In computer network engineering, an Internet Standard (STD) is a normative specification of a technology or methodology applicable to the Internet. Internet Standards are created and published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
An Internet Standard is a special Request for Comments (RFC) or set of RFCs. An RFC that is to become a Standard or part of a Standard begins as an Internet Draft, and is later (usually after several revisions) accepted and published by the RFC Editor as a RFC and labeled a Proposed Standard. Later, an RFC is labelled a Draft Standard, and finally a Standard. Collectively, these stages are known as the standards track, and are defined in RFC 2026. The label Historic (sic) is applied to deprecated standards-track documents or obsolete RFCs that were published before the standards track was established.
Only the IETF, represented by the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), can approve standards-track RFCs. The definitive list of Internet Standards is maintained in Internet Standards document STD 1: Internet Official Protocol Standards.
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Becoming a standard is a three step process within the IETF called Proposed Standards, Draft Standards and finally Internet Standards. If an RFC is part of a proposal that is on the standard track, then at the first stage, the standard is proposed and subsequently organizations decide whether to implement this Proposed Standard. After three separate implementations, more review and corrections are made to the RFC, and a Draft Standard is created. At the final stage, the RFC becomes a Standard.
A Proposed Standard (PS) is generally stable, has resolved known design choices, is believed to be well-understood, has received significant community review, and appears to enjoy enough community interest to be considered valuable. However, further experience might result in a change or even retraction of the specification before it advances. Usually, neither implementation nor operational experience is required.
A specification from which at least two independent and interoperable implementations from different code bases have been developed, and for which sufficient successful operational experience has been obtained, may be elevated to the Draft Standard (DS) level.
A Draft Standard is normally considered to be a final specification, and changes are likely to be made only to solve specific problems encountered. In most circumstances, it is reasonable for vendors to deploy implementations of Draft Standards into a disruption sensitive environment.
A specification for which significant implementation and successful operational experience has been obtained may be elevated to the Internet Standard (STD) level. An Internet Standard, which may simply be referred to as a Standard, is characterized by a high degree of technical maturity and by a generally held belief that the specified protocol or service provides significant benefit to the Internet community.
Generally Internet Standards cover interoperability of systems on the internet through defining protocols, messages formats, schemas, and languages. The most fundamental of the Standards are the ones defining the Internet Protocol.
All Internet Standards are given a number in the STD series - The first document in this series, STD 1, describes the remaining documents in the series, and has a list of Proposed Standards.
Each RFC is static; if the document is changed, it is submitted again and assigned a new RFC number. If an RFC becomes an Internet Standard (STD), it is assigned an STD number but retains its RFC number. When an Internet Standard is updated, its number stays the same and it simply refers to a different RFC or set of RFCs. A given Internet Standard, STD n, may be RFCs x and y at a given time, but later the same standard may be updated to be RFC z instead. For example, in 2007 RFC 3700 was an Internet Standard—STD 1—and in May 2008 it was replaced with RFC 5000, so RFC 3700 changed to Historic status, and now STD 1 is RFC 5000. When STD 1 is updated again, it will simply refer to a newer RFC, but it will still be STD 1. Note that not all RFCs are standards-track documents, but all Internet Standards and other standards-track documents are RFCs.