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July 16, 2012 | 0 comments

Craig Newmark calls his recent induction into the Internet Hall of Fame for building Craigslist a “clerical error.” If it were (and it most definitely is not), there would be a certain symmetry to it. Errors, or happy accidents, have a way of finding the eccentric technologist. Newmark’s eponymous internet site is the chief example.

Newmark, who describes himself as a 1950s-style nerd, “pocket protector and all,” worked at IBM post-college writing multitasking kernels for DOS. When the World Wide Web was still young, and just making its way from universities and large companies into the average person’s home, Newmark created a small events list in 1995. The list highlighted social gatherings of interest to internet developers — folks like Newmark. “Back then, I saw a lot of people helping each other out and thought I should give back by starting a simple events list,” says Newmark. “I got feedback on the list and did something about it, and it eventually grew into Craigslist.”

The list took off via word-of-mouth and grew into one of the most trafficked sites on the internet. For almost five years, Newmark ran Craigslist as a nonprofit, even as the first large internet companies emerged and their founders made fortunes. In 1999, the height of the dot-com boom, Newmark finally relented to pressure to turn his little list into a money-making venture and...

July 9, 2012 | 0 comments

Geoff Huston, the gadfly who got Australia online, warns that address shortage could strangle the Internet.

Geoff Huston was born the year television arrived in Australia. But his parents wouldn’t let him watch. While he sometimes snuck away to friends’ houses with TV, Huston says his deprivation forced him to read. Through books, he developed a love of words, a love that oddly enough led him to become the father of the Internet in Australia.

The Internet Hall of Fame inducted Huston as an inaugural member for his crucial work to get Australia online in the late 1980s. While he’s honored to be included, Huston says the credit is overblown. He says he just happened to be the geek who could speak.

“When geeks came together, I guess I was just articulate about stating what we wanted,” Huston says. And what they wanted was simply to connect.

Back in the proto-Internet early ’80s, Huston says connecting wasn’t so simple. Network techs were locked in what he calls the “great protocol wars” over which was the best technology to allow computers to talk to each other. Then multi-protocol routers came along and made that debate pointless. Universities began building networks on their campuses. Huston and others believed the next logical step was to connect those campus networks together to make a...

July 2, 2012 | 0 comments

Before Nancy Hafkin came along, Internet in Africa hardly existed.

From the late 1980s until 2000, Hafkin worked for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the branch of the United Nations focused on economic development in all countries in Africa. While working in Ethiopia, Hafkin began to notice that information was largely inaccessible on the continent. She decided to tackle that problem by launching the Pan African Development Information System.

“All the countries of the continent were supplying information to databases and we wanted people to access all the information stored in them,” says Hafkin. “At that time there was not a single public library in Ethiopia.”

One particularly slow exchange of information from Ethiopia to Niger took nine years.

The databases were set up to exchange data through low-orbit satellites, but at the time the satellites didn’t exist. If someone wanted to share the data, they had to fax it or send it through the mail. One particularly slow exchange of information from Ethiopia to Niger took nine years, Hafkin mentions in her Internet Hall of Fame induction speech. The painfully slow exchange of data pushed Hakfin, and her team to get a digital network set up in Africa.

Hakfin began to establish an Internet communication infrastructure in Africa by building email...

June 26, 2012 | 0 comments

Kilnam Chon brought the internet to Asia. And you’d have to say the move was successful.

In South Korea — where Chon led a research team that installed the first two nodes on Asia’s first internet protocol network — broadband connections are used in over 95 percent of households, a figure that eclipses every other country on earth. Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong aren’t far behind, and all cast a shadow over the US, where broadband reaches about 60 percent of our homes.

Chon is also the founding father of multiple organizations that still drive the Asian internet — including the Asia Pacific Networking Group and Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Name Forum — and earlier this year, in recognition of his role in bringing the continent online, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Internet Society’s (ISOC) Internet Hall of Fame, alongside such as names as Vint Cerf,...

June 18, 2012 | 0 comments

Before GoDaddy and Network Solutions and VeriSign, there was Elizabeth Feinler and the NIC.

From 1972 to 1989, Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler ran the Network Information Center at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California — the place that oversaw the use of internet addresses before the arrival of commercial outfits such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions. If you wanted a domain name, you came to Jake.

The NIC was also the place that published the documentation and directories for the internet — well before it was called the internet. The Stanford Research Center, or SRI, was one of the original nodes on the ARPAnet — a network backed by the US Department of Defense that connected various research centers across the country — and in building the NIC and running it for 17 years, Feinler was among a small group of researchers who bootstrapped this government network into something that would one day connect one third of the world’s population.

Earlier this year, Elizabeth Feinler was inducted into the inaugural class of the...