Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler

2024 Fellow

For inspiring and creative leadership of the Network Information Centers that helped shape today’s internet

We were kind of the prehistoric Google.

— Jake Feinler

Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler was born in 1931 in Wheeling, West Virginia, and has left an indelible mark on the development of the internet and online information. She received a BS in Chemistry from West Liberty University and later went on to do graduate work at Purdue. In 1960, Feinler joined the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI) in Menlo Park, California, as an information scientist. At the time, Doug Engelbart’s Augmentation Research Center was pioneering many of the features of modern computing with his interactive, hyperlinked, mouse-driven oNLine System (NLS). The possibility for using these tools to deliver information intrigued Feinler, and she joined the group in 1972.  

In 1973, Feinler became the principal investigator for the ARPANET Network Information Center and later the Defense Data Network Network Information Center. Under her leadership, the NICs developed an online query system for users, published important network documents like the Protocol Handbook, managed the site liaisons that kept users across the networks informed, and ran the first Internet Naming Authority—the technical function that allows host computers to be added to the network.  

In that role, Feinler's team assisted in the transition of the internet to the domain naming system. She was also instrumental in choosing the generic top-level domain names (TLDs) of .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, .org, and .net. Both the domain naming system and the generic TLDs are still in use today. After leaving SRI, she assisted in bringing the NASA Science Internet (NSI) NIC onto the internet at NASA Ames.  

Feinler was a mentor and advocate for women in technology. At a time when the field was overwhelmingly male dominated, she served as a role model and inspiration for aspiring female technologists. Throughout her career, she received numerous accolades and awards for her work. In 2012, she was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame and in 2013 received the Jon Postel Internet Service Award in recognition of her role in shaping the internet’s development. She was also inducted into the Women In Technology International (WITI) hall of fame.  

After retirement, Feinler turned her interest to internet history, or as she claimed, “While everyone else is going forward, I am going backward.” She donated her extensive networking archives to the Computer History Museum and wrote a comprehensive finding aid to this keystone collection for future researchers. Recently, she and internet pioneer John Vittal coauthored an extensive bibliographic timeline on electronic mail, also at CHM. Feinler has left a legacy as an inspiring trailblazer in the field of computer networking. 


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