April 24, 2012 at 2:18 PM ET
The "historic assembly of Internet visionaries, innovators and leaders" inducted Monday into the Internet Hall of Fame aren't cool in the way you probably want them to be. In the official press statement, Internet Society president and CEO Lynn St. Armour doesn't list Moot of 4chan fame, Long Cat, Tay Zonday, MySpace Tom or even the Winklevoss twins. Instead, the inductees are a whole different level of cool, the kind of awesome appreciated by nerds in the old school meaning of the word.
Hosted by the 20-year-old Internet Society in Geneva, Switzerland, the Internet Hall of Fame award gala honored 33 people who, for the most part, have been around since the time when the people who used the Internet understood that it is not synonymous with the World Wide Web. (FYI: The Internet is a massive network of networks and the Web is one way we use to access information on the Internet. Think of it this way: If the Internet is the universe, then the World Wide Web is the United Federation of Planets.)
The closest the inductees get to the kitsch associated with the Internet today is Al Gore –- you know, the former vice president of the United States who allegedly claimed he "invented" the Internet. Except, you know, Gore never said that. It's a myth that persists despite regular debunking on outlets such as Snopes –- a website that exists on the Internet.
As Gore explained to Wolf Blitzer in a1999 interview, he supported the creation of the Internet economic- and legislative-wise. It's a claim supported by the Internet Hall of Fame, which describes this inductee in the "global connectors" category as "a key proponent of sponsoring legislation that funded the expansion of and greater public access to the Internet."
One "innovator" inductee you can't help but be familiar with is Craig Newmark, without whom the world would be lesser for its lack of Craigslist jokes and at least one awesome song by "Weird Al" Yankovic, titled "Craigslist."
"In early 2011 Craig launched Craigconnects, his initiative to link up everyone on the planet using the Internet to bear witness to good efforts and encourage the same behavior in others," his Hall of Fame bio notes. As of Monday, that includes helping squirrels –- which I am for.
Two inductees remain both involved and vocal in Internet freedom today.
Oft-described as a "father of the Internet," Vint Cerf is an inductee in the "pioneer" category. Currently employed as Google's "chief Internet evangelist," Cerf co-designed Internet architecture and TCP/IP protocols -– how the Internet communicates.
A vocal protester in the whole SOPA/PIPA mishegas, Cerf also disagrees with the United Nations' recent assertion that the Internet is a human right. "It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things," he wrote in a New York Times editorial. According to Cerf, it's "the responsibility of technology creators themselves to support human and civil rights."
Meanwhile, "innovator" inductee Sir Tim Berners-Lee –- the guy responsible for HTML –- recently called the British government's plan to monitor the Internet activity of everyone in the country a "destruction of human rights."
Berners-Lee also has issues with the Cybersecurity Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) here in the U.S.
CISPA is "threatening the rights of people in America, and effectively rights everywhere, because what happens in America tends to affect people all over the world," he said. "Even though the SOPA and PIPA acts were stopped by huge public outcry, it's staggering how quickly the U.S. government has come back with a new, different, threat to the rights of its citizens."
One more popular "innovator" inductee (and then you can go read the rest for yourself): Linus Torvalds, self-described "benevolent dictator of Planet Linux," and creator of the Linux kernel, the most popular free, open source software ever (which, FYI, he wrote in his mother's kitchen at the tender age of 21).
Torvalds could've made millions sitting on the board of a Linux-related company, but turned down the cash because he didn't want to compromise his objectivity. That's the stuff of Linus legend, earning him fans –- and fansites –- all over the world. And jokes. There are also countless Linus Torvalds jokes. They'e all pretty much like this: "Linus Torvalds can divide by zero."
If you're into programming and know your Internet history, you find that hilarious. And if you want to know about Internet history –- and you should, seeing as you're on it 24/7 –- check out the rest of the Internet Hall of Fame inductees.
Hurry! Do it before Mark Zuckerberg makes the list. It's only a matter of time.