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Jonathan Bruce Postel (; August 6, 1943 – October 16, 1998) was an American
computer scientist A computer scientist is a person who has acquired the knowledge of computer science, the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and their application. Computer scientists typically work on the theoretical side of c ...

computer scientist
who made many significant contributions to the development of the
Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of networks'' that consist ...

Internet
, particularly with respect to
standards Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrology), an object that bears a defined relationship to a unit of ...
. He is known principally for being the Editor of the
Request for Comment A Request for Comments (RFC) is a publication from the Internet Society The Internet Society (ISOC) is an American nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or ...
(RFC) document series, for
Simple Mail Transfer Protocol The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is an internet standard An Internet Standard in computer network engineering refers to the normative specification of a technology that is appropriate for the Internet. Internet Standards allow interoper ...
(SMTP), and for administering the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a standards organization that oversees global IP address allocation, Autonomous system (Internet), autonomous system number allocation, DNS root zone, root zone management in the Domain Name Sys ...
(IANA) until his death. In his lifetime he was referred to as the "god of the Internet" for his comprehensive influence; Postel himself noted that this "compliment" came with a barb, the suggestion that he should be replaced by a "professional," and responded with typical self-effacing matter-of-factness: "Of course, there isn’t any 'God of the Internet.' The Internet works because a lot of people cooperate to do things together."


Career

Postel attended
Van Nuys High School Van Nuys High School (VNHS) is a public high school in the Van Nuys, Los Angeles, Van Nuys district of Los Angeles, belonging to the Los Angeles Unified School District: District 2. The school is home to a Residential Program and three Magnet schoo ...
, and then
UCLA The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is a public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization An organization, or organ ...
where he earned his B.S. (1966) as well as his M.S. (1968) in Engineering. He then went on to complete his Ph.D. there in Computer Science in 1974, with
Dave Farber David J. Farber (born April 17, 1934) is a professor of computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practical techniques for the ...
as his thesis advisor. Postel started work at UCLA on 23 December 1969 as a Postgraduate Research Engineer (I) where he was involved in early work on the
ARPANET The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switching network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the Internet protocol suite, TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies ...
. He was involved in the development of the Internet domain system and, at his instigation, Vint Cerf and
Bob Kahn Robert Elliot Kahn (born December 23, 1938) is an American electrical engineer Electrical engineering is an engineering discipline concerned with the study, design, and application of equipment, devices, and systems which use electricity, e ...

Bob Kahn
developed a second set of protocols for handling data between networks, which is now known as Internet Protocol (IP). Together with Cerf and
Steve Crocker Stephen D. Crocker (born October 15, 1944 in Pasadena, California, United States) is the inventor of the Request for Comments series, authoring the first RFC and many more. He attended Van Nuys High School, as did Vint Cerf and Jon Postel. Crocke ...
, Postel worked on implementing most of the ARPANET protocols. Cerf would later become one of the principal designers of the TCP/IP standard, which works because of the sentence known as
Postel's Law In computing, the robustness principle is a design guideline for software that states: "be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others". It is often reworded as: "be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you ac ...
. Postel worked with ARPANET until 24 August 1973 when he left to join
MITRE Corporation The Mitre Corporation (stylized as The MITRE Corporation and MITRE) is an American not-for-profit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity ...
. He assisted with
Network Information Center The Network Information Center (NIC), also known as InterNIC from 1993 until 1998, was the organization primarily responsible for Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical and decentralized naming system for computers ...
which was being set up at
SRI Shri (; Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida, based on the ancient Brahmi ...
by
Elizabeth Feinler Elizabeth Jocelyn "Jake" Feinler (born March 2, 1931) is an American information scientist. From 1972 until 1989 she was director of the Network Information Systems Center at the Stanford Research Institute SRI International (SRI) is an Americ ...
. In March 1977, he joined the
Information Sciences Institute The USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) is a component of the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, and specializes in research and development in information processing, computing, and communications techn ...
at the
University of Southern California , mottoeng = "Let whoever earns the palm bear it" , religious_affiliation = Nonsectarian - Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious de ...

University of Southern California
as a research scientist. Postel was the RFC Editor from 1969 until his death, and wrote and edited many important RFCs, including RFC 791, RFC 792 and RFC 793, which define the basic protocols of the
Internet protocol suite The Internet protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, is the set of s used in the and similar s. The current foundational protocols in the suite are the (TCP) and the (IP). During its development, versions of it were known as the Departm ...
, and RFC 2223, ''Instructions to RFC Authors''. Between 1982 and 1984 Postel co-authored the RFCs which became the foundation of today's
DNS The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to identify computers, Internet#Applications_and_services, services, and other resources reachable through the internet or other intern ...

DNS
(RFC 819, RFC 881, RFC 882 and RFC 920) which were joined in 1995 by RFC 1591 which he also co-wrote. In total, he wrote or co-authored more than 200 RFCs. Postel served on the
Internet Architecture Board The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is "a committee of the Internet Engineering Task Force The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is an open standards organization A standards organization, standards body, standards developing organi ...
and its predecessors for many years. He was the Director of the names and number assignment clearinghouse, the
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is a standards organization that oversees global IP address allocation, Autonomous system (Internet), autonomous system number allocation, DNS root zone, root zone management in the Domain Name Sys ...
(IANA), from its inception. He was the first member of the
Internet Society The Internet Society (ISOC) is an American nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a col ...
, and was on its Board of Trustees. He was the original and long-time
.us .us is the Internet The Internet (Capitalization of Internet, or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ' ...
Top-Level Domain A top-level domain (TLD) is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to identify computers, ...
administrator. He also managed the Los Nettos Network. All of the above were part-time activities he assumed in conjunction with his primary position as Director of the Computer Networks Division, Division 7, of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.


