Vint Cerf's dream do-over: 2 ways he'd make the internet different

'I doubt I could have gotten away with either one,' he says

Vint Cerf is considered a father of the internet, but that doesn't mean there aren't things he would do differently if given a fresh chance to create it all over again.

"If I could have justified it, putting in a 128-bit address space would have been nice so we wouldn't have to go through this painful, 20-year process of going from IPv4 to IPv6," Cerf told an audience of journalists Thursday during a press conference at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany.

IPv4, the first publicly used version of the Internet Protocol, included an addressing system that used 32-bit numerical identifiers. It soon became apparent that it would lead to an exhaustion of addresses, however, spurring the creation of IPv6 as a replacement. Roughly a year ago, North America officially ran out of new addresses based on IPv4.  

For security, public key cryptography is another thing Cerf would like to have added, had it been feasible.

Trouble is, neither idea is likely to have made it into the final result at the time. "I doubt I could have gotten away with either one," said Cerf, who won a Turing Award in 2004 and is now vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google. "So today we have to retrofit."

The 128-bit address space, for instance, "wouldn't have seemed realistic back then," he said. Particularly given the effort's experimental mind-set at the time, "I don't think we could have forced that."

There actually was debate about the possibility of variable-length addresses, but proponents of the idea were ultimately defeated because of the extra processing power associated with them, he explained. "Because computers were so expensive back then, we rejected the idea."

As for public key cryptography, the notion had only recently emerged around the time the internet protocols were being standardized back in 1978.

"I didn't want to go back and retrofit everything, so we didn't include it," Cerf said. "If I could go back and put in public key crypto, I probably would try."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Google

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?