RFCs and Internet Drafts

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Request for Comments documents -- usually called RFCs -- give information about Internet email headers, transport, MIME messages, and much more. Although many people call RFCs "standards," few of them have been formally standardized. Still, RFCs are widely followed by Internet users. Internet drafts describe new methods that may become RFCs. Both of these are important places to get information, especially for a rapidly-changing topic like MIME.

As of December 1994, you could get RFCs by anonymous FTP from the host nis.nsf.net in the documents/rfc directory, from src.doc.ic.ac.uk in rfc, ftp.concert.net in rfc, ds.internic.net in rfc, nic.ddn.mil, and others. (In April 1996, there was a Web link with some simple search capabilities at http://www.internic.net/ds/dspg0intdoc.html.)

You can get Internet drafts from nis.nsf.net in the documents/internet-drafts directory, from ds.internic.net in internet-drafts, and others. Unless you know the draft you want, start by getting the files 1id-index.txt and 1id-abstracts.txt. (Also try the Web link we mentioned above.)

The RFC and Internet draft directories are really big. The FTP dir or ls commands give very long listings. If you know the RFC number or part of the draft name you want, it's easier to find matching files by using wildcards. For example, to find RFC 1521, try this:

ftp> dir *1521*
200 PORT command successful.
150 Opening ASCII mode data connection for /bin/ls.
-r--r--r--   1 root     root       129247 Dec 22  1993 rfc1521.ps.gz
-r--r--r--   1 root     root        54966 Sep 22  1993 rfc1521.txt.gz
226 Transfer complete.
You can see that there are both text and PostScript versions on this particular host. Also, on the host above, the files are in GNU gzip format. Many FTP servers will convert file format for you; check for a README file. If not, find another host with the format you want.

Finally, you can get a document with details on obtaining RFCs by email. This document has much more information about each site. It also lists RFC archives in countries around the world. Send the following email message:

To: rfc-info@ISI.EDU
Subject: getting rfcs

help: ways_to_get_rfcs

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Last change $Date: 1996/06/06 15:13:32 $

This file is from the third edition of the book MH & xmh: Email for Users & Programmers, ISBN 1-56592-093-7, by Jerry Peek. Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. This file is freely-available; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation. For more information, see the file copying.htm.

Suggestions are welcome: Jerry Peek <jpeek@jpeek.com>