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RFC 1849


"Son of 1036": News Article Format and Transmission

Part 3 of 4, p. 45 to 73
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6.  Optional Headers

   Many MAIL headers, and many of those specified in present and future
   MAIL extensions, are potentially applicable to news.  Headers
   specific to MAIL's point-to-point transmission paradigm, e.g., To and
   Cc, SHOULD NOT appear in news articles.  (Gateways wishing to
   preserve such information for debugging probably SHOULD hide it under
   different names; prefixing "X-" to the original headers, resulting in
   forms like "X-To", is suggested.)

   The following optional headers are either specific to news or of
   particular note in news articles; an article MAY contain some or all
   of them.  (Note that there are some circumstances in which some of
   them are mandatory; these are explained under the individual
   headers.)  An article MUST NOT contain two or more headers with any
   one of these header names.

      NOTE: The ban on duplicate header names does not apply to headers
      not specified in this Draft, such as "X-" headers.  Software
      should not assume that all header names in a given article are

6.1.  Followup-To

   The Followup-To header contents specify to which newsgroup(s)
   followups should be posted:

      Followup-To-content = Newsgroups-content / "poster"

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   The syntax is the same as that of the Newsgroups content, with the
   exception that the magic word "poster" means that followups should be
   mailed to the article's reply address rather than posted.  In the
   absence of Followup-To, the default newsgroup(s) for a followup are
   those in the Newsgroups header.

      NOTE: The way to request that followups be mailed to a specific
      address other than that in the From line is to supply
      "Followup-To: poster" and a Reply-To header.  Putting a mailing
      address in the Followup-To line is incorrect; posting agents
      should reject or rewrite such headers.

      NOTE: There is no syntax for "no followups allowed" because
      "Followup-To: poster" accomplishes this effect without extra

   Although it is generally desirable to limit followups to the smallest
   reasonable set of newsgroups, especially when the precursor was
   cross-posted widely, posting agents SHOULD NOT supply a Followup-To
   header except at the poster's explicit request.

      NOTE: In particular, it is incorrect for the posting agent to
      assume that followups to a cross-posted article should be directed
      to the first newsgroup only.  Trimming the list of newsgroups
      should be the poster's decision, not the posting agent's.
      However, when an article is to be cross-posted to a considerable
      number of newsgroups, a posting agent might wish to SUGGEST to the
      poster that followups go to a shorter list.

6.2.  Expires

   The Expires header content specifies a date and time when the article
   is deemed to be no longer useful and should be removed ("expired"):

      Expires-content = Date-content

   The content syntax is the same as that of the Date content.  In the
   absence of Expires, the default is decided by the administrators of
   each host the article reaches, who MAY also restrict the extent to
   which the Expires header is honored.

   The Expires header has two main applications: removing articles whose
   utility ends on a specific date (e.g., event announcements that can
   be removed once the day of the event has passed) and preserving
   articles expected to be of prolonged usefulness (e.g., information
   aimed at new readers of a newsgroup).  The latter application is
   sometimes abused.  Since individual hosts have local policies for
   expiration of news (depending on available disk space, for instance),

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   posters SHOULD NOT provide Expires headers for articles unless there
   is a natural expiration date associated with the topic.  Posting
   agents MUST NOT provide a default Expires header.  Leave it out and
   allow local policies to be used unless there is a good reason not to.
   Expiry dates are properly the decision of individual host
   administrators; posters and moderators SHOULD set only expiry dates
   with which most administrators would agree.

      NOTE: A poster preparing an Expires header for an article whose
      utility ends on a specific day should typically specify the NEXT
      day as the expiry date.  A meeting on July 7th remains of interest
      on the 7th.

6.3.  Reply-To

   The Reply-To header content specifies a reply address different from
   the author's address given in the From header:

      Reply-To-content = From-content

   In the absence of Reply-To, the reply address is the address in the
   From header.

   Use of a Reply-To header is preferable to including a similar request
   in the article body, because reply-preparation software can take
   account of Reply-To automatically.

6.4.  Sender

   The Sender header identifies the poster, in the event that this
   differs from the author identified in the From header:

      Sender-content = From-content

   In the absence of Sender, the default poster is the author (named in
   the From header).

      NOTE: The intent is that the Sender header have a fairly high
      probability of identifying the person who really posted the
      article.  The ability to specify a From header naming someone
      other than the poster is useful but can be abused.

   If the poster supplies a From header, the posting agent MUST ensure
   that a Sender header is present, unless it can verify that the
   mailing address in the From header is a valid mailing address for the
   poster.  A poster-supplied Sender header MAY be used, if its mailing
   address is verifiably a valid mailing address for the poster;

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   otherwise, the posting agent MUST supply a Sender header and delete
   (or rename, for example, to X-Unverifiable-Sender) any poster-
   supplied Sender header.

      NOTE: It might be useful to preserve a poster-supplied Sender
      header so that the poster can supply the full-name part of the
      content.  The mailing address, however, must be right, hence, the
      posting agent must generate the Sender header if it is unable to
      verify the mailing address of a poster-supplied one.

      NOTE: NNTP implementors, in particular, are urged to note this
      requirement (which would eliminate the need for ad hoc headers
      like NNTP-Posting-Host), although there are admittedly some
      implementation difficulties.  A user name from an [RFC1413] server
      and a host name from an inverse mapping of the address, perhaps
      with a "full name" comment noting the origin of the information,
      would be at least a first approximation:

      Sender: (RFC-1413@reverse-lookup;
                                    not verified)

   While this does not completely meet the specs, it comes a lot closer
   than not having a Sender header at all.  Even just supplying a
   placeholder for the user name:

      Sender: (user name unknown)

   would be better than nothing.

6.5.  References

   The References header content lists message IDs of precursors:

      References-content = message-id *( space message-id )

   A followup MUST have a References header, and an article that is not
   a followup MUST NOT have a References header.  The References-content
   of a followup MUST be the precursor's References-content (if any)
   followed by the precursor's message ID.

      NOTE: Use the See-Also header (Section 6.16) for interconnection
      of articles that are not in a followup relationship to each other.

