By Noah | April 7, 2009
Steve Crocker has a nice piece in yesterday’s New York Times reflecting on 40 years of Internet RFCs. He completed the first RFC on April 6, 1969 in his friend’s bathroom, and distributed paper copies via snail mail.
Everyone was welcome to propose ideas, and if enough people liked it and used it, the design became a standard. […] This was the ultimate in openness in technical design and that culture of open processes was essential in enabling the Internet to grow and evolve as spectacularly as it has.
Our loose, unnamed meetings grew larger and semi-organized into what we called the Network Working Group. In the four decades since, that group evolved and transformed a couple of times and is now the Internet Engineering Task Force. [link added…Noah] It has some hierarchy and formality but not much, and it remains free and accessible to anyone.
The R.F.C.’s have grown up, too. They really aren’t requests for comments anymore because they are published only after a lot of vetting. But the culture that was built up in the beginning has continued to play a strong role in keeping things more open than they might have been. Ideas are accepted and sorted on their merits, with as many ideas rejected by peers as are accepted.
The IETF is still one of the most open and one of the most effective standards organizations.