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A Request for Comments (RFC) is a formal document drafted by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that describes the specifications for a particular technology. When an RFC is ratified, it becomes a formal standards document.
RFCs were first used during the creation of the ARPANET protocols that came to establish what became today's Internet. They continue to be issued on an ongoing basis as the technology underlying the Internet evolves.
A formal Internet standard is formed when an RFC goes through committee drafting and review until the final version of the RFC is ratified, at which time no further comments or changes are allowed. Other RFCs are not ratified, and instead retain an "informational" or "experimental" status. For example, the original File Transfer Protocol standard was published as RFC 114 in April of 1971. This was later replaced by RFC 765 in 1980 and finally RFC 959. So, as technology advances, RFCs are updated as well.