      NOTE: In retrospect, RFCs 850 and 1036, and the implementations
      whose practice they represented, erred here.  The proper MAIL
      header to use for references to precursors is In-Reply-To, and the
      References header is meant to be used for the purposes here
      ascribed to See-Also.  This incompatibility is far too solidly

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      established to be fixed, unfortunately.  The best that can be done
      is to provide a clear mapping between the two and urge gateways to
      do the transformation.  The news usage is (now) a deliberate
      violation of the MAIL specifications; articles containing news
      References headers are technically not valid MAIL messages,
      although it is unlikely that much MAIL software will notice
      because the incompatibility is at a subtle semantic level that
      does not affect the syntax.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Would it be better to just give up and admit
      that news uses References for both purposes?

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Should the syntax be generalized to include URLs
      as alternatives to message IDs?  Perhaps not; too many things know
      about References already.  And non-articles can't be precursors of
      articles, not really.

   Followup agents SHOULD NOT shorten References headers.  If it is
   absolutely necessary to shorten the header, as a desperate last
   resort, a followup agent MAY do this by deleting some of the message
   IDs.  However, it MUST NOT delete the first message ID, the last
   three message IDs (including that of the immediate precursor), or any
   message ID mentioned in the body of the followup.  If it is possible
   for the followup agent to determine the Subject content of the
   articles identified in the References header, it MUST NOT delete the
   message ID of any article where the Subject content changed (other
   than by prepending of a back reference).  The followup agent MUST NOT
   delete any message ID whose local part ends with "_-_" (underscore
   (ASCII 95), hyphen (ASCII 45), underscore); followup agents are urged
   to use this form to mark subject changes and to avoid using it

      NOTE: As software capable of exploiting References chains has
      grown more common, the random shortening permitted by [RFC1036]
      has become increasingly troublesome.  ANY shortening is
      undesirable, and software should do it only in cases of dire
      necessity.  In such cases, these rules attempt to limit the

      NOTE: The first message ID is very important as the starting point
      of the "thread" of discussion and absolutely should not be
      deleted.  Keeping the last three message IDs gives thread-
      following software a fighting chance to reconstruct a full thread
      even if an article or two is missing.  Keeping message IDs
      mentioned in the body is obviously desirable.

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      NOTE: Subject changes are difficult to determine, but they are
      significant as possible beginnings of new threads.  The "_-_"
      convention is provided so that posting agents (which have more
      information about subjects) can flag articles containing a subject
      change in a way that followup agents can detect without access to
      the articles themselves.  The sequence is chosen as one that is
      fairly unlikely to occur by accident.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Is "_-_" really worth having?

   When a References header is shortened, at least three blanks SHOULD
   be left between adjacent message IDs at each point where deletions
   were made.  Software preparing new References headers SHOULD preserve
   multiple blanks in older References content.

      NOTE: It's desirable to have some marker of where deletions
      occurred, but the restricted syntax of the header makes this
      difficult.  Extra white space is not a very good marker, since it
      may be deleted by software that ill-advisedly rewrites headers,
      but at least it doesn't break existing software.

   To repeat: followup agents SHOULD NOT shorten References headers.

      NOTE: Unfortunately, reading agents and other software analyzing
      References patterns have to be prepared for the worst anyway.  The
      worst includes random deletions and the possibility of circular
      References chains (when References is misused in place of See-Also
      (Section 6.16)).

6.6.  Control

   The Control header content marks the article as a control message and
   specifies the desired actions (other than the usual ones of filing
   and passing on the article):

      Control-content  = verb *( space argument )
      verb             = 1*( letter / digit )
      argument         = 1*<ASCII printable character>

   The verb indicates what action should be taken, and the argument(s)
   (if any) supply details.  In some cases, the body of the article may
   also contain details.  Section 7 describes the standard verbs.  See
   also the Also-Control header (Section 6.15).

      NOTE: Control messages are often processed and filed rather
      differently than normal articles.

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      NOTE: The restriction of verbs to letters and digits is new but is
      consistent with existing practice and potentially simplifies
      implementation by avoiding characters significant to command
      interpreters.  Beware that the arguments are under no such
      restriction in general.

      NOTE: Two other conventions for distinguishing control messages
      from normal articles were formerly in use: a three-component
      newsgroup name ending in ".ctl" or a subject beginning with
      "cmsg " was considered to imply that the article was a control
      message.  These conventions are obsolete.  Do not use them.

   An article with a Control header MUST NOT have an Also-Control or
   Supersedes header.

6.7.  Distribution

   The Distribution header content specifies geographic or
   organizational limits on an article's propagation:

      Distribution-content  = distribution *( dist-delim distribution )
      dist-delim            = ","
      distribution          = plain-component

   A distribution is syntactically identical to a one-component
   newsgroup name and must satisfy the same rules and restrictions.  In
   the absence of Distribution, the default distribution is "world".

      NOTE: This syntax has the disadvantage of containing no white
      space, making it impossible to continue a Distribution 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 dist delimiter to:

         dist-delim = "," [ space ]

      and are urged to fix their software to handle (i.e., ignore) white
      space following the commas.

   A relayer MUST NOT pass an article to another relayer unless
   configuration information specifies transmission to that other
   relayer of BOTH (a) at least one of the article's newsgroup(s), and
   (b) at least one of the article's distribution(s).  In effect, the
   only role of distributions is to limit propagation, by preventing
   transmission of articles that would have been transmitted had the
   decision been based solely on newsgroups.

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   A posting agent might wish to present a menu of possible
   distributions, or suggest a default, but normally SHOULD NOT supply a
   default without giving the poster a chance to override it.  A
   followup agent SHOULD initially supply the same Distribution header
   as found in the precursor, although the poster MAY alter this if

   Despite the syntactic similarity and some historical confusion,
   distributions are NOT newsgroup names.  The whole point of putting a
   distribution on an article is that it is DIFFERENT from the
   newsgroup(s).  In general, a meaningful distribution corresponds to
   some sort of region of propagation: a geographical area, an
   organization, or a cooperating subnet.

      NOTE: Distributions have historically suffered from the completely
      uncontrolled nature of their name space, the lack of feedback to
      posters on incomplete propagation resulting from use of random
      trash in Distribution headers, and confusion with newsgroups
      (arising partly because many regions and organizations DO have
      internal newsgroups with names resembling their internal
      distributions).  This has resulted in much garbage in Distribution
      headers, notably the pointless practice of automatically supplying
      the first component of the newsgroup name as a distribution (which
      is MOST unlikely to restrict propagation!).  Many sites have opted
      to maximize propagation of such ill-formed articles by essentially
      ignoring distributions.  This unfortunately interferes with
      legitimate uses.  The situation is bad enough that distributions
      must be considered largely useless except within cooperating
      subnets that make an organized effort to restrain propagation of
      their internal distributions.

