The Label "RFC"

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Network Working Group                                         M. Thomson
Internet-Draft                                                   Mozilla
Intended status: Experimental                              July 02, 2018
Expires: January 3, 2019

                            The Label "RFC"


   The perception and reality of the RFC series have long been separate.
   More than 20 years of attempts to correct perception, starting with
   RFC 1796, have been unsuccessful.  This document proposes an
   experiment to see if changing the labels on document will have any
   effect on fixing that problem.

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Thomson                  Expires January 3, 2019                [Page 1]
Internet-Draft               The Label "RFC"                   July 2018

1.  Introduction

   RFC 1796 [RFCS] was published in April of 1995.  At that time, it was
   clear that there was an "regrettably well spread misconception" that
   the label "RFC" implied "some level of recognition".  Not a lot has
   changed in the 23 years since that statement.

   The common perception of the significance of the "RFC" label is
   simple.  That simple interpretation doesn't capture the broad range
   of uses that the label is applied to.  The view expressed in RFC 1796
   was that this loss of information was adequately addressed by further
   engaging in dialog.  This includes the provision of prominent notices
   in documents, such as the "Status of this Note" section, as well as
   providing explanations about what documents mean.  This view further
   holds that the merits of a document do not solely derive from the
   status of the document, but from the quality and substance of its

   This document suggests that this view to some degree underestimates
   the value of a label (or "brand").  It also overestimates the
   willingness of audiences to engage with the nuanced interpretation
   that is required to appreciate the complexity of a document.  An RFC
   can address complex technical matters that require considerable
   expertise in the field to understand with enough detail to appreciate
   the full implications.

   The Internet Standards Process [RFC2026] describes a process that has
   consistently produced quality documents.  This document proposes an
   experiment that limits the use of the "RFC" label to the product of
   that process.

   The value of the other documents currently published on the RFC
   series is undeniable.  The creation of new series' for documents
   produced by different processes will ensure that critical information
   - and dissenting viewpoints - retain a venue for reaching an

2.  Nuance in Interpretation

   Misconceptions about the significance of publication as an RFC is
   commonplace.  This isn't a design failure, but an inherent property
   of the current system of document streams.  However, that potential
   for misunderstanding can be problematic.

   Capturing the nuance required to properly understand a protocol is
   difficult, and a large number of documents fail to properly convey
   that status.

Thomson                  Expires January 3, 2019                [Page 2]
Internet-Draft               The Label "RFC"                   July 2018

   For example, ZRTP [RFC6189] was published as an informational RFC on
   the IETF stream after the IETF reached consensus to develop DTLS-SRTP
   [RFC5764] for the same use case.

   Similarly, HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) [RFC8216] was published on the
   Independent Submissions Stream in defiance of a standardized
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