It's been four days now since the Wall Street Journal published Gordon Crovitz's column arguing that the government was not involved in the creation of the Internet. In that time, many of the sources Crovitz cited in that column -- the people who worked with the government to create the Internet or later reported on that effort -- have stated flatly that Crovitz's assertion was wrong. But thus far there's been nary a peep from the paper or from Crovitz. So what will it take for Crovitz and the Journal to correct, or at least acknowledge, the column's inaccuracies?
Let's run down the people Crovitz cited, and their subsequent reactions to his thesis.
If the government didn't invent the Internet, who did? Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet's backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks.
I would happily fertilize my tomatoes with Crovitz' assertion.
According to a book about Xerox PARC, “Dealers of Lightning” (by Michael Hiltzik), its top researchers realized they couldn't wait for the government to connect different networks, so would have to do it themselves.
While I'm gratified in a sense that he cites my book about Xerox PARC, “Dealers of Lightning,” to support his case, it's my duty to point out that he's wrong.
Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPA program in the 1960s, sent an email to fellow technologists in 2004 setting the record straight: “The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.”
Hiltzik again, speaking for his friend Taylor:
I know Bob Taylor, Bob Taylor is a friend of mine, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that he fully endorses the idea as a point of personal pride that the government-funded ARPANet was very much the precursor of the Internet as we know it today.
But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks.
“Robert Metcalfe, researcher at PARC, invented Ethernet as a way to connect Xerox printers and the Alto computer,” Xerox spokesman Bill McKee said on Monday. “But inventing Ethernet is not the same as inventing the internet.”
I don't want to leave the impression that Crovitz's column hasn't been corrected. Down at the bottom you'll see the Journal issued a correction for misattributing a quote from blogger Brian Carnell. So they cleared that up; all that remains to be addressed is the column's many-times-debunked premise.