Vint Cerf reflects on recent changes, threats to the Internet

Vinton Cerf gives a rundown on current events in the Internet, explaining that some problems might not be as complex as we make them out to be.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Vinton Cerf, considered by many to be one of the "fathers of the Internet," recently outlined some of the latest changes and most pressing issues for the state of the World Wide Web.

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Speaking at the Egnyte Firestorm summit on Wednesday afternoon, Cerf offered some perspective, citing that there are an estimated one billion Internet-connected machines as of September 2012. However, that figure doesn't include machines behind firewalls, so Cerf proposed that the actual figure is closer to two billion.

Cerf predicted that we're about to see some "wild and crazy stuff" join the pool of connected devices based on what he's already seen, which has ranged from standard smartphones and tablets to an Internet-enabled surfboard.

Furthermore, he noted that there are approximately 2.405 billion users online as of June 30.
As for the global breakdown, Cerf pointed out that North America leads with the largest percentage of Internet penetration with more than 70 percent of the population online.
But Cerf seemed puzzled that there is still a large segment in North America holding out, quipping that as chief Internet evangelist at Google, he thinks some of them are in need of a "conversion to geek orthodoxy."
Cerf highlighted there are approximately more than a billion people online in Asia alone, with most of them located in China, which he mentioned is investing heavily in network advancements.
Thus, with this many people and devices online (and only many, many more to come), there have been several dramatic changes for the state of the Internet this year alone.
Some of the more publicized changes include the global launch of IPv6 on June 6 as well as ICANN continuing to open up generic, top-level domain names. Recalling that domain names were invented in 1984, Cerf said that there are roughly 2,000 applications already in the pipeline.

Cerf also outlined some pressing concerns regarding the future of the Internet, adding that there have been proposals coming from various member countries of the Internet Governance Forum based on the Arab Spring and its use of social media.

Obviously disturbed by the few he outlined, Cerf explained that "one trick" being introduced relates to the formation of definitions within international telecommunications regulations. Cerf argued that vague definitions for blanket terms (i.e. spam), provides an "opportunity for any country wishing to suppress the Internet" with an excuse to do so by citing an international treaty.
Naturally, privacy in a connected world is also a big concern to everyone from in government agencies to the end user level. But Cerf suggested that these problems are sometimes much simpler that we make them out to be, remarking that they boil down to understanding mobile devices and social cues.
"We often do things that cause problems for people without realizing it," Cerf asserted, describing that just by tagging someone in a photo on Google+, it can cause a ripple effect throughout the Internet nearly instantly.
Hinting at a recent scandal involving the former director of the CIA, Cerf concluded, "I predict we're going to have to go through a series of painful incidents until we discover what social norms make sense on an international basis."

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