by Darius Kazemi, May 26 2019

In 2019 I'm reading one RFC a day in chronological order starting from the very first one. More on this project here. There is a table of contents for all my RFC posts.

A data sharing committee

RFC-146 is titled “Views on Issues Relevant to Data Sharing on Computer Networks”. It's authored by Peggy Karp and D. C. M. Wood of MITRE, and Douglas B. McKay of IBM and dated May 12, 1971.

The technical content

This RFC opens by concurring with Arie Shoshani's suggestion that a committee be formed to discuss data sharing on the ARPANET.

One thing this RFC does that Shoshani does not is make the explicit connection between data sharing and Bhushan's file transfer protocol. In addition to Shoshani's technology-oriented classifications of data sharing, these authors propose user-oriented classifications of data sharing. Their three use cases are:

  1. Hosts provide data handling to the user, such as discussed in Jim White's Simple-Minded File System described in RFC-122. The user logs in directly to some service on a remote host to manipulate files.
  2. The user talks to a remote program that doesn't require knowledge of the file system. It's a “data control facility” (either centralized or decentralized) that provides specific higher-level data services. One example is the Data Reconfiguration Service proto-API discussed in RFC-138.
  3. The user plugs into the network as a whole and just asks for files “by name” willy-nilly, not caring where they come from. This is ultimately pretty similar to the World Wide Web, where you can, for example, load an index.html from one server which embeds image files from a bunch of other servers. The “by name” seems to imply a system like the URIs we have today. They cite RFC-51 as something close to this, and RFC-51 is pretty much the only RFC thus far that I completely could not understand! This is conceptually a really advanced topic and I think a lot of the descriptive language for it just isn't here in 1971.

They recommend that the committee be responsible for discussions regarding:


Later in the RFC they mention that a “data control facility can range anywhere from a simple interface to an intelligent front-end processor to a network-wide referral system.” An “intelligent front-end processor” sounds to me a lot like a web browser, and “a network-wide referral system” sounds like URIs.

Given all of this focus on interactivity or potential interactivity it's no surprise that they also cite RFC-5, which if you'll recall is the Decode-Encode Language, which was a very early proposal for a rich application layer.

Further reading

I am 99% sure that the D. C. M. Wood who co-authored this paper is the same David C. Wood of Mitre who wrote this 1975 paper on packet-switching networks. It's a really interesting paper and is a great overview of eight different pre-Internet networks—many (all?) of which would eventually be connected into what we now know as the Internet.

How to follow this blog

You can subscribe to this blog's RSS feed or if you're on a federated ActivityPub social network like Mastodon or Pleroma you can search for the user “@365-rfcs@write.as” and follow it there.

About me

I'm Darius Kazemi. I'm an independent technologist and artist. I do a lot of work on the decentralized web with both ActivityPub and the Dat Project. You can support my work via my Patreon.