Vinton Cerf issues standards wake-up call


15 Apr 2008

Size matters: Many people's first internet experience will be on a mobile device. Size matters: Many people's first internet experience will be on a mobile device.

In today's complex, networked world it is crucial to create broad standards for business-to-business and consumer-to-business online interactions.

This would be of vital importance to the financial services industry, in particular, said Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google -- and acknowledged father of the Internet -- in a breakfast briefing presentation today at HSBC's London headquarters.

Companies in the finance sector had to interact with practically every other industry, he said, making it important that the sector drive adoption of broad, horizontal information representation and exchange standards.

"There already exists a collection of standards for representation of information," he said. "The trick is not reinventing new ones but combining [existing standards] together."

Pointing to the importance of describing information and transactions in a standardised way in today's complex business and financial marketplace, Mr Cerf warned of the need to avoid the mistakes of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) era. He noted that the creation of industry-specific vertical protocols was "the rock on which EDI foundered".

Mr Cerf stressed that the internet itself -- which he invented more than three decades ago with partner Robert Kahn as part of a US-Government-sponsored defence research project -- was built on standardised models of information representation that were combined in ever more novel ways to create the modern, flexible internet.

"Standardisation creates a platform on which we can create new applications [and new businesses]," Mr Cerf said. "This was a constant from the very beginnings of the [internet] network's architecture."

Another trend on the internet that Mr Cerf identified as a key driver for establishing robust, horizontal information exchange mechanisms was the growth of mobile access to the network.

The trick is not reinventing new standards but combining existing ones together.

Today there are more than three billion mobile devices, only 15% of which have internet access and this is set to grow dramatically. "Many people will have their first opportunity to interact with the internet on a mobile device and not on a laptop," Mr Cerf noted.

The new opportunities for information exchange and transactions -- leveraging geographic awareness of these devices -- is coupled with challenges presented by screen size, data rate and keyboards. But it is critical, according to Mr Cerf, that these issues be addressed because so many devices already existed.

He stressed the importance of "the ability to get information that is relevant at the moment that we need it". In the financial world this means being able to move value around -- through authorised transactions -- even from a mobile device.

At today's briefing, executives from HSBC Global Banking and Markets also discussed the benefits of the Financial Information eXchange (FIX) Protocol, a public-domain standard for real-time electronic exchange of securities transactions.

HSBC Holdings plc
HSBC Holdings plc serves over 125 million customers worldwide through some 10,000 offices in 83 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. With assets of some USD2,150 billion at 30 June 2007, HSBC is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations. HSBC is marketed worldwide as 'the world's local bank'.

HSBC Global Banking and Markets
HSBC Global Banking and Markets is an emerging markets-led and financing-focused business that provides tailored financial solutions to major government, corporate and institutional clients worldwide. Global Banking and Markets has offices in more than 60 countries and territories. Managed as a global business, HSBC offers clients geographic reach and deep local knowledge. For more information on Global Banking and Markets, please visit

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