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RFC 1849


"Son of 1036": News Article Format and Transmission

Part 2 of 4, p. 15 to 45
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4.  Basic Format

4.1.  Overall Syntax

   The overall syntax of a news article is:

      article         = 1*header separator body
      header          = start-line *continuation
      start-line      = header-name ":" space [ nonblank-text ] eol
      continuation    = space nonblank-text eol
      header-name     = 1*name-character *( "-" 1*name-character )
      name-character  = letter / digit
      letter          = <ASCII letter A-Z or a-z>
      digit           = <ASCII digit 0-9>
      separator       = eol
      body            = *( [ nonblank-text / space ] eol )
      eol             = <EOL>
      nonblank-text   = [ space ] text-character *( space-or-text )
      text-character  = <any ASCII character except NUL (ASCII 0),
                          HT (ASCII 9), LF (ASCII 10), CR (ASCII 13),
                          or blank (ASCII 32)>
      space           = 1*( <HT (ASCII 9)> / <blank (ASCII 32)> )
      space-or-text   = space / text-character

   An article consists of some headers followed by a body.  An empty
   line separates the two.  The headers contain structured information
   about the article and its transmission.  A header begins with a
   header name identifying it, and can be continued onto subsequent
   lines by beginning the continuation line(s) with white space.  (Note
   that Section 4.2.3 adds some restrictions to the header syntax
   indicated here.)  The body is largely unstructured text significant
   only to the poster and the readers.

      NOTE: Terminology here follows the current custom in the news
      community, rather than the MAIL convention of (sometimes)
      referring to what is here called a "header" as a "header field" or

   Note that the separator line must be truly empty, and not just a line
   containing white space.  Further empty lines following it are part of
   the body, as are empty lines at the end of the article.

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      NOTE: Some systems make no distinction between empty lines and
      lines consisting entirely of white space; indeed, some systems
      cannot represent entirely empty lines.  The grammar's requirement
      that header continuation lines contain some printable text is
      meant to ensure that the empty/space distinction cannot confuse
      identification of the separator line.

      NOTE: It is tempting to authorize posting agents to strip empty
      lines at the beginning and end of the body, but such empty lines
      could possibly be part of a preformatted document.

   Implementors are warned that trailing white space, whether alone on
   the line or not, MAY be significant in the body, notably in early
   versions of the "uuencode" encoding for binary data.  Trailing white
   space MUST be preserved unless the article is known to have
   originated within a cooperating subnet that avoids using significant
   trailing white space, and SHOULD be preserved regardless.  Posters
   SHOULD avoid using conventions or encodings that make trailing white
   space significant; for encoding of binary data, MIME's "base64"
   encoding is recommended.  Implementors are warned that ISO C
   implementations are not required to preserve trailing white space,
   and special precautions may be necessary in implementations that do

      NOTE: Unfortunately, the signature-delimiter convention (described
      in Section 4.3.2) does use significant trailing white space.  It's
      too late to fix this; there is work underway on defining an
      organized signature convention as part of MIME, which is a
      preferable solution in the long run.

   Posters are warned that some very old relayer software misbehaves
   when the first non-empty line of an article body begins with white

4.2.  Headers

4.2.1.  Names and Contents

   Despite the restrictions on header-name syntax imposed by the
   grammar, relayers and reading agents SHOULD tolerate header names
   containing any ASCII printable character other than colon (":",
   ASCII 58).

      NOTE: MAIL header names can contain any ASCII printable character
      (other than colon) in theory, but in practice, arbitrary header
      names are known to cause trouble for some news software.  Section
      4.1's restriction to alphanumeric sequences separated by hyphens
      is believed to permit all widely used header names without causing

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      problems for any widely used software.  Software is nevertheless
      encouraged to cope correctly with the full range of possibilities,
      since aberrations are known to occur.

   Relayers MUST disregard headers not described in this Draft (that is,
   with header names not mentioned in this Draft) and pass them on

   Posters wishing to convey non-standard information in headers SHOULD
   use header names beginning with "X-".  No standard header name will
   ever be of this form.  Reading agents SHOULD ignore "X-" headers, or
   at least treat them with great care.

   The order of headers in an article is not significant.  However,
   posting agents are encouraged to put mandatory headers (see
   Section 5) first, followed by optional headers (see Section 6),
   followed by headers not defined in this Draft.

      NOTE: While relayers and reading agents must be prepared to handle
      any order, having the significant headers (the precise definition
      of "significant" depends on context) first can noticeably improve
      efficiency, especially in memory-limited environments where it is
      difficult to buffer up an arbitrary quantity of headers while
      searching for the few that matter.

   Header names are case-insensitive.  There is a preferred case
   convention, which posters and posting agents SHOULD use: each hyphen-
   separated "word" has its initial letter (if any) in uppercase and the
   rest in lowercase, except that some abbreviations have all letters
   uppercase (e.g., "Message-ID" and "MIME-Version").  The forms used in
   this Draft are the preferred forms for the headers described herein.
   Relayers and reading agents are warned that articles might not obey
   this convention.

      NOTE: Although software must be prepared for the possibility of
      random use of case in header names (and other case-independent
      text), establishing a preferred convention reduces pointless
      diversity and may permit optimized software that looks for the
      preferred forms before resorting to less-efficient case-
      insensitive searches.

   In general, a header can consist of several lines, with each
   continuation line beginning with white space.  The EOLs preceding
   continuation lines are ignored when processing such a header,
   effectively combining the start-line and the continuations into a
   single logical line.  The logical line, less the header name, colon,
   and any white space following the colon, is the "header content".

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4.2.2.  Undesirable Headers

   A header whose content is empty is said to be an empty header.
   Relayers and reading agents SHOULD NOT consider presence or absence
   of an empty header to alter the semantics of an article (although
   syntactic rules, such as requirements that certain header names
   appear at most once in an article, MUST still be satisfied).  Posting
   agents SHOULD delete empty headers from articles before posting them.

   Headers that merely state defaults explicitly (e.g., a Followup-To
   header with the same content as the Newsgroups header, or a MIME
   Content-Type header with contents "text/plain; charset=us-ascii") or
   state information that reading agents can typically determine easily
   themselves (e.g., the length of the body in octets) are redundant,
   conveying no information whatsoever.  Headers that state information
   that cannot possibly be of use to a significant number of relayers,
   reading agents, or readers (e.g., the name of the software package
   used as the posting agent) are useless and pointless.  Posters and
   posting agents SHOULD avoid including redundant or useless headers in

      NOTE: Information that someone, somewhere, might someday find
      useful is best omitted from headers.  (There's quite enough of it
      in article bodies.)  Headers should contain information of known
      utility only.  This is not meant to preclude inclusion of
      information primarily meant for news-software debugging, but such
      information should be included only if there is real reason,
      preferably based on experience, to suspect that it may be
      genuinely useful.  Articles passing through gateways are the only
      obvious case where inclusion of debugging information appears
      clearly legitimate.  (See Section 10.1.)

      NOTE: A useful rule of thumb for software implementors is: "if I
      had to pay a dollar a day for the transmission of this header,
      would I still think it worthwhile?".

4.2.3.  White Space and Continuations

   The colon following the header name on the start-line MUST be
   followed by white space, even if the header is empty.  If the header
   is not empty, at least some of the content MUST appear on the start-
   line.  Posting agents MUST enforce these restrictions, but relayers
   (etc.) SHOULD accept even articles that violate them.

