David S. Bennahum on Sat, 7 Feb 1998 08:36:47 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> MEME 4.01 (Fwd)

meme: (pron. 'meem') A contagious idea that replicates  like a virus, passed
on from mind to mind. Memes function the same way genes and viruses do,
propagating through communication networks and face-to-face contact between
people.  Root of the word "memetics," a field of study which postulates
that the meme is the basic unit of cultural evolution. Examples of memes
include melodies, icons, fashion statements and phrases.

		MEME 4.01 [http://memex.org/meme4-01.html]

	David Bennahum:   [Some people say,] "Well, who made you king?"
	John Postel:   	  Exactly.  It comes up from time to time.
	DB:   		  What do you say to that?
	JP:   		  I say, "This is the way it is."

		--John Postel, keeper of the Internet's top-level domain names,
		  in MEME 4.01.

Sometime by the end of 1998 you'll likely find a whole new kind of    
Internet address-- new suffixes like .BIZ or .WEB or .SEX-- suffixes    
which will mark a change in the way the Internet is governed.  In a sense,    
those who control the names on the Net control everything, because when    
all metaphor is said and done, the Internet is mostly a big pile of words.     
Words, like MTV.COM or ALTAVISTA.COM and HARVARD.EDU have 
become brands with real financial value.  And for a long, long time one 
person controlled the issuance of new words. His name is John Postel. The    
Economist magazine recently called him "God." From his office in 
Southern California, this scientist has been responsible for administering    
name disputes at the highest-level of the Internet's naming 
architecture.  It is he who decided whom in a foreign country would be 
given control of a two-letter code. It is he who held, as Fortune 
magazine put it, "control of the little black book of Internet addresses 
that enables the Internet to work."

When the Internet existed as a collective of mainly academic, governmental 
and military sites, this system was politically acceptable.  Postel's been 
involved with the Internet for over 20 years, since the time it was called 
ARPANET, and his central control of Names was a simple, efficient way 
of managing what was the Net's ur-database.  But in 1993 when the 
National Science Foundation transferred administration of sub-domain 
names, names like MICROSOFT.COM and MEMEX.ORG, to Network 
Solutions, a Virginia-based company, the old-boy network began to falter.  
With commercial entities relying on the Internet for commerce and brand 
expansion, the question of adjudication, control and accountability for the 
issuance of new "top-level domains" became a matter of great interest.  The 
idea of one man-- Postel-- controlling a database of increasing value 
became politically untenable.

In May 1997 the National Science Foundation announced that it would not 
renew its contract with Network Solutions.  In July, the Clinton 
administration announced it would transition the management of names to 
the private sector, and called for public input.  Swamped with feedback, the 
consensus-building process stalled.  Since then, Clinton has called in Ira 
Magaziner, a long-standing advisor, to manage the process.  Word is that 
the resulting governing body will probably resemble a Board of Directors, 
with Postel as a member.

In September 1995, I interviewed John Postel.  That week, Postel was in 
the midst of his first big public-relations crisis-- Network Solutions had 
announced it would charge a $50 registration fee per domain-- ending 
years of free registration.  Postel spoke candidly about the inner workings 
of running the very hub of the Internet.  What follows is an exclusive 
transcript of our conversation.

For those of you interested in learning more about the history of the 
Internet, I invite you to visit the archives of "Community Memory,"  a 
discussion list I moderate on the origins and evolution of computer 
technology and cyberspace.

>From http://memex.org/community-memory.html you can follow 
instructions to subscribe.

David Bennahum:   How are you?

John Postel:   Frazzled.

DB:   I would imagine.  Is that a normal, usual state?

JP:   No, things are particularly interesting this week.

DB:   What's going on?

JP:   Well, the Internet decided that this was the time to 
introduce charging for registering domain names, and there 
are a few people that seem to think it's necessary to discuss 
this.  For some reason, they all want to discuss it with me.

DB:   Why is that?

JP:   Well...

DB:   Well, I have this impression that you're somehow deeply 
involved with these issues.

