Saturday, 14 April, 2001
RFCs at faqs.org
If you're looking for Internet RFCs or standards documents, the best place I know of to find them is http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/. They have almost every RFC dating back to 1969 (some were paper documents that apparently have been lost), and good information about the RFC process. A separate Standards section indexes documents (mostly RFCs) that are the currently accepted Standards. The site also includes FYI (For Your Information) and BCP (Best Current Practices) indexes that are invaluable if you're trying to write something that conforms to current Standards and Practices.
There are some problems with the RFC process, though. First, they're still publishing using stone age tools. I realize that ASCII text is "universal," but it wouldn't hurt to publish the documents in PDF or some other format that's easier to print and to read. Not many of us are still stuck with 80-column dot-matrix printers. It'd be nice to have RFC documents that use real fonts and formatting. Heck, a printer-friendly HTML format would be fantastic.
Another problem is that you can't update an RFC. Once it's published, it's set in stone. The only way to "revise" it is to issue a new RFC that obsoletes the old one. This is good and bad. Good because there remains a history of changes so that we can go back and see where we've been. Bad because it's sometimes hard to find the most current RFC for any given topic. I would think that it would be more effective to assign a single RFC number and then append revision numbers or dates.
The other problem with the site is that it's not indexed very well. Here again, full text search just doesn't do it. If you search for SMTP, you'll get over 100 hits (the system stops when it exceeds 100) on pages that mention SMTP, but you'll miss some of the important documents. And although the individual document descriptions indicate whether they obsolete or are obsoleted by other documents, they don't always mention other relevant RFCs. The description for RFC821 (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), for example, does not mention RFC1869 (SMTP Service Extensions).
All that aside, the faqs.org site is still very useful. If you know of a better RFC index, I'm very interested.