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Standards are the things that make the Internet work. Almost always they
take the form of
that everyone has agreed on.
Role of Standards
Standardized protocols provide a common meeting ground for
software designers. Without standards, it is unlikely that an
computer could transfer files from a Macintosh, or print
to a NetWare server, or login to a Sun. The technical literature
of the Internet consists primarily of standard protocols that
define how software and hardware from wildly divergent sources
can interact on the net.
Sources of Standards
Standards come in two flavors - de facto
and de jure
De facto standards are common practices; de jure standards have been
"blessed" by some official standards body. In the Internet,
many different organizations try to play the standards game.
, the Internet Engineering Task Force, is chief among them.
issues the RFCs that define Internet Standards, and it is
's working groups that do the real work of developing new
and enhanced Internet standards.
, the International Standards Organization, issues the OSI
, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, issues
standards such as Ethernet and Token-Ring. ANSI
American National Standards Institute, issues FDDI
the common oxymoron goes, "The nice thing about standards
is that there's so many to choose from."
Requests For Comments (RFCs)
's standards deserve special mention, since it is these standards, more
than any other, that make the Internet work. IETF
issues its standards
as Requests For Comments (RFCs),
but not all RFCs are standards. To understand IETF
process, start with
Standard 1 - "Internet Official Protocol Standards"
which discusses the process and lists the current status
of various Internet standards. Since RFCs, once issued, do not
change, Standard 1 is periodically updated and reissued as a new RFC.
At the time of this writing (June 2001), the most recent Standard 1
is RFC 2800
, issued in
May 2001. If you wish to check for a newer Standard 1, examine the
The Internet Society (ISOC), IETF's parent organization, has a long-standing commitment to open standards. RFC 1602, "Internet Standards Process", includes the following statement:
Except as otherwise provided under this section, ISOC will not
accept, in connection with standards work, any idea, technology,
information, document, specification, work, or other contribution,
whether written or oral, that is a trade secret or otherwise
subject to any commitment, understanding, or agreement to keep it
confidential or otherwise restrict its use or dissemination; and,
specifically, ISOC does not assume any confidentiality obligation
with respect to any such contribution.