The top preachers of Internet gospel. View as a gallery.
Lauded as the Internet's "founding father," Cerf is one of Google's key assets: a digital deity and futurist, renowned for his technical genius and trusted for his candor. Vint Cerf was a lead programmer on ARPANET (forerunner of the modern Internet), led the creation of commercial email at MCI, and served as chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages domain names. An outspoken advocate for net neutrality, he travels globally, preaching the open-Web gospel. His online aspirations have gone extraterrestrial: Cerf works with NASA on the Interplanetary Network, which aims to extend the Internet into outer space.
Combined score: 78.6
Yancey Strickler didn't start out as a techie. For almost 10 years, he made his living as a freelance music journalist, eventually becoming editor of eMusic.com. It took a failed jazz concert to spark the idea for which he would become famous. When a friend, Perry Chen, couldn't get a $20,000 event off the ground, he approached Strickler to help brainstorm a way to fund small projects digitally. In 2009, along with tech designer Charles Adler, they launched Kickstarter, which crowdsources funding for cool projects. Though the investments may be small, the haul can be big: Diaspora, a proto-social network, raised $200,000 on the site.
Combined score: 74.2
At a Christmas party in 2007, Mark Zuckerberg met fellow Harvard grad Sheryl Sandberg, then vice president of online sales at Google. Already a legend from D.C. to Silicon Valley, Sandberg had served as chief of staff to Larry Summers during his term as Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary and led Google's online advertising strategy. Zuckerberg charmed her away from Google, and since then, Sandberg has accomplished what some thought impossible: making Facebook's advertising business profitable, while keeping it discreet and social. Sandberg consistently appears on the "most powerful women in business" lists and serves on the boards of Disney, Starbucks, the Brookings Institution, and Women for Women International.
Combined score: 69.0
The writer is one of the digital world's most prominent soothsayers, cataloging how social media and technology have changed culture and how they will challenge all aspects of our lives in the future. Clay Shirky's most recent book, Cognitive Surplus, argues that technology has enabled more creative collaboration than ever before. His impact is instant—a video of his arguments against the antipiracy bills SOPA/PIPA was viewed more than a million times in 48 hours earlier this year. He's currently a writer in residence at New York University's journalism center and an assistant professor in the university's Interactive Telecommunications Program.
Combined score: 68.0
With a venture-capital career spanning more than 25 years and a passion for blogging, Fred Wilson in many ways is the archetype of the technology financier. He founded Union Square Ventures in 2004 with Brad Burnham, and the firm is an investor in some of the most buzzed-about companies, including Twitter, Tumblr, Zynga, and Etsy. Prior to Union Square Ventures, Wilson cofounded Flatiron Partners, a high-profile investment fund that operated throughout the dotcom bubble of the late '90s, but was shuttered in 2001 after the bubble burst.
Combined score: 67.0
Hired in 1999 as Google's first female engineer, Mayer now spearheads the company's campaign to recruit local businesses, competing with companies such as Yelp and Groupon for an estimated $35.2 billion market. Mayer nabbed the promotion to vice president of location and local services in 2010, after achieving success in search products. But her influence is likely most evident as one of the few public faces of Google. She regularly appears on the conference circuit and in press rounds and has become an emissary for women in tech.
Combined score: 66.0
One of the Internet's most thoughtful and outspoken commentators, Lawrence "Larry" Lessig is an academic-cum-activist. The Harvard Law professor pioneered Creative Commons, the Web's preeminent open-licensing system: an online alternative to copyright protection. He's also helped lead the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. With degrees in management, law, and philosophy from Wharton, Penn, Cambridge, and Yale, the self-described "constitutionalist" clerked for both Federal judge Richard Posner and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. A thinker who takes the political implications of the Internet age seriously, Lessig is a zealous and well-schooled evangelist for the open Web.
Combined score: 64.0
One of the Internet's foremost internationalists, Ethan Zuckerman helped found Global Voices, a network of more than 500 bloggers worldwide. He was a founder of Tripod.com and studied at the preeminent Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Zuckerman has broken new ground on the Web's ability to promote both distraction and civic action. As he puts it, "If there's no porn, the tool doesn't work. If there are no activists, it doesn't work well." As director of MIT's Center for Civic Media, Zuckerman is working to develop the web as a platform for global change.
Combined score: 59.0
A politico well-schooled in the power of tech, Andrew Rasiej helped lead Gov. Howard Dean's wildly successful online fundraising blitz in 2004–a model adopted by the winning Obama campaign four years later. He's now a presence on the Hill, advising senators and congressmen on Web strategy. Rasiej also founded Personal Democracy Media, an online Web advocacy hub, which just netted anti-SOPA lawmakers Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Darrel Issa for its high-profile 2012 forum. Rasiej has proven that successful (and well-funded) political advocacy has to go online, or perish.
Combined score: 58.4
A scholar who turns political heads, Susan Crawford is a noted commentator on the intersection of law and tech. She has served as President Obama's special assistant for science, technology, and innovation Policy, as well as a member of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Council on Technology and Innovation. As the founder of OneWebDay, an Internet celebration held annually on Sept. 22, Crawford hopes to explain arcane issues of tech policy to the average citizen.
Combined score: 55.8
Equal parts businessman and poet, Steve Jobs (1955-2011) had the rare gift of envisioning what technology could be—and then actually delivering it, in the form of magical, iconic products. An egomaniac who raged at his staff until they produced the best work of their careers, Jobs craved minimalism and clean lines, and his genius for marketing created consumer fevers that made Apple the most valuable company in the world. His unrivaled string of breakthroughs—the Mac, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad—was cut short by cancer, at age 56.
return to top ^