      NOTE: MAIL does not require white space after the colon, but it is
      usual. [RFC1036] required the white space, even in empty headers,
      and some existing software demands it.  In MAIL, and arguably in
      [RFC1036] (although the wording is vague), it is technically

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      legitimate for the white space to be part of a continuation line
      rather than the start-line, but not all existing software will
      accept this.  Deleting empty headers and placing some content on
      the start-line avoids this issue; this is desirable because
      trailing blanks, easily deleted by accident, are best not made
      significant in headers.

   In general, posters and posting agents SHOULD use blank (ASCII 32),
   not tab (ASCII 9), where white space is desired in headers.  Existing
   software does not consistently accept tab as synonymous with blank in
   all contexts.  In particular, [RFC1036] appeared to specify that the
   character immediately following the colon after a header name was
   required to be a blank, and some news software insists on that, so
   this character MUST be a blank.  Again, posting agents MUST enforce
   these restrictions but relayers SHOULD be more tolerant.

   Since the white space beginning a continuation line remains a part of
   the logical line, headers can be "broken" into multiple lines only at
   white space.  Posting agents SHOULD NOT break headers unnecessarily.
   Relayers SHOULD preserve existing header breaks, and SHOULD NOT
   introduce new breaks.  Breaking headers SHOULD be a last resort;
   relayers and reading agents SHOULD handle long header lines
   gracefully.  (See the discussion of size limits in Section 4.6.)

4.3.  Body

   Although the article body is unstructured for most of the purposes of
   this Draft, structure MAY be imposed on it by other means, notably
   MIME headers (see Appendix B).

4.3.1.  Body Format Issues

   The body of an article MAY be empty, although posting agents SHOULD
   consider this an error condition (meriting returning the article to
   the poster for revision).  A posting agent that does not reject such
   an article SHOULD issue a warning message to the poster and supply a
   non-empty body.  Note that the separator line MUST be present even if
   the body is empty.

      NOTE: An empty body is probably a poster error except, arguably,
      for some control messages, and even they really ought to have a
      body explaining the reason for the control message.  Some old
      reading agents are known to generate empty bodies for "cancel"
      control messages, so posting agents might opt not to reject
      bodyless articles in such cases (although it would be better to
      fix the reading agents to request a body).  However, some existing
      news software is known to react badly to bodyless articles, hence
      the request for posting agents to insert a body in such cases.

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      NOTE: A possible posting-agent-supplied body text (already used by
      one widespread posting agent) is "This article was probably
      generated by a buggy news reader".  (The use of "reader" to refer
      to the reading agent is traditional, although this Draft uses more
      precise terminology.)

      NOTE: The requirement for the separator line even in a bodyless
      article is inherited from MAIL and also distinguishes legitimately
      bodyless articles from articles accidentally truncated in the
      middle of the headers.

   Note that an article body is a sequence of lines terminated by EOLs,
   not arbitrary binary data, and in particular it MUST end with an EOL.
   However, relayers SHOULD treat the body of an article as an
   uninterpreted sequence of octets (except as mandated by changes of
   EOL representation and by control-message processing) and SHOULD
   avoid imposing constraints on it.  See also Section 4.6.

4.3.2.  Body Conventions

   Although body lines can in principle be very long (see Section 4.6
   for some discussion of length limits), posters SHOULD restrict body
   line lengths to circa 70-75 characters.  On systems where text is
   conventionally stored with EOLs only at paragraph breaks and other
   "hard return" points, with software breaking lines as appropriate for
   display or manipulation, posting agents SHOULD insert EOLs as
   necessary so that posted articles comply with this restriction.

      NOTE: News originated in environments where line breaks in plain
      text files were supplied by the user, not the software.  Be this
      good or bad, much reading-agent and posting-agent software assumes
      that news articles follow this convention, so it is often
      inconvenient to read or respond to articles that violate it.  The
      "70-75" number comes from the widespread use of display devices
      that are 80 columns wide (with the number reduced to provide a bit
      of margin for quoting, see below).

   Reading agents confronted with body lines much longer than the
   available output-device width SHOULD break lines as appropriate.
   Posters are warned that such breaks may not occur exactly where the
   poster intends.

      NOTE: "As appropriate" would typically include breaking lines when
      supplying the text of an article to be quoted in a reply or
      followup, something that line-breaking reading agents often
      neglect to do now.

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   Although styles vary widely, for plain text it is usual to use no
   left margin, leave the right edge ragged, use a single empty line to
   separate paragraphs, and employ normal natural-language usage on
   matters such as upper/lowercase.  (In particular, articles SHOULD NOT
   be written entirely in uppercase.  In environments where posters have
   access only to uppercase, posting agents SHOULD translate it to

      NOTE: Most people find substantial bodies of text entirely in
      uppercase relatively hard to read, while all-lowercase text merely
      looks slightly odd.  The common association of uppercase with
      strong emphasis adds to this.

   Tone of voice does not carry well in written text, and
   misunderstandings are common when sarcasm, parody, or exaggeration
   for humorous effect is attempted without explicit warning.  It has
   become conventional to use the sequence ":-)", which (on most output
   devices) resembles a rotated "smiley face" symbol, as a marker for
   text not meant to be taken literally, especially when humor is
   intended.  This practice aids communication and averts unintended
   ill-will; posters are urged to use it.  A variety of analogous
   sequences are used with less-standardized meanings [Sanderson].

   The order of arrival of news articles at a particular host depends
   somewhat on transmission paths, and occasionally articles are lost
   for various reasons.  When responding to a previous article, posters
   SHOULD NOT assume that all readers understand the exact context.  It
   is common to quote some of the previous article to establish context.
   This SHOULD be done by prefacing each quoted line (even if it is
   empty) with the character ">".  This will result in multiple levels
   of ">" when quoted context itself contains quoted context.

      NOTE: It may seem superfluous to put a prefix on empty lines, but
      it simplifies implementation of functions such as "skip all quoted
      text" in reading agents.

   Readability is enhanced if quoted text and new text are separated by
   an empty line.

   Posters SHOULD edit quoted context to trim it down to the minimum
   necessary.  However, posting agents SHOULD NOT attempt to enforce
   this by imposing overly simplistic rules like "no more than 50% of
   the lines should be quotes".

      NOTE: While encouraging trimming is desirable, the 50% rule
      imposed by some old posting agents is both inadequate and
      counterproductive.  Posters do not respond to it by being more
      selective about quoting; they respond by padding short responses,

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      or by using different quoting styles to defeat automatic analysis.
      The former adds unnecessary noise and volume, while the latter
      also defeats more useful forms of automatic analysis that reading
      agents might wish to do.

      NOTE: At the very least, if a minimum-unquoted quota is being set,
      article bodies shorter than (say) 20 lines, or perhaps articles
      that exceed the quota by only a few lines, should be exempt.  This
      avoids the ridiculous situation of complaining about a 5-line
      response to a 6-line quote.

      NOTE: A more subtle posting-agent rule, suggested for experimental
      use, is to reject articles that appear to contain quoted
      signatures (see below).  This is almost certainly the result of a
      careless poster not bothering to trim down quoted context.  Also,
      if a posting agent or followup agent presents an article template
      to the poster for editing, it really should take note of whether
      the poster actually made any changes, and refrain from posting an
      unmodified template.

