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Internet RFC Series Turn 50

RFC 1, by Steve Crocker, 7 April 1969Today marks the fiftieth anniversary for the Internet "Request for Comments" (RFC) series which started in April 1969 with the publication of RFC1 titled "Host Software" authored by Stephen D. Crocker. The early RFCs were meant to be requests for comments on ideas and proposals, says Heather Flanagan, RFC Series Editor. "[T]he goal was to start conversations rather than to create an archival record of a standard or best practice."

"Today, more than 8500 RFCs have been published, ranging across best practice information, experimental protocols, informational material, and, of course, Internet standards," Flanagan notes. "Ultimately, the goal of the RFC Series is to provide a canonical source for the material published by the RFC Editor, and to support the preservation of that material in perpetuity."

50 Years of RFCs as an RFC: An RFC has been published to mark the fiftieth anniversary to include retrospective material from individuals involved at key inflection points, as well as a review of the current state of affairs.

"The Internet community now includes millions of nodes and billions of users. It owes its beginning to the ARPANET, which was once but a gleam in the eyes of J. C. R. Licklider, Bob Taylor, and Larry Roberts of ARPA. While much of the development proceeded according to plan, the initial design of the protocols and the creation of the RFCs was largely accidental." Stephen D. Crocker, Fifty Years of RFCs

One of the fundamental differences of the RFC series: Internet Society's Dan York in a post today notes that the openness of RFCs remains true today. "While the process of publishing an RFC is more rigorous, anyone can start the process. You are not required to be a member (or pay for a membership) to contribute to or approve standards. And anyone, anywhere, can read all of the RFCs for free. You do not have to pay to download the RFCs, nor do you have to be a member of any organization."

The next 1000s of RFCs: "We may not know exactly how that future Internet will work, but it's a pretty good guess that it will be defined in part through RFCs." Dan York, aptly notes.

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