Internet is a reflection of society, Cerf says

The Internet and its abuses are a reflection of the people who use it, said Vinton Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist

The Internet is a mirror of the population that uses it, said Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist Vinton Cerf said in reference to the proliferation of fraud, social abuse, and other online crimes.

"If you stand in front of a mirror and you don't like what you see, it does not help to fix the mirror," Cerf said.

Internet companies like Google are putting in a lot of effort to help prevent these abuses, but the problem is more social and economic than technical, Cerf told reporters Tuesday in Bangalore.

Google's Orkut social networking site has come in for criticism and even litigation in India, after some users ran campaigns against India and revered Indian historical figures.

Similarly, spam is a side-effect of free email service, said Cerf who is also chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is responsible for the global coordination of the Internet's system of unique identifiers.

A key benefit of the IP packet layer is that it isolates the application from the underlying communications medium, which can be wireless and wireline, Cerf said. In earlier technologies such as television and telephony, the physical infrastructure and the application were tightly connected, he added.

The Internet packet does not care how it is being carried, whether it is by an optical fiber connection or a radio connection, and does not know or care what it is carrying, according to Cerf.

One result of this architecture is that the next wave of growth in the Internet is likely to come from mobile applications. The mobile phone has become an important factor in the Internet revolution, Cerf said. There are 2.5 billion mobile users worldwide and the numbers are expected to increase rapidly in developing countries such as India and China, he added.

The architecture of the Internet also ensures that the intelligence is at the edge of the system. This allows people to run applications on the edge of the Internet without having to take permission from Internet service providers, Cerf said. This feature of the Internet has stimulated tremendous creativity, and led to the founding of Internet companies like Google and Yahoo, he added. It has become all the more relevant as people move from using the Internet as an information resource to becoming producers on the Internet, Cerf said.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service

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