      NOTE: The distributions "world" and "local" have no standard magic
      meaning (except that the former is the default distribution if
      none is given).  Some pieces of software do assign such meanings
      to them.

6.8.  Keywords

   The Keywords header content is one or more phrases intended to
   describe some aspect of the content of the article:

      Keywords-content = plain-phrase *( "," [ space ] plain-phrase )

   Keywords, separated by commas, each follow the <plain-phrase> syntax
   defined in Section 5.2.  Encoded words in keywords MUST NOT contain
   characters other than letters (of either case), digits, and the
   characters "!", "*", "+", "-", "/", "=", and "_".

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      NOTE: Posters and posting agents are asked to take note that
      keywords are separated by commas, not by white space.  The
      following Keywords header contains only one keyword (a rather
      unlikely and improbable one):

      Keywords: Thompson Ritchie Multics Linux

      and should probably have been written:

      Keywords: Thompson, Ritchie, Multics, Linux

      This particular error is unfortunately rather widespread.

      NOTE: Reading agents and archivers preparing indexes of articles
      should bear in mind that user-chosen keywords are notoriously poor
      for indexing purposes unless the keywords are picked from a
      predefined set (which they are not in this case).  Also, some
      followup agents unwisely propagate the Keywords header from the
      precursor into the followup by default.  At least one news-based
      experiment has found the contents of Keywords headers to be
      completely valueless for indexing.

6.9.  Summary

   The Summary header content is a short phrase summarizing the
   article's content:

      Summary-content = nonblank-text

   As with the subject, no restriction is placed on the content since it
   is intended solely for display to humans.

      NOTE: Reading agents should be aware that the Summary header is
      often used as a sort of secondary Subject header, and (if present)
      its contents should perhaps be displayed when the subject is

   The summary 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 not all reading agents display all headers.

6.10.  Approved

   The Approved header content indicates the mailing addresses (and
   possibly the full names) of the persons or entities approving the
   article for posting:

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      Approved-content = From-content *( "," [ space ] From-content )

   An Approved header is required in all postings to moderated
   newsgroups; the presence or absence of this header allows a posting
   agent to distinguish between articles posted by the moderator (which
   are normal articles to be posted normally) and attempted
   contributions by others (which should be mailed to the moderator for
   approval).  An Approved header is also required in certain control
   messages, to reduce the probability of accidental posting of same;
   see the relevant parts of Section 7.

      NOTE: There is, at present, no way to authenticate Approved
      headers to ensure that the claimed approval really was bestowed.
      Nor is there an established mechanism for even maintaining a list
      of legitimate approvers (such a list would quickly become out of
      date if it had to be maintained by hand).  Such mechanisms,
      presumably relying on cryptographic authentication, would be a
      worthwhile extension to this Draft, and experimental work in this
      area is encouraged.  (The problem is harder than it sounds because
      news is used on many systems that do not have real-time access to
      key servers.)

      NOTE: Relayer implementors, please note well: it is the POSTING
      AGENT that is authorized to distinguish between moderator postings
      and attempted contributions, and to mail the latter to the
      moderator.  As discussed in Section 9.1, relayers MUST NOT, repeat
      MUST NOT, send such mail; on receipt of an unApproved article in a
      moderated newsgroup, they should discard the article, NOT
      transform it into a mail message (except perhaps to a local

      NOTE: [RFC1036] restricted Approved to a single From-content.
      However, multiple moderation is no longer rare, and multi-
      moderator Approved headers are already in use.

6.11.  Lines

   The Lines header content indicates the number of lines in the body of
   the article:

      Lines-content = 1*digit

   The line count includes all body lines, including the signature (if
   any) and including empty lines (if any) at the beginning or end of
   the body.  (The single empty separator line between the headers and
   the body is not part of the body.)  The "body" here is the body as
   found in the posted article, AFTER all transformations such as MIME

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   Reading agents SHOULD NOT rely on the presence of this header, since
   it is optional (and some posting agents do not supply it).  They MUST
   NOT rely on it being precise, since it frequently is not.

      NOTE: The average line length in article bodies is surprisingly
      consistent at about 40 characters, and since the line count
      typically is used only for approximate judgements ("is this too
      long to read quickly?"), dividing the byte count of the body by 40
      gives an estimate of the body line count that is adequate for
      normal use.  This estimate is NOT adequate if the body has been
      MIME encoded, but neither is the Lines header: at least one major
      relayer will add a Lines header to an article that lacks one,
      without considering the possibility of MIME encodings when
      computing the line count.

      NOTE: It would be better to have a Content-Size header as part of
      MIME, so that body parts could have their own sizes, and so that
      the units used could be appropriate to the data type (line count
      is not a useful measure of the size of an encoded image, for
      example).  Doing this is preferable to trying to fix Lines.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Update on Content-Size?

   Relayers SHOULD discard this header if they find it necessary to
   re-encode the article in such a way that the original Lines header
   would be rendered incorrect.

6.12.  Xref

   The Xref header content indicates where an article was filed by the
   last relayer to process it:

      Xref-content     = relayer 1*( space location )
      relayer          = relayer-name
      location         = newsgroup-name ":" article-locator
      article-locator  = 1*<ASCII printable character>

   The relayer's name is included so that software can determine which
   relayer generated the header (and specifically, whether it really was
   the one that filed the copy being examined).  The locations specify
   what newsgroups the article was filed under (which may differ from
   those in the Newsgroups header) and where it was filed under them.
   The exact form of an article locator is implementation-specific.

      NOTE: Reading agents can exploit this information to avoid
      presenting the same article to a reader several times.  The
      information is sometimes available in system databases, but having
      it in the article is convenient.  Relayers traditionally generate

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      an Xref header only if the article is cross-posted, but this is
      not mandatory, and there is at least one new application
      ("mirroring": keeping news databases on two hosts identical) where
      the header is useful in all articles.

      NOTE: The traditional form of an article locator is a decimal
      number, with articles in each newsgroup numbered consecutively
      starting from 1.  NNTP [RFC977] demands that such a model be
      provided, and there may be other software that expects it, but it
      seems desirable to permit flexibility for unorthodox

   A relayer inserting an Xref header into an article MUST delete any
   previous Xref header.  A relayer that is not inserting its own Xref
   header SHOULD delete any previous Xref header.  A relayer MAY delete
   the Xref header when passing an article on to another relayer.

