Vint Cerf, widely acclaimed as the father of the Internet, is working with Nasa to extend the public network to Mars.
During his keynote speech at the annual Optical Internetworking Forum, which is being held in conjunction with Supercomm in Atlanta this week, Cerf said: "The Internet is for everyone - even Martians."
Cerf is working with Nasa on its Mars Mission Plan to build an interplanetary Internet that will enable members of different space missions to communicate with each other and share ideas.
He said: "Each mission has used its own integral system, so new missions have not been able to communicate with past missions. So I had the idea of using the Internet to create a backbone facility across the solar system."
Nasa's 25 year long Mars Mission Plan will involve low Mars orbit and aerosynchronous satellites by 2008, with Mars outposts established by 2010. By 2018, there could be manned orbiting missions to Mars, and Nasa hopes to have manned Mars stations by 2030.
Back on earth, Cerf, the co creator of the TCP/IP protocol, which acts as the backbone of the Internet, and MCI Worldcom's current vice president of Internet architecture and technology, said the network, particularly the commercial version, was still in its early stages. As a result, business plans are in a state of flux.
He explained: "It's like the early stages of the gold rush, but today, everyone is looking for gold on the stock market. But the people who made money in the gold rush were those selling picks and shovels - this is what the telecoms companies are doing."
Cerf said the Internet would transform the way people view and use different kinds of media, including radio, and the market would be driven by consumers. Although radio stations are currently confined to the frequency on which they broadcast, programme makers would, in future, be able to smash these barriers because listeners could tune into global URLs.
He also believed that Web based video conferencing would become popular as games equipment makers such as Sega, Sony and Nintendo began to support TCP/IP, enabling users to add video cameras and microphones onto their machines. Virtual groups playing games would lead to the widespread acceptance of video conferencing, he continued.
And as kit such as hand held devices went increasingly online, the Internet would be used with global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to identify nearby amenities. Video casette recorders (VCRs) were also likely to be hooked up to the Internet to help users set up and record programmes.
"It would also let people find out the time because it would get rid of the flashing '12:00' that is on everyone's VCRs," Cerf concluded.
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