Karlheinz Brandenburg: I’ve been one of the main con­trib­u­tors to a tech­nol­o­gy I assume you are using as well called MP3. And AAC. So in fact my PhD work was on audio cod­ing, and then togeth­er with a lot of oth­er peo­ple (so there are more to be named) we worked on audio cod­ing, stan­dard­iza­tion, and the busi­ness mod­els to make it be applic­a­ble in all kinds of com­put­ers, devices, and so on. 

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

Brandenburg: Since we are here in Hong Kong, I remem­ber a day quite some time ago—I think it must have been 2001 or so, when I was here for a con­fer­ence and I looked at the dis­play of one of these elec­tron­ics shops and I saw thir­ty dif­fer­ent brands of MP3 play­ers. So I said okay, final­ly we got the break­through, now every­body uses it.

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

Brandenburg: I think we are in stormy times. Yes, lots of changes. In ear­li­er days, we thought the Internet, by the way it’s brought up is not con­trol­lable. Now we see more and more gov­ern­ments try to con­trol the Internet. We’ve got means nowa­days to dig into the data, do deep pack­et inspec­tion, to see what is trans­mit­ted over the Internet and so on. And on the oth­er hand, it’s good weath­er in the sense that the Internet is the main way of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for peo­ple all over the world.

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

Brandenburg: In fact, my con­cern is around all the issues with secu­ri­ty on one hand. People use the Internet to plant mal­ware, to get data they should­n’t. About pri­va­cy. Are we still allowed to be pri­vate in the sense that we don’t give every­thing to all the ones who could use the data, whether it’s gov­ern­ments or com­pa­nies? So those are major issues for the future. 

On the oth­er hand, I think the role of the Internet as real­ly the main way peo­ple are com­mu­ni­cat­ing, whether it’s with social net­works or just over the phone using OTT ser­vices, it’s real­ly now at its peak—or let’s say it’s the main way of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for a lot of peo­ple these days.

Intertitle: What action should be tak­en to ensure the best pos­si­ble future?

Brandenburg: We are now enter­ing a time where uncon­trolled growth real­ly will not help us to solve the prob­lems of the future. So in some way, we need leg­is­la­tion to come in to ensure pri­va­cy, or to ensure the right to access infor­ma­tion and so on. So that’s in some sense a con­tra­dic­tion, because the Internet got big because of no con­trol, but some of this needs to be done. On the oth­er hand it needs to be done essen­tial­ly to keep the author­i­ties from get­ting free infor­ma­tion, for example.