Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Vint Cerf at ETH Zurich

Since Google Switzerland opened its doors in Zurich about 2 years ago, ETH Zurich has enjoyed lots of attention from the company: We had Larry and Sergey visit, and saw presentations by Senior VP Urs Hölzle and former Director of Research Monika Henzinger.

Today, Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of TCP/IP and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google came to hold a presentation. He talked about a wide range of topics: The current Internet adoption rates, the properties of and possible extensions to IP, and his view of where the Internet is going. He closed with a rather far-out topic: The interplanetary extension of the Internet.

The thing I've been liking the most about Google talks is that a large portion of the time at the end is devoted to questions from audience. This time, there were tough questions about Google's censorship in China as well as the privacy dangers of entrusting your personal data with Google.

Overall, Vint seemed like a fun guy. Here are some quips from the presentation (Not sure if these are 100% correct, I'm reconstructing them from memory):
  • "When I started at Google, I had some discussions with Larry and Sergey about my job title. For some reason, they were opposed to 'Archduke', so we went with 'Chief Internet Evangelist'."

  • "When we looked at these statistics of the highest Internet penetration rates per country, we noticed that Scandinavia was very far up there. We couldn't figure out why this was, until we realized they had very long winter nights up there."

  • "Back in the day, MCI, the company I worked for, had a product called MCI Mail which charged $1 for the delivery for each e-mail. Today, this would be inconceivable."

  • "So I talked to the Netflix president and asked him how many DVDs they shipped through the postal service each day. Turns out the number is 1.7 million. So we made a little calculation. It turns out the aggregate bandwidth of the U.S. postal service is pretty high." [By my calculations, it's 739 GBit/s, with each DVD holding 4.7 GB]

  • "It's easy to imagine that in the near future, your fridge will be connected to the Internet. So when you go shopping, it will send you SMS about what ingredients are missing to make that favorite Spaghetti meal of yours. […] However, your bathroom scales will be on the Internet, too, and will record daily weight measurements. Since it communicates with your fridge, it may as well put you on a diet. In fact, your fridge may even refuse to open the door. […] So we may not want to connect our fridges and scales to the Internet, after all."

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