Stephen Wolff: I was respon­si­ble for build­ing the NSFNET and see­ing it oper­at­ed. This was done pri­mar­i­ly through a coop­er­a­tive agree­ment with the University of Michigan and the state of Michigan, IBM, and MCI. They pro­vid­ed a nation­wide net­work that was for the time very advanced and very fast, and in the end linked up almost every major uni­ver­si­ty in almost every state in the union.

Intertitle: Describe one of the break­through moments or move­ments of the Internet in which you have been a key participant.

I think the mem­o­rable moment for me, the one that told me that the Internet had real­ly caught on hap­pened actu­al­ly much lat­er, in the mid-90s after I’d left NSF and was work­ing for anoth­er com­pa­ny. I had a t‑shirt from Carl Malamud, who was one of the pio­neers of Internet radio. And I was wear­ing it, and out for my noon­time run at lunch time at work. And there were a bunch of ele­men­tary school kids who were com­ing back from some sort of tour or oth­er. And as I ran by one of them called out, Hey look. That guy’s got a URL on his back.” And I thought you know, now it’s real­ly caught on.

Intertitle: Describe the state of the Internet today with a weath­er anal­o­gy and explain why.

The weath­er anal­o­gy is tur­bu­lent. And that’s not bad; that’s a good thing. Anything that is vital and liv­ing and grow­ing, there’s always going to be tur­bu­lence. It’s always going to be going off in many direc­tions, sev­er­al of which are bound to be wrong, some of which are going to be right. So I think the Internet is still a work in progress. And that’s a very good thing.

Intertitle: What are your great­est hopes and fears for the future of the Internet?

I think my con­cern is the same as many peo­ple, that some­how the Internet will cease being the the open edge-governed orga­ni­za­tion that it is today. The gov­er­nance of the Internet is dis­trib­uted. It is plur­al. It is plu­ral­is­tic. It is multi­na­tion­al. And that’s a won­der­ful thing. I would hate to see the gov­er­nance of the Internet con­cen­trat­ed in the hands of any­one, or even a coali­tion of gov­ern­ments. It is not a gov­ern­ment oper­a­tion. It is a peo­ple’s oper­a­tion. Internet Society I think has it right. The Internet is for every­one, and every­one needs to be part of the governance.

Intertitle: Is there action that should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

I look to the con­tin­ued lead­er­ship of the ISOC. I think the Internet Society is, in the way it is con­sti­tut­ed, the way it is hus­band­ing the activ­i­ties of the IETF, is a very good thing. I look for­ward to that con­tin­u­ing, and con­tin­u­ing the ISOC stew­ard­ship of gov­er­nance pro­ce­dures and gov­er­nance con­cerns of the Internet as a good thing. 

Further Reference

Stephen Wolff pro­file, Internet Hall of Fame 2013