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Brian Kantor

Brian Kantor is the co-author of the Network News Transfer Protocol, developed in 1984.  Kantor attended the University of California at San Diego.

Interview (6/26/2007) with Brian Kantor

1. What benefits did Usenet provide for your professional or academic life?

It fostered technical and social interaction in the blossoming Unix community.

We exchanged tips and techniques, new development news, advice on projects, and quite a bit of humor.

2. How did the various NNTP developers collaborate? Was correspondence primarily through email?

Primarily electronic: email and a Usenet group, occasionally in person at various conferences or social events. A fair amount of alcohol was involved in the latter.

3. Was the development of NNTP an official part of your studies or a personal project?

Personal: I was an undergrad at the time, so protocol development was only vaguely related to my studies.

4. What were your main technical challenges when developing NNTP?

The main challenge was making sure that all the weird things that the uucp-based news software did were also accommodated in the internet protocol that became nntp.

We were trying to make NNTP compatible so that the Usenet software itself didn't have to change. I think we largely succeeded.

5. Were you involved with any other Usenet-related projects besides developing NNTP?

Not in a substantial way, although I did participate in many discussions that may have shaped the future of Usenet - it was a fairly small community and we all knew each other.

6. Even in light of Usenet's popularity at the time, were you surprised at the quick adoption of NNTP and the tremendous number of Usenet servers in operation today?

Of the rapid adoption, I was not surprised, no.

It seemed to everyone in the news community that using the Internet to spread Usenet news was an obvious win over paying for slow long-distance modem calls. Some folks were already using crude mechanisms to do so; We were just filling a need in providing a uniform way to do it.

7. What role do you think Usenet had in the evolution of forums and blogs?

Clearly the beginnings of electronic self-publishing and on-line social interaction can be attributed to mailing lists, telephone BBSs, and Usenet.

As is said, "freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one," and now that ownership is within the reach of everyone.

8. What are your thoughts regarding the future of Usenet? What aspect, if any, could be improved upon?

I think Usenet has still some value, and will be around a while.

I still read it.

With the nearly-ubiquitous presence of the internet, there are probably better ways to distribute the news than the original (and still current) flooding method, but that's for someone else to design.

9. Where are you currently employed? What is your current role? What are you currently working on?

I'm the principal software architect for the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Network Operations group. I've got dozens of projects, all network related in one way or another.

10. Are you currently involved with the operation of any Usenet servers? Which cluster?

Yes, I still run news.ucsd.edu.

11. Do you actively participate in any newsgroups? Which ones?

Very few. Some of the ham radio groups, some of the systems administration groups. And of course I read the various computer security postings.

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