JP:   Yes, I have been... Somehow, being involved in the 
network for a long time, I have  gotten this role of being 
involved with what they call the technical aspects of the 
administration of the Internet.  And one of them is how to 
set up these domain names.  So in some sense, I'm in charge 
of what are the top-level domain names.  Up until now, 
everybody has been fairly comfortable with the Internet  
actually doing the work of defining these top-level domain 
names.  But basically, when somebody sends you a message 
saying "I'd like a new top-level domain name," that gets 
handed to me, and I explain to them why that's a bad idea.  
Then they pretty much go away and we go on as before.
   But now, with the Internet introducing charging, there's 
a lot of suggestions that they are  in a monopoly position, 
and this is not healthy, so that we have to have somehow 
competing registry services, and that means that there be 
some other domain names around that are  roughly equivalent 
to the existing ones, so people have some choices about what 
names they choose and who they do business with.

DB:   I don't really understand how that would work.  What 
does that mean for practical purposes?

JP:   Well, suppose there's a .COM name.  Maybe there can be 
some other domain names like BUSINESS or BIZ or REST or 
something, and some other company was in charge of doing the 
registration in the U.S. domain.  So then you'd say, "Gee, 
I'm thinking of getting a domain name.  Do I want to get it 
from the Internet, or do I want to get it from New Company 
#1?  Gee, the Internet charges fifty bucks and this other 
company charges thirty bucks.  Maybe I'll get it from this 
other company.

DB:   But the cost is so low, it doesn't really matter.

JP:   It's really  quite bizarre, because it's more of a 
perception issue than a practical matter.  For anybody that's 
really serious about having a network connection, paying 
something like fifty dollars a year to have a domain name is, 
like, not really a problem.  You're really only talking about 
the really top-level names, which are presumably the things 
that get these to big companies or universities or big 
organizations where they would spend more money thinking 
about it to write the check than actually writing the check 
would cost.

DB:   I guess part of what's happened is that the Internet 
has, in a way, become part of big... There's some big 
business now involved with it that wasn't there before.

JP:   It's been big business for a year.  I mean, I was 
talking to somebody else, and they were saying, "Well, do you 
think this is a place where the research community and the 
business community will go parting their ways and go separate 
directions?"  I said, "No, I don't think so, because the 
business community has already taken over the Internet."  You 
know, maybe there are these vestiges left behind of some 
academic influenced interests, but this is just a step on the 
transition of making it all a business oriented situation.

DB:   And that's changing the rules of the game, I guess, to 
some degree.

JP:   Yes, the rules of the game has gradually changed. Domain 
names are free; domain names cost money.  That's one of the 
rules changes.  There really isn't very much argument that 
charging for domain names to at least recover the cost of 
doing the job is a problem.  There's really nobody arguing 
that fifty dollars is too much in principle, or that it's 
wrong to charge for domain names.  But there are people who 
are saying, "If fifty dollars is more than it actually costs 
to provide the service, then having only one company being 
able to do this puts them in a monopoly rip-off position, and 
this is bad."

DB:   What company is that?

JP:   Network Solutions.

DB:   Network Solutions, yeah?  How much money can they really 
be making off of this?

JP:   Well, there's very wild speculation.  There's a data 
point that's about a hundred thousand names in the system 
now, and $50 a year, a name -- that's $5 million a year. Does 
it really cost $5 million a year to run the Internet?

DB:   Probably not.

JP:   And maybe, maybe not.  Okay?  What happens in the 
future?  If more names become... Okay, that's a... If all the 
people who just have names now, just current names, and 
that's $5 million a year, every year, for all time, okay...?

DB:   Mmm-hmm.

JP:   What about all the additional people?  If there's 
doubling every year, then there ought to be 200,000 names 
next year.  SO that's $10 million.

DB:   Then it will become serious.

JP:   So suppose it did cost $5 million to run it.  It 
probably doesn't cost $10 million to run it, even if there 
are twice as many names.  So should the price go down over 
time?  Or something.  So there's a lot of speculation there 
about is this the appropriate amount of money, and who is 
going to do what about keeping it under control, and is it in 
a position to make a huge amount of money over the next few 
years until somebody thinks of another system.

DB:   Is Internet actually owned by Network Solutions?