      NOTE: [RFC1036] specified that the Xref header was not transmitted
      when an article was passed to another relayer, but the major news
      implementations have never obeyed this rule, and applications like
      mirroring depend on this disobedience.

   A relayer MUST use the same name in Xref headers as it uses in Path
   headers.  Reading agents MUST ignore an Xref header containing a
   relayer name that differs from the one that begins the path list.

6.13.  Organization

   The Organization header content is a short phrase identifying the
   poster's organization:

      Organization-content = nonblank-text

   This header is typically supplied by the posting agent.  The
   Organization content SHOULD mention geographical location (e.g., city
   and country) when it is not obvious from the organization's name.

      NOTE: The motive here is that the organization is often difficult
      to guess from the mailing address, is not always supplied in a
      signature, and can help identify the poster to the reader.

      NOTE: There is no "s" in "Organization".

   The Organization content is provided for identification only and does
   not imply that the poster speaks for the organization or that the
   article represents organization policy.  Posting agents SHOULD permit
   the poster to override a local default Organization header.

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6.14.  Supersedes

   The Supersedes header content specifies articles to be cancelled on
   arrival of this one:

      Supersedes-content = message-id *( space message-id )

   Supersedes is equivalent to Also-Control (Section 6.15) with an
   implicit verb of "cancel" (Section 7.1).

      NOTE: Supersedes is normally used where the article is an updated
      version of the one(s) being cancelled.

      NOTE: Although the ability to use multiple message IDs in
      Supersedes is highly desirable (see Section 7.1), posters are
      warned that existing implementations often do not correctly handle
      more than one.

      NOTE: There is no "c" in "Supersedes".

   An article with a Supersedes header MUST NOT have an Also-Control or
   Control header.

6.15.  Also-Control

   The Also-Control header content marks the article as being a control
   message IN ADDITION to being a normal news article and specifies the
   desired actions:

      Also-Control-content = Control-content

   An article with an Also-Control header is filed and passed on
   normally, but the content of the Also-Control header is processed as
   if it were found in a Control header.

      NOTE: It is sometimes desirable to piggyback control actions on a
      normal article, so that the article will be filed normally but
      will also be acted on as a control message.  This header is
      essentially a generalization of Supersedes.

      NOTE: Be warned that some old relayers do not implement

   An article with an Also-Control header MUST NOT have a Control or
   Supersedes header.

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6.16.  See-Also

   The See-Also header content lists message IDs of articles that are
   related to this one but are not its precursors:

      See-Also-content = message-id *( space message-id )

   See-Also resembles References, but without the restrictions imposed
   on References by the followup rules.

      NOTE: See-Also provides a way to group related articles, such as
      the parts of a single document that had to be split across
      multiple articles due to its size, or to cross-reference between
      parallel threads.

      NOTE: See the discussion (in Section 6.5) on MAIL compatibility
      issues of References and See-Also.

      NOTE: In the specific case where it is desired to essentially make
      another article PART of the current one, e.g., for annotation of
      the other article, MIME's "message/external-body" convention can
      be used to do so without actual inclusion.  "news-message-ID" was
      registered as a standard external-body access method, with a
      mandatory NAME parameter giving the message ID and an optional
      SITE parameter suggesting an NNTP site that might have the article
      available (if it is not available locally), by IANA 22 June 1993.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: Could the syntax be generalized to include URLs
      as alternatives to message IDs?  Here it makes much more sense
      than in References.

6.17.  Article-Names

   The Article-Names header content indicates any special significance
   the article may have in particular newsgroups:

      Article-Names-content  = 1*( name-clause space )
      name-clause            = newsgroup-name ":" article-name
      article-name           = letter 1*( letter / digit / "-" )

   Each name clause specifies a newsgroup (which SHOULD be among those
   in the Newsgroups header) and an article name local to that
   newsgroup.  Article names MAY be used by relayers to file the article
   in special ways, or they MAY just be noted for possible special
   attention by reading agents.  Article names are case-sensitive.

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      NOTE: This header provides a way to mark special postings, such as
      introductions, frequently-asked-question lists, etc., so that
      reading agents have a way of finding them automatically.  The
      newsgroup name is specified for each article name because the
      names may be newsgroup-specific; for example, many frequently-
      asked-question lists are posted to "news.answers" in addition to
      their "home" newsgroup, and they would not be known by the same
      name(s) in both newsgroups.

   The Article-Names header SHOULD be ignored unless the article also
   contains an Approved header.

      NOTE: This stipulation is made in anticipation of the possibility
      that Approved headers will be involved in cryptographic

   The presence of an Article-Names header does not necessarily imply
   that the article will be retained unusually long before expiration,
   or that previous article(s) with similar Article-Names headers will
   be cancelled by its arrival.  Posters preparing special postings
   SHOULD include appropriate other headers, such as Expires and
   Supersedes, to request such actions.

   Different networks MAY establish different sets of article names for
   the special postings they deem significant; it is preferable for
   usage to be standardized within networks, although it might be
   desirable for individual newsgroups to have different naming
   conventions in some situations.  Article names MUST be 14 characters
   or less.  The following names are suggested but are not mandatory:

   intro       Introduction to the newsgroup for newcomers.

   charter     Charter, rules, organization, moderation policies, etc.

   background  Biographies of special participants, history of the
               newsgroup, notes on related newsgroups, etc.

   subgroups   Descriptions of sub-newsgroups under this newsgroup,
               e.g., "" under "".

   facts       Information relating to the purpose of the newsgroup,
               e.g., an acronym glossary in "".

   references  Where to get more information: books, journals, FTP
               repositories, etc.

   faq         Answers to frequently asked questions.

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   menu        If present, a list of all of the other article names
               local to this newsgroup, with brief descriptions of their

   Such articles may be divided into subsections using the MIME
   "multipart/mixed" conventions.  If size considerations make it
   necessary to split such articles, names ending in a hyphen and a part
   number are suggested; for example, a three-part frequently-asked-
   questions list could have article names "faq-1", "faq-2", and

      NOTE: It is somewhat premature to attempt to standardize article
      names, since this is essentially a new feature with no experience
      behind it.  However, if reading agents are to attach special
      significance to these names, some attempt at standard conventions
      is imperative.  This is a first attempt at providing some.

