Social effects of the web still unclear

Social effects of the web still unclear

Decades before we fully understand the impact, says Vint Cerf

Mankind is still coming to terms with the social effects of the internet, according to Vint Cerf, one of its founding fathers.

"It takes decades if not generations to fully understand the impact of such inventions," he said in a comment piece as guest editor of Media Guardian.

"We are barely two decades into the commercial availability of the internet, but it has already changed the world."

Cerf maintained that the internet had fostered self-expression and freed information from the constraints of physical location, opening up the world's data to people everywhere. "But it still has a long way to go," he added.

Cerf, who now works for Google, claimed that the greatest strength of the internet is its flexibility.

"When Bob Kahn [creator of the TCP protocol] and I were developing the technological protocols that underpin the internet in the early 1970s, we made a conscious decision that it should be platform and content agnostic," he wrote.

"So the internet does not mind whether it is transmitting information by satellite or fibre-optic cable, or whether that information is useful only to internet-enabled refrigerators and surfboards. Seriously."

Cerf also said that Peter Fincham, previous guest editor of Media Guardian, had it right when he said that the phrase 'content is king' had "finally come to fruition".

Good content draws in an audience whether it was produced by individuals or professionals, according to Cerf.

"Look at the past five years: blogs and video-sharing websites have opened up new outlets to tens of millions of people around the world," he said.

"At the same time, the appetite for professionally produced content, be it news reporting or romantic comedies, continues to grow."

Cerf concluded that audiences now have more choice over what to consume and how to consume it than ever before.

"Regardless of the medium, there will always be demand for high-quality content," he said.