Re: [rfc-i] Fwd: I-D Action: draft-carpenter-rfc-principles-00.txt

Michael StJohns <> Sat, 09 May 2020 23:46 UTC

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From: Michael StJohns <>
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Date: Sat, 9 May 2020 19:46:04 -0400
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Subject: Re: [rfc-i] Fwd: I-D Action: draft-carpenter-rfc-principles-00.txt
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On 5/9/2020 1:13 AM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:
> Hi,
> This draft is intended as background material for ongoing discussions about the role of the Request for Comments (RFC) Series Editor (the RSE). This version is purely personal opinion. I welcome comments, best sent to if they concern the RFC Series in general, or to if they concern the role of the RSE specifically.

Brian - excellent document!   I think I'm north of 95% in agreement with 
both the background and how you want to frame the RFC editor.

Some additional data points:

On or before the NCAR IETF meeting, Phill Gross and Jon Postel got 
together to figure out how the IETF might end up using the RFC series as 
a publication stream. That happened privately as far as I know because 
Phill presented it as a fait accompli at the NCAR meeting.   At the 
time, the IETF was trying to have a pretty fast cycle time on draft 
documents, and that was out of Jon's wheelhouse.   The IETF 
(individuals) had started sending out complete but un-edited documents 
in a series entitled "Internet Design Engineering and Analysis Series" 
which at one point ended up with one network equipment provider 
indicating that its product supported "IDEA 9".  What came out of the 
Phill/Jon discussion was the Internet Drafts ephemeral stream which 
would lead to final publication as RFCs.  At NCAR, the IETF was still 
firmly a operational engineering organization rather than a standards 
organization, but that changed in the next year or so.

All this is preface to a comment on:

> The RFC series constitutes the archival publication channel
> for Internet Standards and for other contributions by the
> Internet research and engineering community. RFCs are available
> free of charge to anyone via the Internet. The IAB must approve
> the appointment of an organization to act as RFC Editor and the
> general policy followed by the RFC Editor.

NCAR was November 87; funding for the RFC editor was solely a US 
Government thing.   The IAB was still pre-Kobe in form.  The agreement 
was not so much that the IAB appointed the RFC editor, but that the RFC 
editor and the IETF chair had agreed upon the RFC series as a place to 
host IETF documents.   Kobe happened around '91.  The US Government 
gradually reduced its funding for the IETF and things like the RFC 
Editor and IANA started transitioning out around '97-'98. (I retired 
from ARPA and the USAF in '96 and participated a bit in the Internic 
process, but lost track of who was funding what after I left).

The IAB claimed hegemony over the RFC series in RFC 1601 (March 1994):

>     (d) RFC Series and IANA
>        The IAB is responsible for editorial management and publication of
>        the Request for Comments (RFC) document series, and for
>        administration of the various Internet assigned numbers.

The above probably had more to do with the fact that Jon had been on the 
IAB than anything else.


>     2.4 RFC Series and Assigned Numbers
>        The RFC series constitutes the archival publication channel for
>        Internet Standards and for other contributions by the Internet
>        research and engineering community.  The IAB shall select an RFC
>        Editor, who shall be responsible for the editorial management and
>        publication of the RFC series.
>        The IAB shall also designate an Internet Assigned Numbers
>        Authority (IANA) to administer the assignment of Internet protocol
>        numbers.

But at that point in time was dependent on .. well ARPA, NSF, NASA and 
DOE for the funding for those functions.    E.g. the claim may have been 
made, but it had no teeth.   Ditto for the IANA function which was still 
happening at SRI-NIC.  Note the co-claim of authority for the IANA, what 
that model looks like today, and the hoops we needed to go through to 
get there.

In any event, from my point of view as the COTR on the ISI contract that 
funded the labor for the RFC series, the series belonged to ISI, and 
wasn't a ownership deliverable to the government.  As COTR, I kept my 
hands off of anything to do with editorial oversight.  When Joyce and 
Bob got out of the business, we hired Heather and, I believe, got a 
formal written transfer of the ownership of the RFC series from ISI to 
ISOC.  I assume there was some further transfer from ISOC to the IETF or 
IETF LLC or Trust at some point, but I lost track.

It's my position, that absent that transfer, the actual authority the 
IAB had was to designate where the Internet Standards would be 
published, not to select the RFC editor whatever was claimed.  Had the 
1994 IAB tried to exercise what authority it had claimed, it would 
probably would have found itself falling flat.  Ditto for most of the 
IABs up until Bob retired.  It could have published elsewhere, but it 
couldn't have forced the RFC series to move somewhere else.

The key document here would be the one that describes the ownership of 
the brand.

The phrase I would socialize/insert for section 3, (9) is "The <insert 
appropriate legal entity here> owns the RFC Series brand and holds it in 
trust for the Internet community."

One other item:   On your list in section 3, I'd modify (6) to begin 
"Major strategic decisions...." for the obvious reasons.

I keep coming back to the idea that we should re-form the RFC 
organization along the lines of an independent non-profit publisher.

Later, Mike

> I advise reading the pretty HTML version since this draft is in v3 format:
> Regards,
>      Brian
> -------- Forwarded Message --------
> Subject: I-D Action: draft-carpenter-rfc-principles-00.txt
> Date: Fri, 08 May 2020 22:05:37 -0700
> From:
> Reply-To:
> To:
> A New Internet-Draft is available from the on-line Internet-Drafts directories.
>          Title           : Principles of the Request for Comments Series
>          Author          : Brian Carpenter
> 	Filename        : draft-carpenter-rfc-principles-00.txt
> 	Pages           : 9
> 	Date            : 2020-05-08
> Abstract:
>     This document discusses the underlying principles of the Internet
>     technical community's Request for Comments document Series.
> The IETF datatracker status page for this draft is:
> There are also htmlized versions available at:
> Please note that it may take a couple of minutes from the time of submission
> until the htmlized version and diff are available at
> Internet-Drafts are also available by anonymous FTP at:
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