk memory last year, which would have cost him $200 million in 1979. He envisions, in the not too distant future, home devices interacting with each other thanks to higher broadband speeds and lower cost technology.

“It won’t seem strange (to kids growing up around it) to interact with the refrigerator, even remotely,” he said.

But there are much bigger concerns that lie far, far off in the future. In a thousand years, will computers still be able to understand all this information we humans worked so hard to archive? All of today’s documentation—essays, articles, spreadsheets, media in general—are created with today’s software.

“If that software should no longer be supported, you and I may have a vast quantity of bits we have stored that we don’t know how to interpret anymore. They’re just rotten bits. The big worry I have is that as time goes on, as we accumulate more digital information, if we don’t preserve the ability to interpret the bits, they won’t be useful anymore. One big scary possibility is that over a period of a thousand years, all of the accumulated digital information that we’ve stored away somewhere will no longer be understandable to our descendants. Historians, of course, will wonder what went on the early 21st Century if they don’t know how to interpret a 1997 PowerPoint file.”

Cerf says there are good economic reasons companies choose not to support software anymore, but something will need to be done so that once software is no longer supported, we will be able to preserve the information created with that software.   

Vint Cerf Talks Up Future of the Internet
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  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    This is taking fuzzy logic to the next level indeed. Looking forward 1,000 years is a bit much. I wonder if when the cave man created the wheel if he even looked beyond tomorrow :)

    1,000 years and one could communicate with the fridge? Oh this would give a whole new meaning to couch potatoes!

    What will they think of next!

  • http://www.diamondonnet.com Diamonds

    This is already happening, programs storage create during the 80’s are not very accessible anymore.

  • Lester

    Perhaps Google should start an incubator project to create a digital kind of Rosetta Stone (Google Rock?) that would allow data generated by old programs to be made intelligible via conversion to whatever is the current generation of software.

  • Guest

    Perhaps in the future camera work will be much improved..LOL!

  • I invented the Internet *SIKE*

    First of all, this Vint Cerf character needs to get off his high horse – what did he really do to be called a “principle mind behind what we know as the internet today”??? Because he works for Google and Google has the Internet in a headlock?

    WHAT SPECIFICALLY DID HE DEVELOP THAT PAVED THE WAY FOR HOW WE USE THE INTERNET? Probably nothing, which is the case with most middle management.


    “One big scary possibility is that over a period of a thousand years, all of the accumulated digital information that we’ve stored away somewhere will no longer be understandable to our descendants”

    That has to be one of the stupidest statements I’ve ever read. Why in the world would we no longer have some kind of “primer” for how to extrapolate older digital information? Even if that primer was deleted/lost, in 1000 years, don’t you think someone will be able to “decode” it at some point!?!?!?

    I’m disappointed at how highly regarded Vint Cerf is since he’s seemingly worthless and not much of a theoretical thinker.

    I think this article is nothing more than a PR stunt for Vint, who’s trying to move up the corporate ladder.

    • Jason Lee Miller

      Some reading material.





      • Guest

        Here is a quote from Mr. Cerf about Al Gore,

        But the real question is what, if anything, did Gore actually do to create the modern Internet? According to Vincent Cerf, a senior vice president with MCI Worldcom who’s been called the Father of the Internet, “The Internet would not be where it is in the United States without the strong support given to it and related research areas by the Vice President in his current role and in his earlier role as Senator.

    • Guest

      You wrote: “one of the principle minds” – the word you wanted there was “principal” – it means main or most important.

      As noted at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principle
      “Although nearly every handbook and many dictionaries warn against confusing principle and principal, many people still do. Principle is only a noun; principal is both adjective and noun. If you are unsure which noun you want, read the definitions in this dictionary.”

    • http://www.dailyfooddiary.net dailyfooddiaryuser

      There is nothing like a Y2K scare to prepare to nudge the government for money and grants to solve a problem we don’t have.

      I think that there will not be a problem with continuous translations from one “language” to the next…preserving archives is in everyone’s best interest. We are not burning books either.

      And, I believe he is WAAAAYYY underestimating the evolution [and power] of software!!!!

      Someone will create the “universal” software translator…it is possible.

