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A New Model for the RFC Editor Function

30 Jun 2022

The new RFC Editor Model is intended to provide greater transparency, improved responsiveness to the needs of the community, and increased clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of the groups and individuals involved.

Over the 53-year history of the Request for Comments (RFC) Series, the processes for defining and implementing the policies that govern the Series have evolved along with the Series itself. Originally the RFC Editor was one person: Jon Postel. As the number of RFCs published each year grew, the "RFC Editor" expanded into a team of professionals, eventually led by the RFC Series Editor (RSE). For the last ten years, the Series has operated under version 2 of the RFC Editor Model (RFC 6635, since replaced by RFC 8728). With the publication this week of RFC 9280, version 3 of the RFC Editor Model will go into effect.

What's changed? Perhaps more important is what hasn't changed: the RFC Series will continue to be the premier venue for publishing technical standards specifying the protocols that undergird the Internet. Furthermore, those who author, read, and implement RFCs can continue to rely on a stable document series and publication process.

Behind the scenes, however, version 3 of the model introduces a number of improvements. The primary change is that the policies governing the Series will now be defined in an open forum, the new RFC Series Working Group (RSWG). Although the RSWG is separate from the IETF, it will operate in ways familiar to IETF participants:

  • Policy proposals will originate as Internet-Drafts
  • Proposals will be adopted and advance through rough consensus
  • Proposals will be approved for publication by the new RFC Series Approval Board (RSAB), which consists of representatives from the existing document streams
  • Proposals will be published as RFCs in a new Editorial Stream

Finally, editing and publishing of all RFCs will continue to be handled by the RFC Production Center (RPC).

As part of these changes, version 3 does away with several committees and individual roles, specifically the RFC Series Oversight Committee (RSOC) and the RFC Series Editor (RSE). It also introduces the new role of RFC Series Consulting Editor, an expert in technical publishing who will serve on the RSAB and provide policy guidance to both the RSWG and the RPC.

We invite the community to participate in the RFC Series Working Group, which is slated to have its inaugural meeting at IETF 114 in July.

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