6.18.  Article-Updates

   The Article-Updates header content indicates what previous articles
   this one is deemed (by the poster) to update (i.e., replace):

      Article-Updates-content  = message-id *( space message-id )

   Each message ID identifies a previous article that this one is deemed
   to update.  This MUST NOT cause the previous article(s) to be
   cancelled or otherwise altered, unless this is implied by other
   headers (e.g., Supersedes); Article-Updates is merely an advisory
   that MAY be noted for special attention by reading agents.

      NOTE: This header provides a way to mark articles that are only
      minor updates of previous ones, containing no significant new
      information and not worth reading if the previous ones have been

      NOTE: If suitable conventions using MIME multipart bodies and the
      "message/external-body" body-part type can be developed, a
      replacing article might contain only differences between the old
      text and the new text, rather than a complete new copy.  This is
      the motivation for not making Article-Updates also function as
      Supersedes does: the replacing article might depend on the
      continued presence of the replaced article.

7.  Control Messages

   The following sections document the currently defined control
   messages.  "Message" is used herein as a synonym for "article" unless
   context indicates otherwise.

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   Posting agents are warned that since certain control messages require
   article bodies in quite specific formats, signatures SHOULD NOT be
   appended to such articles, and it may be wise to take greater care
   than usual to avoid unintended (although perhaps well-meaning)
   alterations to text supplied by the poster.  Relayers MUST assume
   that control messages mean what they say; they MAY be obeyed as is or
   rejected, but MUST NOT be reinterpreted.

   The execution of the actions requested by control messages is subject
   to local administrative restrictions, which MAY deny requests or
   refer them to an administrator for approval.  The descriptions below
   are generally phrased in terms suggesting mandatory actions, but any
   or all of these MAY be subject to local administrative approval
   (either as a class or case-by-case).  Analogously, where the
   description below specifies that a message or portion thereof is to
   be ignored, this action MAY include reporting it to an administrator.

      NOTE: The exact choice of local action might depend on what action
      the control message requests, who it claims to come from, etc.

   Relayers MUST propagate even control messages they do not understand.

   In the following sections, each type of control message is defined
   syntactically by defining its arguments and its body.  For example,
   "cancel" is defined by defining cancel-arguments and cancel-body.

7.1.  cancel

   The cancel message requests that one or more previous articles be

      cancel-arguments  = message-id *( space message-id )
      cancel-body       = body

   The argument(s) identify the articles to be cancelled, by message ID.
   The body is a comment, which software MUST ignore, and SHOULD contain
   an indication of why the cancellation was requested.  The cancel
   message SHOULD be posted to the same newsgroup(s), with the same
   distribution(s), as the article(s) it is attempting to cancel.

      NOTE: Using the same newsgroups and distributions maximizes the
      chances of the cancel message propagating everywhere the target
      articles went.

      NOTE: [RFC1036] permitted only a single message-id in a cancel
      message.  Support for cancelling multiple articles is highly
      desirable, especially for use with Supersedes (see Section 6.14).
      If several revisions of an article appear in fast succession, each

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      using Supersedes to cancel the previous one, it is possible for a
      middle revision to be destroyed by cancellation before it is
      propagated onward to cancel its predecessor.  Allowing each
      article to cancel several predecessors greatly alleviates this
      problem.  (Posting agents preparing a cancel of an article that
      itself cancels other articles might wish to add those articles to
      the cancel-arguments.)  However, posters should be aware that much
      old software does not implement multiple cancellation properly and
      should avoid using it when reliable cancellation is vitally

   When an article (the "target article") is to be cancelled, there are
   four cases of interest: the article hasn't arrived yet, it has
   arrived and been filed and is available for reading, it has expired
   and been archived on some less-accessible storage medium, or it has
   expired and been deleted.  The next few paragraphs discuss each case
   in turn (in reverse order, which is convenient for the explanation).

   EXPIRED AND DELETED.  Take no action.

   EXPIRED AND ARCHIVED.  If the article is readily accessible and can
   be deleted or made unreadable easily, treat as under AVAILABLE below.
   Otherwise, treat as under EXPIRED AND DELETED.

      NOTE: While it is desirable for archived articles to be
      cancellable, this can easily involve rewriting an entire archive
      volume just to get rid of one article, perhaps with manual actions
      required to arrange it.  It is difficult to envision a situation
      so dire as to require such measures from hundreds or thousands of
      administrators, or for that matter one in which widespread
      compliance with such a request is likely.

   AVAILABLE.  Compare the mailing addresses from the From lines of the
   cancel message and the target article, bearing in mind that local
   parts (except for "postmaster") are case-sensitive and domains are
   case-insensitive.  If they do not match, either refer the issue to an
   administrator for a case-by-case decision, or treat as if they

      NOTE: It is generally trivial to forge articles, so nothing short
      of cryptographic authentication is really adequate to ensure that
      a cancel came from the original article's author.  Moreover, it is
      highly desirable to permit authorities other than the author to
      cancel articles, to allow for cases in which the author is
      unavailable, uncooperative, or malicious, and in which damage
      and/or legal problems may be minimized by prompt cancellation.

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      Reliable authentication that would permit such administrative
      cancels would be a worthwhile extension to this Draft, and
      experimental work in this area is encouraged.

      NOTE: Meanwhile, a simple check of addresses is useful accident
      prevention and catches at least the most simple-minded forgers.
      Since the intent is accident prevention rather than ironclad
      security, use of the From address is appropriate, all the more so
      because in the presence of gateways (especially redundant multiple
      gateways), the author may not have full control over Sender

      NOTE: The "refer... or treat as if they matched" rule is intended
      to specifically forbid quietly ignoring cancels with mismatched

   If the addresses match, then if technically possible, the relayer
   MUST delete the target article completely and immediately.  Failing
   that, it MUST make the target article unreadable (preferably to
   everyone, minimally to everyone but the administrator) and either
   arrange for it to be deleted as soon as possible or notify an
   administrator at once.

      NOTE: To allow for events such as criminal actions, malicious
      forgeries, and copyright infringements, where damage and/or legal
      problems may be minimized by prompt cancellation, complete removal
      is strongly preferred over merely making the target article
      unreadable.  The potential for malice is outweighed by the
      importance of really getting rid of the target article in some
      legitimate cases.  (In cases of inadvertent copyright violation in
      particular, the ability to quickly remedy the violation is of
      considerable legal importance.)  Failing that, making it
      unreadable is better than nothing.