   Some followup agents supply "attribution" lines for quoted context,
   indicating where it first appeared and under whose name.  When
   multiple levels of quoting are present and quoted context is edited
   for brevity, "inner" attribution lines are not always retained.  The
   editing process is also somewhat error-prone.  Reading agents (and
   readers) are warned not to assume that attributions are accurate.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Should a standard format for attribution lines
      be defined?  There is already considerable diversity, but
      automatic news analysis would be substantially aided by a standard

   Early difficulties in inferring return addresses from article headers
   led to "signatures": short closing texts, automatically added to the
   end of articles by posting agents, identifying the poster and giving
   his network addresses, etc.  If a poster or posting agent does append
   a signature to an article, the signature SHOULD be preceded with a
   delimiter line containing (only) two hyphens (ASCII 45) followed by
   one blank (ASCII 32).  Posting agents SHOULD limit the length of
   signatures, since verbose excess bordering on abuse is common if no
   restraint is imposed; 4 lines is a common limit.

      NOTE: While signatures are arguably a blemish, they are a well-
      understood convention, and conveying the same information in
      headers exposes it to mangling and makes it rather less
      conspicuous.  A standard delimiter line makes it possible for
      reading agents to handle signatures specially if desired.

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      (This is unfortunately hampered by extensive misunderstanding of,
      and misuse of, the delimiter.)

      NOTE: The choice of delimiter is somewhat unfortunate, since it
      relies on preservation of trailing white space, but it is too
      well-established to change.  There is work underway to define a
      more sophisticated signature scheme as part of MIME, and this will
      presumably supersede the current convention in due time.

      NOTE: Four 75-column lines of signature text is 300 characters,
      which is ample to convey name and mail-address information in all
      but the most bizarre situations.

4.4.  Characters and Character Sets

   Header and body lines MAY contain any ASCII characters other than CR
   (ASCII 13), LF (ASCII 10), and NUL (ASCII 0).

      NOTE: CR and LF are excluded because they clash with common EOL
      conventions.  NUL is excluded because it clashes with the C
      end-of-string convention, which is significant to most existing
      news software.  These three characters are unlikely to be
      transmitted successfully.

   However, posters SHOULD avoid using ASCII control characters except
   for tab (ASCII 9), formfeed (ASCII 12), and backspace (ASCII 8).  Tab
   signifies sufficient horizontal white space to reach the next of a
   set of fixed positions; posters are warned that there is no standard
   set of positions, so tabs should be avoided if precise spacing is
   essential.  Formfeed signifies a point at which a reading agent
   SHOULD pause and await reader interaction before displaying further
   text.  Backspace SHOULD be used only for underlining, done by a
   sequence of underscores (ASCII 95) followed by an equal number of
   backspaces, signifying that the same number of text characters
   following are to be underlined.  Posters are warned that underlining
   is not available on all output devices and is best not relied on for
   essential meaning.  Reading agents SHOULD recognize underlining and
   translate it to the appropriate commands for devices that support it.

      NOTE: Interpretation of almost all control characters is device-
      specific to some degree, and devices differ.  Tabs and underlining
      are supported, to some extent, by most modern devices and reading
      agents, hence the cautious exemptions for them.  The underlining
      method is specified because the inverse method, text and then
      underscores, is tempting to the naive; however, if sent unaltered
      to a device that shows only the most recent of several overstruck
      characters rather than a composite, the result can be utterly

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      NOTE: A common interpretation of tab is that it is a request to
      space forward to the next position whose number is one more than a
      multiple of 8, with positions numbered sequentially starting at 1.
      (So tab positions are 9, 17, 25, ...)  Reading agents not
      constrained by existing system conventions might wish to use this

      NOTE: It will typically be necessary for a reading agent to catch
      and interpret formfeed, not just send it to the output device.
      The actions performed by typical output devices on receiving a
      formfeed are neither adequate for, nor appropriate to, the pause-
      for-interaction meaning.

   Cooperating subnets that wish to employ non-ASCII character sets by
   using escape sequences (employing, e.g., ESC (ASCII 27), SO
   (ASCII 14), and SI (ASCII 15)) to alter the meaning of superficially
   ASCII characters MAY do so, but MUST use MIME headers to alert
   reading agents to the particular character set(s) and escape
   sequences in use.  A reading agent SHOULD NOT pass such an escape
   sequence through, unaltered, to the output device unless the agent
   confirms that the sequence is one used to affect character sets and
   has reason to believe that the device is capable of interpreting that
   particular sequence properly.

      NOTE: Cooperating-subnet organizers are warned that some very old
      relayers strip certain control characters out of articles they
      pass along.  ESC is known to be among the affected characters.

      NOTE: There are now standard Internet encodings for Japanese
      [RFC1345] and Vietnamese [RFC1456] in particular.

   Articles MUST NOT contain any octet with value exceeding 127, i.e.,
   any octet that is not an ASCII character.

      NOTE: This rule, like others, may be relaxed by unanimous consent
      of the members of a cooperating subnet, provided suitable
      precautions are taken to ensure that rule-violating articles do
      not leak out of the subnet.  (This has already been done in many
      areas where ASCII is not adequate for the local language(s).)
      Beware that articles containing non-ASCII octets in headers are a
      violation of the MAIL specifications and are not valid MAIL
      messages.  MIME offers a way to encode non-ASCII characters in
      ASCII for use in headers; see Section 4.5.

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      NOTE: While there is great interest in using 8-bit character sets,
      not all software can yet handle them correctly, hence the
      restriction to cooperating subnets.  MIME encodings can be used to
      transmit such characters while remaining within the octet

   In anticipation of the day when it is possible to use non-ASCII
   characters safely anywhere, and to provide for the (substantial)
   cooperating subnets that are already using them, transmission paths
   SHOULD treat news articles as uninterpreted sequences of octets
   (except perhaps for transformations between EOL representations) and
   relayers SHOULD treat non-ASCII characters in articles as ordinary

      NOTE: 8-bit enthusiasts are warned that not all software conforms
      to these recommendations yet.  In particular, standard NNTP
      [RFC977] is a 7-bit protocol {but in [RFC3977] it has been upped
      to 8-bit}, and there may be implementations that enforce this
      rule.  Be warned, also, that it will never be safe to send raw
      binary data in the body of news articles, because changes of EOL
      representation may (will!) corrupt it.

   Except where cooperating subnets permit more direct approaches, MIME
   headers and encodings SHOULD be used to transmit non-ASCII content
   using ASCII characters; see Section 4.5, Appendix B, and the MIME
   RFCs for details.  If article content can be expressed in ASCII, it
   SHOULD be.  Failing that, the order of preference for character sets
   is that described in MIME.

      NOTE: Using the MIME facilities, it is possible to transmit ANY
      character set, and ANY form of binary data, using only ASCII
      characters.  Equally important, such articles are self-describing
      and the reading agent can tell which octet-to-symbol mapping is
      intended!  Designation of some preferred character sets is
      intended to minimize the number of character sets that a reading
      agent must understand in order to display most articles properly.

   Articles containing non-ASCII characters, articles using ASCII
   characters (values 0 through 127) to refer to non-ASCII symbols, and
   articles using escape sequences to shift character sets SHOULD
   include MIME headers indicating which character set(s) and
   conventions are being used.  They MUST do so unless such articles are
   strictly confined to a cooperating subnet that has its own pre-agreed
   conventions.  MIME encodings are preferred over all of these
   techniques.  If it comes to a relayer's attention that it is being
   asked to pass an article using such techniques outward across what it
   knows to be the boundary of such a cooperating subnet, it MUST report

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   this error to its administrator and MAY refuse to pass the article
   beyond the subnet boundary.  If it does pass the article, it MUST
   re-encode it with MIME encodings to make it conform to this Draft.

      NOTE: Such re-encoding is a non-trivial task, due to MIME rules
      such as the prohibition of nested encodings.  It's not just a
      matter of pouring the body through a simple filter.

