Adding to its all-star roster of engineering talent, Google has hired Vinton Cerf, often referred to as the "Father of the Internet. " Cerf, who was...
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Adding to its all-star roster of engineering talent, Google has hired Vinton Cerf, often referred to as the “Father of the Internet.”
Cerf, who was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton in 1997, joins Google from MCI, where he is senior vice president of technology strategy.
Cerf’s role at Google is unclear. But Google executives said they expect “great things” from the Internet pioneer.
“It’s true Vint has broad interests, and exactly what he’ll do, we’ll see,” said Bill Coughran, a vice president of engineering at Google.
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Cerf, 62, will join Google in early October, along with his chief of staff from MCI. He’ll work from his McLean, Va., home. However, Coughran said he expected Cerf to make frequent visits to Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.
While at MCI for the past 11 years, much of Cerf’s focus has been on public-policy issues. Cerf has said he has hungered to return to developing applications.
“What I wanted was to turn my attention to a much higher level of applications, and Google offered me that,” Cerf said.
Cerf said the job arose out of a conversation he had with Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, whom he knew from Schmidt’s days at Sun Microsystems.
“I said, ‘Do you want some help?’ And he said ‘yes,’ ” Cerf said.
Cerf stressed that he doesn’t have “deep knowledge of what Google is up to.”
But he rattled off a list of personal technological interests — “half-baked ideas,” he called them — including being able to index information based on geography and building sophisticated applications related to voice communications on the Internet.
Cerf is a legend among Internet history buffs.
In the 1970s, he was an assistant professor at Stanford University and scientist for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense agency responsible for developing technologies.
While there, he joined Robert Kahn on a project to design the next-generation networking protocol for the ARPANET, the forerunner to today’s Internet. The result was a networking protocol called TCP/IP. It’s the underlying technology that allows packets of information to move across the Internet.
“Given his background in networking, and our interests in that, against his interests in applications, we expect great things to come from this,” Coughran said.
Fittingly for someone who helped create the Internet, Cerf will be joining a company that has built one of the largest networks in the world — tens of thousands of servers distributed across many countries.
The pairing of Cerf and Google will likely fuel speculation that the company is planning to build its own worldwide broadband network, possibly as the backbone for a free WiFi service. Others are convinced Google is building a network capable of carrying vast amounts of video programming.
“They’re thinking 10 years from now, you don’t turn to Channel 4 or whatever on your TV, you log on to Google and find whatever you want,” said Dave Burstein, editor of the DSL Prime newsletter.