JP:   The Internet job is a... Well, it's a little 
complicated. There's a perceived need to have something like 
an Internet.  So there's this  job role or function that 
needs to be done to the network. In ancient times, it was  
done by different organizations, funded by the Department of 
Defense, when back in the early days, all of the network 
stuff was developed under the Defense Department.  Several 
years ago, when we said, "Okay, this is transitioning from a 
defense situation to a generalized, government-sponsored 
research thing," NSF [National Science Foundation] stepped up 
to say, "Okay, we're going to fund this network, this NIC 
function, and we'll call it InterNIC."  So they put out a 
solicitation saying, "People who would like the InterNIC job, 
please send their proposals and tell us how you would do it."  
And that resulted in NSF picking Network Solutions to do the 
InterNIC job, this registration job.  So there is an 
agreement between Network Solutions and NSF that, for some 
amount of money from NSF, Network Solutions will do this job.
   Then, this was before the major growth of the .COM 
domain.  So the amount of money involved per year from NSF 
was probably not enough to do the job that needed to be done.  
But also at the time of the solicitation, there were some 
comments in it that your proposal should have a plan for how 
you would make this InterNIC job self-supporting by charging 
fees.  So even back several years ago, when this was put in 
place, the notion that fees might have to be charged was 
already in people's minds.
   Now, it turns out that the way NSF runs these programs 
is that they  just start them off and  let them run, and 
without a whole lot of busybody meddling and by micro-
management.  But then about part-way down through the 
contract date, they invoke a review.  NSF goes off and finds 
ten or twenty people from the community, whatever they think 
the community is, that broad spectrum of techies and users 
and company people and university people, and just a whole 
variety, lots of different points of view represented, and 
they have this review where the contractor comes in and 
explains what they've been doing for the last whatever it is, 
18 months, and what they're planning to do for the next 18 
months, the problems they have and what solutions they have 
and what they've accomplished and what they've failed to 
accomplish,.  And then the review panel goes off in secret, 
and cooks up a report, and sends the report in to NSF, and 
says, "This is what we thought of your project, and this is 
what we think you ought to do to make it better for the next 
time period."
   So they had a review of the InterNIC back in December 
[1994]. And one of the really strong recommendations by the 
review panel was, "These guys should be charging for these 
commercial registrations; NSF shouldn't be paying for that." 
So here it is nine months later, and they're saying, "Okay, 
here's our charging plan."

DB:   Right.  And that opened up a whole new can of worms.

JP:   Right.  And then people say "That's  like you're 
changing the rules.  We're going to argue about it."  I mean, 
any time there's any rule that gets changed, there's a whole 
bunch of people that jump up and say, "You changed the rules; 
we're going to argue about it."

DB:   What's interesting now, I guess, is that at least back 
then, and even as of last December, the NSF had some role, 
but now my understanding is that NSF is basically gone.

JP:   No.  NSF is still...they still have this cooperative 
agreement with Network Solutions, and it has another year or 
so to run.  There's still a relationship there until that 
agreement runs out.  Whether or not NSF is now putting as 
much money into Network Solutions as they have been in the 
past is  an open question.  I suppose it would be a matter of 
record, and you could get that information from the 
government eventually.  But I don't know that anybody is 
saying too publicly what their current financial arrangement 

DB:   But in a way, NSF is  the nominal authority, right?

JP:   You know, following the Golden Rule.  They've been 
paying for this operation, and then having something to say 
about how it's done. That's very prudent.

DB:   But once the operation was paid for by the public, then 
I wonder who is in charge.

JP:   Right.  Well, that's  like the next thing to get worked 
out.  What's going to be the plan when the cooperative 
agreement ends?  And what is going to be the... Right now, if 
you said, you know, "Network Solutions is really screwing up 
and I'm really upset about it; I want to go talk to their 
boss and get them straightened out," well, you would go talk 
to NSF and raise the issues there, because NSF is paying 
them.  But when that agreement runs out, what is the 
oversight committee for Network Solutions?

DB:   Right.  It would seem like there isn't any, in a way.

JP:   Right.  So I think that's an important problem.  So I 
think that something will be developed in the next year, 
before that contract runs out, to create an oversight body 
for Internet registries in general.  And then that could 
answer... And that might be in parallel or part of the 
project of looking at, "Well, how do we set up another 
registry?" since there is some competition in this game.  So 
I think that the whole process has to be developed here for 
saying, "Okay, this is the way that these registries get 
chartered and set up.  This is the way that oversight is 
done.  This is how we can put some registry out of business 
if they're screwing up too much."  So there's a whole process 
plan that has to be developed fairly quickly now, to (a) 
enable us to put in a competing registry, and (b) to be the 
ground rules for what happens when this agreement runs out.

DB:   I guess for the first time, when that agreement runs 
out, the Internet will be really out of the hands of the 
government completely, in a sense.