   Reading agents SHOULD note MIME headers and attempt to show the
   reader the closest possible approximation to the intended content.
   They SHOULD NOT just send the octets of the article to the output
   device unaltered, unless there is reason to believe that the output
   device will indeed interpret them correctly.  Reading agents MUST NOT
   pass ASCII control characters or escape sequences, other than as
   discussed above, unaltered to the output device; only by chance would
   the result be the desired one, and there is serious potential for
   harmful side effects, either accidental or malicious.

      NOTE: Exactly what to do with unwanted control
      characters/sequences depends on the philosophy of the reading
      agent, but passing them straight to the output device is almost
      always wrong.  If the reading agent wants to mark the presence of
      such a character/sequence in circumstances where only ASCII
      printable characters are available, translating it to "#" might be
      a suitable method; "#" is a conspicuous character seldom used in
      normal text.

      NOTE: Reading agents should be aware that many old output devices
      (or the transmission paths to them) zero out the top bit of octets
      sent to them.  This can transform non-ASCII characters into ASCII
      control characters.

   Followup agents MUST be careful to apply appropriate transformations
   of representation to the outbound followup as well as the inbound
   precursor.  A followup to an article containing non-ASCII material is
   very likely to contain non-ASCII material itself.

4.5.  Non-ASCII Characters in Headers

   All octets found in headers MUST be ASCII characters.  However, it is
   desirable to have a way of encoding non-ASCII characters, especially
   in "human-readable" headers such as Subject.  MIME provides a way to
   do this.  Full details may be found in the MIME specifications;
   herewith a quick summary to alert software authors to the issues.

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      encoded-word  = "=?" charset "?" encoding "?" codes "?="
      charset       = 1*tag-char
      encoding      = 1*tag-char
      tag-char      = < ASCII printable character except
                                !()<>@,;:\"[]/?= >
      codes         = 1*code-char
      code-char     = <ASCII printable character except ?>

   An encoded word is a sequence of ASCII printable characters that
   specifies the character set, encoding method, and bits of
   (potentially) non-ASCII characters.  Encoded words are allowed only
   in certain positions in certain headers.  Specific headers impose
   restrictions on the content of encoded words beyond that specified in
   this section.  Posting agents MUST ensure that any material
   resembling an encoded word (complete with all delimiters), in a
   context where encoded words may appear, really is an encoded word.

      NOTE: The syntax is a bit ugly, but it was designed to minimize
      chances of confusion with legitimate header contents, and to
      satisfy difficult constraints on use within existing headers.

   An encoded word MUST NOT be more than 75 octets long.  Each line of a
   header containing encoded word(s) MUST be at most 76 octets long, not
   counting the EOL.

      NOTE: These limits are meant to bound the lookahead needed to
      determine whether text that begins with "=?" is really an encoded

   The details of charsets and encodings are defined by MIME; the
   sequence of preferred character sets is the same as MIME's.  Encoded
   words SHOULD NOT be used for content expressible in ASCII.

   When an encoded word is used, other than in a newsgroup name (see
   Section 5.5), it MUST be separated from any adjacent non-space
   characters (including other encoded words) by white space.  Reading
   agents displaying the contents of encoded words (as opposed to their
   encoded form) should ignore white space adjacent to encoded words.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Should this section be deleted entirely, or made
      much more terse?  The material is relevant, but too complex to
      discuss fully.

      NOTE: The deletion of intervening white space permits using
      multiple encoded words, implicitly concatenated by the deletion,
      to encode text that will not fit within a single 75-character
      encoded word.

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   Reading-agent implementors are warned that although this Draft
   completely specifies where encoded words may appear in the headers it
   defines, there are other headers (e.g., the MIME Content-Description
   header) that MAY contain them.

4.6.  Size Limits

   Implementations SHOULD avoid fixed constraints on the sizes of lines
   within an article and on the size of the entire article.

   Relayers SHOULD treat the body of an article as an uninterpreted
   sequence of octets (except as mandated by changes of EOL
   representation and processing of control messages), not to be altered
   or constrained in any way.

   If it is absolutely necessary for an implementation to impose a limit
   on the length of header lines, body lines, or header logical lines,
   that limit shall be at least 1000 octets, including EOL
   representations.  Relayers and transmission paths confronted with
   lines beyond their internal limits (if any) MUST NOT simply inject
   EOLs at random places; they MAY break headers (as described in
   Section 4.2.3) as a last resort, and otherwise they MUST either pass
   the long lines through unaltered, or refuse to pass the article at
   all (see Section 9.1 for further discussion).

      NOTE: The limit here is essentially the same minimum as that
      specified for SMTP mail [RFC821].  Implementors are warned that
      Path (see Section 5.6) and References (see Section 6.5) headers,
      in particular, often become several hundred characters long, so
      1000 is not an overly generous limit.

   All implementations MUST be able to handle an article totalling at
   least 65,000 octets, including headers and EOL representations,
   gracefully and efficiently.  All implementations SHOULD be able to
   handle an article totalling at least 1,000,000 (one million) octets,
   including headers and EOL representations, gracefully and
   efficiently.  "Gracefully and efficiently" is intended to preclude
   not only failures, but also major loss of performance, serious
   problems in error recovery, or resource consumption beyond what is
   reasonably necessary.

      NOTE: The intent here is to prohibit lowering the existing de
      facto limit any further, while strongly encouraging movement
      towards a higher one.  Actually, although improvements are
      desirable in some cases, much news software copes reasonably well
      with very large articles.  The same cannot be said of the
      communications software and protocols used to transmit news from
      one host to another, especially when slow communications links are

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      involved.  Occasional huge articles that appear now (by accident
      or through ignorance) typically leave trails of failing software,
      system problems, and irate administrators in their wake.

      NOTE: It is intended that the successor to this Draft will raise
      the "MUST" limit to 1,000,000 and the "SHOULD" limit still

   Posters SHOULD limit posted articles to at most 60,000 octets,
   including headers and EOL representations, unless the articles are
   being posted only within a cooperating subnet that is known to be
   capable of handling larger articles gracefully.  Posting agents
   presented with a large article SHOULD warn the poster and request

      NOTE: The difference between this and the earlier "MUST" limit is
      due to margin for header growth, differing EOL representations,
      and transmission overheads.

      NOTE: Disagreeable though these limits are, it is a fact that in
      current networks, an article larger than 64K (after header growth,
      etc.) simply is not transmitted reliably.  Note also the comments
      above on the trauma caused by single extremely large articles now;
      the problems are real and current.  These problems arguably should
      be fixed, but this will not happen network-wide in the immediate
      future, hence the restriction of larger articles to cooperating
      subnets, for now.

   Posters using non-ASCII characters in their text MUST take into
   account the overhead involved in MIME encoding, unless the article's
   propagation will be entirely limited to a cooperating subnet that
   does not use MIME encodings for non-ASCII characters.  For example,
   MIME base64 encoding involves growth by a factor of approximately
   4/3, so an article that would likely have to use this encoding should
   be at most about 45,000 octets before encoding.

   Posters SHOULD use MIME "message/partial" conventions to facilitate
   automatic reassembly of a large document split into smaller pieces
   for posting.  It is recommended that the content identifier used
   should be a message ID, generated by the same means as article
   message IDs (see Section 5.3), and that all parts should have a
   See-Also header (see Section 6.16) giving the message IDs of at least
   the previous parts and preferably all of the parts.

      NOTE: See-Also is more correct for this purpose than References,
      although References is in common use today (with less-formal
      reassembly arrangements).  MIME reassemblers should probably

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      examine articles suggested by References headers if See-Also
      headers are not present to indicate the whereabouts of the other
      parts of "message/partial" articles.

