2.1.10 NNTP Extensions (nntpext)

NOTE: This charter is a snapshot of the 50th IETF Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It may now be out-of-date. Last Modified: 14-Mar-01


Ned Freed <ned.freed@innosoft.com>
Stan Barber <sob@academ.com>

Applications Area Director(s):

Ned Freed <ned.freed@innosoft.com>
Patrik Faltstrom <paf@cisco.com>

Applications Area Advisor:

Ned Freed <ned.freed@innosoft.com>

Mailing Lists:

General Discussion:ietf-nntp@academ.com
To Subscribe: ietf-nntp-request@academ.com
Archive: http://www.academ.com/academ/nntp/ietf

Description of Working Group:

Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), defined in RFC 977, was released to the world in March 1986. It was designed to do two things for the "netnews" computer conferencing system:

1. Provide access to the netnews article database on a network server for "reader" client programs.
The situation everyone wanted was access to netnews throughout a network, without having to actually run the netnews server software and keep a local copy of the article database (a sizeable resource commitment, even then).
2. Provide the means for interactive server to server article transfer over the Internet.
The netnews system uses a "flood broadcast" mechanism to distribute articles to all sites, which as a consequence of its operation, creates many duplicate copies of any given article. These duplicates account for the netnews system's high reliability and speed in distributing articles, but they must be each eliminated at the receiving site, to avoid infinite replication.
Originally, netnews was developed by the UUCP Network community, and used "batched" file transfer over modems and telephone lines to transmit articles from site to site. This mechanism did not allow for interrogating the remote system's database to see if the articles to betransmitted were already at the destination (a common case). NNTP's principal server to server article transfer mechanism allows for this interrogation of the receiver, and thus saves both network bandwidth and processing time on the remote.
Unfortunately, NNTP's original design had limitations which have become apparent over the decade since its release. For example, NNTP's server to server article transfer performance over the wide area Internet suffers because there are at least two protocol round-trips per article transfer, which does not allow two NNTP servers to continuously stream the articles that must be transferred between them, and thereby make full use of the available bandwidth (moderated by TCP's congestion control mechanisms).
Also, a number of extensions to the protocol are now in common use (and yet more have been proposed), but most such extensions are only documented in the source code that implements them, or in associated release notes - not in the NNTP standard. Such extensions would benefit from IETF community review, and proper specification. Where there is widespread interest in a particular kind of extension, the internet user community would benefit from consensus among implementors prior to deployment, as to the particulars of that extension.
The IETF NNTP extensions Working Group shall:
1. Revise and publish a standards-track successor to RFC 977 that removes ambiguities from the original document, defines a mechanism for adding extensions to the protocol, and provides a mechanism for the server to inform the client of the extensions which it supports.
2. Include in the same document some reasonable group of existing commonly used extensions forming a new base functionality for NNTP.
3. Upon completion of the RFC977 successor document, and presuming that proposals for extensions to the NNTP protocol have been submitted for consideration by IESG, the working group may be asked by the IESG Applications Area Directors to review one or more extensions for NNTP.
Part of the purpose of such a review will be to test the newly established mechanism for adding protocol extensions.
The first concern of this working group shall be for the interoperability of the various NNTP implementations, and therefore for clear and explicit specification of the protocol. It is very important that we document the existing situation before taking up any new work.

Goals and Milestones:



produce a revised internet-draft of the NNTP protocol



produce an internet-draft which 1. describes the current practice of the NNTP protocol 2. recommends which features of the protocol should (or should not) be suppored by all clients and servers 3. defines a procedure for extending the set of NNTP commands 4. defines a negotation mechanism by which the NNTP client can learn



Begin review of accepted candidate extensions

Dec 01


Submit the revised NNTP spec to the IESG for Proposed Standard status

Dec 01


provide list of new extensions that should be considered to the IESG for charter update consideration

Request For Comments:






Common NNTP Extensions

Current Meeting Report

Summary of Working Group Actions from IETF 50 NNTPEXT

Prepared by Stan Barber, Working Group Co-Chair

The group (both on the mailing list and in attendance) was asked to vote on each of the following items. In all cases, those that voted agreed with the changes in draft-ietf-nntp-base-13.txt (except for the wildmat specification changes, which will be in the next draft).

1. UTC Clarification -- The draft now contains text to clarify the use of UTC with respect to the DATE, NEWNEWS and NEWGROUPS command. It also clears up the use of the "GMT" token.

2. PAT replaced by HDR -- The draft has deleted PAT and replaced it with HDR.
Note that there are some typos that still refer to PAT in the draft. These are errors and will be fixed in the next draft.

3. MODE READER Clarified -- The draft contains new text in an attempt to clarify the use of MODE READER.

4. Wildmat Specification -- The draft has not changed this and there is considerable discussion on the list concerning how this text should be changed.
The current proposed text to replace what is in the draft is located at this URL: http://www.davros.org/nntp-texts/section-5a.txt


Current Status