Interview with internet pioneer Steve Crocker

I interviewed Steve Crocker, Chairman of ICANN and author of RFC1.

This interview was published on on 18 July 2013.

In a bathroom, at three in the morning in April 1969, a graduate student named Steve Crocker started to write one of the most important documents of the last century. Though drafted in humble circumstances Crocker’s document would set the open, inclusive tone of the next half century of Internet engineering culture, and initiate the process of defining the rules that govern virtually all data exchange on the planet. Continue reading

An experiment in startups working with news media companies: looking back at The Irish Times Digital Challenge

(This post also appeared in The Irish Times on 4 October 2012.)

LAST FRIDAY, at The Workman’s Club on Wellington Quay in Dublin, an Irish technology start-up company called GetBulb was announced as the overall winner of The Irish Times Digital Challenge.

GetBulb has produced a system that can rapidly create data visualisations suitable for both high-resolution print and for online interactive graphics in seconds. This start-up could, quite literally, change how media organisations across the globe approach design. Continue reading

Q&A about the history of the Internet with the Epoch Times

The Epoch Times published a Q&A here with me about the book. We covered the idea behind the book and politics. Text below…

The Internet has integrated itself into nearly every aspect of modern life, following users on the cell phone, at work, and at home. While the Web grows, however, its history and future remain a mystery to the common user.

Author Johnny Ryan hopes to change this with his new book, “A History of the Internet and the Digital Future.” The book is the first to tell the story of the Internet from its inception up to the present. The Epoch Times had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan about his work via e-mail. Continue reading

2nd extract of my book in Ars Technica — The essence of the ‘Net

Chapter 3 of my book A History of the Internet and the Digital Future has just been published by Ars Technica. This is one of the 3 chapters (of the 13 in the book) that are being published for free. Here it is, or read at Ars.

Johnny Ryan’s A History of the Internet and the Digital Future has just been released and is already drawing rave reviews. Ars Technica is proud to present three chapters from the book, condensed and adapted for our readers. You can find Chapter 1 here. The current installment is adapted from Chapter 3, “The Essence of the Internet,” and it tells the story of the development of some of the fundamental technologies and protocols that underlie the Internet.


I just published the first chapter of my book for free via Ars Technica. Full text over at Ars

Johnny Ryan’s A History of the Internet and the Digital Future has just been released and is already drawing rave reviews. Ars Technica is proud to present three chapters from the book, condensed and adapted for our readers. This first installment is adapted from Chapter 1, “A Concept Born in the Shadow of the Nuke,” and it looks at the role that the prospect of nuclear war played in the technical and policy decisions that gave rise to the Internet. Continue reading

Speaking notes on the digital future

This afternoon I was doing a prerecord for Drivetime, a popular show on RTE (Ireland’s national radio station). I took a few minutes and wrote down some points I wanted to cover. We were due to discuss my new book A history of the Internet and the digital future so they cover the big picture behind Wikileaks, the future of digital media, and politics. Here they are… Continue reading

The Toronto Star publishes feature interview with me about A history of the Internet and the digital future

By Jennifer Hunter Columnist

Al Gore was ridiculed during the 2000 U.S. presidential election for supposedly claiming he had created the Internet. But digital technology expert Johnny Ryan says Gore’s comments to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer were misinterpreted. According to transcripts of the interview, says Ryan, Gore was taking credit merely for passing an act in 1991 allowing “conditions” for the Internet’s development. Ryan, a senior researcher at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, recalls this anecdote in his new book, A History of the Internet and the Digital Future. An edited version of the Star’s email interview with him:  Continue reading

Business Week Op Ed “One Way to Save the Music Industry”

One Way to Save the Music Industry, Business Week, 29 July 2010

By Johnny Ryan and Allègre L. Hadida

Given the persistence of digital music piracy, a new subscription-creation model borrowed from online gaming could aid ailing record labels

Does the answer to music retailing’s collapse lie within the computer game industry? Global music revenues suffered a 10th year of decline in 2009, with sales and performance rights falling to $17 billion. In contrast, revenue from the computer game industry’s sale of portable and console hardware, software, and accessories rose from $7.98 billion in 2000 to $20.2 billion in 2009 in the U.S. alone. The music industry may find inspiration in the game industry, where the prevailing Internet-driven trends of online subscription and community participation are reducing piracy and keeping consumers actively engaged.

Continue reading

Good news for startups in Ireland (iGAP)

Tidbit of news: I attended the final of the iGAP today. iGAP is the Internet Growth Acceleration Program, which was initiated by Colm Lyon of Realex and hosted by Enterprise Ireland. The 10 finalist startups pitching had participated in iGAP for the previous six months, learning from mentors and instructors drawn together by Brian Caufield. This was the first ever iGAP, and today Frank Ryan, the CEO of Enterprise Ireland announced that it will become permanent. Good news for startups and good news for VC operators in Ireland. (photo: Joe Drumgoole pitching CloudSplit to the crowd).

Kool DJ Herc and the future of hacked media

Celebrating the arrival of page proofs of the book, this snippet comes from a section that describes the future of ‘extruded media’…

A digital media boom is underway in which assertive audiences are beginning to use and extrude media rather than watch it. To understand the nature of the coming global media boom, reflect on the birth of break beat hip-hop music.  In the early 1970s a high-rise apartment building on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in New York’s Bronx became the birthplace of a new culture, and a new style of editing and adapting music. Clive Campbell, aka ‘Kool dj Herc’, a Jamaican-born resident, began playing records at events in and around the building. Continue reading

Internet is Fecund but Hazardous (PhD –> the gyst)

The new book, A History of the Internet and the Digital Future, is due in September 010. While I’m waiting for that I’ve been wrapping up my PhD work. And I think I now have answers – at least, almost final answers. Or at least some pre-almost-final answers.