   To repeat: implementations SHOULD avoid fixed constraints on the
   sizes of lines within an article and on the size of the entire

4.7.  Example

   Here is a sample article:

      From: jerry@eagle.ATT.COM (Jerry Schwarz)
      Path: cbosgd!mhuxj!mhuxt!eagle!jerry
      Newsgroups: news.announce
      Subject: Usenet Etiquette -- Please Read
      Message-ID: <642@eagle.ATT.COM>
      Date: Mon, 17 Jan 1994 11:14:55 -0500 (EST)
      Followup-To: news.misc
      Expires: Wed, 19 Jan 1994 00:00:00 -0500
      Organization: AT&T Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill


5.  Mandatory Headers

   An article MUST have one, and only one, of each of the following
   headers: Date, From, Message-ID, Subject, Newsgroups, Path.

      NOTE: MAIL specifies (if read most carefully) that there must be
      exactly one Date header and exactly one From header, but otherwise
      does not restrict multiple appearances of headers.  (Notably, it
      permits multiple Message-ID headers!)  This appears singularly
      useless, or even harmful, in the context of news, and much current
      news software will not tolerate multiple appearances of mandatory

   Note also that there are situations, discussed in the relevant parts
   of Section 6, where References, Sender, or Approved headers are

   In the discussions of the individual headers, the content of each is
   specified using the syntax notation.  The convention used is that the
   content of, for example, the Subject header is defined as

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5.1.  Date

   The Date header contains the date and time when the article was
   submitted for transmission:

      Date-content  = [ weekday "," space ] date space time
      weekday       = "Mon" / "Tue" / "Wed" / "Thu"
                    / "Fri" / "Sat" / "Sun"
      date          = day space month space year
      day           = 1*2digit
      month         = "Jan" / "Feb" / "Mar" / "Apr" / "May" / "Jun"
                    / "Jul" / "Aug" / "Sep" / "Oct" / "Nov" / "Dec"
      year          = 4digit / 2digit
      time          = hh ":" mm [ ":" ss ] space timezone
      timezone      = "UT" / "GMT"
                    / ( "+" / "-" ) hh mm [ space "(" zone-name ")" ]
      hh            = 2digit
      mm            = 2digit
      ss            = 2digit
      zone-name     = 1*( <ASCII printable character except ()\>
                    / space )

   This is a restricted subset of the MAIL date format.

   If a weekday is given, it MUST be consistent with the date.  The
   modern Gregorian calendar is used, and dates MUST be consistent with
   its usual conventions; for example, if the month is May, the day must
   be between 1 and 31 inclusive.  The year SHOULD be given as four
   digits, and posting agents SHOULD enforce this; however, relayers
   MUST accept the two-digit form, and MUST interpret it as having the
   implicit prefix "19".

      NOTE: Two-digit year numbers can, should, and must be phased out
      by 1999.

   The time is given on the 24-hour clock, e.g., two hours before
   midnight is "22:00" or "22:00:00".  The hh must be between 00 and 23
   inclusive, the mm between 0 and 59 inclusive, and the ss between 0
   and 60 inclusive.

      NOTE: Leap seconds very occasionally result in minutes that are 61
      seconds long.

   The date and time SHOULD be given in the poster's local time zone,
   including a specification of that time zone as a numeric offset
   (which SHOULD include the time zone name, e.g., "EST", supplied in
   parentheses like a MAIL comment).  If not, they MUST be given in
   Universal Time (abbreviated "UT"; "GMT" is a historical synonym for

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   "UT").  The time zone name in parentheses, if present, is a comment;
   software MUST ignore it, except that reading agents might wish to
   display it to the reader.  Time zone names other than "UT" and "GMT"
   MUST appear only in the comment.

      NOTE: Attempts to deal with a full set of time zone names have all
      foundered on the vast number of such names in use and the
      duplications (for example, there are at least FIVE different time
      zones called "EST" by somebody).  Even the limited set of North
      American zone names authorized by MAIL is subject to confusion and
      misinterpretation, hence the flat ban on non-UT time zone names,
      except as comments.

      NOTE: [RFC1036] specified that use of GMT (aka UT, UTC) was
      preferred.  However, the local time (in the poster's time zone) is
      arguably information of possible interest to the reader, and this
      requires some indication of the poster's time zone.  Numeric
      offsets are an unambiguous way of doing this, and their use was
      indeed sanctioned by [RFC1036] (that is, this is a change of
      preference only).

      NOTE: There is frequent confusion, including errors in some news
      software, regarding the sign of numeric time zones.  Zones west of
      Greenwich have negative offsets.  For example, North American
      Eastern Standard Time is zone -0500 and North American Eastern
      Daylight Time is zone -0400.

      NOTE: Implementors are warned that the hh in a time zone can go up
      to about 14; it is not limited to 12.  This is because the
      International Date Line does not run exactly along the boundary
      between zone -1200 and zone +1200.

      NOTE: The comments in Section 2.6 regarding translation to other
      languages are relevant here.  The Date-content format, and the
      spellings of its components, as found in articles themselves, are
      always as defined in this Draft, regardless of the language used
      to interact with readers and posters.  Reading and posting agents
      should translate as appropriate.  Actually, even English-language
      reading and posting agents will probably want to do some degree of
      translation on dates, if only to abbreviate the lengthy format and
      (perhaps) translate to and from the reader's time zone.

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5.2.  From

   The From header contains the electronic address, and possibly the
   full name, of the article's author:

      From-content  = address [ space "(" paren-phrase ")" ]
                    /  [ plain-phrase space ] "<" address ">"
      paren-phrase  = 1*( paren-char / space / encoded-word )
      paren-char    = <ASCII printable character except ()<>\>
      plain-phrase  = plain-word *( space plain-word )
      plain-word    = unquoted-word / quoted-word / encoded-word
      unquoted-word = 1*unquoted-char
      unquoted-char = <ASCII printable character except !()<>@,;:\".[]>
      quoted-word   = quote 1*( quoted-char / space ) quote
      quote         = <" (ASCII 34)>
      quoted-char   = <ASCII printable character except "()<>\>
      address       = local-part "@" domain
      local-part    = unquoted-word *( "." unquoted-word )
      domain        = unquoted-word *( "." unquoted-word )

   (Encoded words are described in Section 4.5.)  The full name is
   distinguished from the electronic address either by enclosing the
   former in parentheses (making it resemble a MAIL comment, after the
   address) or by enclosing the latter in angle brackets.  The second
   form is preferred.  In the first form, encoded words inside the full
   name MUST be composed entirely of <paren-char>s.  In the second form,
   encoded words inside the full name may not contain characters other
   than letters (of either case), digits, and the characters "!", "*",
   "+", "-", "/", "=", and "_".  The local part is case-sensitive
   (except that all case counterparts of "postmaster" are deemed
   equivalent), the domain is case-insensitive, and all other parts of
   the From content are comments that MUST be ignored by news software
   (except insofar as reading agents may wish to display them to the
   reader).  Posters and posting agents MUST restrict themselves to this
   subset of the MAIL From syntax; relayers MAY accept a broader subset,
   but see the discussion in Section 9.1.

      NOTE: The syntax here is a restricted subset of the MAIL From
      syntax, with quoting particularly restricted, for simple parsing.
      In particular, the presence of "<" in the From content indicates
      that the second form is being used; otherwise, the first form is
      being used.  The major restrictions here are those already de
      facto imposed by existing software.

      NOTE: Overly lenient posting agents sometimes permit the second
      form with a full name containing "(" or ")", but it is extremely
      rare for a full name to contain "<" or ">", even in mail.

