Founder of Domain Name System Says Web Still in Infancy

Gretchen Gallen
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The man who invented the Domain Name System is saying that the Internet is only just in the Bronze Age of evolution and that the world is not even half way through with the development of technology.

Dr Paul Mockapetris, who invented the process of assigning domain names like .com and .net to domain addresses 21 years ago, told a BBC interviewer that the next 21 years of the Internet, by comparison, will transform civilization as we know it.

"It was fun to be in on the Stone Age. But what comes next is even better," said Mockapetris, adding that broadband is the ticket to bringing use closer to the maturation of the Internet.

"I think the steps are that you construct broadband technology - and we have done that - then you give people a taste of that, with Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels, for example," said Mockapetris.

The scientist predicts that within the next several decades, all communication will be over the Internet, making even the use of telephone numbers obsolete and replacing them with web addresses.

"It is quite possible that phone numbers will have disappeared and people will just use menus off their phone," said Mockapetris. "I don't think there is particular value in having them."

Mockapetris said that increasingly the web will be used entirely to accomplish the simple tasks of everyday life like paying bills, locating old friends, and all forms of communication; making cyberspace second nature. But first, the Internet needs to be made available, equally, to all corners of the world, says Mockapetris.

"We have to make it an everyday system," he said. "We have to make it so that people don't see it, so that the surfing experience just happens."

However, before the web can be used so generally, Mockapetris says that access and security issues need to be resolved. The challenge for the coming years is to make sure that people can use the net safely, says Mockapetris.

"At the moment, many net users are unable to recognize if the email they have been sent from their bank is dodgy or not," said Mockapetris. "Creating a model of when things are safe and not, will have to happen in cyberspace. We all know that walking in a dark park at night is more dangerous. The same kind of knowledge needs to be forged in cyberspace."

The DNS system celebrates its 21st birthday this month, which Mockapetris created while working as a scientist for the U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The system was developed so that codes attached to information could be translated into easy-to-remember web addresses and domains, which people could own.

Mockapetris now works as head scientist and chairman for Nominum, a Redwood City, Calif.-based DNS management company.

"I think when we first started out there were several visions running around the world, and people converged on net technology," Mockapetris told the BBC. "One of things I always argued for was diversity, so that people could try different things. I'm pleased people have tried different things. But I didn't quite believe it would turn into such an industry."