Vinton Cerf

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ICANNLogo.png Formerly a member
of the ICANN Board

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Dr. Vinton G. (Vint) Cerf is a computer scientist and widely recognized as one of the "Fathers of the Internet."" He was one of the inventors of the internet architecture and co-designer of the basic protocols (TCP/IP) along with Robert Kahn. He serves as vice president and chief internet evangelist for Google and his primary responsibility is to identify new enabling technologies to support the development of advanced internet-based products and services for the company.[1] [2] [3] He is also currently involved in the Interplanetary Internet Project.[4]

His personal interests include fine wine, gourmet cooking and science fiction. Mr. Cerf and his wife, Sigrid, were married in 1966 and have two sons, David and Bennett.

"The internet is a reflection of our society and that mirror is going to be reflecting what we see. If we do not like what we see in that mirror the problem is not to fix the mirror, we have to fix society."Vint Cerf


Vinton Cerf received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Stanford University and Master of Science and doctorate degrees in Computer Science from UCLA. He also holds honorary Doctorate degrees from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich; Lulea University of Technology, Sweden; Royal Roads University, Canada; University of the Balearic Islands, Palma; Capitol College, Maryland; Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania; George Mason University, Virginia; Rovira i Virgili University, Tarragona, Spain; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York; the University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands; Brooklyn Polytechnic; and the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. [5]

Career History

Early Career: From IBM to UCLA

After receiving his degree in Mathematics at Stanford University in 1965, Vint joined IBM as systems engineer on the QUIKTRAN time-sharing system project. In 1966, he started providing computer communications consultancy services for different companies and organizations including the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Defense Information Systems Agency, MCI Communications Corp., the National Security Agency, the IEEE, etc. He left IBM in 1967 and joined the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Computer Science Department as the principal programmer. Vint managed several projects at UCLA such as the ARPANET Network Measurement Center, and a video graphics project involving computer-controlled 16 mm camera. He also participated in the development of the ARPANET host protocol specifications. He left UCLA in 1972.[6]

Tenure at Stanford University

From UCLA, Cerf moved to Stanford University's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department as assistant professor. He taught classes in operating systems, algorithms & data structures as well as networking. During his tenure at the university, he also conducted research on packet network interconnection protocols and joined Robert Kahn as principal investigator and co-designer of the next generation networking protocol project for the ARPANET. In 1973, they distributed the draft of the paper entitled: "A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication" during the INWG special meeting at Sussex University in 1973 and eventually published the final research IEEE Transactions of Communications Technology 1974. Cerf and Kahn successfully designed the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).[7] [8] He later volunteered to serve as Chairman of the International Network Working Group, which was modeled on the ARPANET's Network Working Group. Its main objective was to develop common technical standards that would allow any computer to connect to the ARPANET.[9] Vint ended his teaching career at Stanford in 1976.

Role at DARPA (1976-1982)

In 1976, Cerf accepted the position offered by DARPA to serve as program manager. He later became a principal scientist of the agency. At DARPA, he continued working with Robert Khan on networking and TCP/IP protocols. They demonstrated how the internet works through the ARPANET, Packet Radio net and SATNET. To prove the international viability of the TCP/IP protocols, the team sent messages from a van in the bay area, across the United States on ARPANET, and on to the University College of London and back via satellite. In 1983, the TCP/IP protocol became the standard protocol for the ARPANET, which went on to became the Internet. During his tenure at the agency, from 1976 to 1982, Cerf played a key role in leading the development of the Internet, including related data packet and security technologies. [10] [11]

Career at MCI Worldcom

From 1982-1986, he served as vice president of the Digital Information Services of MCI. During his time at the company, he led a team of engineers responsible for the development and implementation of MCI mail, which became the first commercial e-mail service connected to the Internet. In 1994, he rejoined MCI as Senior Vice President of Data Architecture responsible for the architectural design of the company's data and information services. He later became the company's Senior Vice President for Internet Architecture and Engineering, leading a team of architects and engineers in designing advanced networking, internet systems and security applications. He spearheaded the technology that combined voice, data and internet. He resigned as Senior Vice President for Technology Strategy of the company in 2005 to serve as Google's Chief Internet Evangelist.[12] [13]

Chief internet Evangelist (Google)

Since 2005, Cerf has served as Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. He is responsible for helping the company to build network infrastructure, architectures, systems and standards for next generation internet applications. He also serves as the company's representative to the global Internet community on different issues.[14] [15]

ICANN Involvement

Vinton Cerf served as chairman of the board of ICANN from 2000 to 2007.[16] In 1999, he was a member of the ICANN Board of Directors, having been selected by the Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO).[17] He was selected by the Nominating Committee (NomCom) to the Board of Directors from 2003 to 2004.[18] During his term as chairman, he led the internet governing body in the introduction and promotion of retail competition in the registration of domain names, the development and implementation of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), expansion of new generic top level domain names (gTLDs) in 2000 and 2003, implementation of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and other achievements.[19][20]

He also served in the following ICANN Committees/Groups:[21]

  • Compensation Committee - Chairman
  • Executive Committee - Member
  • Executive Search Committee - Member
  • Discussion Group for Geographic and Geopolitical Names - Member

New gTLD Program

In November, 2011, Vint said that he was "nervous" about ICANN's new gTLD expansion program, which was set to proceed in a matter of months. Some of his concerns included the confusion created for end users, potential problems for trademark owners, and possible logistical issues especially with regards to any new gTLD operators going out of business. However, Dr. Cerf added that it seemed too late for any outside intervention in the program.[22]

