I’ve just come across an RFC (um, a “Request For Comment” from the Internet Engineering Task Force‘s website) that I found rather, ah, interesting. (…begging the question of how — and, more importantly, why— I happened to come across RFC’s in the first place. But never mind that…)
Do any of my Dear Readers recall the term “Netiquette”? For those who can’t remember, that portmanteau means Internet Etiquette. The Mirriam-Webster online definition for “netiquette” notes that the word was first used in 1982, some 11 years after the first email was sent. One can only imagine the flame wars and other email and newsgroup contretemps that ensued prior to the release in October 1995 of RFC 1855, “Netiquette Guidelines.”
Prior to the overwhelming emergence of Internet advertising and the graphical interface to the World Wide Web — and, ultimately, the conflation of the two — there was an ethic of self-policing on the Internet. Advertising was strictly verboten; and, in fact, the first “advertising” was considered spam.
The Miriam-Webster definition of “spam” defines it thus:
unsolicited usually commercial e-mail sent to a large number of addresses
It’s interesting that the first spam to hit the Internet was a Usenet Newsgroup posting by the so-called “green card lawyers” on April 12, 1994. Because many users received Newsgroup postings via email (I know I did), this posting met the definition of spam to a T: it was a commercial email sent to a large number of addresses.
RFC 1855 touches upon this, as well as other email issues, some of which we continue to deal with 20 years later! The RFC notes that it is trying to describe appropriate to new users of the Internet,or “Newbies.”
In the past, the population of people using the Internet had "grown up" with the Internet, were technically minded, and understood the nature of the transport and the protocols. Today, the community of Internet users includes people who are new to the environment. These "Newbies" are unfamiliar with the culture and don't need to know about transport and protocols. In order to bring these new users into the Internet culture quickly, this Guide offers a minimum set of behaviors which organizations and individuals may take and adapt for their own use.
It’s clear that RFC 1855 did little to stem the tide of poor etiquette on the Internet; but it was a valiant effort.
Does this bring back memories? Please let me know in the comments.
I’ve run across a few other amusing RFC’s which I’ll post sometime later.