DNS Root Authority test, U.S. response

On January 28, 1998, Postel, as a test, emailed eight of the twelve operators of Internet's regional
root nameserver A root name server is a name server A name server refers to the server component of the Domain Name System (DNS), one of the two principal namespaces of the Internet. The most important function of DNS servers is the translation (resolution) of ...
s on his own authority and instructed them to reconfigure their servers, changing the root zone server from then SAIC subsidiary
Network Solutions Network Solutions, LLC is an American-based technology Technology ("science of craft", from Ancient Greek, Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and , ''wikt:-logia, -logia'') is the sum of Art techniques and materials, techniqu ...

Network Solutions
' A.ROOT-SERVERS.NET (198.41.0.4) to IANA's DNSROOT.IANA.ORG (198.32.1.98). The operators complied with Postel's instructions, thus dividing control of Internet naming between the non-government operators with IANA and the 4 remaining U.S. Government roots at
NASA The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA; ) is an independent agency A regulatory agency or regulatory authority, is a Public benefit corporation Public-benefit corporation is a term that has different meanings in differen ...

NASA
,
DoD The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an executive branch department of the federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-go ...
, and BRL with NSI. Though usage of the Internet was not interrupted, he soon received orders from senior government officials to undo this change, which he did. Within a week, the US
NTIA The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce that serves as the President of the United States, President's principal adviser on telecommunications Telecommunicat ...
issued ''A proposal to improve technical management of Internet names and addresses'', including changes to authority over the Internet
DNS root zone The DNS root zone is the top-level DNS zone A DNS zone is a specific portion of the DNS namespace in the Domain Name System The Domain Name System (DNS) is the hierarchical and Decentralised system, decentralized naming system used to i ...
, which ultimately, and controversially, increased U.S. control.


Legacy

On October 16, 1998, nine months after the altercation with the US government over root server move, Postel died of complications from heart surgery in Los Angeles. He was recovering from a surgery to replace a leaking heart valve.Jon Postel, Internet Pioneer, Dies at 55 after Heart Surgery
Washington Post, 1998-10-18. Accessed 2016-09-09.
The significance of Jon Postel's contributions to building the Internet, both technical and personal, were such that a memorial recollection of his life forms part of the core technical literature sequence of the Internet in the form of RFC 2468 "I Remember IANA", written by
Vinton Cerf Vinton Gray Cerf (; born June 23, 1943) is an American Internet pioneer and is recognized as one of " the fathers of the Internet", sharing this title with TCP/IP The Internet protocol suite is the conceptual model A conceptual model is a ...

Vinton Cerf
. The Postel Center at
Information Sciences Institute The USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) is a component of the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, and specializes in research and development in information processing, computing, and communications techn ...
,
University of Southern California , mottoeng = "Let whoever earns the palm bear it" , religious_affiliation = Nonsectarian - Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious de ...

University of Southern California
is named in his honor, as is the annual
Postel AwardThe Jonathan B. Postel Service Award is an award named after Jon Postel Jonathan Bruce Postel (; August 6, 1943 – October 16, 1998) was an American computer scientist who made many significant contributions to the development of the Internet, pa ...
. His obituary was written by
Vint Cerf Vinton Gray Cerf (; born June 23, 1943) is an American Internet pioneer and is recognized as one of " the fathers of the Internet", sharing this title with TCP/IP The Internet protocol suite, commonly known as TCP/IP, is the set of commun ...

Vint Cerf
and published as RFC 2468 in remembrance of Postel and his work. In 2012, Postel was inducted into the
Internet Hall of Fame The Internet Hall of Fame is an honorary lifetime achievement award administered by the Internet Society The Internet Society (ISOC) is an American nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity ...
. The Channel Islands' Domain Registry building was named after him in early 2016. Another tribute, "Working with Jon: Tribute delivered at UCLA, October 30, 1998"
RFC2441
, was written by Danny Cohen.


Postel's law

Perhaps his most famous legacy is from RFC 760, which includes a
robustness principle In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes and development of both computer hardware , hardware and software ...
often called ''Postel's law'': "an implementation should be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior" (reworded in RFC 1122 as "Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send").


See also

*
ARPANET The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first wide-area packet-switching network with distributed control and one of the first networks to implement the Internet protocol suite, TCP/IP protocol suite. Both technologies ...
*'' Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing'' (1972 documentary w/Postel cameo) *
History of the Internet The history of the Internet has its origin in information theory Information theory is the scientific study of the quantification (science), quantification, computer data storage, storage, and telecommunication, communication of Digital dat ...
* Jonathan B. Postel Service Award *
STD 8 STD 8 refers to two Internet Engineering Task Force The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is an open standards organization, which develops and promotes voluntary Internet standards, in particular the technical standards that comprise t ...


Notes


External links

*
postel.org
Research center at USC/ISI created in his honor. {{DEFAULTSORT:Postel, Jon 1943 births 1998 deaths Van Nuys High School alumni American computer scientists University of California, Los Angeles alumni Internet pioneers Place of birth missing