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Cerf: Internet, both good and bad, reflects society

Cerf: Internet, both good and bad, reflects society

When it comes to the proliferation of fraud, social abuse and other online crimes, the Internet is simply a mirror of the population that uses it, said Vinton Cerf, Google Inc.'s chief Internet evangelist.

"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 a lot of effort into attempts to prevent abuses, but the problem is more social and economic than technical, Cerf told reporters yesterday in Bangalore. Google's Orkut social networking site has been a target of criticism and even litigation in India since some Orkut users ran campaigns against India and revered Indian historical figures.

Similarly, spam is a side effect of the availability 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 addressing system.

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

The Internet packet does not care how it is being carried, whether it is by an optical fiber connection or a radio connection, and it 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 phone users worldwide, and the number is 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 get 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 Inc., he added. It is becoming all the more relevant as people move from being users of the Internet's information resources to becoming producers of Internet content, Cerf said.


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