Mitra's claims to internet fame - an informal history Print

This is a collection of things I'm responsible for, and also some of the arguments I lost. Many of them won't mean anything unless you were around at the time ....


In 1985, I started GreenNet, Britain's 4th ISP (when it was actually X.25 not TCP that we all used), it focussed on the non-profit sector and is still around today - unlike its 3 predecessors. It grew at 15% per month. From there, I co-founded, with people from IGC - especially Mark Graham - the Association for Progressive Communications, which pioneered the Internet in much of the developing world. The name was dreamed up in a hotel bedroom with among other people Peter Gabriel who helped with funding and publicity.

There is an interesting perspective on this in Peter Willett's paper & lecture "Who really created the internet" and in Frederik Noronha & Karen Higgs article


For a long time I was CTO at Pandora Systems one of the first ISP's in San Francisco, and a pioneer of making the internet, till then an academic and military playground, available for commercial use. (see John Quaterman's history)

I was the lead technical person at Pandora, advising the creation of Sovam - Russia's first ISP, and for the first time making the Internet available for commercial use in Russia. At that time a third of the Soviet Unions international data flowed through the PC on my desk to the net, (on a 9600 baud leased line). At this time there were only about 21 international phone lines into Russia, and during the coup against Gorbachev we were the only working link into Russia, so that Nato had to call us (by phone!) to get email through to Yeltsin, holed up in the Moscow white house.

I have a tenuous claim to co-inventing the URL, with Brewster Kahle, Bob Tribble and Bob Schumaker at a meeting at Hackers in October 1991. Of course credit with actually using the idea goes to Tim Berners-Lee who Brewster shared the idea with at an IETF meeting, and who needed something like this for his new system called the World Wide Web. More docs ...

Apart from the original team in Minneapolis, I wrote most of the patches and additions to the open-source Gopher server and unix client, in essence making it usable for commercial applications. While doing this, I was responsible for making sure that the IETF expanded its concept of Mime types from an email only perspective to work with systems such as Gopher and the Web at a time when there was real likelihood of Gopher and the Web moving to their own system of types.

I built AOL's first gateway to the internet, linking them to Gopher and WAIS (this was pre WWW), this project, original a side-project of the education group at AOL (the rest of AOL didn't believe in the internet at that time) evolved into the biggest cache on the net, 36 Gbytes - a huge amount for the time

As a contractor to WAIS Inc, I was the lead architect for CMP's TechNet, the first magazine publisher to put all its magazines onto the net and one that hit a million hits a day in the first week.

At Worlds Inc, I designed the technology for Worlds Chat, the first 3D avatar chat on the net, and also later at Paragraph International put together the technology for People Space in Japan

I was co-author of the Moving Worlds proposal, which became VRML2.0, and was then renamed VRML 97 when it was approved by ISO. Despite the attempt by SGI to claim all the credit, this was really the work of a six individuals. Gavin Bell and Rick Carey from SGI, Yasuaki Honda and Kouichi Matusda and Rodger Lee at Sony and myself. There is a historical archive of the papers that I still have copies of here. T he spec more recently morphed into X3D, and the VRML2 spec also became part of the MPEG4 scene description language.

My own interest, is community online, so I co-authored with Bob Rockwell and others at Blaxxun and Honda-san and others at Sony, the Living Worlds specification for multi-user shared worlds, I wrote most of the technical aspects of the paper and in particular came up with the Zones / Objects / State concept, and the term MuTech (pronounced Mew-tech) which has gone into the language to apply to the technology that links multi-user systems. I'm told this is becoming part of MPEG4 multi-user worlds requirements.

In particular -- a tiny sideline in VRML2.0, but something that was learned from the mistakes of HTML, was to make sure that all URL's were multi-value fields allowing for pointing to multiple sources for textures. This was later exploited in the UML standard which I wrote the technical parts of with Chris Marrin, and which allowed textures and other files to be shipped as libraries, so that worlds would load much quicker.

I've been heavily involved in Internet Standardisation for a long time, I'm credited in the RFCs (the documents that define the Internet) for being part of the URL, and HTTP and the Internet Architecture Board meeting 1994 and I co-authored the RFC on the mime-type model/ (the first new primary mime type accepted)

I should say of course, that almost all of these achievements are due to the quality of the teams I've worked with. If I've missed your name from something, please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .