As we all know, Al Gore invented the internet. Or maybe he didn’t invent it, but he said he did. Or maybe that’s not even true…
I still see this come up fairly regularly, and I kind of feel bad for Gore about it. He indeed did great work to help the internet grow, and he never directly claimed to have invented it. This was really a case of opponents creating a fake story out of a somewhat-accurate quote and then getting everyone to run with it.
The initial confusion came out of a 1999 interview that Gore had with Wolf Blitzer. You can read the full transcript of the interview here, but this is the part that was pulled out:
During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.
His wording of “creating the internet” is the tricky part, and it wasn’t well-worded by him. However, it’s not too inaccurate. In 2000, Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf (two very important figures in the development of the internet) wrote a strong response supporting the impact that Gore had. It included:
Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.
No one person or even small group of persons exclusively “invented” the Internet. It is the result of many years of ongoing collaboration among people in government and the university community. But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore’s contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.
It can be cute to poke fun and say things like “I’m glad Al Gore invented the internet because I love using x”, but just know that he never really made that claim, though he did play a major role in shaping the internet that we know and love today.