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Claim: Vice-President Al Gore claimed that he "invented" the Internet.
Origins: Despite the derisive references that continue even today, Al Gore did not claim he "invented" the Internet, nor did he say anything that could reasonably be interpreted that way. The "Al Gore said he 'invented' the Internet" put-downs were misleading, out-of-context distortions of something he said during an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition" program on
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.Clearly, although Gore's phrasing might have been a bit clumsy (and perhaps self-serving), he was not claiming that he "invented" the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development the technology that we now know as the Internet. To claim that Gore was seriously trying to take credit for the "invention" of the Internet is, frankly, just silly political posturing that arose out of a close presidential campaign. Gore never used the word "invent," and the words "create" and "invent" have distinctly different meanings — the former is used in the sense of "to bring about" or "to bring into existence" while the latter is generally used to signify the first instance of someone's thinking up or implementing an idea. (To those who say the words "create" and "invent" mean exactly the same thing, we have to ask why, then, the media overwhelmingly and consistently cited Gore as having claimed he "invented" the Internet, even though he never used that word, and transcripts of what he actually said were readily available.)
If President Eisenhower had said in the mid-1960s that he, while president, "created" the Interstate Highway System, we would not have seen dozens and dozens of
Whether Gore's statement that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" is justified is a subject of debate. Any statement about the "creation" or "beginning" of the Internet is difficult to evaluate, because the Internet is not a homogenous entity (it's a collection of computers, networks, protocols, standards, and application programs), nor did it all spring into being at once (the components that comprise the Internet were developed in various places at different times and are continuously being modified, improved, and expanded). A spirited defense of Gore's claim by Vint Cerf (often referred to as the "father of the Internet") notes "that as a Senator and now as Vice President, Gore has made it a point to be as well-informed as possible on technology and issues that surround it," although many of the components of today's Internet came into being well before Gore's first term in Congress began in 1977.
It is true, though, that Gore was popularizing the term "information superhighway" in the early 1990s (although he did not, as is often claimed by others, coin the phrase himself) when few people outside academia or the computer/defense industries had heard of the Internet, and he sponsored the 1988 National High-Performance Computer Act (which established a national computing plan and helped link universities and libraries via a shared network) and cosponsored the Information Infrastructure and Technology Act of 1992 (which opened the Internet to commercial traffic).
In May 2005, the organizers of the Webby Awards for online achievements honored Al Gore with a lifetime achievement award for three decades of contributions to the Internet. "He is indeed due some thanks and consideration for his early contributions," said Vint Cerf.
Last updated: 5 May 2005
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