JP:   Well, an important part of the whole thing, yeah.  I 
mean, everyone has been very good about this.  They got this 
whole thing started.  They put a lot of money into it, all 
the up-front costs of getting it all started.  And they've 
gradually let go of pieces here and there, but not  like 
dumping it all at once.  So they've been very supportive and 
they've been careful about  turning it over to the community 
to manage on its own, or turning it over to commercial 
businesses to do parts of it, you know, in a style that keeps 
it running.  The government doesn't want it to crash, because 
they depend on it.  So they don't want to just  slash 
everything off all at once and have a big crash.  Because 
they care about it.  They want it to start working.  But if 
it's mainly a commercial business, then they want it to be 
supported by the commercial world.

DB:   Do you have a main undermining concern as this 
transition takes over?   like your worst-case scenario?

JP:   Well, I guess I'm concerned about creating this process 
for creating and controlling and overseeing registration.  I 
guess that's the thing that I think is missing and is needed 
right now.  But I think it can be developed.  I mean, it can 
be done.
   I guess my one concern is that some crazy people will go 
off and do something stupid in the meantime.

DB:   Such as?

JP:   Well, there has been some talk about just going and 
setting up an alternate registry without working up a plan.

DB:   Mmm.  How could you do that, really?

JP:   Well, of course, it's difficult.

DB:   Has it ended up that flexible that someone could just go 
off and do this right now?

JP:   Well, not really.  I mean, technically it's conceivable.  
But for it to be effective, you'd have to get a large part of 
the community to follow you, and I just don't think that's 
going to happen.

DB:   So your role now from the technical side is that you had 
for a long time been the final arbiter of a lot of these 
domain name issues.  What does that mean?  Like, someone 
would say to you, "There's a conflict.  I have this name, 
this person has it already or wants it..."

JP:   But only for the top-level names.  I've really been very 
careful to delegate all of the secondary issues and all of 
the lower level names for other people to worry about. It's 
their problem.

DB:   What's an example of, like, a top-level name?

JP:   .COM, .EDU, .ORG are top-level names. But also country 
codes, like France is FR and Germany is GE and...

DB:   So did you come up with those?

JP:   Well, that list... We were very clever, accidentally 
very clever a long time ago, in that somebody said, "Well, 
what if I want to use my country as a top-level domain?"  I 
said, "Oh, I don't know..."  It turns out that there's a list 
maintained by ISO, the International Signage Organization, of 
two-letter codes for countries.  And I said, "Okay, we'll use 
the two-letter codes from the ISO Document 3156 list for 
country codes, and if you're not on that list you don't get a 
...what people come on to.  "We think we're a country, and we 
want a country code."  "Are you on the list?  Yes or no?  If 
you're not on the list, you don't get a country code.  If 
you're on the list, and you're in that country and nobody 
else has got it first, then here you go."  So it made it much 

DB:   So you'd only get involved with these issues at that 
high level.

JP:   Right.  Now, one of the things that does come up is, 
supposing somebody in Jordan, say, says, "I'd like to have a 
country code for Jordan," and we look at his credentials, and 
he says, yeah, he really lives there and he has a domain name 
server and everything is cool and he can actually do the job 
-- then we allocate the Jordan country code to this 
particular individual.  Then, you know, a few months later, 
somebody else comes along and says, "I'd like the country 
code to Jordan."  I say, "Well, we already gave it to this 
other guy."  And he says, "Oh, that guy's a real jerk, and 
besides that, I'm from the government, and I should have it. 
So then I get involved in trying to sort that out.  Usually 
we say, "Why don't you two guys meet and agree between 
yourselves who's going to do it, and tell us the results." 
Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't.  It's 
sometimes dragged on for months and months.

DB:   How can someone actually have a country code to 
themselves?  It would seem that would be something that no 
one could get hold of, that they'd have to get a sub-code 
within the country?

JP:   Well, basically we delegate the country code to someone 
to manage the path of that country, of that community. Then 
they set up some structure where maybe within the country 
they have, you know, a branch for education and a branch for 
commercial use and a branch for something else, and they 
delegate those to somebody, and then somebody manages that.  
Or like, in the U.S. what was done is, they said, "Okay, 
we'll use geography  as the basis."  So in the U.S. there's a 
branch for each state, and then in each state there's a 
branch for each city, to delegate it out.  If somebody 
manages Boston, Massachusetts, then anybody in Boston who 
wants a domain name under that structure just calls up the 
guy who manages Boston.
   The whole domain name system was really intended to try 
to put a lot of structure into the names so that you could 
deal with somebody fairly local to you to get a domain name, 
if you were just an end user.

DB:   Which has worked out pretty well in the end.

JP:   Well, where there is structure, it's worked out pretty 
well.  But that's the problem with the COM Domain, is that 
it's basically flat, that every company in the world decides 
that they ought to do something about COM.  So there's this 
huge file.

DB:   But you don't really deal with that, because it's below 
your level of...

JP:   Yes.  That's InterNIC's problem.

DB:   So it's constantly dealing with competing claims over...

JP:   Mmm-hmm.

DB:   I see.  So there must be some... These companies are 
probably accustomed to working under a  legal framework or 

JP:   Right.

DB:   ...so there must be some frustration on their part that 
there's like this bunch of guys that sit around that just 
decide everything, and, like, they say, "Well, who made you 

JP:   Exactly.  It comes up from time to time.

DB:   What do you say to that?

JP:   I say, "This is the way it is."  And I really think, in 
the whole thing about trademarks and dominions, it's  an 
example of this whole different scheme of naming runs into... 
It  goes along for years and years, and everything is fine, 
and then as it becomes much more commercial, it  runs into 
the realities from another world.  It's really difficult, 
because it turns out the trademark world is not all that 
clean, and two different companies can have the same word 
trademark, just they're in slightly different businesses.  So 
you can have the Acme Moving Company and the Acme Laundry or 
something, and they can both have the word "Acme," but 
they're in different businesses so it's okay.  Then you go 
look at the domain name system, and you say, "Well, they were 
both registered in COM, and so they can't both be ACME.COM.

DB:   Right.  That's a problem.  I've read that, like, Procter 
& Gamble had taken out BADBREATH.COM and HALITOSIS.COM...

JP:   Well, that's silly, but that's their choice.  If they 
want to pay fifty dollars a year to keep all those names, 
then I suppose we'll be happy to have their money.

DB:   What is your typical day like?  Is it involved mostly 
with the management of the Internet?

JP:   My typical day is to go to try to keep my research 
projects running.  I mean, all this domain name stuff is 
supposed to be about 10 percent of my time.

DB:   And is that still the case?

JP:   Well, this week it's not.

DB:   I can see that.  But normally I guess it might be, 
because it's pretty self-automating at this point.

JP:   I mean, at the level I'm involved at, at the top level, 
there's years that have gone by and there's been no top level 
domain, and like new country codes maybe two or three a month 
or something.  And I just check a couple of things and say, 
"Yeah, it looks okay" or "No, they need more information."  
That's about it.  So at that level, this job of managing 
naming the top level domains is really pretty simple.  But 
when something like this situation comes up, then it gets to 
be pretty intense.  So it's  lumpy.

DB:   What are the research projects that you're involved 

JP:   Oh, we're doing research on high speed networks and 
distributive systems, just things like that.  Computer 
science things.

DB:   Who's the "we"?

JP:   Well, I work for the Information Sciences Institute .

DB:   What is that, actually?  I'm not familiar with it.

JP:   It's a research institute that's part of the University 
of Southern California.  Basically, we fit as the institute 
that projects here... Somebody who comes up with an idea for 
some advanced computer science thing, we go find a sponsor 
for that research, they send us money, and we do the 

DB:   So you've been involved in networking for a long time 

JP:   Right.

DB:   Is that your entire professional career, basically?

JP:   Yeah.

DB:   When did you start out?

JP:   Well, I started out as a student at UCLA when the 
ARPANET was first created.  So I got involved in the ARPANET 
project at UCLA, and I've been  involved in network-related 
things ever since.

DB:   And how old were you at that point when...

JP:   That would be telling.

DB:   Is that okay?  Are you bashful about your age?

JP:   Well, I'm 52 now.  So it was a long time ago.  Last 
October, BBN put on... BBN built the IMPs [Interface Message 
Processor, allows any computer to communicate to another on 
the Net through an IMP, thereby solving the problem of 
multiple translation tables between different computer 
systems] components for the ARPANET, and they put on a 25th 
anniversary of the ARPANET party.

DB:   In Boston, right?  Yeah.  And how was that?

