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1.24. What is an RFC?

Request for comments (RFCs) are documents that are the working notes of the Internet research and development community. An RFC document may be on essentially any topic related to computer communication, and may be anything from a meeting report to the specification of a protocol standard.

According to RFC 1549 (entitled FYI Q/A--for New Internet Users), "most RFCs are the descriptions of network protocols or services, often giving detailed procedures and formats for their implementation. Other RFCs report on the results of policy studies or summarize the work of technical committees or workshops." RFCs can range from only a couple of pages to book-length documents.

RFCs are useful, although not always particularly exciting (unless you are a network engineer.) But they are an important part of what goes on "behind the scenes" to make the Internet grow and flourish.

RFCs are numbered sequentially as they are published. Once a document is assigned an RFC number and published, that number is never reused, even if the RFC is revised. That way, there is never a question of having the most recent version of a particular RFC. (By the way, as of the day I'm writing this, RFCs are numbered up to 1609.)

Note: The term RFC is a misnomer. Although most RFC authors surely won't mind if you give your opinions about the document, RFCs usually aren't really requesting your comments at all: they're statements or definitions. There are three types of RFCs: Standards Track, which specify an Internet standards track protocol for the Internet community; Experimental, which define an experimental protocol; and Informational, which provide useful information.

Here's a sample list of a few of the most recent RFCs available. Most of it is dry, technical stuff, but some of RFCs can be useful, even to beginners.

1609  E    G. Mansfield, T. Johannsen, M. Knopper, "Charting Networks
in the 
           X.500 Directory", 03/25/1994. (Pages=15) (Format=.txt)

1608  E    T. Johannsen, G. Mansfield, M. Kosters, S. Sataluri,
           IP Information in the X.500 Directory", 03/25/1994. (Pages=20)

1607  I    V. Cerf, "A VIEW FROM THE 21ST CENTURY", 03/31/1994.

1606  I    J. Onions, "A Historical Perspective On The Usage Of IP Version
           03/31/1994. (Pages=4) (Format=.txt)

1605  I    W. Shakespeare, "SONET to Sonnet Translation", 03/31/1994. 
           (Pages=3) (Format=.txt)

1604  PS   T. Brown, "Definitions of Managed Objects for Frame Relay
           03/25/1994. (Pages=46) (Format=.txt) (Obsoletes RFC1596)

1603  I    E. Huizer, D. Crocker, "IETF Working Group Guidelines and 
           Procedures", 03/24/1994. (Pages=29) (Format=.txt)

1602  I    I. Architecture Board, I. Engineering Steer, C. Huitema, P.
            , "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 2", 03/24/1994.

           (Pages=37) (Format=.txt) (Obsoletes RFC1310)

1601  I    C. Huitema, I. Architecture Board (IAB), 03/22/1994. (Pages=6)
           (Format=.txt) (Obsoletes RFC1358)

1600  S    J. Postel, "INTERNET OFFICIAL PROTOCOL STANDARDS", 03/14/1994.

           (Pages=36) (Format=.txt) (Obsoletes RFC1540) (STD 1)

1598  PS   W. Simpson, "PPP in X.25", 03/17/1994. (Pages=8) (Format=.txt)

1597  I    Y. Rekhter, R. Moskowitz, D. Karrenberg, G. de Groot, "Address

           Allocation for Private Internets", 03/17/1994. (Pages=8)

1596  PS   T. Brown, "Definitions of Managed Objects for Frame Relay
           03/17/1994. (Pages=46) (Format=.txt) (Obsoleted by RFC1604)

1595  PS   T. Brown, K. Tesink, "Definitions of Managed Objects for the 
           SONET/SDH Interface Type", 03/11/1994. (Pages=59)

1594  I    A. Marine, J. Reynolds, G. Malkin, "FYI on Questions and Answer

           Answers to Commonly asked "New Internet User" Questions",
           03/11/1994. (Pages=44) (Format=.txt) (FYI 4) (Obsoletes

1593  I    W. McKenzie, J. Cheng, "SNA APPN Node MIB", 03/10/1994.
           (Pages=120) (Format=.txt)

1592  E    B. Wijnen, G. Carpenter, K. Curran, A. Sehgal, G. Waters, "Simple

           Network Management Protocol Distributed Protocol Interface
           2.0", 03/03/1994. (Pages=54) (Format=.txt) (Obsoletes RFC1228)

1591  I    J. Postel, "Domain Name System Structure and Delegation",
           03/03/1994. (Pages=7) (Format=.txt)

1590  I    J. Postel, "Media Type Registration Procedure", 03/02/1994. 
           (Pages=7) (Format=.txt) (Updates RFC1521)

1589  I    D. Mills, "A Kernel Model for Precision Timekeeping", 03/03/1994.

           (Pages=37) (Format=.txt)

1588  I    J. Postel, C. Anderson, "WHITE PAGES MEETING REPORT", 02/25/1994.

           (Pages=35) (Format=.txt)

1587  PS   R. Coltun, V. Fuller, "The OSPF NSSA Option", 03/24/1994. 
           (Pages=17) (Format=.txt)

1586  I    O. deSouza, M. Rodrigues, "Guidelines for Running OSPF Over Frame

           Relay Networks", 03/24/1994. (Pages=6) (Format=.txt)

1585  I    J. Moy, "MOSPF: Analysis and Experience", 03/24/1994.

1584  PS   J. Moy, "Multicast Extensions to OSPF", 03/24/1994.
           (Format=.txt, .ps)

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