      NOTE: Merely annotating the article so that readers see an
      indication that the author wanted it cancelled is not acceptable.
      Making the article unreadable is the minimum action.

      NOTE: There have been experiments with making cancelled articles
      unreadable, so that local news administrators could reverse
      cancellations.  In practice, administrators almost never find
      cause to do so.  Removal appears to be clearly preferable where
      technically feasible.

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   NOT ARRIVED YET.  If practical, retain the cancel message until the
   target article does arrive, or until there is no further possibility
   of it arriving and being accepted (see Section 9.2), and then treat
   as under AVAILABLE.  Failing that, arrange for the target article to
   be rejected and discarded if it does arrive.

      NOTE: It may well be impractical to retain the control message,
      given uncertainty about whether the target article will ever
      arrive.  Existing practice in such cases is to assume that
      addresses would match and arrange the equivalent of deletion.
      This is often done by making a spurious entry in a database of
      already-seen message IDs (see Section 9.3), so that if the article
      does arrive, it will be rejected as a duplicate.

   The cancel message MUST be propagated onward in the usual fashion,
   regardless of which of the four cases applied, so that the target
   article will be cancelled everywhere even if cancellation and target
   article follow different routes.

      NOTE: [RFC1036] appeared to require stopping cancel propagation in
      the NOT ARRIVED YET case, although the wording was somewhat
      unclear.  This appears to have been an unwise decision; there are
      known cases of important cancellations (in situations of
      inadvertent copyright violation, for example) achieving rather
      poorer propagation than the target article.  News propagation is
      often a much less orderly process than the authors of [RFC1036]
      apparently envisioned.  Modern implementations generally propagate
      the cancellation regardless.

   Posting agents meant for use by ordinary posters SHOULD reject an
   attempt to post a cancel message if the target article is available
   and the mailing address in its From header does not match the one in
   the cancel message's From header.

      NOTE: This, again, is primarily accident prevention.

7.2.  ihave, sendme

   The ihave and sendme control messages implement a crude batched
   predecessor of the NNTP [RFC977] protocol.  They are largely obsolete
   in the Internet but still see use in the UUCP environment, especially
   for backup feeds that normally are active only when a primary feed
   path has failed.

      NOTE: The ihave and sendme messages defined here have ABSOLUTELY
      NOTHING TO DO WITH NNTP, despite similarities of terminology.

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   The two messages share the same syntax:

      ihave-arguments   = *( message-id space ) relayer-name
      sendme-arguments  = ihave-arguments
      ihave-body        = *( message-id eol )
      sendme-body       = ihave-body

   Message IDs MUST appear in either the arguments or the body, but not
   both.  Relayers SHOULD generate the form putting message IDs in the
   body, but the other form MUST be supported for backward

      NOTE: [RFC1036] made the relayer name optional, but difficulties
      could easily ensue in determining the origin of the message, and
      this option is believed to be unused nowadays.  Putting the
      message IDs in the body is strongly preferred over putting them in
      the arguments because it lends itself much better to large numbers
      of message IDs and avoids the empty-body problem mentioned in
      Section 4.3.1.

   The ihave message states that the named relayer has filed articles
   with the specified message IDs, which may be of interest to the
   relayer(s) receiving the ihave message.  The sendme message requests
   that the relayer receiving it send the articles having the specified
   message IDs to the named relayer.

   These control messages are normally sent essentially as point-to-
   point messages, by using "to." newsgroups (see Section 5.5) that are
   sent only to the relayer for which the messages are intended.  The
   two relayers MUST be neighbors, exchanging news directly with each
   other.  Each relayer advertises its new arrivals to the other using
   ihave messages, and each uses sendme messages to request the articles
   it lacks.

      NOTE: Arguably these point-to-point control messages should flow
      by some other protocol, e.g., mail, but administrative and
      interfacing issues are simplified if the news system doesn't need
      to talk to the mail system.

   To reduce overhead, ihave and sendme messages SHOULD be sent
   relatively infrequently and SHOULD contain substantial numbers of
   message IDs.  If ihave and sendme are being used to implement a
   backup feed, it may be desirable to insert a delay between reception
   of an ihave and generation of a sendme, so that a slightly slow
   primary feed will not cause large numbers of articles to be requested
   unnecessarily via sendme.

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7.3.  newgroup

   The newgroup control message requests that a new newsgroup be

      newgroup-arguments  = newsgroup-name [ space moderation ]
      moderation          = "moderated" / "unmoderated"
      newgroup-body       = body
                          / [ body ] descriptor [ body ]
      descriptor          = descriptor-tag eol description-line eol
      descriptor-tag      = "For your newsgroups file:"
      description-line    = newsgroup-name space description
      description         = nonblank-text [ " (Moderated)" ]

   The first argument names the newsgroup to be created, and the second
   one (if present) indicates whether it is moderated.  If there is no
   second argument, the default is "unmoderated".

      NOTE: Implementors are warned that there is occasional use of
      other forms in the second argument.  It is suggested that such
      violations of this Draft, which are also violations of [RFC1036],
      cause the newgroup message to be ignored. [RFC1036] was slightly
      vague about how second arguments other than "moderated" were to be
      treated (specifically, whether they were illegal or just ignored),
      but it is thought that all existing major implementations will
      handle "unmoderated" correctly, and it appears desirable to
      tighten up the specs to make it possible for other forms to be
      used in future.

   The body is a comment, which software MUST ignore, except that if it
   contains a descriptor, the description line is intended to be
   suitable for addition to a list of newsgroup descriptions.  The
   description cannot be continued onto later lines but is not
   constrained to any particular length.  Moderated newsgroups have
   descriptions that end with the string " (Moderated)" (note that this
   string begins with a blank).

      NOTE: It is unfortunate that the description line is part of the
      body, rather than being supplied in a header, but this is
      established practice.  Newsgroup creators are cautioned that the
      descriptor tag must be reproduced exactly as given above, must be
      alone on a line, and that it is case-sensitive.  (To reduce errors
      in this regard, posting agents might wish to question or reject
      newgroup messages that do not contain a descriptor.)  Given the
      desire for short lines, description writers should avoid content-
      free phrases like "discussion of" and "news about", and stick to
      defining what the newsgroup is about.

