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

Adrian Farrel <> Sun, 10 May 2020 17:34 UTC

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From: "Adrian Farrel" <>
To: "'Michael StJohns'" <>, <>
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Date: Sun, 10 May 2020 18:34:08 +0100
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Subject: Re: [rfc-i] Fwd: I-D Action: draft-carpenter-rfc-principles-00.txt
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Thanks Mike for the historic perspective that will (hopefully) avoid some back and forth about why we are where we are. And thanks Brian for a good draft that serves as an excellent starting point for discussion.




From: rfc-interest <> On Behalf Of Michael StJohns
Sent: 10 May 2020 00:46
Subject: Re: [rfc-i] Fwd: I-D Action: draft-carpenter-rfc-principles-00.txt


On 5/9/2020 1:13 AM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:

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


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:
-------- 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
   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
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