Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Avian carrier, and other things April

Today is the day when the Internet Engineering Task Force, the organization that brings you the standards that make the Internet run, gets a little less serious. Amid things with names like Transmission Control Protocol and Transport Layer Security and Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions are a few more lighthearted offerings to the first of April.

It started in the 1970s, in ARPANET days, when things were much more loosely organized. Consider Mark Crispin’s RFC 0748, Telnet randomly-lose option from 1978, and a follow-on, eleven years later, RFC 1097, Telnet subliminal-message option. But there really wasn’t much there for a while.

And then things really got kicked off in 1990 with what’s probably the most famous one: RFC 1149, Standard for the transmission of IP datagrams on avian carriers. David Waitzman spoofed a real series of “standard for the transmission of IP datagrams” specifications (see RFC 894 and RFC 895), and struck a chord that IETF folks have been playing since.

1991 saw two submissions, RFC 1216, Gigabit network economics and paradigm shifts, and Vint Cerf’s RFC 1217, Memo from the Consortium for Slow Commotion Research (CSCR). Other highlights include...

  • Two proposed email data types, RFC 1437, The Extension of MIME Content-Types to a New Medium (1993), and RFC 1927, Suggested Additional MIME Types for Associating Documents (1996).
  • RFC 1438, Internet Engineering Task Force Statements Of Boredom (SOBs) (1993).
  • RFC 1605, SONET to Sonnet Translation (1994).
  • RFC 2321, RITA — The Reliable Internetwork Troubleshooting Agent (1998), which includes a schematic diagram that forms an ASCII graphic of a chicken.
  • RFC 2323, IETF Identification and Security Guidelines (1998), poking fun at the number of grey-bearded IETF regulars, and the occasional difficulty in telling some of them apart.
  • A pair of coffee-related items from 1998 (which seemed a good year for these), RFC 2324, Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP/10), and RFC 2325, Definitions of Managed Objects for Drip-Type Heated Beverage Hardware Devices using SMIv2.
  • 1999’s prediction that Y2K isn’t the end of our troubles, RFC 2550, Y10K and Beyond.
  • Grey-bearded Scott Bradner’s brilliant RFC 2551, The Roman Standards Process — Revision III, from MCMXCIX, in which all numbers in the document have been rendered as Roman numerals.
  • RFC 2795, The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite (IMPS) (2000).
  • RFC 3092, Etymology of "Foo" (2001).
  • RFC 3514, The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header (2003), in which grey-bearded security guru Steve Bellovin writes one that’s almost believable — if you don’t think about it.

Things have dropped off a bit in the last couple of years — there was no entry for 2006, and the only one for 2007 was yet another “IP datagram” submission, RFC 4824, The Transmission of IP Datagrams over the Semaphore Flag Signaling System (SFSS).

We’ll have to watch the RFC Editor’s new releases page to see if any come out this year. Meanwhile: Happy April!

Update, 1:30 p.m.
Ah, here we are, with RFC 5241, Aaron Falk and Scott Bradner, Naming Rights in IETF Protocols:

This document proposes a new revenue source for the IETF to supportstandardization activities: protocol field naming rights, i.e., the association of commercial brands with protocol fields. This memo describes a process for assignment of rights and explores some of the issues associated with the process. Individuals or organizations that wish to purchase naming rights for one or more protocol fields are expected to follow this process. This memo provides information for the Internet community.


lidija said...

Ah, very funny, but I think it's even funnier if one is your kind of a geek. I can only appreciate a little.

Barry Leiba said...

Yes, it's definitely a... specialized sort of humour. Ah, well.