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   The remainder of the body SHOULD contain an explanation of the
   purpose of the newsgroup and the decision to create it.

      NOTE: Criteria for newsgroup creation vary widely and are outside
      the scope of this Draft, but if formal procedures of one kind or
      another were followed in the decision, the body should mention
      this.  Administrators often look for such information when
      deciding whether to comply with creation/deletion requests.

   A newgroup message that lacks an Approved header MUST be ignored.

      NOTE: It would also be desirable to ignore a newgroup message
      unless its Approved header names a person who is authorized (in
      some sense) to create such a newsgroup.  A cooperating subnet with
      sufficiently strong coordination to maintain a correct and current
      list of authorized creators might wish to do so for its internal
      newsgroups.  It also (or alternatively) might wish to ignore a
      newgroup message for an internal newsgroup that was posted (or
      cross-posted) to a non-internal newsgroup.

      NOTE: As mentioned in Section 6.10, some form of (cryptographic?)
      authentication of Approved headers would be highly desirable,
      especially for control messages.

   It would be desirable to provide some way of supplying a moderator's
   address in a newgroup message for a moderated newsgroup, but this
   will cause problems unless effective authentication is available, so
   it is left for future work.

      NOTE: This leaves news administrators stuck with the annoying
      chore of arranging proper mailing of moderated-newsgroup
      submissions.  On Usenet, this can be simplified by exploiting a
      forwarding facility that some major sites provide: they maintain
      forwarding addresses, each the name of a moderated newsgroup with
      all periods (".", ASCII 46) replaced by hyphens ("-", ASCII 45),
      which forward mail to the current newsgroup moderators.  More
      advice on the subject of forwarding to moderators can be found in
      the document titled "How to Construct the Mailpaths File", posted
      regularly to the Usenet newsgroups news.lists, news.admin.misc,
      and news.answers.

   A newgroup message naming a newsgroup that already exists is
   requesting a change in the moderation status or description of the
   newsgroup.  The same rules apply.

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7.4.  rmgroup

   The rmgroup message requests that a newsgroup be deleted:

      rmgroup-arguments  = newsgroup-name
      rmgroup-body       = body

   The sole argument is the newsgroup name.  The body is a comment,
   which software MUST ignore; it SHOULD contain an explanation of the
   decision to delete the newsgroup.

      NOTE: Criteria for newsgroup deletion vary widely and are outside
      the scope of this Draft, but if formal procedures of one kind or
      another were followed in the decision, the body should mention
      this.  Administrators often look for such information when
      deciding whether to comply with creation/deletion requests.

   A rmgroup message that lacks an Approved header MUST be ignored.

      NOTE: It would also be desirable to ignore a rmgroup message
      unless its Approved header names a person who is authorized (in
      some sense) to delete such a newsgroup.  A cooperating subnet with
      sufficiently strong coordination to maintain a correct and current
      list of authorized deleters might wish to do so for its internal
      newsgroups.  It also (or alternatively) might wish to ignore a
      rmgroup message for an internal newsgroup that was posted (or
      cross-posted) to a non-internal newsgroup.

   Unexpected deletion of a newsgroup being a disruptive action,
   implementations are strongly advised to refer rmgroup messages to an
   administrator by default, unless perhaps the message can be
   determined to have originated within a cooperating subnet whose
   members are considered trustworthy.  Abuses have occurred.

7.5.  sendsys, version, whogets

   The sendsys message requests that a description of the relayer's news
   feeds to other relayers be mailed to the article's reply address:

      sendsys-arguments  = [ relayer-name ]
      sendsys-body       = body

   If there is an argument, relayers other than the one named by the
   argument MUST NOT respond.  The body is a comment, which software
   MUST ignore; it SHOULD contain an explanation of the reason for the

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   The version message requests that the name and version of the relayer
   software be mailed to the reply address:

      version-arguments  =
      version-body       = body

   There are no arguments.  The body is a comment, which software MUST
   ignore; it SHOULD contain an explanation of the reason for the

   The whogets message requests that a description of the relayer and
   its news feeds to other relayers be mailed to the article's reply

      whogets-arguments  = newsgroup-name [ space relayer-name ]
      whogets-body       = body

   The first argument is the name of the "target newsgroup", specifying
   the newsgroup for which propagation information is desired.  This
   MUST be a complete newsgroup name, not the name of a hierarchy or a
   portion of a newsgroup name that is not itself the name of a
   newsgroup.  If there is a second argument, only the relayer named by
   that argument should respond.  The body is a comment, which software
   MUST ignore; it SHOULD contain an explanation of the reason for the

      NOTE: Whogets is intended as a replacement for sendsys (and
      version) with a precisely specified reply format.  Since the
      syntax for specifying what newsgroups get sent to what other
      relayers varies widely between different forms of relayer
      software, the only practical way to standardize the reply format
      is to indicate a specific newsgroup and ask where THAT newsgroup
      propagates.  The requirement that it be a complete newsgroup name
      is intended to (largely) avoid the problem of having to answer
      "yes and no" in cases where not all newsgroups in a hierarchy are

   Any of these messages lacking an Approved header MUST be ignored.
   Response to any of these messages SHOULD be delayed for at least
   24 hours, and no response should be attempted if the message has been
   cancelled in that time.  Also, no response SHOULD be attempted unless
   the local part of the destination address is "newsmap".  News
   administrators SHOULD arrange for mail to "newsmap" on their systems
   to be discarded (without reply) unless legitimate use is in progress.

      NOTE: Because these messages can cause many, many relayers to send
      mail to one person, such messages, specifying mailing to an
      innocent person's mailbox, have been forged as a half-witted

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      practical joke.  A delay gives administrators time to notice a
      fraudulent message and act (by cancelling the message, preparing
      to divert the flood of mail into the bit bucket, or both).
      Restriction of the destination address to "newsmap" reduces the
      appeal of fraud by making it impossible to use it to harass a
      normal user.  (A site that does NOT discard mail to "newsmap", but
      rather bounces it back, may incur higher communications costs than
      if the mail had been accepted into a user's mailbox, but a
      malicious forger could accomplish this anyway, by using an address
      whose local part is very unlikely to be a legitimate mailbox

      NOTE: [RFC1036] did not require the Approved header for these
      control messages.  This has been added because of the possibility
      that cryptographic authentication of Approved headers will become

   The body of the reply to a sendsys message SHOULD be of the form:

      sendsys-reply      = responder 1*sys-line
      responder          = "Responding-System:" space domain eol
      sys-line           = relayer-name ":" newsgroup-patterns
                                   [ ":" text ] eol
      newsgroup-patterns = newsgroup-name *( "," newsgroup-name )

   The first line identifies the responding system, using a syntax
   resembling a header (but note that it is part of the BODY).
   Remaining lines indicate what newsgroups are sent to what other
   systems.  The syntax of newsgroup patterns is not well standardized;
   the form described is common (often with newsgroup names only
   partially given, denoting all names starting with a particular set of
   components) but not universal.  The whogets message provides a
   better-defined alternative.

