In internetworking and computer network engineering, Request for Comments (RFC) documents are a series of memoranda encompassing new research, innovations, and methodologies applicable to Internet technologies.
Through the Internet Society, engineers and computer scientists may publish discourse in the form of an RFC memorandum, either for peer review or simply to convey new concepts, information, or (occasionally) engineering humor. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) adopts some of the proposals published in RFCs as Internet standards.
RFC production and evolution
The inception of the RFC format occurred in 1969 as part of the seminal ARPANET project. Today, it is the official publication channel for the IETF, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and — to some extent — the global community of computer network researchers in general.
The authors of the first RFCs typewrote their work and circulated hard copies among the ARPA researchers. Unlike the modern RFCs, many of the early RFCs were requests for comments. The RFC leaves questions open and is written in a less formal style. This less formal style is now typical of Internet Draft documents, the precursor step before being approved as an RFC.
In December of 1969, researchers began distributing new RFCs via the now-operational ARPANET. RFC 1, entitled "Host Software", was written by Steve Crocker of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and published on April 7, 1969. Although written by Steve Crocker, the RFC emerged from an early working group discussion between Steve Crocker, Steve Carr, Jeff Rulifson. (The document lists Bill Duvall as having attended only the final working group meeting prior to publication.)
In RFC 3, which first defined the RFC series, Steve Crocker started attributing the RFC series to the "Network Working Group". This group seems never to have had a formal existence, being rather defined as "this group of people", but the attribution remains on RFCs to this day.
Many of the subsequent RFCs of the 1970s also came from UCLA, not only because of the quality of the scholarship, but also because UCLA was one of the first Interface Message Processors (IMPs) on ARPANET.
Douglas Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at Stanford Research Institute was another of the four first ARPANET nodes, as well as the first Network Information Centre, and (as noted by the sociologist Thierry Bardini) the source of a large number of early RFCs.
From 1969 until 1998, Jon Postel served as the RFC editor. Following the expiration of the original ARPANET contract with the U.S. federal government, the Internet Society (acting on behalf of the IETF) contracted with the Networking Division of the USC Information Sciences Institute to assume the editorship and publishing responsibilities (under the direction of the IAB). Jon Postel continued to serve as the RFC Editor until his death. Later, Bob Braden has taken over the role of project lead, while Joyce K. Reynolds has continued to be part of the team.
The official source for RFCs on the World Wide Web is the RFC Editor. Unofficially, they are obtainable from a multitude of mirrors accessible via the HyperText Transfer Protocol, anonymous FTP, the gopher protocol, and other prominent application layer protocols.
One may retrieve almost any individual, published RFC like RFC 3700 via the following URL example:
Every RFC is available as ASCII text, but may also be available in other file formats; however, as of 2006 the definitive version of any standards-track specification is the ASCII version. Note that RFC 1119 is not on standards track.
For easy access on the meta data of an RFC including abstract, keywords, author(s), publication date, errata, status, and especially later updates or replacements in human readable format the RFC Editor site offers a search form with many features. A redirection sets some efficient parameters, example: