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Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 12 News List

'Chief Internet evangelist' joins choir at Google

MOVING ONThe online search-engine leader hired Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf to help develop new products, adding to the firm's list of successful, high-profile recruitments



With a billion users and counting, the Internet hardly seems to need an evangelist. Yet "chief Internet evangelist" is precisely the title chosen by Vinton Cerf for his new job at Google.

Google announced on Thursday that Cerf would be leaving MCI, where he is senior vice president for technology strategy, to be one of a dozen or so vice presidents working closely with Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, as the company continues to move beyond its roots as an Internet search engine.

Cerf, 62, is best known for the early work he did on the Internet and its precursor, the Arpanet. Together with Robert Kahn, a fellow computer scientist, Cerf in 1973 sketched out a set method, or protocol, for allowing different, isolated computer networks to talk to one another. The protocol, which paved the way for today's Internet, is called Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, or TCP/IP.

In addition to his computer networking expertise, Cerf is well known for his peacemaking skills in a technical community occasionally riven by technical differences.

"He sits in a room full of people who don't agree, and he gets them to agree," said Schmidt, who has known Cerf for nearly two decades.

Cerf spent 11 years at MCI, with an eight-year break to work with Kahn on Internet infrastructure issues at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. While at MCI in the early 1980s, Cerf devised MCI Mail, an early e-mail program.

In an interview, Cerf said he welcomed the chance to work on computer applications again rather than the work on network infrastructure -- the Internet's basic plumbing -- that has been his focus at MCI.

"I want to spend what years I have left working on the application side because that's where all the excitement is," he said. Specifically, he said, he is interested in speech-based interfaces and geographically indexed databases.

His hiring is the latest in a string of successful high-profile recruiting efforts on Google's part. Rob Pike, a high-level software engineer, was recruited from Bell Labs in November 2002. Louis Monier, who oversaw research and development at eBay, went to Google this summer. And Kai-fu Lee (李開復), a former Microsoft vice president, joined Google in July, prompting Microsoft to file a lawsuit.

Even with the Internet's pervasiveness, Cerf said, a measure of evangelism is still in order.

"The Internet has a billion users, and we have 5.6 billion to go," he said.

"Each will come to the Internet in different ways, like wirelessly, and Google needs to be receptive and adaptive to those different circumstances," Cerf said.

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