Jon Postel, Internet Pioneer
August 6, 1943 - October 16, 1998
"Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what
(originates in RFC760)
"Jon has been our North Star for decades ...
He was the Internet's Boswell and its technical conscience."
-- Vint Cerf
About Our Namesake
Click here for public relations material.
Jon was many things to many people in the Internet:
- In its infancy, Jon worked on its development, from its
early protocols, to the creation of TCP/IP.
- Documenter and co-developer many of the key Internet standards,
including TCP/IP (basic Internet protocols), SMTP (email
transfer), and DNS (name servers).
- Editor of the RFC series from April 7, 1969 (its inception)
until his untimely departure in Oct. 1998, covering over
2400 RFCs, and advocate of clean, conservative protocol
design and specification. See
RFC-2555 for more information.
- Co-author of over 204 Internet RFCs
- The Internet Assigned
Numbers Authority (IANA), and advocate of conservation
of protocol and port numbers.
Jon's influence is felt throughout the Internet, in its protocols,
in their documentation, in the DNS names we use and the 'dot'
we use to separate them, and, in no small way, in the 'good
engineering' that helped the Internet thrive from its inception
in 1969 to today.
Jon was essentially a shepherd of the Internet. He watched
over it, and helped husband its resources by suggesting simplicity,
conservatism, and completeness in its protocols.
Jon worked at ISI from March 21, 1977, and since January
1, 1997 was the Division Director of
USC/ISI's Computer Networks Division, which hosts Postel Center.
Futher information about Jon can
be found here, as well as in Internet
RFC-2468 (as in "who do we appreciate :-)".
- "It's perfectly appropriate to be upset. I thought
of it in a slightly different way--like a space that we
were exploring and, in the early days, we figured out this
consistent path through the space: IP, TCP, and so on. What's
been happening over the last few years is that the IETF
is filling the rest of the space with every alternative
approach, not necessarily any better. Every possible alternative
is now being written down. And it's not useful."
 Richard Comerford. State of the Internet: Roundtable 4.0.
IEEE Spectrum 35(10):69 - 79, October 1998.
- The Postel Center for Experimental Networking is intended
to carry Jon's legacy forward, to continue his husbandry
of the Internet. Critical to that mission are the following
- visiting scholars who are invited to spend a sabattical,
ranging from summer, a semester, or a year at ISI investigating
Internet issues in service to the Internet community.
These scholars are selected by a distinguished Board of
Directors, in recognition of their contributions to the
development of the Internet and potential for impact on
the Internet community during their visit.
- a lab and graduate research fellows, to perform research
in support of the visiting scholars
- an endowment, to support visiting scholars, graduate
research fellows, and the lab year-round
It is hoped that the output of the center will be publications,
research, and reports that help address key issues in the
evolution of the Internet, in helping to educate the community
on aspects of long-standing issues (the end-to-end argument,
conservative protocol design, etc.), to examine current
and emerging protocols and standards, and to perform the
kind of research and examination that is of general benefit
to the Internet community. Finally, one thing apparent from
the brevity of the note about Jon above is how little of
his legacy is documented. Postel Center also plans to further document
Jon's legacy to the Internet, and examine other ways to
archive Internet history for the future.