In Memoriam: Bill Manning, Distinguished Computer Scientist at ISI and Internet Visionary

February 14, 2020

Renowned computer scientist Dr. Bill Manning, whose work was fundamental to developing the internet as we know it today, passed away January 25, 2020.

Manning's work in the internet field began in 1979, when he worked at Texas Instruments, establishing the company's IP network within the semiconductor division and later throughout the company as a whole. Manning also worked at Rice University as lead engineer for the NSFnet's regional network, SESQUINET.

At USC's Information Sciences Institute (ISI), Manning was a staff researcher from 1994–2015, while also working with the WIDE Project in Japan, which played an important role in the formation of the internet. He also received his PhD in Media and Governance in 2010 under Jun Murai at Keio University. At ISI, he worked on the Los Nettos project, a regional network project in the early days of the internet, as well as the Routing Arbiter Project, the INT. domain, the RS.NET testbed, and many others.

Manning was integral to B-Root, one of the 13 root servers in the world that are essential to supporting the infrastructure and traffic control of the internet, which has operated at USC/ISI since 1987. As an operator and program manager, Manning helped steer the evolution of the root server, and was passionate about autonomy in thought and speech on the internet.

A prolific scientist, Manning's contributions helped develop the internet as we know and use it today. Photo source: CenterGate Research Group LLC

"Bill fought fiercely for the importance and independence of the RSS and we all owe him a great deal of thanks for his work on the root," said Wes Hardakar, senior computer scientist at the Networking and Cybersecurity Division at ISI, who worked alongside Manning at B-Root. "He was directly responsible for bringing my involvement to the B team and I will miss the always enlightening discussions with him, where I invariably learned of a viewpoint I hadn't considered before."

With his expertise in internet infrastructure management, DNS development and operation, and internet instrumentation, Manning served on various technical advisory boards, such as i-DNS and UltraDNS, and was an invaluable member of numerous organizations, including IEEE, ACM, USENIX, APIA and ISP/C.

Nowadays, many of us take for granted the freedom and accessibility of the internet, but perhaps the scope of our freedom wouldn't be the way it is were it not for Manning and his championing of universal rights online. Because of this, Manning's legacy will live on not just with his family, friends, and colleagues, but also with every click and download online the world over.

"Bill fought for the fundamental principles of everyone on the internet in ways that few people will appreciate," Hardakar said. "We owe him a great deal of thanks. Thank you, Bill, for everything you gave to this world."

Read Manning's obituary at B-Root, WIDE, and the blog of colleague Rodney Van Meter.