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sendmail.net: Where Do Internet Standards Come From?

Mar 26, 2000, 17:52 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Cameron Laird)

"You know sendmail as the standard mail transport agent (MTA) of the Internet, in use at over 80 percent of Internet service providers (ISPs) and Fortune 500 companies. What does it mean to be "standard," though? And does the standardization work of such organizations as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) matter to you?"

"The short answers: It depends, and Yes. While standards mean different things to different people, the IETF occupies a preeminent role in defining the space where sendmail operates."

"...production of RFCs is the only formal purpose of the IETF... Other organizations promulgate standards to complement such professional activities as continuing education, certification, and so on; the IETF, through, concentrates entirely on standards. RFCs range widely in topic and treatment. Some are whimsical and brief, some formal and exhaustive. They all emerge from roughly the same process: authorship by a small team, which works out details behind the scenes to achieve a consensus."

"The IETF's most famous slogan is "working code and rough consensus." RFC textual specifications develop in symbiosis with implementations - by contrast with several organizations that embody a "waterfall" style, generating abstract standards that are left to others to implement. RFC proponents are invariably working programmers..."

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