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RFC 2151


A Primer On Internet and TCP/IP Tools and Utilities

Part 2 of 2, p. 24 to 52
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6. Information Servers

   File transfer, remote login, and electronic mail remained the primary
   applications of the ARPANET/Internet until the early 1990s. But as
   the Internet user population shifted from hard-core computer
   researchers and academics to more casual users, easier-to-use tools
   were needed for the Net to become accepted as a useful resource. That
   means making things easier to find. This section will discuss some of
   the early tools that made it easier to locate and access information
   on the Internet.

6.1. Archie

   Archie, developed in 1992 at the Computer Science Department at
   McGill University in Montreal, allows users to find software, data,
   and other information files that reside at anonymous FTP archive
   sites; the name of the program, reportedly, is derived from the word
   "archive" and not from the comic book character. Archie tracks the
   contents of several thousand anonymous FTP sites containing millions
   of files. The archie server automatically updates the information
   from each registered site about once a month, providing relatively
   up-to-date information without unduly stressing the network. Archie,
   however, is not as popular as it once was and many sites have not
   updated their information; as the examples below show, many of the
   catalog listings are several years old.

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   Before using archie, you must identify a server address. The sites
   below all support archie; most (but not all) archie sites support the
   servers command which lists all known archie servers. Due to the
   popularity of archie at some sites and its high processing demands,
   many sites limit access to non-peak hours and/or limit the number of
   simultaneous archie users. Available archie sites include:                                                                  

   All archie sites can be accessed using archie client software. Some
   archie servers may be accessed using TELNET; when TELNETing to an
   archie site, login as archie (you must use lower case) and hit
   <ENTER> if a password is requested.

   Once connected, the help command assists users in obtaining more
   information about using archie. Two more useful archie commands are
   prog, used to search for files in the database, and whatis, which
   searches for keywords in the program descriptions.

   In the accompanying dialogue, the set maxhits command is used to
   limit the number of responses to any following prog commands; if this
   is not done, the user may get an enormous amount of information.  In
   this example, the user issues a request to find entries related to
   "dilbert"; armed with this information, a user can use anonymous FTP
   to examine these directories and files.

   The next request is for files with "tcp/ip" as a keyword descriptor.
   These responses can be used for subsequent prog commands.

   Exit archie using the exit command. At this point, TELNET closes the
   connection and control returns to the local host.

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   Additional information about archie can be obtained by sending e-mail
   to Bunyip Information Systems ( Client
   software is not required to use archie, but can make life a little
   easier; some such software can be downloaded using anonymous FTP from
   the /pub/archie/clients/ directory at (note that the
   newest program in this directory is dated June 1994). Most shareware
   and commercial archie clients hide the complexity described in this
   section; users usually connect to a pre-configured archie server
   merely by typing an archie command line.

**C:> telnet
  SunOS UNIX (crcnis2)

**login: archie

   Welcome to the ARCHIE server at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln

  # Bunyip Information Systems, 1993

**unl-archie> help
  These are the commands you can use in help:

            .    go up one level in the hierarchy

            ?    display a list of valid subtopics at the current level

  done, ^D, ^C  quit from help entirely

       <string>  help on a topic or subtopic
        "help show"

  will give you the help screen for the "show" command

        "help set search"

  Will give you the help information for the "search" variable.

  The command "manpage" will give you a complete copy of the archie
  manual page.
**help> done

**unl-archie> set maxhits 5

**unl-archie> prog dilbert

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  # Search type: sub.
  # Your queue position: 2
  # Estimated time for completion: 00:20

  Host    (
  Last updated 10:08 25 Dec 1993

      Location: /multimedia/images/gif/unindexed/931118
        FILE    -rw-r--r--    9747 bytes  19:18 17 Nov 1993  dilbert.gif

