Vint Cerf: If I Recreated Internet, I’d Include IPv6 And Public Key Cryptography

Vint Cerf imageEven the father of the internet would do things differently if he were creating the internet all over again. At a recent conference, Vint Cerf said he would have started with 128-bit addresses from the start.

“If I could have justified it, putting in a 128-bit address space would have been nice so we wouldn’t have to go through this painful, 20-year process of going from IPv4 to IPv6,” Cerf, who is now Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist, told an audience of journalists during a press conference on 22 September at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany, according to the IDG News Service. Cerf said in hindsight he would have also like to have added public key cryptography.

“I doubt I could have gotten away with either one,” said Cerf according to the report, who won a Turing Award in 2004 and is now vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google. “So today we have to retrofit.”

While it couldn’t have been envisaged at the time, it soon became obvious the 32-bit addresses were inadequate.

The report continued:
The 128-bit address space, for instance, “wouldn’t have seemed realistic back then,” he said. Particularly given the effort’s experimental mind-set at the time, “I don’t think we could have forced that.”

There actually was debate about the possibility of variable-length addresses, but proponents of the idea were ultimately defeated because of the extra processing power associated with them, he explained. “Because computers were so expensive back then, we rejected the idea.”

As for public key cryptography, the notion had only recently emerged around the time the internet protocols were being standardized back in 1978.

“I didn’t want to go back and retrofit everything, so we didn’t include it,” Cerf said. “If I could go back and put in public key crypto, I probably would try.”