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      Accordingly, reading agents wishing to robustly determine which
      form is in use in a particular article should key on the presence
      or absence of "<", not the presence or absence of "(".

   The address SHOULD be a valid and complete Internet domain address,
   capable of being successfully mailed to by an Internet host (possibly
   via an MX (Mail Exchange) record and a forwarder).  The pseudo-domain
   ".uucp" MAY be used for hosts registered in the UUCP maps (e.g., name
   "xyz.uucp" for registered site "xyz"), but such hosts SHOULD
   discontinue this usage (either by arranging a proper Internet address
   and forwarder, or by using the "% hack" (see below)), as soon as
   possible.  Bitnet hosts SHOULD use Internet addresses, avoiding the
   obsolescent ".bitnet" pseudo-domain.  Other forms of address MUST NOT
   be used.

      NOTE: "Other forms" specifically include UK-style "backward"
      domains ("uk.oxbridge.cs" is in the Czech Republic, not the UK),
      pure-UUCP addressing ("knee!shin!foot" instead of
      "foot%shin@knee.uucp"), and abbreviated domains ("zebra.zoo"
      instead of "").

   If it is necessary to use the local part to specify a routing
   relative to the nearest Internet host, this MUST be done using the "%
   hack", using "%" as a secondary "@".  For example, to specify that
   mail to the address should go to Internet host "", then to
   non-Internet host "ein", then to non-Internet host "deux", for
   delivery there to mailbox "fred", a suitable address would be:

   Analogous forms using "!" in the local part MUST NOT be used, as they
   are ambiguous; they should be expressed in the "%" form.

      NOTE: "a!b@c" can be interpreted as either "b%c@a" or "b%a@c", and
      there is no consistency in which choice is made.  Such addresses
      consequently are unreliable.  The "%" form does not suffer from
      this problem, and although its use is officially discouraged, it
      is a de facto standard, to the point that MAIL recognizes it.

   Relayers MUST NOT, repeat MUST NOT, repeat MUST NOT, rewrite From
   lines, in any way, however minor or seemingly innocent.  Trying to
   "fix" a non-conforming address has a very high probability of making
   things worse.  Either pass it along unchanged or reject the article.

      NOTE: An additional reason for banning the use of "!"  addressing
      is that it has a much higher probability of being rewritten into
      mangled unrecognizability by old relayers.

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   Posters and posting agents SHOULD avoid use of the characters "!" and
   "@" in full names, as they may trigger unwanted header rewriting by
   old, simple-minded news software.

      NOTE: Also, the characters "." and ",", not infrequently found in
      names (e.g., "John W. Campbell, Jr."), are NOT, repeat NOT,
      allowed in an unquoted word.  A From header like the following
      MUST NOT be written without the quotation marks:

      From: "John W. Campbell, Jr." <>

5.3.  Message-ID

   The Message-ID header contains the article's message ID, a unique
   identifier distinguishing the article from every other article:

      Message-ID-content  = message-id
      message-id          = "<" local-part "@" domain ">"

   As with From addresses, a message ID's local part is case-sensitive,
   and its domain is case-insensitive.  The "<" and ">" are parts of the
   message ID, not peculiarities of the Message-ID header.

      NOTE: News message IDs are a restricted subset of MAIL message
      IDs.  In particular, no existing news software copes properly with
      MAIL quoting conventions within the local part, so they are
      forbidden.  This is unfortunate, particularly for X.400 gateways
      that often wish to include characters that are not legal in
      unquoted message IDs, but it is impossible to fix net-wide.  See
      the notes on gatewaying in Section 10.

   The domain in the message ID SHOULD be the full Internet domain name
   of the posting agent's host.  Use of the ".uucp" pseudo-domain (for
   hosts registered in the UUCP maps) or the ".bitnet" pseudo-domain
   (for Bitnet hosts) is permissible but SHOULD be avoided.

   Posters and posting agents MUST generate the local part of a message
   ID using an algorithm that obeys the specified syntax (words
   separated by ".", with certain characters not permitted) (see Section
   5.2 for details) and will not repeat itself (ever).  The algorithm
   SHOULD NOT generate message IDs that differ only in case of letters.
   Note the specification in Section 6.5 of a recommended convention for
   indicating subject changes.  Otherwise, the algorithm is up to the

      NOTE: The crucial use of message IDs is to distinguish circulating
      articles from each other and from articles circulated recently.
      They are also potentially useful as permanent indexing keys, hence

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      the requirement for permanent uniqueness, but indexers cannot
      absolutely rely on this because the earlier RFCs urged it but did
      not demand it.  All major implementations have always generated
      permanently unique message IDs by design, but in some cases this
      is sensitive to proper administration, and duplicates may have
      occurred by accident.

      NOTE: The most popular method of generating local parts is to use
      the date and time, plus some way of distinguishing between
      simultaneous postings on the same host (e.g., a process number),
      and encode them in a suitably restricted alphabet.  An older but
      now less-popular alternative is to use a sequence number,
      incremented each time the host generates a new message ID; this is
      workable but requires careful design to cope properly with
      simultaneous posting attempts, and it is not as robust in the
      presence of crashes and other malfunctions.

      NOTE: Some buggy news software considers message IDs completely
      case-insensitive, hence the advice to avoid relying on case
      distinctions.  The restrictions placed on the "alphabet" of local
      parts and domains in Section 5.2 have the useful side effect of
      making it unnecessary to parse message IDs in complex ways to
      break them into case-sensitive and case-insensitive portions.

   The local part of a message ID MUST NOT be "postmaster" or any other
   string that would compare equal to "postmaster" in a case-insensitive
   comparison.  Message IDs MUST be no longer than 250 octets, including
   the "<" and ">".

      NOTE: "Postmaster" is an irksome exception to case-sensitivity in
      local parts, inherited from MAIL, and simply avoiding it is the
      best way to deal with it (not that it's likely, but the issue
      needs to be dealt with).  The length limit is undesirable but is
      present in widely used existing software.  The limit is actually
      255, but a small safety margin is wise.

5.4.  Subject

   The Subject header's content (the "subject" of the article) is a
   short phrase describing the topic of the article:

      Subject-content  = [ "Re: " ] nonblank-text

   Encoded words MAY appear in this header.

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   If the article is a followup, the subject SHOULD begin with "Re: " (a
   "back reference").  If the article is not a followup, the subject
   MUST NOT begin with a back reference.  Back references are case-
   insensitive, although "Re: " is the preferred form.  A followup agent
   assisting a poster in preparing a followup SHOULD prepend a back
   reference, UNLESS the subject already begins with one.  If the poster
   determines that the topic of the followup differs significantly from
   what is described in the subject, a new, more descriptive subject
   SHOULD be substituted (with no back reference).  An article whose
   subject begins with a back reference MUST have a References header
   referencing the precursor.

      NOTE: A back reference is FOUR characters, the fourth being a
      blank. [RFC1036] was confused about this.  Observe also that only
      ONE back reference should be present.

      NOTE: There is a semi-standard convention, often used, in which a
      subject change is flagged by making the new Subject-content of the

      new topic (was: old topic)

      possibly with "old topic" somewhat truncated.  Posters wishing to
      do something like this are urged to use this exact form, to
      simplify automated analysis.

   For historical reasons, the subject MUST NOT begin with "cmsg " (note
   that this sequence ends with a blank).

      NOTE: Some old news software takes a subject beginning with
      "cmsg " as an indication that the article is a control message
      (see Sections 6.6 and 7).  This mechanism is obsolete and
      undesirable, but accidental triggering of it is still possible.

