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Request For Comments (RFC)
There are a plethora of standards when dealing with computers. They exist for
hardware, software, and how each of these should interact with each other. This article
will deal with what are called "Request For Comments" (RFC). RFCs started in
1969 as an informal network of engineers and ARPANET architects to discuss problems and
standardization for the Internet (back then it was just ARPANET). As the years went on,
RFCs became more formal and eventually spawned two sub categories. These categories are
"For Your Information" (FYI) and "Standards" (STD).
Often you may hear someone reference an RFC stating it as a standard. While an RFC is the
beginning of a standard, it isn't truly one. In fact, you could regard them more as notes
or even discussions. They can be written by anyone who wishes to comment on or attempt to
standardize how something works on the Internet. The vast majority of them are technical
and deal with protocols and definitions, some are meant to be humorous, while others are
basically FAQs. There are even some that are just a condensed version of conversations.
The basic premise behind an RFC is that someone will write it, receive feedback, make
changes, post the updated version, and start the cycle over again. The odd thing about
them is that they may not necessarily update the old RFC, but write a new one. This can be
very confusing and I find that generally the whole thing is slightly chaotic. As of this
writing, there are 2,495 RFCs and a pretty good index can be found here.
Please note that there are quite a few dead links on the page for the complete listing of
RFCs, but I like to use this source first as they also list the RFC titles as well as the
authors and superceded information. If the link for a particular RFC is dead, you can try
the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
So, how does an RFC become an RFC? There are two ways. The first is to submit it to the IETF, and the other is to submit it to an RFC editor via e-mail. RFCs sent to the latter may end up
getting forwarded to the IETF anyway, so you might as well go to the source first. For
more information on writing an RFC, please read RFC-2223 "Instructions to Authors".
The IETF is a loosely organized group that anyone may join and attend meetings for. If you
would like to read more on IETF, you may read their RFC-1718
entitled "The Tao of the IETF".
Just to whet your appetite, here are a few RFCs from different areas:
Here are the RFCs that made it to STDs.
OFFICIAL PROTOCOL STANDARDS"
Ever wondered where the "standard" for e-mail messages came from?
RFC-822 "Standard for the format
of ARPA Internet text messages".
How about the new and upcoming Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)
"Internet Protocol, Version 6 (IPv6)"
Information regarding Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) this is how you generally get
Office Protocol - Version 3"
As an example of how odd RFCs can be, here is an interesting one to check out:
RFC-2324 Hyper Text Coffee Pot
Control Protocol (HTCPCP/1.0)