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Community Projects 11 June 2015

History of the Internet Holds the Keys to Its Future

By Kathryn BrownFormer President / CEO

June 11, 2015
16:30 UTC
Hashtag: #InternetAge
Watch the event on LiveStream

 The Internet Society, in partnership with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is hosting today “The Internet Age: Founders to Future”, a panel discussion featuring Internet pioneers and visionaries discussing the diverse elements that have enabled the innovations leading to the Internet Age and exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the Internet’s future.

Speaking at the panel are Vint Cerf, Mitchell Baker, David Farber and Sebastian Thrun, the first three of whom are also inductees to the Internet Hall of Fame. Given their personal histories and unique relationships to the Internet, this group is eminently qualified to provide us with both a look back at the origins of this “invention” and ponder where it will take us in the years to come.

One of the most powerful and influential innovations ever created, the Internet started simply as a network run by government agencies and researchers for collaboration, to being run by research and commercial interests as a curiosity and an informal electronic communications medium. Today it has evolved into a cornerstone of economic and social development that has an immeasurable impact on individuals’ daily lives.

This progression has been dramatic. But because we believe the promise of the Internet to be so vast, we believe it is still early in its evolution. It is no longer solely in the hands of the United States, as it was in its infancy, but it now belongs to the entire world – borderless in geography and limitless in potential.

At the Internet Society we are always working to make sure that everyone is included in that promising future and in the possibilities created by the Internet. However, in that quest, we often find ourselves less focused on what that future will bring but rather on how we will get there. In other words, how do we expand the reach of the Internet and address the ongoing challenges without destroying the original principles that made it so transformative?

The Internet is, in essence, collaborative. It’s the result of immeasurable steps by thousands of people across the globe. No prior approval from any corporation or government is necessary to invent the future on the Internet. It is a platform for innovation that is permissionless.

The Internet is facing a pivotal time now, and there are many challenges that must be confronted to ensure that the billions yet to come online can trust its potential and enjoy all it has to offer. Its strength is built on its openness and the spirit of collaboration. This is the Internet of opportunity and it now rests in the hands of the global community to take it into the future.

Looking back, we can see what the Internet was at its core and we can imagine the promise it holds for our future. As we hear from these Internet luminaries, we know that the Internet’s future is not pre-determined or set in stone. We must be vigilant that this platform for human creativity and innovation – unprecedented in history – will only remain so if the path forward embodies the collaborative, global, open nature of its past and present. We at the Internet Society are committed to continuing in this fight for an Internet that is fit for the future.


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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