   The subject SHOULD be terse.  Posters SHOULD avoid trying to cram
   their entire article into the headers; even the simplest query
   usually benefits from a sentence or two of elaboration and context,
   and the details of header display vary widely among reading agents.

      NOTE: All-in-the-subject articles are sometimes the result of
      misunderstandings over the interaction protocol of a posting
      agent.  Posting agents might wish to give special attention to the
      possibility that a poster specifying a very long subject might
      have thought he was typing the body of the article.

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5.5.  Newsgroups

   The Newsgroups header's content specifies to which newsgroup(s) the
   article is posted:

      Newsgroups-content  = newsgroup-name *( ng-delim newsgroup-name )
      newsgroup-name      = plain-component *( "." component )
      component           = plain-component / encoded-word
      plain-component     = component-start *13component-rest
      component-start     = lowercase / digit
      lowercase           = <letter a-z>
      component-rest      = component-start / "+" / "-" / "_"
      ng-delim            = ","

   Encoded words used in newsgroup names MUST NOT contain characters
   other than letters, digits, "+", "-", "/", "_", "=", and "?"
   (although they may encode them).

   A newsgroup name consists of one or more components, which may be
   plain components or (except for the first) encoded words.  A plain
   component MUST contain at least one letter, MUST begin with a letter
   or digit, and MUST NOT be longer than 14 characters.  The first
   component MUST begin with a letter; subsequent components SHOULD
   begin with a letter.  Newsgroup names MUST NOT contain uppercase
   letters, except where required by encodings in encoded words.  The
   sequences "all" and "ctl" MUST NOT be used as components.

      NOTE: The alphabet and syntax specified encompasses all existing
      names of widespread newsgroups, while avoiding various forms that
      are known to cause problems.  Important existing software uses
      various non-alphanumeric characters as punctuation adjacent to
      newsgroup names.  (It would, in fact, be preferable to ban "+"
      from newsgroup names, were it not that several widespread
      newsgroups related to the C++ programming language already use

      NOTE: Much existing software converts the newsgroup name into a
      directory path and stores the articles themselves using numeric
      filenames, so all-digit name components can be troublesome; the
      "Great Renaming" early in the history of Usenet included revisions
      of several newsgroup names to eliminate such components.

      NOTE: The same storage technique is the reason for the
      14-character limit.  The limit is now largely historical, since
      most modern systems have much larger limits on the length of a
      directory entry's name, but many old systems are still in use.
      Systems with shorter limits also exist, but news software on such
      systems has had to deal with the problem already, since there are

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      several widespread newsgroups with 14-character components in
      their names.  Implementors are warned that it is intended that the
      successor to this Draft will increase the 14-character limit, and
      they are urged to fix their software to handle longer names
      gracefully (if such fixes are necessary, given the intended domain
      of application of the particular software).

      NOTE: The requirement that the first character of a name be a
      letter accommodates existing software that assumes it can tell the
      difference between a newsgroup name and other possible syntactic
      entities by inspecting the first character.  Similar
      considerations motivate excluding "+", "-", and "_" from coming
      first in a component, and the preference for components that do
      not begin with digits.  The "all" sequence is used as a wildcard
      symbol in much existing software, and the "ctl" sequence was
      involved in an obsolete historical mechanism for marking control
      messages, so they are best avoided.

      NOTE: Possibly newsgroup names should have been case-insensitive,
      but all existing software treats them as case-sensitive.
      ([RFC977] claims that they are case-insensitive in NNTP, but
      existing implementations are believed to ignore this.)  The
      simplest solution is just to ban use of uppercase letters, since
      no widespread newsgroup name uses them anyway; this avoids any
      possibility of confusion.

      NOTE: The syntax has the disadvantage of containing no white
      space, making it impossible to continue a Newsgroups header across
      several lines.  Implementors of relayers and reading agents are
      warned that it is intended that the successor to this Draft will
      change the definition of ng-delim to:

      ng-delim = "," [ space ]

      and are urged to fix their software to handle (i.e., ignore) white
      space following the commas.  Meanwhile, posters must avoid
      inserting such space (despite the natural-language convention that
      permits it), and posting agents should strip it out.

      NOTE: Encoded words as components are somewhat problematic but are
      clearly desirable for use in non-English-speaking nations.  They
      are not subject to the 14-character limit, and this (plus the
      possibility of "/" within them) may require special handling in
      news software.

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   Encoded words are allowed in newsgroup names ONLY where non-ASCII
   characters are necessary to the name, and they must use the "b"
   encoding [RFC2045] and the first suitable character set in the MIME
   order of preferred character sets [RFC2047] {ASCII before ISO-8859-*
   before anything else}.

      NOTE: Since the newsgroup name is the encoded form, NOT the
      underlying non-ASCII form, there is room for terrible confusion
      here if the choice of encoding for a particular name is not fully

   Posters SHOULD use only the names of existing newsgroups in the
   Newsgroups header, because newsgroups are NOT created simply by being
   posted to.  However, it is legitimate to cross-post to newsgroup(s)
   that do not exist on the posting agent's host, provided that at least
   one of the newsgroups DOES exist there, and followup agents MUST
   accept this (posting agents MAY accept it, but SHOULD at least alert
   the poster to the situation and request confirmation).  Relayers MUST
   NOT rewrite Newsgroups headers in any way, even if some or all of the
   newsgroups do not exist on the relayer's host.

      NOTE: Early experience with news software that created newsgroups
      when they were mentioned in a Newsgroups header was thoroughly
      negative: posters frequently mistype newsgroup names.

      NOTE: While it is legitimate for some of an article's newsgroups
      not to exist on the host where it is posted, this IS a rather
      unusual situation except in followups (which should go to all
      newsgroups the precursor was posted to, even if not all of them
      reach the site where the followup is being posted).

      NOTE: Rewriting Newsgroups headers to strip locally unknown
      newsgroups is superficially attractive.  However, early experience
      with exactly that policy was thoroughly negative: news propagation
      is more redundant and much less orderly than many people imagine,
      and in particular it is not unheard of for the (sometimes) fastest
      path between two (say) University of Toronto sites to pass outside
      the University of Toronto, in which case newsgroup stripping can
      cause incomplete propagation.  Having an article's set of
      newsgroups change as it propagates can also result in followups
      not achieving the same propagation as the original.  It's been
      tried; it's more trouble than it's worth; don't do it.

      NOTE: In particular, newsgroup stripping superficially looks like
      a solution to the problem of duplicate regional newsgroup names.
      For example, both the University of Toronto and the University of
      Texas have "ut.general" newsgroups, and material cross-posted to
      that name and a global newsgroup appears in both universities'

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      local newsgroups.  However, the side effects of stripping are
      sufficiently unacceptable to disqualify it for this purpose.
      Don't do it.

   Cross-posting an article to several relevant newsgroups is far
   superior to posting separate articles with duplicated content to each
   newsgroup, because reading agents can detect the situation and show
   the article to a reader only once.  Posters SHOULD cross-post rather
   than duplicate-post.

      NOTE: On the other hand, cross-posting to a large number of
      newsgroups usually indicates that the poster has not thought about
      his audience; articles are rarely pertinent to more than (say)
      half a dozen newsgroups.  Posting agents might wish to request
      confirmation when the number of newsgroups exceeds (say) five in
      the presence of a Followup-To header, or (say) two in the absence
      of such a header.

