All the major professional and college sports have one. Rock and roll has one. Heck, even cowboys, robots, and burlesque performers have one (er, separately, not with each other). I'm talking of course about a hall of fame. Now, some 53 years after its birth, the Internet has one too.
Earlier this week the Internet Society inducted the first 33 members into its hall. The obvious choices are the folks who were instrumental in creating the technology that became the Internet. Among them: Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Jon Postel, Ray Tomlinson, Peter Mockapetris. All of them are unquestioned Net Gods, no arguments here.
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But the list also included some curious choices. For example:
Al Gore. I'm one of those folks who believe that Al Gore really did invent the InterWebs. OK, he didn't invent it, exactly -- he just had Uncle Sam sign the check to fund the creation of a fiber optic backbone. The cynic in me suspects that the Internet Society named him at least in part so that it could say its first class of inductees included the winner of an Academy Award, an Emmy, and the Nobel Peace Prize (Gore has nabbed all three). Still, as the first U.S. legislator to grok the potential of the Net, he deserves a spot here, but I can see how some people wouldn't agree. (You may now argue among yourselves. Try to keep it civil.)
Craig Newmark. There's no doubting that Craigslist changed classified advertising forever, helping to hasten the demise of hundreds of local newspapers around the country. But Hall of Famer? Maybe eventually, but not in the first class.
Brewster Kahle. The curator of the Internet's archives (aka the Wayback Machine) and creator of the Alexa website ranking service is certainly an important figure. But he's a bit like Newmark -- not really Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb material.
Like a lot of halls, the names of those who could have been on this list but were left off the ballot are often just as notable as those who made it, from Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Despite his callow youthfulness, Mark Zuckerberg has had an enormous impact on the Internet. How can you leave off Sergey Brin and Larry Page, or Jerry Yang and David Filo? Jeff Bezos of Amazon? Pierre Omidyar of eBay?
I could go on all afternoon.
What we really need, I think, is an Internet hall of shame for all the people who've made the Net worse, not better. Who should be in it? The worst spammers and malware authors. The suits at the wireless companies who created "unlimited" data plans with 5GB limits. The 4chan guys who started the LOLcats and Rickrolling memes. Data-spilling corporations. Web censors in China, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. Those people generally go unnamed. But why should they get off easy?
Who would you nominate for your Internet hall of fame or shame, and why? Post your candidates below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Now accepting applications for Internet Hall of Shame; inquire within," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.