[rfc-i] "canonical" URI for RFCs, BCPs

Joe Touch touch at ISI.EDU
Mon Feb 1 08:07:19 PST 2010

John Levine wrote:
>> The ASCII version is specified as the authoritative version,
>> regardless of how it was derived (XML2RFC, nroff, Word, etc.). That
>> has not changed.
> Well, except when it's not.  Don't forget RFCs 1119, 1124, 1128, 1129,
> and 1131.  I wouldn't argue that it was a great idea to do Postscript
> RFCs, but what's done is done.
>>>> If you would like that to be the case, then the following MUST
>>>> *currently* return the ASCII text:
>>>>     http://www.rfc-editor.org/rfc/rfc793
> This is a metaphysical discussion about the meaning of "the RFC" which
> I don't find particularly productive.  When I go into the library
> stacks to find a book, I have a catalog number which tells me the
> location of the book.  Often the book is in the place on the shelf
> corresponding to the catalog number, sometimes there's a card saying
> the book is somewhere else because it's oversized or fragile,
> sometimes it turns out that the entire section has been moved to the
> annex at the edge of the campus.  But I don't get all steamed because
> "the book" isn't on the shelf in the exact place I first look for it.

Librarians try to ensure that such indirections are temporary, until the
card catalog is updated. I've never been to a library where such
indirection was a persistent part of the indexing.

> I think we all agree that the canonical URL needs to let people find
> "the RFC", but it seems a bit overspecified to me to insist that it be
> a direct link to a TXT file. 

It should be a link to the item being referenced, not a link "about"
that file. For the exceptions above, that should return the PS. For all
others, it should return the TXT.

I have no problem including the extension in the URL, since it ensures
that you get what you asked for, and allows the indeterminate form
(.../rfcnnnn, i.e., without the suffix) to return a page to additional
info where available (status, links, errata, alternate versions).
However, if the extension is removed, IMO the indeterminate form MUST
return the authoritative version.


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