How to Read an RFC

Requests for Comments (RFCs) are how we specify many protocols on the Internet. With some insight into how they’re constructed and published, they are a bit easier to understand.

Read some helpful tips from an RFC author.

Understanding our documents

  • Internet-Drafts
  • Request for Comments (RFCs)
  • Working Groups


Internet-Drafts are working documents of the IETF, its areas, and its working groups. During the development of a specification, draft versions of the document are made available for informal review and comment by placing them in the IETF's Internet-Draft format.

Request for Comments (RFCs)

The IETF publishes RFCs authored by network operators, engineers and computer scientists to document methods, behaviors, research, or innovations applicable to the Internet.

Working groups

Working Groups are the primary mechanism for development of IETF specifications and guidelines. Working Groups are typically created to address a specific problem or to produce one or more specific deliverables (a guideline, standards specification, etc.).

  • Featured Working Group

    Transport Layer Security

    The TLS (Transport Layer Security) working group was established in 1996 to standardize a 'transport layer' security protocol. The basis for the work was SSL (Secure Socket Layer) v3.0 [RFC6101]. ...

    tls active

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  • How to Read an RFC

    For better or worse, Requests for Comments (RFCs) are how we specify many protocols on the Internet. These documents are alternatively treated as holy texts by developers who parse them for hidden meanings, then shunned as irrelevant because they can’t be understood. This often leads to frustration and – more significantly – interoperability and security issues. However, with some insight into how they’re constructed and published, it’s a bit easier to understand what you’re looking at.

    9 Sep 2018
  • Researchers' first encounter with the IETF community: gaining insight into Internet standardization

    Two Ph.D. students describe their first participation at an IETF meeting during an Internet Research Task Force Measurement and Analysis for Protocol Research Group (MAPRG) session at IETF 101 in March 2018.

    1 Sep 2018
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