JP:   Oh, it was great.  And it was good to see a lot of the 
people that were involved at the very beginning and see what 
they're doing now.  And it's interesting, quite a few of them 
are still involved in networking related things.

DB:   Are you part of a community?

JP:   Oh, yeah.

DB:   I mean, understanding a general trend in terms of how 
people's lives have...of the people involved... Are there any 
common themes in terms of the path they've taken, or not 

JP:   No, not really.   a whole variety of things have 
happened to them.

DB:   But looking back at this whole period, from the 
beginning to the end, did you think that it was going to lead 
to this, that the Internet would become this kind of...

JP:   Well, I think at the very beginning, we didn't have much 
thought of what it would grow into.  I mean, in the early 
days of the ARPANET, I'm pretty sure that most of the people 
thought, "Okay, we're doing this as network for ARPA, and 
it's going to have basically the key universities that are 
doing ARPA-sponsored research, and that's probably pretty 
much it."

DB:   At what point did you begin to see that maybe this was 
becoming bigger than...

JP:   Well, the program basically started saying, "We're going 
to connect up these four sites [in 1969] and do some 
experiments and see if it really works, and we'll connect up 
to 15 sites over the next year, and that will be it" -- and 
was the original plan.  So then it stayed 15 sites for a 
little while, and then they started saying, "Well, there's 
these other people that want to get connected."  And 
basically, when they started connecting at military bases, 
because the military wanted to use this network for their 
normal communications, we said, "Mmm, now we're getting 
people who are users of the technology and not people who are 
fundamentally experimenting with it."  So we could see that 
it could  like keep growing for a long time.  I don't know 
that anybody really said, "Okay, well, in 1995 we'll have 50 
million users or something."  I don't think anybody had that 
in mind.  But I think that actually fairly early on, you 
could see that this was going to be a growing thing over the 
long, long term, because there just kept being additional 
things to be connected.

DB:   You bring up this distinction between experimenters and 

JP:   The first set of people that got connected or really 
involved, as it were, are people who were computer science 
researchers and trying to do new things for operating systems 
or do things for communications technology, or maybe new 
programming language or something, but they were computer 
science researchers in some sense, and using the network as 
part of their research was part of the game plan. But then 
after a while, you got people who said, "Well, my main 
problem is I've got this database over here, and I need to 
access it over there, and I don't care how your network 
works; I just want to get my questions into the database and 
get my answers back."  So I guess I would characterize that 
as  a user view.

DB:   I guess originally with the experimenters it was self-
running or self-governing in the pure sense, because they 
really manage their problems themselves.

JP:   Right.

DB:   How did the influx of users impact on the network in 
terms of the way it was run?

JP:   Well, that had some effect, because in the very early 
days, there was like this thing about, "Well, on Tuesday 
morning don't expect things to work, because there's a tryout 
of the new version of the IMP code.  So okay, fine.  
   Now we have users on there who are saying, you know,  
"on a 24-hour-a-day basis I want to be able to access my 
database, and I don't care about your experiments with IMP 
code."  You just have to say, "Well, gee, I guess we have to 
have a back room network or something to do our experiments 
on and be pretty sure it's going to work before we put it 
into real time!"  There are other things, like you need to 
have a place to call when you think it's broken, and things 
like that.  So other things for the users to call up and get 
information about what's happening.  So you get into those 
kinds of things.

DB:   One thing that is impressive about the Internet's 
history was the way that management was handled, that 
something like that was able to do in this collaborative way.  
It seemed like it was very easy, I guess.

JP:   Well...

DB:   Is that true?  I mean, easy to set up the structure that 
managed the thing, it looks like.

JP:   Well, I think we've been pretty fortunate that people 
have been so cooperative.  I think part of it is that people 
who use it, find it so valuable that they are willing to 
cooperate in ways that they might not be in another 
environment.  If they say, "Well, what do I get by 
cooperating and doing things maybe slightly different than I 
would prefer, but going along with the group?" versus, you 
know, "What would the outcome be if I demanded my rights here 
and demanded we do it my way?" -- I think most people have 
seen pretty quickly that they get a lot of value by 
cooperating and they get almost nothing by insisting on 
having it done their way.

DB:   Right.  But I guess that collaborative structure is 
under stress now, in a way.

JP:   It's been under stress all along. 

