Top 10 Pioneers Of The Internet


The Internet wasn’t just designed by one person or one team at one time.  As more and more people peeled back the frontiers of information technology, they contributed to the understanding and development of what we all now take for granted.  The Internet is here to stay, but there were times when it was a fragile thing that only a few people could envision.  The following people are visionaries, inventors, researchers and programmers who, in the early days of the internet, dreamed big and pioneered the technologies and programs behind all the standard Internet operating tools of today.

10.  Claude Shannon


Known as “the father of modern information theory,” Claude Shannon published an influential paper in 1948, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” which formalized the study of communication channels.  By establishing limits on the efficiency of communication and presenting a challenge to find codes to improve efficiency, Shannon developed the basic foundation underlying the Internet.

9.  Paul Baran


While researching survivable communication networks at RAND Corporation in 1959, Baran developed and described the data architecture for a packet-switched communications network.  This description, detailed in a series of papers called “On Distributed Communications,” would prove to be the general basis behind the architecture of the Internet.

8.  Bob Taylor


In the late 1960s, Bob Taylor convinced the Defense Department to develop a communications network, which would eventually become ARPANet, the military precursor to the Internet.  He wrote an influential paper, “The Computer as a Communication Device,” which stated that men would soon be able to communicate more efficiently through a computer than face-to-face. The paper laid out the future of what the Internet would become.

7.  Douglas Englebart


A researcher at Stanford, Englebart’s Augmentation Research Center was the second node on ARPANet in October 1969.  He developed the Network Information Center at Stanford, which would later become the domain name registry, or the database listing every website on the Internet.  It is interesting to note that Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the developers of Google, also went to Stanford nearly 30 years later.

6.  Larry Roberts


Chief scientist at ARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office in 1966, he led the development of ARPANet.  He also founded Telenet, the first packet-switched network provider and the precursor to companies like Comcast and Verizon.  Telenet is now owned by Sprint and is part of its mobile data network.

5.  Vint Cerf


A legend in the early Internet community, Cerf was program manager for ARPA from 1976-1982.  He co-designed the TCP/IP protocols used by the early ARPANet and today’s Internet with Bob Kahn, and he founded both the Internet Society and ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a fundamental part of how the Internet is organized.

4.  Paul Mockapetris


Along with Jon Postel, Mockapetris designed and developed DNS, or the domain name architecture.  When you type a website address into your search bar, you can thank Mockapetris and Postel for figuring out how to make that action find the website you want.

3.  David Clark


The Internet grew tremendously between 1981 and 1989, and the decisions made then affected what the network would later become.  Clark was the chief protocol architect for the Internet during this time as the chairman of the Internet Activities Board, and he exerted significant influence in the formation of the rules governing the Internet.

2.  Steve Wolff


As the Division Director for Networking and Communications at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1986, Steve Wolff managed the development of NSFNet, one of the precursors to the Internet.  He conceived and led the Gigabit Testbed, a joint project between the NSF and the Department of Defense designed to prove that networking at gigabit speeds was possible.  His success helped pave the way to transform the Internet from a narrowly-focused communications network into the globally reaching Internet of today.

1.  Marc Andreesen & Eric Bina


It may seem like a cheap shot to add an additional pioneer to make this list 11, but it took these two pioneers to develop Mosaic, the first Internet browser.  They took all the previous pioneers’ accomplishments and translated it into an easy-to-use graphical interface.  This went a long way toward transforming the Internet from a province for highly-educated computer scientists into a network for anyone to view.

These are just a few of the pioneers who made the Internet possible. Each individual who developed a better way of transmitting information, organizing data flows or increasing speeds contributed in some way to the development of the Internet we know today.

This is a guest article by Ruben Corbo, a writer for the website Broadband Expert where you can find internet service providers in your area and compare prices on different deals for your mobile broadband needs.

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  1. lol even when they squeeze an extra person in to make it a top 11 they’re still missing someone so obvious it must be a joke. It’s like a top 10 list of pioneering search engines and it’s missing Google.

    Where’s TimBL? I thought Al Gore invented Obama?

  2. I’d have included moot, of 4chan (aka Christopher Poole, if I recall), just for starting such a massive phenomenon.

  3. May I ask how “bob” kahn is not on his own list, he is merely just to be mentioned under someone elses name…you put two people at the can you not put cerf and robert together on the title?