Telnet Protocol Specification
RFC 854

Document Type RFC - Internet Standard (May 1983; Errata)
Updated by RFC 5198
Obsoletes RFC 764
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                                          J. Postel
Request for Comments: 854                                    J. Reynolds
Obsoletes: NIC 18639                                            May 1983


This RFC specifies a standard for the ARPA Internet community.  Hosts on
the ARPA Internet are expected to adopt and implement this standard.


   The purpose of the TELNET Protocol is to provide a fairly general,
   bi-directional, eight-bit byte oriented communications facility.  Its
   primary goal is to allow a standard method of interfacing terminal
   devices and terminal-oriented processes to each other.  It is
   envisioned that the protocol may also be used for terminal-terminal
   communication ("linking") and process-process communication
   (distributed computation).


   A TELNET connection is a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
   connection used to transmit data with interspersed TELNET control

   The TELNET Protocol is built upon three main ideas:  first, the
   concept of a "Network Virtual Terminal"; second, the principle of
   negotiated options; and third, a symmetric view of terminals and

   1.  When a TELNET connection is first established, each end is
   assumed to originate and terminate at a "Network Virtual Terminal",
   or NVT.  An NVT is an imaginary device which provides a standard,
   network-wide, intermediate representation of a canonical terminal.
   This eliminates the need for "server" and "user" hosts to keep
   information about the characteristics of each other's terminals and
   terminal handling conventions.  All hosts, both user and server, map
   their local device characteristics and conventions so as to appear to
   be dealing with an NVT over the network, and each can assume a
   similar mapping by the other party.  The NVT is intended to strike a
   balance between being overly restricted (not providing hosts a rich
   enough vocabulary for mapping into their local character sets), and
   being overly inclusive (penalizing users with modest terminals).

      NOTE:  The "user" host is the host to which the physical terminal
      is normally attached, and the "server" host is the host which is
      normally providing some service.  As an alternate point of view,

Postel & Reynolds                                               [Page 1]

RFC 854                                                         May 1983

      applicable even in terminal-to-terminal or process-to-process
      communications, the "user" host is the host which initiated the

   2.  The principle of negotiated options takes cognizance of the fact
   that many hosts will wish to provide additional services over and
   above those available within an NVT, and many users will have
   sophisticated terminals and would like to have elegant, rather than
   minimal, services.  Independent of, but structured within the TELNET
   Protocol are various "options" that will be sanctioned and may be
   used with the "DO, DON'T, WILL, WON'T" structure (discussed below) to
   allow a user and server to agree to use a more elaborate (or perhaps
   just different) set of conventions for their TELNET connection.  Such
   options could include changing the character set, the echo mode, etc.

   The basic strategy for setting up the use of options is to have
   either party (or both) initiate a request that some option take
   effect.  The other party may then either accept or reject the
   request.  If the request is accepted the option immediately takes
   effect; if it is rejected the associated aspect of the connection
   remains as specified for an NVT.  Clearly, a party may always refuse
   a request to enable, and must never refuse a request to disable some
   option since all parties must be prepared to support the NVT.

   The syntax of option negotiation has been set up so that if both
   parties request an option simultaneously, each will see the other's
   request as the positive acknowledgment of its own.

   3.  The symmetry of the negotiation syntax can potentially lead to
   nonterminating acknowledgment loops -- each party seeing the incoming
   commands not as acknowledgments but as new requests which must be
   acknowledged.  To prevent such loops, the following rules prevail:

      a. Parties may only request a change in option status; i.e., a
      party may not send out a "request" merely to announce what mode it
      is in.

      b. If a party receives what appears to be a request to enter some
      mode it is already in, the request should not be acknowledged.
      This non-response is essential to prevent endless loops in the
      negotiation.  It is required that a response be sent to requests
      for a change of mode -- even if the mode is not changed.
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