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David Clark in Conversation — OII Internet Awards 2011

22 Sep 2011

David Clark, recipient of an OII Internet Award, provides an overview of his career as an academic expert in networking and one of the leading figures in the development of the Internet. Clark relates that he initially trained to be an electrical engineer focusing on operating systems before undertaking his role as Chief Protocol Architect of the Internet in the 1980s. He recounts how initially it was very uncertain whether the world wide web variant of hypertext would prevail, as there were so many other competing versions. When Clark realised that the Internet was too large to be controlled, he resigned and pursued academic research once more, focusing on how to improve quality of service for video and audio. During this period, Clark began to collaborate with social scientists to help encourage the adoption of his engineering ideas through creating, among other strategies, the industry incentives necessary to positively motivate every player. Taking the example of quality of service, one cannot expect ISPs to improve their own quality of service if over-the-top players such as Skype could in consequence more easily (and cheaply) sell internet telephony. Clark also realised that he needed to examine the governance mechanisms of protocols, for through understanding the control points present in them, one could occasionally eliminate a problem by removing one such point from the technical architecture. For example, the DNS has a ‘root’ network that becomes a monopoly hooking all parts together, a structure that has engendered serious governance dilemmas. Clark consequently avoided replicating this mishap when designing border gateway protocol.