1969-2019 Experiences, challenges and enlightenments from 50 years development of the internet

8 Apr 2019 09:00h - 10:45h

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The session was moderated by Dr Bu Zhong (Professor, Pennsylvania State University, College of Communications) and focused on making a systematic review and summary of the development experience, challenges, and enlightenment of the Internet in the past 50 years (1969-2019). He talked about the Oral History of the Internet Project, for which more than 400 Internet pioneers have been interviewed, covering more than 40 countries and regions. After his opening speech, an interview with Lawrence Roberts was presented, who created the ARPANET using packet switching techniques. Other interviews were presented in video: one with Mr Zhu Xuguang (Director, Communication University of Zhejiang, China) and other with Mr Manuel Castells (Professor of Sociology, Open University of Catalonia, Spain).

In her speech, Dr Liu Chuang (Professor, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources, China) started by saying that the Internet has changed human history and impacted everybody’s life. Chuang talked about the importance of sharing data for the geography field, for example in the prevention and monitoring of climate disasters. According to her, the Internet has an essential role in global climate studies nowadays. She recalled the history of Hu Qiheng, a Chinese woman who played an important role in the Internet development of China.

Next, an interview with Mr Marc Weber (Internet History Program Curatorial Director, Computer History Museum) was presented by video. In the video, he compared the first Internet connection to the Big Bang in the beginning of the universe. Weber explained the concept of time-sharing and how a single computer supported many users’ terminals. He talked about the history of the Internet, since the ARPANET, passing through the building of TCP and IP protocols, the prototype of the Web, the .com boom, until the current use of  bitcoins. According to him, the Internet shifted history and transformed society.

Dr Fang Xingdong (Director, Communications, University of Zhejiang, China) realised in 2007 that many of the Internet pioneers were over 70 years old and some of them had already passed away. At that point, he started the Oral History of the Internet Project. According to him, the importance of the interviews is not only to know the origins of the Internet and something of its pioneers, but also not to forget their initial values. Xingdong believes that the Internet has reached a turning point with the growth of fake news, cybercrimes, and different sorts of Internet abuse, such as political interference; that is why he thinks that it is important to rescue the original values of the pioneers. He said that he asked different pioneers if the Internet were created now, would it have the same characteristics and values. Many of them said that they think that it would be very unlikely.

Mr Louis Pouzin (Internet pioneer, France) started by saying that the Internet is progressing around the world and he believes that reflection on the past can contribute to the future development of the Internet. Pouzin remembered that the ARPANET was not the first system to connect computers and at the beginning the Internet was not commercial. According to him, the Web was an essential addition to the Internet because it brought people together and they could use it for any purpose that they wanted. He talked about the importance of the RFCs and the process of the development of a new protocol to the Internet.

According to Mr Robert Pepper (Facebook, USA), in the early days, the Internet world was very small; everybody involved with its development knew each other and worked in co-operation. He said that the pioneers were idealists and they did not think that people would use the technology in negative ways and that is why the Internet is not secure by default. Pepper talked about the importance of a regulation to the Internet that made possible innovations like the Web. He recalled that Steve Crocker wrote RFC number 1, exactly 25 years ago. Also, Pepper explained the difference between the ITU standardisation processes and the IETF processes, based on a rough consensus and not in negotiation by countries and companies.

In his participation, Mr Tao Xiaofen (Internet History Program Curatorial Director, China) talked about commercial services and the difficulties in providing them with instant messaging, because providing long distance networks has been challenging until the present. Xiaofen said that the co-operation of different stakeholders is important and ended by discussing the challenge of security on the Internet.


By Nathalia Sautchuk Patrício