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Network World 20th Anniversary

20 people who changed the industry

Looking back at the network industry's most important people of the last 20 years.

By , Network World
March 27, 2006 12:10 AM ET

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Radia Perlman: No path uncovered.
Though a prolific inventor to this day, Perlman is perhaps best known for her seminal routing work of the 1980s. Her spanning-tree algorithm, a network staple, made robust, scalable networking a reality. A much-respected educator and collaborator, Perlman today still specializes in sophisticated routing protocols and network security as a distinguished engineer at Sun.

Yakov Rekhter: Today's transport king.
MPLS has come of age, with carriers and large enterprises adopting the protocol in their next-generation networks. Rekhter is known as the father of MPLS, though others, such as renowned routing expert Tony Li, worked on the protocol. Rekhter, who is now a distinguished engineer at Juniper Networks, has several other essential protocols to his credit as well, including the ubiquitous Border Gateway Protocol.


Mark Andreessen: Internet revolutionary.
In 1993, while studying at the University of Illinois and working part time for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Andreessen and colleague Eric Bina created a user-friendly, graphical browser. Its first version, NCSA Mosaic for X Window System, was so wildly popular among peers, who had been used to plain text browsers, that the duo quickly created Mosaic browsers for non-Unix systems. Andreessen went on to develop a commercial version, initially called Mosaic Netscape, and the rest is history. Andreessen continues to think big as chairman of Opsware, the data-center automation company he co-founded as Loudcloud in 1999.

Tim Berners-Lee: Weaving the Web.
Berners-Lee dreamed of a universal, easy-to-use information system and forever changed the way people network with his revolutionary World Wide Web. He continues to influence Web standardization and development as director of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Vint Cerf: Net weaver.
Cerf is widely hailed for his role in defining protocols that made it possible to stitch together stand-alone research networks to form the ARPANet, the precursor of today's Internet. In particular, we have him and fellow pioneering pals like Bob Kahn to thank for the now-ubiquitous IP. Today Cerf is tinkering with IP at the application layer in his position as chief Internet evangelist at Google.

Jon Postel: Orchestrating Internet standards.
Postel was another of the many quiet powerhouses behind the early Internet. He's credited with creating a clear, concise template for Internet standards and maintaining that set of unified standards documents. As Network World columnist Jim Kobielus notes, "He was the maestro who coordinated the development of many of the most fundamental open standards, without which the Internet and World Wide Web would never have risen so fast and spread so wide." Postel died in 1998 at the age of 55.

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