Jon Postel

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Jonathan Bruce Postel (August 6, 1943October 16, 1998) was an American computer scientist. He was the first and longest-serving editor of the ARPANET (later Internet) RFC document series, and wrote or edited many of protocol standards still used in the Internet today.


  • In general, an implementation must be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior.
    • RFC 791, Internet Protocol (September 1981)
    • Often shortened to Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send.
  • TCP implementations will follow a general principle of robustness: be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.
    • The "Robustness Principle", RFC 793, Transmission Control Protocol, entire text of section 2.10 (September 1981).
  • I think they called me the closest thing to a God of the Internet. But at the end, that article wasn’t very complimentary, because the author suggested that I wasn’t doing a very good job, and that I ought to be replaced by a "professional."
    Of course, there isn’t any "God of the Internet." The Internet works because a lot of people cooperate to do things together.
    • When asked "What do you think of being called a god?" in "Heavenly Father of the NET", an interview article in NetWorker (Summer 1997); This refers to a statement "if the Net does have a god, he is probably Jon Postel", which appeared in the British magazine The Economist.

About Jon Postel[edit]

  • He worked quietly for years as keeper of the RFCs and final arbiter in technical matters when consensus couldn’t be reached. Postel believed that decisions he had made in the course of his work over the years had been for the good of the community and that starting a company to profit from those activities would have amounted to a violation of public trust.
    • Where Wizards Stay Up Late (1996) by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
  • God, at least in the West, is often represented as a man with a flowing beard and sandals... if the Net does have a god, he is probably Jon Postel, a man who matches that description to a T. Mr. Postel's claim to cyber-divinity, besides his appearance, is that he is the chairman and, in effect, the sole member of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the organization that coordinates almost all Internet addresses.


  • A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A route indicates how we get there.
    • RFC (Request for Comments) document: RFC 791, Internet Protocol (September 1981)
    • This is often mistakenly attributed to Jon Postel, but it is actually a very slight variation on a quotation from John Shoch; both RFC-791 and its earlier version RFC-760 include, at the point in the text where this passage appears, a reference to Shoch's paper Inter-Network Naming, Addressing, and Routing, which is the original source of this observation.

External links[edit]

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