Vinton G. Cerf

Age: 59

Claim to Fame: A "father of the Internet," he was a co-designer of TCP/IP.

What he's doing now: Senior vice president of architecture and technology at WorldCom Inc.; chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

What does the future hold for networking? Broader-band backbone networks will arrive out of optical switching, and wireless modes will become increasingly important. The Internet-enabling of mobile phones is an interesting development, and you can extrapolate that to include other capabilities, like PDAs being online. Looking much further out, maybe 10 years, there could very well be a significant impact in quantum communications. That could protect communications against intrusion, because intrusion is immediately detectable in quantum communications.

How about applications? There will be a very large number of devices on the Net - appliances, things you wear and carry around, things that are embedded in passive things like wine corks and your socks. But none of that will work very well if we can't secure things so people don't go around reprogramming all those devices and making life hell.

What else worries you about the Internet's future? I'm concerned about the economics of the Internet. As we see so many companies struggling to make their business models work, one has to ask, Do we understand the economics of the system? Do we understand what the pricing structures have to be in order to support an expanding Internet? We are seeing significant disruptive effects on the telecom industry as we move closer to flat-rate pricing.

How would you like the Internet to evolve? There's a question as to whether the Internet will create a homogenization of culture, but I continue to hope that it will be a tool for preserving a great deal of culture that would otherwise be lost.

The idea that we might ultimately have a great deal of our human history, as well as our current knowledge, online is very exciting to me. It really is an amazing prospect that most of what we know as a human race could be accessible to literally everyone.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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