      NOTE: One problem with cross-postings is what to do with an
      article cross-posted to a set of newsgroups including both
      moderated and unmoderated ones.  Posters tend to expect such an
      article to show up immediately in the unmoderated newsgroups,
      especially if they do not realize that one or more of the
      newsgroups is moderated.  However, since it is not possible for a
      moderator to retroactively add an already-posted article to a
      moderated newsgroup, the only correct action is to mail such an
      article to one (and only one) of the moderators for action.  It is
      probably best for the posting agent to detect this situation and
      ask the poster what action is preferred.  The acceptable choices
      are to alter the newsgroup list or to mail to a moderator of the
      poster's choice; the posting agent should NOT offer duplicate-
      posting as an easy-to-request option (if only because many
      moderators will reject a submission that has already been posted
      to unmoderated newsgroups).

      NOTE: An article cross-posted to multiple moderated newsgroups
      really should have approval from all of the moderators involved.
      In practice, the only straightforward way to do this is to send
      the article to one of them and have him consult the others.

   A newsgroup SHOULD NOT appear more than once in the Newsgroups

   Newsgroup names having only one component are reserved for newsgroups
   whose propagation is restricted to a single host (or the
   administrative equivalent).  It is inadvisable to name a newsgroup

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   "poster" because that word has special meaning in the Followup-To
   header (see Section 6.1).  The names "control" and "junk" are
   frequently used for pseudo-newsgroups internal to relayer
   implementations, and hence are also best avoided.

      NOTE: Beware of the duplicate-regional-newsgroup-names problem
      mentioned above.  In particular, there are many, many hosts with a
      newsgroup named "general", and some surprising things show up in
      such newsgroups when people cross-post.  It is probably better to
      use multi-component names, which are less likely to be duplicated.
      Fred's Widget House should use "fwh.general" rather than just
      "general" as its in-house general-topics newsgroup.

   It is conventional to reserve newsgroup names beginning with "to."
   for test messages sent on an essentially point-to-point basis (see
   also the ihave/sendme protocol described in Section 7.2); newsgroup
   names beginning with "to." SHOULD NOT be used for any other purpose.
   The second (and possibly later) components of such a name should,
   together, comprise the relayer name (see Section 5.6) of a relayer.
   The newsgroup exists only at the named relayer and its neighbors.
   The neighbors all pass that newsgroup to the named relayer, while the
   named relayer does not pass it to anyone.

   The order of newsgroup names in the Newsgroups header is not

5.6.  Path

   The Path header's content indicates which relayers the article has
   already visited, so that unnecessary redundant transmission can be

      Path-content    = [ path-list path-delimiter ] local-part
      path-list       = relayer-name *( path-delimiter relayer-name )
      relayer-name    = 1*rn-char
      rn-char         = letter / digit / "." / "-" / "_"
      path-delimiter  = "!"

   The Path content is a list of relayer names, separated by path
   delimiters, followed (after a final delimiter) by the local part of a
   mailing address.  Each relayer MUST prepend its name, and a
   delimiter, to the Path content in all articles it processes.  A
   relayer MUST NOT pass an article to a neighboring relayer whose name
   is already mentioned in an article's path list, unless this is
   explicitly requested by the neighbor in some way.  The Path content
   is case-sensitive.

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      NOTE: The Path header supplied by a posting agent should normally
      contain only the local part.  The relayer that the posting agent
      passes the article to for posting will prepend its relayer name to
      get the path list started.

      NOTE: Observe that the trailing local part is NOT part of the path
      list.  This Path header:

         Path: fee!fie!foe!fum

      contains three relayer names: "fee", "fie", and "foe".  A relayer
      named "fum" is still eligible to be sent this article.

      NOTE: This syntax has the disadvantage of containing no white
      space, making it impossible to continue a Path header across
      several lines.  Implementors of relayers and reading agents are
      warned that it is intended that the successor to this Draft will
      change the definition of path delimiter to:

         path-delimiter = "!" [ space ]

      and are urged to fix their software to handle (i.e., ignore) white
      space following the exclamation points.  They are urged to hurry;
      some ill-behaved systems reportedly already feel free to add such
      white space.

      NOTE: [RFC1036] allows considerably more flexibility in choice of
      delimiter, in theory, but this flexibility has never been used,
      and most news software does not implement it properly.  The
      grammar reflects the current reality.  Note, in particular, that
      [RFC1036] treats "_" as a delimiter, but in fact it is known to
      appear in relayer names occasionally.

   Because an article will not propagate to a relayer already mentioned
   in its path list, the path list MUST NOT contain any names other than
   those of relayers the article has passed through AS NEWS.  This is
   trivially obvious for normal news articles but requires attention
   from the moderators of moderated newsgroups and the implementors and
   maintainers of gateways.

      NOTE: For the same reason, a relayer and its neighbors need to
      agree on the choice of relayer name, and names should not be
      changed without notifying neighbors.

   Relayer names need to be unique among all relayers that will ever see
   the articles using them.  A relayer name is normally either an
   "official" name for the host the relayer runs on, or some other
   "official" name controlled by the same organization.  Except in

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   cooperating subnets that agree to some other convention and don't let
   articles using it escape beyond the subnet, a relayer name MUST be
   either a UUCP name registered in the UUCP maps (without any domain
   suffix such as ".UUCP") or a complete Internet domain name.  Use of a
   (registered) UUCP name is recommended, where practical, to keep the
   length of the path list down.

   The use of Internet domain names in the path list presents one
   problem: domain names are case-insensitive, but the path list is
   case-sensitive.  Relayers using domain names as their relayer names
   MUST pick a standard form for the name and use that form consistently
   to the exclusion of all others.  The preferred form for this purpose,
   which relayers SHOULD use, is the all-lowercase form.

      NOTE: It is arguably unfortunate that the path list is case-
      sensitive, but it is much too late to change this.  Most Internet
      sites do, in any event, use one standardized form of their name
      almost everywhere.

   In the ordinary case, where the poster is the author of the article,
   the local part following the path list SHOULD be the local part of
   the poster's full Internet domain mailing address.

      NOTE: It should be just the local part, not the full address.  The
      character "@" does not appear in a Path header.

   The Path content somewhat resembles a mailing address, particularly
   in the UUCP world with its manual routing and "!" address syntax.
   Historically, this resemblance was important, and the Path content
   was often used as a reply address.  This practice has always been
   somewhat unreliable, since news paths are not always mail paths and
   news relayer names are not always recognized by mail handlers, and
   its reliability has generally worsened in recent times.  The
   widespread use of and recognition of Internet domain addresses, even
   outside the actual Internet, has largely eliminated the problem.
   Readers SHOULD NOT use the Path content as a reply address.  On the
   other hand, relayer administrators are urged not to break this usage
   without good reason; where practical, paths followed by news SHOULD
   be traversable by mail, and mail handlers SHOULD recognize relayer
   names as host names.

   It will typically be difficult or impractical for gateways and
   moderators to supply a Path content that is useful as a reply address
   for the author, bearing in mind that the path list they supply will
   normally be empty.  (To reiterate: the path list MUST NOT contain any
   names other than those of relayers the article has passed through AS
   NEWS.)  They SHOULD supply a local part that will result in replies

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   to a Path-derived address being returned to the sender with a brief
   explanation.  Software permitting, the local part "not-for-mail" is

      NOTE: A moderator or gateway administrator who supplies a local
      part that delivers such mail to an administrative mailbox will
      quickly discover why it should be bounced automatically!  It is
      best, however, for the returned message to include an explanation
      of what has probably happened, rather than just a mysterious
      "undeliverable mail" complaint, since the sender may not be aware
      that his/her software is unwisely using the Path content as a
      reply address.  Reply software might wish to question attempts to
      reply to a Path-derived address ending in "not-for-mail" (which is
      why a specific name is being recommended here).

(page 45 continued on part 3)

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