Vint Cerf, co-author of the TCP/IP protocol, has become Google’s latest trophy hire. The ad broker must be hoping that Cerf, hired for the PR position of “chief evangelist”, can add some gravitas to the operation after weeks of bad publicity. A poorly judged flounce saw Google vow to shun CNet’s reporters for a year, and the move snowballed into a series of articles unfavorably comparing Google to Microsoft. Silly they may be, but last week Google even found its ruthlessness parodied in a lead story at the satirical weekly The Onion.
“We expect great things to come from this,” Google engineering veep Bill Coughran told theSan Jose Mercury News.
It’s more than 30 years since Cerf made a significant technical contribution to the internet he helped shape, and for the past decade, Cerf has served as a public policy advisor and lobbyist for MCI. However, the last few years of his career have been marked by three ventures which make Cerf a natural Googleserf.
Firstly, his tenure as chairman of ICANN, the domain name quango, was pilloried for its broken promises, secretiveness and a lack of transparency that eventually prompted a director lawsuit and comparisons with Enron.
(In 2004, the independent shareholder advisor ISS rated 500 US corporations for accountability and transparency and placed Google in 500th position – citing insider loans and the lack of external directors at board level amongst other factors.)
Secondly, Cerf has spent years pursuing the whimsical idea of extending TCP/IP for use in space: an idea that meshes with the Google founders’ desire to build a tethered space elevator. (Cerf succeeded another interplanatary techno utopian, Esther Dyson, as ICANN chair). Last year Cerf was heard advocating RFID tags in wine corks.
And thirdly – surely the clincher – ‘Astro’ Cerf has actually appeared in Star Trek Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict.
Even space cadets need a father figure – and now Google is better staffed to fight the Borg.