07 April 2009


A New York Times editorial by Stephen D. Crocker marks the recent 40th anniversary of the first RFC.
... fearful of sounding presumptuous, I labeled the note a “Request for Comments.” R.F.C. 1, written 40 years ago today, left many questions unanswered, and soon became obsolete. But the R.F.C.’s themselves took root and flourished. They became the formal method of publishing Internet protocol standards, and today there are more than 5,000, all readily available online.
The early R.F.C.’s ranged from grand visions to mundane details, although the latter quickly became the most common. Less important than the content of those first documents was that they were available free of charge and anyone could write one. Instead of authority-based decision-making, we relied on a process we called “rough consensus and running code.” Everyone was welcome to propose ideas, and if enough people liked it and used it, the design became a standard.
This bit particularly spoke to me:
It probably helped that in those days we avoided patents and other restrictions; without any financial incentive to control the protocols, it was much easier to reach agreement.
Mmmm. Transparency and open standards.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a former "member" of the IETF, ITU, and national standards bodies, I gotta say .. man I miss those forums! It was so easy to pick bullsh@t from real sh@t back then.

The exchanges in the meetings could often be brutal, but if you had it working, all hail! In later years, it de-evolved into a culture that placed actual paying clients over the geeks. The only way that helped was that since I was attending as a rep for a paying clients, I could use my status to make the manufacturers play nice in the national and international forums.

But online, the old rules applied. Gods, I miss those old times. I guess, technically, I could still participate, but I increasingly have less time for my technical pursuits.

Thanks for the reminder.