The IT Crowd Was Right – What I learned by reading a lot of RFCs

Due to a change of job I’ve recently had to teach myself about networking.

RFCs had always been a bit of a mystery to me but since they came up over and over again when reading about network concepts I thought I’d familiarise myself with them as a whole.

With a quick:

apt-get install rfc-doc

an organised set of RFCs was downloaded and categorised into various folders under /usr/share/doc/RFC. I looked closely at these three:


and skimmed the rest:

draft-standard, experimental, historic, informational, links, old, proposed-standard, queue, unclassified
Here’s some of the many things I learned by looking through them and reading a good proportion of the active ones:

– There’s a ‘Service Location Protocol’ specification (RFC2608) which anticipates the need for scalable service discovery. Which begs the question: why are we all reinventing the wheel now? There are implementations already written and available (slpd, slptool). Beats me.

– There’s a very handy glossary of internet terms which is still useful (RFC1983), even though written in 1996, is still useful.

– They’re very well written. Really basic things like NFS (RFC1094) and UTF-8 (RFC3629) are explained in a clear and straightforward way.

– There’s nothing quite like dropping the phrase ‘if you read the current RFC on the subject…’ into a meeting.

– The IT Crowd was right – the ‘elders of the internet’ really do exist (RFC1462 – What is the Internet).

Who Governs the Internet?

In many ways the Internet is like a church […] It appoints a council of elders, which has responsibility for the technical management and direction of the Internet.

I’m off to Big Ben to commune with Stephen Hawking.

One thought on “The IT Crowd Was Right – What I learned by reading a lot of RFCs

  1. For historical context, pick up Padlipsky’s ” “Elements of Networking Style”. Exactly 1 of the first 1000 RFCs had any telco input whatsoever. In fact, a mega debate was carried on for years before, as we now know, IP networking took over, and telcos shrank to irrelevance. Padlipsky addresses the great issues in a sarcastic and irreverent manner. I am forever indebted to him for coining the term “technotheological”.

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