Network Working Group RFC Editor
Request for Comments: 5540 USC/ISI
Category: Informational 7 April 2009
40 Years of RFCs
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not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this
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This RFC marks the 40th anniversary of the RFC document series.
1. RFCs and Jon Postel
Forty years ago today, the first Request for Comments document, RFC
1, was published at UCLA [RFC1]. This was the first of a series that
currently contains more than 5400 documents (roughly 160,000 pages)
on computer networking in general and on the Internet protocols in
particular. The RFC series emerged from the US government-funded
research efforts that created the ARPANET and later the Internet.
When the IETF was formed in the mid-1980s, RFCs became the primary
publication vehicle for IETF standards, and thus became centered on
the vendor and user communities.
For the first 29 years, Jon Postel [Postel] was *the* RFC Editor,
until his untimely death in October 1998. Postel, with substantial
help from Joyce K. Reynolds, was responsible for the collection,
editing, online publication, and archiving of the RFC documents.
From 1978 until 1998, Postel was a research scientist at the USC
Information Sciences Institute (USC/ISI) in Marina del Rey,
California. Postel was also the original IANA as well as Director of
the Computer Networks Division at ISI.
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RFC 5540 40th Anniversary 7 April 2009
Upon the occasion of the 30th anniversary of RFC 1 and as a tribute
to the massive contribution of Jon Postel, the RFC Editor published
RFC 2555 [RFC2555] on April 7, 1999. This RFC contained
recollections from three networking pioneers: Steve Crocker who wrote
RFC 1, Vint Cerf whose long-range vision continues to guide us, and
Jake Feinler who played a key role in the middle years of the RFC
Ten more years have now passed, and we have reached the 40th
anniversary of the RFC series. The series has more than doubled in
size during the last ten years, and it is expected to continue far
into the future. All the good things said in RFC 2555 still hold
true ten years later.
We should, however, note some changes that have occurred over the
past ten years.
o After Jon passed away, Joyce Reynolds and Bob Braden put together
a small organization at USC/ISI to continue the RFC Editor
function. This was motivated by a desire to honor Postel by
continuing his remarkable effort and to provide a service to the
o Funding of the RFC Editor, which had been supported by the US
government until 1998, was taken over by the Internet Society.
During 1998-2006, ISOC funded the RFC Editor under a series of
annual contracts and extensions. ISOC put the function out for
competitive bid for 2007 (USC/ISI was selected to provide RFC
Editor services from 2007-2009), and the contract will be put out
to bid again for post-2009.
During 2009 there will be a significant transition for the RFC
Editor function, as some new organization or set of organizations
takes over this service that has been performed at USC/ISI
continuously since 1978.
o Many improvements have increased the efficiency and transparency
of the RFC editorial process [RFCed09].
o The RFC Editor formed an RFC Editorial Board, a group of people
with broad and deep knowledge of the Internet and networking. One
of its major functions is to assist the RFC Editor by reviewing
RFCs in the Independent Submission stream.
o An email list, firstname.lastname@example.org, was created to obtain
community input on the RFC Editor functions.
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RFC 5540 40th Anniversary 7 April 2009
2. Security Considerations
This document does not raise any security issues.
It has been an honor for USC/ISI to serve the community during the
past 31 years.
4. Informative References
[Postel] "Remembering Jonathan B. Postel",
[RFCed09] Braden, R., Ginoza, S., and A. Hagens, "The RFC Editor
Function at ISI", <http://www.rfc-editor.org/
RFCeditor.at.ISI.pdf>, January 2009.
[RFC1] Crocker, S., "Host Software", RFC 1, April 1969.
[RFC2555] RFC Editor, et al., "30 Years of RFCs", RFC 2555, April
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