Internet Guide Logo

Did any single person invent the Internet?

Last Edit: 10/01/17

No. Unlike the World Wide Web, which was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Internet did not have one single inventor. The Internet was developed and evolved over four decades, and it was designed by numerous individuals and research facilities. However, there are a few persons who stand out in contributing more than others to the invention of the Internet: Leonard Klienrock who developed an early theory of packet switching; Larry G. Roberts who was the lead designer of ARPANET; Jon Postel who was a member of most Internet organisations and was the RFC Editor; and Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn who created the TCP/IP protocol suite: the core protocols (software) that makes the Internet run. A more expansive list of the main individuals who helped invent the Internet is provided by the Internet Society's Hall of Fame: in the Pioneers category.

While there are individuals - listed above - who were assigned to design the Internet - and it's earlier incarnations like ARPANET - it still needed to be funded. The primary funder of the Internet was the U.S. Department of Defense, and it's technological research department ARPA/DARPA. When DARPA decided to focus on projects with a solely military application, the role of funding the development of the Internet was still retained in the hands of the U.S. government. One of the primary supporter of ARPANET, and computer networking, was Al Gore: a senator who served as Vice President of the United States of America from 1993-2001. Vint Cerf has stated on a number of occasions that Al Gore provided essential support and promotion of computer networking projects throughout the 1980s and 1990s; Al Gore is a member of the Internet Hall of Fame. The Internet boom is credited as starting from 1993-1995; it's probably not a coincidence this occurred at the same time that Al Gore became the Vice President of the United States.

Present day, thousands of volunteers contribute to the design of Internet Standards, and large tech firms play a large role (instead of the U.S. government) in providing research funds for the development of the Internet. That said, the Internet has now been invented, it's primary protocols are still TCP and IP: therefore, if anyone is going to credited as an inventor of the Internet it is the co-inventors of TCP/IP: Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. In conclusion, while there are a number of men - some of which are highlighted above - who are referred to as the "Founding Fathers" of the Internet, no single individual can lay claim to inventing the Internet. The Internet was a project funded by the government of the United States of America, and developed within research facilities and educational institutions; due to the size and scope of the project, no single individual would be capable of inventing the complete system.