Since 2005 various Governments of EU Member States have been increasingly concerned about the Internet and its role in the radicalisation of young Europeans to adopt violent ideologies associated with al Qaeda. Although we do not appear to have definitive information on the Internet’s importance in this phenomenon, concern at the political level has at times grown so severe that censorship has been loudly mooted[and argued against], and even rolled out in some countries. So, officialdom is concerned. The problem is that there is entirely too little data available on the Internet’s role. Nor is there useful data on how violent radical ideas spread on the Internet. This is the gap into which my PhD fits. Continue reading

Measures to prevent the spread of violent material on the Net across the EU?

The IIEA and the European Commission have just signed a contract to begin a study on non-legislative measures that might prevent the spread of violent radical content on the Internet. Our job is to examine the measures currently in practice, determine whether any are appropriate and functional, and whether these would work if applied across the EU. Press release below…

Continue reading

ICANN becomes Independent!

Yesterday’s announcement from ICANN ends a lingering point of controversy surrounding the governance of the Internet: the United States’ continued control of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). ICANN’s announcement of 30 September 2009 ends that controversy. A relevant snippet from the forthcoming book gives the background to ICANN, the controversy, and the importance of the new announcement. Continue reading

The Big Idea: the death of the center and the new centrifugal trend

Now that it is complete, a clear narrative has emerged from the forthcoming book. The  Internet, like many readers of the book itself, is a child of the industrial era. Long before digital communications, the steam engine, telegraph pole, and coalmine quickened the pace of the world. Industrialized commerce, communications and war spun the globe ever faster, and increasingly to a centripetal beat. Control in the industrialized world was put at the centre. The furthest reaches of the globe came under the sway of centers of power. Massive urbanization and a flight from the land created monstrous cities in the great nations. Training of workmen, the precise measurement of a pistol barrel’s caliber, mass assembly of automobiles, all were a regimented, standardized in conformity with the centripetal imperative. The industrial revolution created a world of centralization and organized hierarchy. Its defining pattern was a single, central dot to which all strands led. The emerging digital age is different.

The defining pattern of the digital age is the absence of the central dot. In its place a mesh of many points is evolving, each linked by webs and networks. This story is about the death of the center and Continue reading

Al Gore and the Internet

With the forthcoming book almost complete, there are one or two matters that I had to get to the bottom of. Foremost among them, Al Gore’s involvement in the development of the Internet, and the controversy that surrounded this question in the 2000 presidential election…

For a brief moment during the 2000 presidential election in the United States the history of the Internet became an issue of much debate. Al Gore, the Democratic Party candidate, came under attack because, it was reported, he had claimed to have invented the Internet. According to one estimate more than 4,800 television, newspaper and magazine items made reference Continue reading

Silicon Valley Landmark: Zott’s and the packet radio test

San Francisco features disproportionately in the history of the digital age. Yet despite the historical coverage it receives, little attention has been given to one of its landmarks, a small wood paneled tavern known as “Zott’s” – officially named “The Alpine Inn” Continue reading

Models of state research spending: Vannevar Bush v Mike Mansfield

A new statement from Ireland’s Science Advisory Counsel calls for an exploration of how “Ireland can maximise the revenue potential of its investment in STI”. The Irish Science Advisory Counsel is composed of senior figures in industry and research including Sean Baker of IONA and Roger Whatmore of the Tyndall Institute. The question coming to the fore is to what extent should Government direct strategic research funding to advance the national economic interest? Two examples worth examining for its pros and cons is the post war US  model established by Vannevar Bush, and also the countervailing approach that embodied in the Mansfield Amendment introduced of 1969. Continue reading

BBC interviews – on the UK Home Secretary’s proposals

There was little detail in the speech by the UK Home Secretary yesterday, but one possibility is that the CleanFeed system of hybrid URL filtering might be applied to attempt censorship of radical material on the Internet.

I was interviewed for the BBC World News Service and BBC Radio’s Simon Mayo programme. One thought which occurred is that the Home Secretary’s use of language about “grooming” suggests a belief that violent militant radicalisation is a top down process, similar to an adult grooming a child for criminal purposes. I think this is perhaps misleading. Radicalisation on the internet seems to be bottom up and horizontal, a process in which like minded individuals consult the Internet for information that will support their assumptions, and lend foundations to their political perspective. Fighting violent radicalisation as “grooming” would prioritise the identification of “groomers”, which could divert effort from the true priority: tacking the narrative that some young people in Europe are using to groom themselves as militants. Continue reading

The militant Islamist call and its echo


Published on openDemocracy (

On the internet, in gymnasiums, bookshops and video-clubs, recruitment propaganda is viewed by and debated among prospective Islamist militants. This wide-ranging material contains four recurrent themes; understanding them is the first step to forming an effective counter-narrative to dissuade the next generation of would-be militants from embracing violence, and channelling their energies and ideas into democratic routes of political and religious persuasion. Continue reading

Europe’s World article: security & defence dossier “EU must take its anti-terrorism fight to the Internet”

DOSSIER SECURITY AND DEFENCE: EU must take its anti-terrorism fight to the Internet Continue reading

Islamists on the internet: brotherhood of belief

This title should have read “Islamist militants on the Internet”.

Published in Magill, May 2005.

In Britain the speed with which the Muslim diaspora embraced the internet was demonstrated by the British Muslim Parliament’s order to all mosques and Muslim schools to install web access as early as 1996. With so many young Muslims in Europe and America using the web to maintain contact with family and friends, it has become a key arena for Islamist propagandists. The internet gives security services and curious browsers the opportunity to explore the extremes of political Islam. Continue reading