Speaking about the Internet…

Although a lot of people know that the Web was invented at CERN, not many people know that CERN has also played a central role in developing the Internet in Europe. In the early 1990s the European Internet network looked like a star, with CERN at its center. The Organization was also one of the founding members of the Internet Society, which celebrated its first 20 years in a conference held in Geneva from 22 to 24 April. CERN was a special guest.


The Internet Society’s Global INET 2012 was a three-day international forum that celebrated the Internet Society’s 20th anniversary. The Society was created to provide a framework for the governance of the Internet, promote its development and keep it accessible to the largest possible number of users. “In 1992 CERN became a founding member of the Internet Society and it has remained a member ever since. CERN is also member of the Advisory Council,” says François Fluckiger from the IT Department who has represented CERN at the Advisory Council since its inception.

At that time CERN was the largest Internet hub in Europe, managing more than 80% of the international bandwidth available in Europe. In 1988 CERN also convened the historic meeting that led to the creation of the RIPE (Réseaux IP Européens), which still allocates IP addresses in Europe. “Today CERN is still one of the largest Internet hubs Europe-wide,” says François Fluckiger. “The role of CERN in the Internet Society also includes contributing to the organisation of the INET Conferences, which provide regional focus and allow the local Internet communities to get exposed to world-class technology and policy experts.”

In its role of world-scale forum, this year’s Global INET conference focused attention on the evolution of the Internet and the opportunities and challenges that could have a profound impact on its future. “The conference allowed participants to touch base on the impressive growth of the Internet over the last 20 years, and addressed important topics such as freedom of information and speech, Internet governance, and harnessing the Internet for economic transformation,” says Walda Roseman, ISOC Chief Operating Officer.

CERN was a special guest at the conference, with the participation of the Director-General who, together with Vint Cerf, the inventor of the Internet technology and first ISOC President, participated in the sessions on Digital Content, Intellectual Property and Innovation. The roundtable discussion was a good opportunity for CERN to present its philosophy in terms of the dissemination but also the protection of intellectual property. “CERN explained its policy on open access and licensing,” says François Fluckiger. “The Director-General also stressed the importance of maintaining an openness philosophy. This was certainly the approach that opened the way to the invention of the Web. It is of vital importance for scientific information to remain accessible to all countries and to every citizen.”

The Internet developed thanks to the contribution of universities and laboratories that not only invented the technology but also used it as a worldwide operational network at the researchers’ service. Many of the visionary minds that 20 years ago accepted the challenge of defining today’s worldwide information network gathered at the Global INET 2012 conference and discussed how they imagine the future. “It was a unique opportunity for the participants to network and put new ideas on the table,” confirms Walda. “Among other things, the participants were able to discuss the possibility of setting up an interplanetary Internet. This also demonstrates that the role of scientists and academia is still vital to the development of the network.” The organisers have set up a website where people can share their ideas and wishes on how the Internet should evolve. They welcome contributions from CERNois, so don't hesitate to visit: http://wishingtree.internetsociety.org/.

by Antonella Del Rosso