ISOC Involvement

Dr. Cerf was the founding president of the Internet Society, with a tenure from 1992 to 1995. In 1999, he was appointed chairman of the board, which he held until 2001. After his chairmanship, he continued to serve the organization as member of the Internet Societal Task Force and in the steering group dedicated to evaluating local, national and international internet policies to create global Internet accessibility. He also served as the honorary chairman of the IPv6 Forum, which was dedicated to increasing awareness and the speedy implementation of the new internet protocol.[23]

Recognition and Awards

Vinton Cerf is a recipient of numerous awards and commendations in connection with his work on the Internet. These include the Marconi Fellowship, Charles Stark Draper Award of the National Academy of Engineering, the Prince of Asturias award for science and technology, the National Medal of Science from Tunisia, the Alexander Graham Bell Award presented by the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, the NEC Computer and Communications Prize, the Silver Medal of the International Telecommunications Union, the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal[24], the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Award, the ACM Software and Systems Award, the ACM SIGCOMM Award, the Computer and Communications Industries Association Industry Legend Award, the Yuri Rubinsky Web Award, the Kilby Award, the Yankee Group/Interop/Network World Lifetime Achievement Award, the George R. Stibitz Award, the Werner Wolter Award, the Andrew Saks Engineering Award, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the Computerworld/Smithsonian Leadership Award, the J.D. Edwards Leadership Award for Collaboration, World Institute on Disability Annual award and the Library of Congress Bicentennial Living Legend medal.

In December, 1997, President Clinton presented the U.S. National Medal of Technology to Cerf and his partner, Robert Kahn, for founding and developing the Internet. [25]Drs. Kahn and Cerf were named the recipients of the ACM Alan M. Turing award in 2004 for their work on the Internet protocols. The Turing award is sometimes called the "Nobel Prize of Computer Science".[26]

In December, 1994, People magazine identified Cerf as one of that year's "25 Most Intriguing People."

Dr. Cerf has been humble with regards to both sharing credit of the "invention" of the Internet, and aware of the large number of people who contributed to its development, both before and after himself. He has been quoted as saying that building a tool is one thing, but credit for what people do with that tool is something that no inventor can claim.[27]

Positions on Different Internet Issues

As one of the most widely respected and well-known Internet evangelists, Dr. Cerf takes vocal stands on a number of ICT and Internet Governance issues, including:

  • Privacy rights- he believes anybody has the right to remain anonymous or use pseudonymous online and this needs to be supported by strong authentication tools.
  • He argued that unnecessary patents can stifle innovation, and noted that the Internet would not have experienced such rapid and robust development had he and his partners tried to protect its design.[28]
  • In an Op-ed piece in the New York Times, found here, Vint declares that the Internet itself is not a human right, but notes that technology is an enabler of a broad range of other rights. He notes that tools and values change, but that human rights are indispensable and universal. He goes on to describe technology and Internet access as more akin to a civil right, but is clear that he believes it is not yet a civil right. He ends by noting that it is in the hands of those that empower technology, such as legislators and engineers, to ensure that the Internet can thrive as a tool to access and achieve one's civil and human rights.[29]

Stand on SOPA/PIPA

In December, 2011, Vint Cerf signed an open letter, along with 82 internet engineers, that was sent to the U.S. Congress by the Electronic Frontier Foundation urging Congress not to pass SOPA and PIPA legislation. The letter explained how the legislation would seriously harm the security and stability of the internet and the future of development and innovation of the Internet.[30]

Other Activities

Dr. Cerf also served as a technical advisor to production for "Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict" [31]and made a special guest appearance on the program in May, 1998. He appeared on the television programs NextWave with Leonard Nimoy and on World Business Review with Alexander Haig and Caspar Weinberger. He is a distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on the design of the interplanetary Internet.

Cerf is a member of the Board of Directors of the Endowment for Excellence in Education, Folger Shakespeare Library, the MCI Foundation, the MarcoPolo Foundation, Avanex Corporation and the ClearSight Systems Corporation. Cerf is a Fellow of the IEEE, ACM, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Engineering Consortium, the Computer History Museum and the National Academy of Engineering.[32]


Dr. Cerf authored and co-authored numerous publications which include:

  • Vint Cerf, Van Jacobson, Nicholas Weaver, Jim Gettys: BufferBloat: What's Wrong with the Internet? (2012)
  • Vinton G. Cerf: Emergent Properties, Human Rights, and the Internet. IEEE Internet Computing (2012)
  • Vinton G. Cerf: Defense against the Dark Arts. IEEE Internet Computing (2012)
  • Thomas A. Limoncelli, Vinton G. Cerf: Successful Strategies for IPv6 Rollouts. Really. (2011)
  • Vinton G. Cerf: Secure Identities. IEEE Internet Computing (2011)
  • Vinton G. Cerf: Taking internet's temperature: prescriptions for the 21st century.
  • Vinton G. Cerf: Requirements for the Internet.
  • Vinton G. Cerf: Digital Government and the Internet. 2002
  • Robert E. Kahn and Vinton G. Cerf, "What Is The Internet (And What Makes It Work)", Internet Policy Institute, December, 1999
  • V. G. Cerf, "Our Digital Future," The NOVA Reader; Science at the Turn of the Millennium, TVBooks, 1999

A list of all his publications are available at the DBLP Bibliography Server and here.

List of RFC Contributions

Dr. Cerf wrote the following entertaining RFCs:[33]

  • RFC 968- Twas the Night Before Start-up; December, 1985
  • RFC 1121- Leonard Kleinrock, Vinton Cerf, Barry Boehm; Act One-The Poems; September, 1989; Presented at the Act One symposium held on the 20th anniversary of the ARPANET
  • RFC 1217-Memo from the Consortium for Slow Commotion Research (CSCR); April 1st, 1991; in response to RFC 1216
  • RFC 1607-A View From The 21st Century; April 1st, 1994