DB:   If you look back at this period of time what are the 
points that stand out as being particularly crucial ones in 
terms of how this thing developed?  Real forks in the road, 
as it were.

JP:   Well, certainly the key thing was the transition from 
the ARPANET to the Internet, and coming up with the TCP and 
IP protocols that are  network technology dependent. The 
early ARPANET protocols knew a lot about how IMPs worked, and 
therefore, we not generalizable across the system...you know, 
from ARPANET to Internet to satellite networks and so on.  So 
the idea that there was going to be several networks of 
different kinds of physical technology and different kinds of 
layers really drove this creation of an Internet protocol.  
And making this Internet protocol so simple that essentially 
any physical network could do it was really very important, 
in that... So now we have an Internet that originally ran on 
ARPANET and Ethernet and back to satellite  networks.  And 
the ARPANET is gone, the satellite network is gone, we have 
Ethernets, but they're somewhat different than those original 
ones, and we have new kinds of hardware networks --and the 
Internet keeps rolling along.  There's nothing changed there.  
So I think that was a key step in the network evolution.
   And the actual... And in terms of management significant 
events, the transition from people using the old ARPANET 
protocols to using Internet protocols on the ARPANET was a 
very difficult transition, and a very significant amount of 
management effort went into that.

DB:   In terms of an the development of TCP, is there anyone 
that would stand out to you as being a main contributor to 

JP:   Well, I think you have to give Vint Cerf a lot of credit 
for that, in that he and Bob Kahn  developed the overall 
protocol idea, and then Vint was a professor at Stanford 
University for a brief time and had a group of students there 
that were there with him to develop the first program, the 
first code version, and documented that.  So that was an 
early version of it that was the basis for lots of later 
development experience.

DB:   There's something that I find interesting in terms of 
the Internet as a model.  At this point today, in the mid-
Nineties, Internet is seen as the most exciting part of 
computing in the public's eye.  But it's something that was 
basically created not by private companies but by a consortia 
managed by government. I'm wondering if there's a lesson to 
be learned there, that there are times when these things are 
worthwhile, these  consortia.

JP:   Oh, yeah.  I think so.  A lot of these things that are 
actually effective were developed by a fairly small group of 
people, and then popularized through a very large group.  I 
think the current World Wide Web activity follows that model.  
I mean, basically, this one small group led by Tim Berners-
Lee in Switzerland developed the Web's structure, if you 
will, of the technical mechanisms that would make it work, 
and this group at Illinois and NCSA developed a really good 
user interface tool [Mosaic].  And that pair of things, 
developed in small little groups, but then made available to 
everybody, made a tremendous difference and made this really 
interesting application.
   And now what's happening is that people are very 
concerned about working and making products that have a 
consortium to make the next version.  I think that's a 
reasonable model of how some of this stuff works. This 
particular venture is not too strongly managed by the 
government, although there's some oversight.

DB:   But I guess what it did is, it created a level playing 
field, in that the base infrastructure wasn't owned by any 
one company.

JP:   Right.  But I think that the really key thing to look at 
here is that both, let's say, in the TCP situation and in the 
Web situation, there was essentially a version of a system 
that was completely freely available, that wasn't tied to any 
particular company.  I think that was very important in terms 
of the development.  In the TCP situation, the specifications 
were publicly openly available, first of all, in that the 
government had sponsored the programming of it at Berkeley in 
the UNIX environment.  And that code was fairly freely 
available. There was some funniness about licensing, but it 
was pretty easy to get.  So that made it fairly easy for a 
company that wanted to go into business with a TCP-based 
product to bootstrap off of that code and do something.
   I think that the same is true with the Web situation. 
The Web browser code was pretty easily available, the data 
structure was publicly documented.  That open public 
availability not tied to any particular company I think is a 
tremendous advantage for getting some good technologies 
spread around.

DB:   As you look at  the public's perception of all this, do 
you feel there are some huge misconceptions,  the way that 
people have about the Internet?

JP:   Well, there has to be.  And one of the things I'm 
beginning to be more conscious of is that when you get into 
an environment where you say the number of users doubles 
every year...

DB:   Right.

