Leading Internet expert Vinton Cerf said that the recent collapse of many “dot coms” is not indicative of a collapse of the Internet. In his Friday speech, Cerf said he predicts the amount of Internet users will grow from 400 million, the amount of users today, to four billion by 2011.

Cerf is the Senior Vice President of Internet Architecture and Technology at WorldCom and co-creator of the TCP/IP protocol that enabled the existence of the Internet.

“We are kind of in the middle of a gold rush in the Internet,” Cerf said. Those who are cashing in on this rush, he said, are the telecommunications companies that are devising more and more ways to access the Internet. Web TV, Palm Pilot and cellular phones are just the beginning of the road for Internet accessibility.

Cerf’s work with the Internet started in 1973 with his associate Bob Kahn. Kahn and Cerf created the TCP/IP protocol that linked multiple networks into one main network producing the predecessor of what is now the Internet.

According to Cerf, with the use of “tiny chips,” the realm of Internet accessibility seems endless. Cerf jokingly related a story of someone could use the Internet to enable a toaster so that it could be ordered to brown the toast to the person’s preference. Other recently Internet-enabled mediums include picture frames, refrigerators and video games.

The picture frames, which can be displayed in an individual’s home, have the ability to connect to a certain Web site, take 10 pictures from that site and rotate through them allowing the owner an easy way to view pictures of friends and loved ones.

The first problem-filled prototype for an Internet-linked refrigerator monitoring and ordering system originated in Sweden, and since then many proposals have been made to increase its capabilities. One such suggestion is to add a bar code scanning system so that the refrigerator will be able to tell its users what it contains, thus alleviating the stress of grocery shopping.

An Internet-enabled video game system has been produced in Japan that allows people to interact with each other as they play video games in their homes by attaching microphones and cameras to the video games.

Called the “Father of the Internet,” Cerf is now assisting the Jet Propulsion Lab to develop what he termed an Interplanetary Internet connection.

The lab is seeking to establish Internet connections with Mars and Pluto. The Interplanetary Internet connection is designed to modernize satellites that are expected to be launched by the Lab within the next couple of years the Lab plans to launch two rovers to Mars in 2003, and have six networked satellites orbiting Mars by 2008.

Cerf’s primary work for the lab has been to develop a new protocol for the Interplanetary Internet because TCP/IP protocol does not work because of the overwhelming time delays in obtaining information, five to 20 minutes to Mars and hours to Pluto.

According to Cerf, his only concern with the Internet is its lack of address space, which he is trying to remedy with the formulation of his new Internet protocol IP version six.

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