   The reply to a version message is of somewhat ill-defined form, with
   a body normally consisting of a single line of text that somehow
   describes the version of the relayer software.  The whogets message
   provides a better-defined alternative.

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   The body of the reply to a whogets message MUST be of the form:

      whogets-reply      = responder-domain responder-relayer
                           response-date responding-to arrived-via
                           responder-version whogets-delimiter
      responder-domain   = "Responding-System:" space domain eol
      responder-relayer  = "Responding-Relayer:" space relayer-name eol
      response-date      = "Response-Date:" space date eol
      responding-to      = "Responding-To:" space message-id eol
      arrived-via        = "Arrived-Via:" path-list eol
      responder-version  = "Responding-Version:" space nonblank-text eol
      whogets-delimiter  = eol
      pass-line          = relayer-name [ space domain ] eol

   The first six lines identify the responding relayer by its Internet
   domain name (use of the ".uucp" and ".bitnet" pseudo-domains is
   permissible, for registered hosts in them, but discouraged) and its
   relayer name; specify the date when the reply was generated and the
   message ID of the whogets message being replied to; give the path
   list (from the Path header) of the whogets message (which MAY, if
   absolutely necessary, be truncated to a convenient length, but MUST
   contain at least the leading three relayer names); and indicate the
   version of relayer software responding.  Note that these lines are
   part of the BODY even though their format resembles that of headers.
   Despite the apparently fixed order specified by the syntax above,
   they can appear in any order, but there must be exactly one of each.

   After those preliminaries, and an empty line to unambiguously define
   their end, the remaining lines are the relayer names (which MAY be
   accompanied by the corresponding domain names, if known) of systems
   to which the responding system passes the target newsgroup.  Only the
   names of news relayers are to be included.

      NOTE: It is desirable for a reply to identify its source by both
      domain name and relayer name because news propagation is governed
      by the latter but location in a broader context is best determined
      by the former.  The date and whogets message ID should, in
      principle, be present in the MAIL headers but are included in the
      body for robustness in the presence of uncooperative mail systems.
      The reason for the path list is discussed below.  Adding version
      information eliminates the need for a separate message to gather

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      NOTE: The limitation of pass lines to contain only names of news
      relayers is meant to exclude names used within a single host (as
      identifiers for mail gateways, portions of ihave/sendme
      implementations, etc.), which do not actually refer to other

   A relayer that is unaware of the existence of the target newsgroup
   MUST NOT reply to a whogets message at all, although this MUST NOT
   influence decisions on whether to pass the article on to other

      NOTE: While this may result in discontinuous maps in cases where
      some hosts have not honored requests for creation of a newsgroup,
      it will also prevent a flood of useless responses in the event
      that a whogets message intended to map a small region "leaks" out
      to a larger one.  The possibility of discontinuous recognition of
      a newsgroup does make it important that the whogets message itself
      continue to propagate (if other criteria permit).  This is also
      the reason for the inclusion of the whogets message's path list,
      or at least the leading portion of it, in the reply: to permit
      reconstruction of at least small gaps in maps.

   Different networks set different rules for the legitimacy of these
   messages, given that they may reveal details of organization-internal
   topology that are sometimes considered proprietary.

      NOTE: On Usenet, in particular, willingness to respond to these
      messages is held to be a condition of network membership: the
      topology of Usenet is public information.  Organizations wishing
      to belong to such networks while keeping their internal topology
      confidential might wish to organize their internal news software
      so that all articles reaching outsiders appear to be from a single
      "gatekeeper" system, with the details of internal topology hidden
      behind that system.

      UNRESOLVED ISSUE: It might be useful to have a way to set some
      sort of hop limit for these.

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7.6.  checkgroups

   The checkgroups control message contains a supposedly authoritative
   list of the valid newsgroups within some subset of the newsgroup name

      checkgroups-arguments  =
      checkgroups-body       = [ invalidation ] valid-groups
                             / invalidation
      invalidation           = "!" plain-component
                               *( "," plain-component ) eol
      valid-groups           = 1*( description-line eol )

   There are no arguments.  The body lines (except possibly for an
   initial invalidation) each contain a description line for a
   newsgroup, as defined under the newgroup message (Section 7.3).

      NOTE: Some other, ill-defined, forms of the checkgroups body were
      formerly used.  See Appendix A.

   The checkgroups message applies to all hierarchies containing any of
   the newsgroups listed in the body.  The checkgroups message asserts
   that the newsgroups it lists are the only newsgroups in those
   hierarchies.  If there is an invalidation, it asserts that the
   hierarchies it names no longer contain any newsgroups.

   Processing a checkgroups message MAY cause a local list of newsgroup
   descriptions to be updated.  It SHOULD also cause the local lists of
   newsgroups (and their moderation statuses) in the mentioned
   hierarchies to be checked against the message.  The results of the
   check MAY be used for automatic corrective action or MAY be reported
   to the news administrator in some way.

      NOTE: Automatically updating descriptions of existing newsgroups
      is relatively safe.  In the case of newsgroup additions or
      deletions, simply notifying the administrator is generally the
      wisest action, unless perhaps the message can be determined to
      have originated within a cooperating subnet whose members are
      considered trustworthy.

      NOTE: There is a problem with the checkgroups concept: not all
      newsgroups in a hierarchy necessarily propagate to the same set of
      machines.  (Notably, there is a set of newsgroups known as the
      "inet" newsgroups, which have relatively limited distribution but
      coexist in several hierarchies with more widely distributed
      newsgroups.)  The advice of checkgroups should always be taken
      with a grain of salt and should never be followed blindly.

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