of us were graduate students and we expected that a professional crew
up eventually to take over the problems we were dealing with... We
had accumulated a few notes on the design of DEL and other matters,
and we decided to put them together in a set of notes... The
basic ground rules were that anyone could say anything and that nothing
was official. And to emphasize the point, I labeled the notes 'Request
for Comments.' I never dreamed these notes would be distributed through
the very medium we were discussing in these notes.
- Stephen Crocker,
The Request For Comments Reference Guide, RFC
1000, Aug. 1987.
RFC's were invented by Steve
Crocker to help provide a record of the Network Working Group's design
of the ARPANET.
In 1968, as the ARPANET program progressed, representatives
from various DARPA sites began to meet regularly to progress their plans. As
more and more people began to attend, they named themselves the Network Working
Group (NWG), although the group had no formal charter, membership, or organization
-- laying the foundation for later formation of similar Internet bodies like
the IETF. Steve Crocker volunteered to
organize the NWG notes. At an ARPA meeting in March, 1969 in Utah, Crocker
created the first Request For Comments document, titled "Host Software", RFC
001, to document the work of the NWG. (Crocker is also known for development
of the first ARPANET network protocol, the Network
The RFC's turned out to provide a convenient, useful vehicle for documentation
and distribution of the research performed by the developers of the Internet,
and ended up becoming the official record of the Internet's design decisions, architecture,
and technical standards. Although they remained titled "Request For Comments",
by consensus they are the Internet documents of record, and often include very
detailed technical information.
Jon Postel, Director of the Computer
Networks Division at the Information Sciences Institute at the University of
Southern California, took over stewardship of the RFC's in the early 1970's.
He served as the official RFC Editor for a quarter of a century, and authored
and led development of more RFC's than anyone else. He also helped develop many
of the Internet protocols, including the Domain Name
Transfer Protocol, Telnet,
and the Internet Protocol itself.
K. Reynolds was drafted by Postel in 1983 to help with the increasing
workload of the RFC Editor and IANA management,
and continues in that role today. Another indefatigable contributor to
the Internet, Reynolds has also been a member of the IETF, helped develop
the Experimental Multimedia Mail System, Post
Office Protocol, and Telnet Option Specifications, helped update
the File Transfer Protocol, and established the RFC documents published as FYIs.
Braden also made substantial contributions to the RFC's. He chaired the IRTF End-to-End
Research Group which developed many key RFC's, and served as the RFC co-editor
for the IETF. He has authored many
RFC's himself, and his leadership of the two milestone documents RFC
1122 and RFC
1123, Requirements for Internet Hosts, made an enormous contribution
to clear communication of the Internet standards. Braden also helped develop
several of the Internet protocols, including FTP, RSVP, and the Internet
Protocol. He was a charter member of the IAB,
and later served as its Executive Director.
also worked with Postel and Reynolds and played a key role
in the middle years of the RFC series as lead of the Stanford Research Institute
Network Information Center, with responsibility for distributing RFC's both online
and on paper.
2555, 30 Years of RFC's, provides a history of the RFC's, with input
from Steve Crocker, Joyce Reynolds, Vinton Cerf, Jake Feinler, and Bob Braden.