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Meet the 2013 Internet Hall Of Fame inductees … wait, there’s an Internet Hall Of Fame?

Internet Hall Of Fame inductees 2013

Last week the Internet Hall of Fame announced its second class of Inductees and if you’re at all like me, you can barely contain your excitement. This year’s class includes Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.org and Aaron Swartz, the young programmer turned activist who tragically killed himself in January while being prosecuted for hacking into the MIT computer system. Notable names for sure. Last year’s inaugural class included Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.org, and Al Gore, ex-Vice President, climate change advocate, and awkward kisser.

The inductees are chosen by the Internet Society’s Advisory Board, also known as the Pentaverate, a select body that meets in secret, gaining access only by password. What’s that? It’s an international group of 15 experts from various Internet-related fields such as software engineers, historians, researchers, and journalists? That makes so much more sense! The awards ceremony will take place in Berlin in early August and be broadcast over – wait for it – the internet. So, set your calendars now!

The internet as we know it has only been around since the late ‘90s; it’s barely ready for its Bar Mitzvah

The internet dates back to 1958, when Bell Labs invented the first modem, and it’s sorta kinda been with us ever since; from Licklider’s “far out” Intergalactic Network concept in ’62 to Ray Tomlinson’s “groovy” invention of email in 1972 to Al Gore’s “rad” Computing and Communications Act, which allocated 600 million big ones to high performance computing and created the National Research and Educational Network – it’s technically been around for over 50 years.

But who are we kidding? The internet as you and I know it has only been around since the late ‘90s. Put in those terms, it’s barely ready for its Bar Mitzvah – shouldn’t we at least wait until it’s as tall as the girls before we start slapping people on the back for a job well done and giving them $18 checks? An Internet Hall of Fame now is like putting out a Greatest Hits album if you’ve only had two records (or if you’re the Eagles).

Not everything needs a Hall of Fame anyway. You don’t see the Printing Press Hall of Fame, do you? Or the Refrigerator Hall of Fame? Know why? Because it would be ridiculous! Part of the idea behind a Hall of Fame – any Hall of Fame – is that the people in it are, well, famous. The word “fame” is right there in the title. That’s not by accident. Robert Taylor and J.C.R. Licklider’s 1968 paper on the future of networked computing might be a real page-turner, but I doubt anyone’s going to pay admission to see a bust of them or cheer them on with giant foam fingers.

But I suppose if we’re really dead-set on this whole Internet Hall of Fame idea, I’d like to nominate a few candidates that have influenced how the internet is really used in our lives. If I may:

  • The Nigerian Prince – For years, this poor guy has been flooding the inboxes of Americans, hoping that one day, someone will help him transfer his enormous amount of cash to their accounts in exchange for a generous kickback. That it hasn’t happened speaks ill of our collective charity, but that he continues to be able to reach out and plead his case? Pure internet inspiration.
  • Sasha Grey – Any Internet Hall of Fame that doesn’t acknowledge the medium’s primary use as a vehicle for porn, seems at best incomplete and at worst ashamed of itself. Sasha Grey is the queen of pornography in the Internet age, even leveraging her enormous popularity into non-porn roles in movies and television like “The Girlfriend Experience” and “Entourage.” I’m told these don’t compare to her earlier stuff, but work is work, right?
  • The Angry Commenter – You have to admire his (and, yes, I’m assuming it’s a guy) unrelenting approach, reading whole parts of articles and/or headlines, then flooding comment threads with vitriolic diatribes. Letters to the Editor used to be so much effort, but thanks ease, reliability, and anonymity of the internet, promising writers everywhere can reach their full potential and share their insights with the world.
  • Facebook Oversharer – Enough about your kids already!
  • Average Internet Visionary – Mark Zuckerberg kind of changed the way we use the internet, don’t you think? Maybe he should be included in the Hall of Fame. Or how about Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Google’s kind of a big deal, right? They’re not even in this thing? Steve Jobs? Bill Gates? No?

It’s kind of admirable that the Internet Society focuses on the people that built the foundation for the Internet rather than the sexy names who made it what it is today. But no one goes to Cooperstown to see the guy who invented the Louisville Slugger. They go to see the guy that used it to hit over 700 home runs. And if ever there was a home run, it’s Sasha Grey. So may I suggest adding one more name? At least think about it.

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