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Technology 2 June 2014

A Natural Path Forward

Olaf Kolkman
By Olaf KolkmanPrincipal - Internet Technology, Policy, and Advocacy

I will be joining the Internet Society as Chief Internet Technology Officer.

During the last one and a half decades, I have tried to push the needle to a more secure, resilient, and dependable Internet. For the last eight and a half years, I did this at NLnet Labs by leading a team that writes high quality code, participates in the Internet standards process, and works with operators on implementations. The Lab has pushed the needle on DNSSEC deployment by building products that I proudly believe make a difference for the Open Internet.

Why does it make a difference?

Because, the Internet’s technology matters.

Bottom up innovation and deployment of technology, even if there is very little short-term economic incentive to take action, is at the very heart of the success of the Internet. The availability of Open Source software turns out to be an important driver for the successful deployment of new protocols. That is where NLnet Labs and a myriad of other open (and closed) source developers, in groups or as individuals, make a difference.

As a corollary, when there is such little short-term economic incentive, there needs to be buy-in for the vision of ‘what good looks like’. With such vision all the independent players can work towards a common objective and we collectively take a bet on a future network value. That is where ISOC makes the difference. With its promotion of the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet (for the benefit of all people throughout the world), ISOC can share a vision and encourage technologies that help to increase trust, provide security, and make the net more stable, to gain a foothold.

For me, the transition from an organization that builds technology for the Open Internet to an organization that promotes the Open Internet is a natural path. I had “Evangineer” as job title on my business card: A pun combining the realism of technical engineering with evangelizing the good of the Open Internet. At ISOC I plan to continue the practice of “evangineering”, ‘by working with good people and fostering broad collaboration to address the [Internet’s] issues, since we all know that the Internet’s Technology Matters’ (A quote from my predecessor Leslie Daigle). The knowledge of Internet technology and understanding of technical realities and nuances differentiates ISOC from the wide variety of other entities in the Internet ecosystem. The work on Internet technology, in trinity with the regional and broad policy work, informs and drives the ISOC mission.

In order to be successful, the Internet Technology group needs to have its feet in the (technical) reality; that grounding will provide the ‘street cred’ that is needed for ISOC to remain a recognized, relevant, and driving player. There is a foundation to build on. Observed from technological, policy and different regional perspectives, the Internet evolves rapidly towards a future where the openness that I take for granted, needs care, nurturing, and promotion.

At the Internet Society, we can shape that future, and I am proud to be part of it.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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