JP:   Right?  Let's say that in two years, three-quarters of 
the people are new, and they've only been there for on the 
average a year.  So they have no history.  They have no 
context for what went before.  And so, it's very easy for 
these people to have misconceptions about how things got to 
be the way they are.  And there's not a lot of history books 
out there.  There's a lot of books about, you know, How To 
Use The Internet For the Complete Idiot thing.  But there's 
hardly anything that teaches historic development of it.  Or 
very few of those people are actually interested in reading 
anything about it.  So people will see something that looks a 
little odd, and they will invent a reason for it (people like 
to have reasons for things), and then somehow that gets 
locked into their head.  And you get into some conversation 
with somebody later on, and they say, "Well, this was done 
because such-and-such."  And you think, "Well, nobody ever 
thought that."  It's really very strange.
   So I'm sure that a lot of the users out there have a lot 
of misconceptions as to why things are the way they are. 
Because there's just no...

DB:   They have no context.

JP:   Compared to the however many million users there are, 
hardly any of them were around five years ago when it was 
being decided.

DB:   Exactly.  If you had a particular message or something 
that you wanted to tell us about new-user, what would it be?

JP:   Well, there's an interesting question.  Well, I don't 
know.  Maybe the answer is do your homework.  Before you go 
off too excited about the brilliant brainstorms you've had, 
or arguing about why things are the way they are, maybe you 
should do some digging to see if you can find a document that 
will talk about it in terms of why the decisions were made.

DB:   I think one of the ironies of all this stuff is that as 
we simplify it and make it easier for people to use, in a way 
we make it more complex.  Because the people have no sense of 
history, they have no sense of how it came into being, and in 
a way, therefore, it becomes harder for them to understand.

JP:   Yeah.

DB:   Because it's hidden behind all these pretty icons and 
stuff.  Then it creates two classes of people, it seems, 
those who  know how it works and the vast majority who don't.

JP:   Well, that's true in every other field.  How many of us 
actually know how the electrical system works, how a 
distributional system works.  We  think we know there's these 
big wires that come from someplace where there's the 
hydroelectric plant, and there are transformers that are 
linked to our house, and then other things happen.  I'm sure 
it's a lot of more complicated than that! 

DB:   As this  continues to expand outward at this dramatic 
rate, do you have certain concerns about how it's growing?  
Not necessarily technical concerns; maybe social concerns.

JP:   Well, I certainly do have some concerns about, you know, 
there being haves and have-nots, between people who know how 
to use it and other people who don't.  I do share concerns 
that people have about the potential for there being haves 
and have-nots, people who are way up to speed with this stuff 
and use it all the time and people that are not involved in 
this world at all.  I don't really know much about what to do 
about that, but I think that it would be good for society to 
look for ways to make sure everybody had access to this.

DB:   The implication there is that it's important to have 
access to this.

JP:   Yeah.  Especially as more government functions are put 
on the Web so that you can access information about 
legislation or city services or whatever by Web... I guess 
what I would imagine is something like public libraries maybe 
should have a whole row of workstations as  webstations, that 
people could go into and do whatever they want to do on them, 
and maybe there should be other places to do that.

DB:   I guess on the other extreme of the have-nots is the... 
I actually spent yesterday reading the Unibomber Manifesto, 
all 35,000 words of it.  I'm probably one of like twenty 
people that did.  But there's clearly a cry of rage from this 
person about technology.  I mean, obviously he's got 
problems, because he also kills people.  But to some degree 
when I was reading it, I was thinking, "Wow, I'll bet you a 
lot of people feel the same way he does."  Just "I'll never 
understand this stuff.  It's magic.  And I'm a have-not."

JP:   Yeah.  Well, that's why I think things like the Web are 
important, and to the extent that we can make it, in some 
sense magic, but something that people can use by, you know, 
point-and-click stuff, I think we'll be... Society can be 
better if everybody can have access to it and it would be 
easier to use.
   In Santa Monica, which is right here in the L.A. area, 
they have had a project for a long time on  computer access 
to city functions and information.  They put up a bunch of  
hardcopy or scrolling teletype E-mail kinds of things mostly, 
a little server, that stuff.  And they put a bunch of 
workstations and terminals in their public libraries, and 
they got quite a lot of interaction with a few homeless 
people coming to the library and would sit there and interact 
with the city government people quite diligently.  I think 
that was a big surprise to a lot of people.

DB:   Because...

JP:   Well, I mean, it wasn't part of their thinking of how 
this would be used.  So I think there is some potential 
there.  By providing  free access to it in some places, I 
think there is quite a lot of potential for having people who 
might otherwise be considered have-nots to participate.

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