A couple of weeks ago the Internet Society started a Hall of Fame at its 20th anniversary gathering.
The best part of the event for me occurred at the Gala dinner. That’s when they got the groups of Hall of Fame members on stage. Most importantly, they started with the Pioneers group. A few of the pioneers are no longer with us, Bob Kahn couldn’t make it, and there were undoubtedly a few people who could have been included but weren’t. Even so, it was a visceral moment for me. There, on stage together, was the greatest concentration of the designers and creators of the Internet that we’re likely to see together.
The Internet has proved to be a revolutionary technology. And everything we’ve built with the web sits on top of the Internet. The principles of decentralization, freedom at the edges, the ability to innovate, leadership by action rather than status are all reflected in the early work of this pioneer group. Not to mention the development of the key technologies. I feel very fortunate to have been in the audience at that moment. I’m very grateful to Walda Roseman of the Internet Society for not letting me miss the event.
The Hall of Fall Induction Ceremony was also fun. I am of course very honored to be included in the initial class of people included in the Hall of Fame. It’s a great honor and reflects all that we’ve achieved with Mozilla as well as whatever particular talents I bring. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was invitation-only I believe, and much smaller than the dinner. Not every member of this class of Hall of Fame members was there, but a bunch of us were. (Here’s a photo of most of us who were at the event.) Each of us was asked to give 1 to 2 minutes of comments. Most spoke for longer. I think Brewster gets the award for the closest to 1 minute I don’t know if these comments were recorded. I’ve looked a bit online but haven’t found these. I did find a set of pictures of most of us as we made our remarks (scroll down a few rows to find these). Many of the speakers described what it was like in the early days and how they came up with their inventions. Steve Crocker talked about the RFP process and its relationship to the development of standards. Randy Bush talked about the people — in particular the women of Africa and Asia — who weren’t represented in this class. Tim Berners Lee and Vint Cerf talked about the organic nature of the web and the internet, respectively. Vint told some jokes as well.
Nancy Hafkin and Elizabeth Feinler both accepted the award only on behalf of groups they had worked with, identifying the women they though should be there with them. This interested me a great deal. There were 3 women in the Hall of Fame group; I’m the third. I had thought about accepting the award not solely for myself but ended up talking about the Web and our goals for building openness and opportunity instead. (For some reason I was the first of the Hall of Famers to speak at the ceremony.) I spoke about how the Internet was always there — available, decentralized, open to exploration and innovation — as we began to build the World Wide Web. Both the other women were quite explicit that they were accepting on behalf of a group.
I almost didn’t get to these events. I first heard about the event in February, when Walda asked to speak at the event opening on Monday morning. I declined because I was at MozCamp LatAm for the weekend before and that was too important to miss, even for something else very special. In February I also heard about the Internet Society’s planned Hall of Fame. I had missed the public call for nominations, so I immediately started lobbying for someone (not me) to be included. Eventually I was told it was too late for this year, I should submit my nomination during next year’s process. The Internet Society folks suggested I speak at the closing event on Tuesday, and we managed to make that schedule work. It was only later that I learned that I had been included in the Hall of Fame and that the ceremony as well as the talk would be so special.