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Steve Crocker – Profile of a 2012 Internet Hall of Fame Inductee

Steve Crocker – Profile of a 2012 Internet Hall of Fame Inductee


Hi, My name’s Steve Crocker. Today I run a small company, Shinkuro, Inc. and I’m chairman of the Board of Directors
directors of ICANN I’ve been involved with the
Internet Society for virtually it’s entire life. Years ago I had the good
fortune to be involved with the early days of the ARPANET and played a
small role in helping build some of the technology and in building some of these
social structures that brought everybody together So, looking back, my proudest achievements start of course with my children and I have to
credit a successful marriage, at least one that’s still in place, but from a technical perspective,
being involved with the development of the internet is absolutely one of the most rewarding and pleasing of experiences I’ve ever had. So the internet is a very, very big operation and with respect to my
particular role and particular achievements, the results of the things that I
was responsible for started out in a very modest and sort of unintended way. I was part of a small group of
graduate students at the first four sites of the ARPANET, U.C.L.A,
S.R.I., the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Utah and we were handed the task of trying to figure out
what to do with this network that was going to be given to us or imposed on us, depending on
your point of view and so we had to organize from scratch
and it was an interesting technical challenge, open field, I mean, no direction. We knew the basics of what the capability is going to be but there was no requirements that said you have to do this, or you have to do that with it So we had to try to figure out what to do and that led to two things; it led
to an approach that has become extremely important of open architecture and of careful layering so that
people could build on top of what other people had done. We were extremely conscious that we had
no idea about all of the things that needed to be done, but we knew that there
would be many interesting things and so we wanted to provide building blocks that other people were going to use, as opposed to a complete finished system that had everything. That was one side of it — the other side of
it was as our ideas started to percolate we knew we had to write them down
and we also knew that the mere act of writing them down was going to trigger some reaction
and possibly even a negative reaction. We were just graduate students nobody put us in charge, we had no
authority and it fell to me to organize these these notes that we decided that we’re gonna write and I found myself extremely nervous that, as I said, the act of writing these
notes might trigger a negative reaction so I hit upon this silly trick of saying well, we’ll just call every one of them — no matter what they are, they might be super
formal or they might be completely informal — but we’ll just call every one of them a
request for comments, as a matter of form. I thought that this was a temporary
device that would last a few months until the network was built and we had
organized manuals and documentation and so forth and here we are more than forty
years later, request for comments are still the lingua franca for the
standards process, RC is in the oxford english dictionary and in personal terms my involvement in the network was a
distraction from what I thought was a more serious research agenda and my
involvement with the RCs was a minor administrative chore related to the
network and yet that’s the only thing I’ll be
remembered for. So, I’m extremely positive about
the future of the internet I think as good as it has been,
there are a number of very positive steps to go There are some negatives; security issues and spam and fishing and so forth and they’re non-trivial, we’ve got to deal with them and fix them over time but on balance I think that we’re
going to see even more payoff from the internet that we’ve seen today. Everything will be connected and there will be… It’s fun to make predictions.
One of the predictions is the internet will, in a way submerge and stop being so visible and just be part of everything. So if I had to offer up some
advice to future generations and current generations I would say get involved and get involved from the
point of view of enabling other people of being of service as opposed to trying to do something
that is ego driven or all about trying to
grab fame or fortune. The thing that was very evident to me
when I first got involved was that this was not one man or every
person for himself sort of thing that it really was a group effort. And that’s worked out enormously well. It’s brought enough financial reward, it’s brought enough attention. And better than either of
those it’s brought quite a bit of personal satisfaction, partly by seeing what I was able to help create, and partly just because it’s been a great
ride, you know, it hits on every cylinder, entertainment and sense of satisfaction and personal gratification to have been
there. So I would say to anybody who’s getting
into it, come with that attitude that you want to be helpful to others, genuinely, and that you want to help others succeed and very good things will happen.

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