      Hello! Any visionaries out there????

    • OpiumEd

      “Sike”, you obviously don’t know a thing about the history of the internet.
      You ask what specifically did Vint Cerf develop?
      Dude….. he invented THE INTERNET!
      If anyone needs to get off a high-horse, it is you!
      Just because you have never heard of him, and just because you do not know the history of the internet makes you think you know everything? How is it that ignorance is more intelligent than knowledge?

  • Guest

    Encourage “open source” (free, public domain) apps to evolve with the changing needs of data storage and transfers.

    The one thing I have found, working with Joolma, is that by the time I see I need an app to perform a particular task (module, component ), in 95% of the cases someone has already written it and has made it available.
    If that freedom is allowed to continue “bit rot” will not be a problem.

  • Guest

    Vent Cerf is the man!

    The internet is restructuring our economy into the “information superhighway age”. Jobs will be regained as our economy restructures.

    The internet will become our gateway to life’s management.

  • http://www.lynnbyrne.com Mike

    I travel around the world as a consultant. My Holy Grail is internet access all the time:

    On Airplanes
    In Hotels around the world
    In Taxi Cabs
    In Restaurants
    In a remote office in a remote village

    I believe this will happen at some point in the future. The sooner the better. I don’t have 1,000 years.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kySl-ZHz1AI Jane Jiang

    It’s informative. I liked the interview. but I was wondering why they didnt put a camera on stand while there were two shooting?
    too shaking to my eyes for an about 20 min episode.

    TV interviewer from CN

  • http://www.hughzebeezlaughs.blogspot.com/ Hughze

    Yup! Just what I need. Having to worry about someone hacking into my fridge. I guess when someone creates a new software, they better create a way for it to interpret old data as well. Then they need to keep that standard going. Also I’m guessing old data will eventually have to be restored into the modern data storage if such changes in software and storage occurs.

  • http://www.purplekiwi.net/ Daniel

    “but something will need to be done so that once software is no longer supported, we will be able to preserve the information created with that software.”

    Are we all forgetting that before paper and pens were invented, the cavemen wrote information on rocks? And as the technology available for preserving/archiving information advanced, the information moved with the technology. When new technology and file formats are invented, then the information will be converted too. Computers and the internet has the ability to automatically convert the articles, essays etc. to new formats, especially for internet information leaders such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

  • http://www.hophunt.com Free PPC Search

    I think Goo gle should preserve their name because even 50 years
    from now Goo gle may be already non-existent or is already in extinction.

    Maybe, 50 years from now we are already in a new age frontier that treat information on a quantum level beyond what you can comprehend today.

  • tired of being hacked

    I use the words should not
    instead of can – because some hackers brain out there will think that the word can gives them the right to hack and edit as they want

    digital information should not changed

    text files, web pages should not edited

    scanned books online should not have words changed that the author did not write

    example a political candidate wants to prove his innocence
    he/she then places files online with proof of his innocence changing the date when the file was online

    you can find this with blog posts and web pages having dates with comments that relate to something current, but dated a year or more ago

    an entertainment producer wants to say he did not steal someones story, and posts a similar story in a blog but dates it earlier
    or wants something included in aproject they are working on, so they posts comments similar to what they want in the tv show or movie —

    digital world, is digital criminals that historians will thinkis truthful information

    another example –
    the government wants to search books for every time someone used the word red or blue. They find it and change the words in every source found to redblue or whatever color they want to use. People reading it think it always said redblue

    the entertainment industry is editing old tv shows and movies – adding dialogue, changing the colors of clothing worn, adding hand gestures and facial signs to make you think these things were in the movies or tv shows fromt he 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s when it wa really added within the last year

    saving the orginal non-edited version and making that available to people of the future instead of the hacked version is the problem digital historians and archivists have

    this problem has been known for years, but rarely do I see someone talking about it. Instaed people that gather the worlds diaries in places like Facebook say – we own your lives forever. Whatever you post is public domain, for our use any way we want.

    why should people care if
    1000 years from now opening someone cant open a file that contains hacked information or a book whose writing has been changed to reflect redblue of the moment instead of the original thoughts of the author.


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