NET NEWS: Internet Pioneers Defend Gore

Science  26 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5410, pp. 1975
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5410.1975b

Republicans made plenty of hay out of Vice President Al Gore's remark earlier this month to CNN interviewer Wolf Blitzer that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Just as quickly, however, the Internet's real founders have rallied to defend their longtime champion.

Gore's gaffe, aired on 9 March, inspired Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) to take credit for the paper clip, among other quips. Even House Science Committee chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) jumped into the fray, issuing a press release titled “Delusions of Grandeur” that said Gore's remark “gives new meaning to the term ‘March Madness.’” As he and others pointed out, the Internet grew out of the Defense Department's ARPANet, launched in 1969 when Gore was 21.

Internet pioneers see things differently. Gore's claim “is hyperbolic, but there's a germ of truth there,” says Stephen Wolff of Cisco Systems, who oversaw the National Science Foundation's NSFnet (the Internet's immediate precursor). Wolff recalls that in 1986 then-Senator Gore pushed through legislation requiring a White House study on whether telephone companies could create a national scale network. “It's what the Internet is now,” he says.

A Gore spokesperson clarifies that Gore “was instrumental in helping create what today is known as the Internet,” as “he's said 100 times. … These guys know this.”

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