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So, Who Really Did Invent the Internet?

Ian Peter

The beginnings of the Internet are shrouded in myth and misunderstandings that have led to some claims of proprietary ownership of the Internet. 

Where and when did the Internet begin? The only thing Internet historians seem to agree on is that it was not 1969, or the Pentagon, (or for that matter Al Gore). From there on, there is a wide divergence of views as to when, where, and by whom the Internet may have been invented.

In the article at www.nethistory.info we examine various theories, including:

  1. Packet switching represents the origins of the Internet
  2. The TCP/IP protocol represents the origins of the Internet
  3. A range of telco-led activities from the 1960s represents the true origins
  4. The birth of the Internet is best explained through a history of applications rather than the protocols
  5. The range of inventions and activities emanating from Xerox Palo Alto laboratories, including Ethernet, represent the true beginnings.

Examining these various events, we come to some important findings, including;
  • There are a number of valid claims to origins of the Internet.
  • Although an original date and place might be obtainable for the first networked transmission that could be called an Internet, the result would need by definition to include more than one party or network, and is unlikely to be a satisfactory or useful conclusion.
  • Not only US projects were involved in the beginnings of the Internet.
  • Not only government funded US research programs were involved in the beginnings of the Internet.
  • Not only telcos and the commercial sector were involved in the beginnings of the Internet.
  • Neither Arpanet nor TCP/IP is present in all valid theories.

We conclude that any claim by a nation, project, person, or team of individuals, or participants in any single event to "the beginnings of the Internet" is wrong. Further, any claim that the validity or legitimacy of any structure or arrangement can be justified as Internet governance purely because it arose from one of these events is false.

And finally "Nor should this article undermine the significant contributions of a number of individuals to claims as "fathers of the Internet". Most of these individuals, particularly those who are most prominent, are at pains to point out the crucial involvement of others - however, the institutions they represent are often less careful in ensuring that widespread involvement of individuals from commercial and government funded sources in a number of countries are ultimately to be thanked for the origins of the Internet. If this paper does no more than clarify that the Internet really has no owner and no single place of origin, it will have served well."

Read on at www.nethistory.info

By Ian Peter. More blog posts from Ian Peter can also be read here.

Related topics: Internet Governance, Internet Protocol


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Re: So, Who Really Did Invent the Internet? Larry Seltzer  –  May 03, 2005 3:38 AM PDT

I invented it and my patent for it has just been approved. Details to follow…

Re: So, Who Really Did Invent the Internet? Mike O'Donnell  –  May 07, 2005 10:39 AM PDT

Please stop tossing off tangential references to the false story that Al Gore claimed to invent the internet: "historians seem to agree ... that it was not ... Al Gore." Read the actual inverview in which he said something quite different: http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/03/09/president.2000/transcript.gore/index.html

Mike O'Donnell

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