WAIS over Z39.50-1988
Network Working Group M. St. Pierre
Request for Comments: 1625 WAIS, Inc.
Category: Informational J. Fullton
Thinking Machines Corp.
WAIS over Z39.50-1988
Status of this Memo
This memo provides information for the Internet community. This memo
does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of
this memo is unlimited.
The network publishing system, Wide Area Information Servers (WAIS),
is designed to help users find information over a computer network.
The principles guiding WAIS development are:
1. A wide-area networked-based information system for searching,
browsing, and publishing.
2. Based on standards.
3. Easy to use.
4. Flexible and growth oriented.
From this basis, a large group of developers, publishers, standards
bodies, libraries, government agencies, schools, and users have been
helping further the WAIS system.
The WAIS software architecture has four main components: the client,
the server, the database, and the protocol. The WAIS client is a
user-interface program that sends requests for information to local
or remote servers. Clients are available for most popular desktop
environments. The WAIS server is a program that services client
IIIR Working Group [Page 1]
RFC 1625 WAIS over Z39.50-1988 June 1994
requests, and is available on a variety of UNIX platforms. The
server generally runs on a machine containing one or more information
sources, or WAIS databases. The protocol, Z39.50-1988, is used to
connect WAIS clients and servers and is based on the 1988 Version of
the NISO Z39.50 Information Retrieval Service and Protocol Standard.
The goal of the WAIS network publishing system is to create an open
architecture of information clients and servers by using a standard
computer-to-computer protocol that enables clients to communicate
WAIS development began in October 1989 with the first Internet
release occurring in April 1991. From the beginning, WAIS committed
to use the Z39.50-1988 standard as the information retrieval protocol
between WAIS clients and servers. The implementation is still in use
today by existing WAIS clients and servers resulting in over 50,000
users of Z39.50-1988 on the Internet.
The purpose of this memo is to initiate a discussion for a migration
path of the WAIS technology from Z39.50-1988 Information Retrieval
Service Definitions and Protocol Specification for Library
Applications  to Z39.50-1992  and then to Z39.50-1994 . The
purpose of this memo is not to provide a detailed implementation
specification, but rather to describe the high-level design goals and
functional assumptions made in the WAIS implementation of Z39.50-
1988. WAIS use of Z39.50-1992 and Z39.50-1994 standards will be the
subject of future RFCs.
3. Historical Design Goals of WAIS
As an aid to understanding the original WAIS implementation and its
use of Z39.50-1988, the historical design goals of WAIS are presented
in this section. Included with each goal is a brief description of
the assumptions used to meet these design goals.
1. Provide users access to bibliographic and non-bibliographic
information, including full-text and images.
Because Z39.50-1988 grew out of the bibliographic community,
additional assumptions with the protocol were required to serve non-
bibliographic information. They were also necessary to serve
documents existing in multiple formats (e.g., rtf, postscript, gif,
2. Keep the client/server interface simple and independent of
changes in the functionality of the server.
Show full document text