**unl-archie> whatis tcp/ip
  RFC                       1065          McCloghrie, K.; Rose, M.T.
  Structure and identification of management information for TCP/IP-based
  internets. 1988 August; 21 p. (Obsoleted by RFC 1155)
  RFC                       1066          McCloghrie, K.; Rose, M.T.
  Management Information Base for network management of TCP/IP-based
  internets. 1988 August; 90 p. (Obsoleted by RFC 1156)
  RFC                       1085          Rose, M.T. ISO presentation
  services on top of TCP/IP based internets. 1988 December; 32 p.
  RFC                       1095          Warrier, U.S.; Besaw, L. Common
  Management Information Services and Protocol over TCP/IP (CMOT). 1989
  April; 67 p. (Obsoleted by RFC 1189)
  RFC                       1144          Jacobson, V. Compressing TCP/IP
  headers for low-speed serial links. 1990 February; 43 p.
  RFC                       1147          Stine, R.H.,ed. FYI on a
  network management tool catalog: Tools for monitoring and debugging
  TCP/IP internets and interconnected devices. 1990 April; 126 p. (Also
  FYI 2)
  RFC                       1155          Rose, M.T.; McCloghrie, K.
  Structure and identification of management information for TCP/IP-based
  internets. 1990 May; 22 p. (Obsoletes RFC 1065)
  RFC                       1156          McCloghrie, K.; Rose, M.T.
  Management Information Base for network management of TCP/IP-based
  internets. 1990 May; 91 p. (Obsoletes RFC 1066)
  RFC                       1158          Rose, M.T.,ed. Management
  Information Base for network management of TCP/IP-based internets:
  MIB-II. 1990 May; 133 p.
  RFC                       1180          Socolofsky, T.J.; Kale, C.J.
  TCP/IP tutorial. 1991 January; 28 p.
  RFC                       1195          Callon, R.W. Use of OSI
  IS-IS for routing in TCP/IP and dual environments. 1990 December; 65 p.
  RFC                       1213          McCloghrie, K.; Rose,M.T.,eds.
  Management Information Base for network management of TCP/IP-based
  internets:MIB-II.  1991 March; 70 p. (Obsoletes RFC 1158)
  log_tcp                   Package to monitor tcp/ip connections
  ping                      PD version of the ping(1) command. Send ICMP
  ECHO requests to a host on the network (TCP/IP) to see whether it's
  reachable or not

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**unl-archie> exit
  # Bye.

  Connection #0 closed


6.2. Gopher

   The Internet Gopher protocol was developed at the University of
   Minnesota's Microcomputer Center in 1991, as a distributed
   information search and retrieval tool for the Internet. Gopher is
   described in RFC 1436 [1]; the name derives from the University's

   Gopher provides a tool so that publicly available information at a
   host can be organized in a hierarchical fashion using simple text
   descriptions, allowing files to be perused using a simple menu
   system.  Gopher also allows a user to view a file on demand without
   requiring additional file transfer protocols. In addition, Gopher
   introduced the capability of linking sites on the Internet, so that
   each Gopher site can be used as a stepping stone to access other
   sites and reducing the amount of duplicate information and effort on
   the network.

   Any Gopher site can be accessed using Gopher client software (or a
   WWW browser). In many cases, users can access Gopher by TELNETing to
   a valid Gopher location; if the site provides a remote Gopher client,
   the user will see a text-based, menu interface. The number of Gopher
   sites grew rapidly between 1991 and 1994, although growth tapered due
   to the introduction of the Web; in any case, most Gopher sites have a
   menu item that will allow you to identify other Gopher sites. If
   using TELNET, login with the username gopher (this must be in
   lowercase); no password is required.

   In the sample dialogue below, the user attaches to the Gopher server
   at the Internet Network Information Center (InterNIC) by TELNETing to With the menu interface shown here, the user merely
   follows the prompts. Initially, the main menu will appear. Selecting
   item 3 causes Gopher to seize and display the "InterNIC Registration
   Services (NSI)" menu; move to the desired menu item by typing the
   item number or by moving the pointer (-->) down to the desired entry
   using the DOWN-ARROW key on the keyboard, and then hitting ENTER. To
   quit the program at any time, press q (quit); ? and u will provide
   help or go back up to the previous menu, respectively. Users may also
   search for strings within files using the / command or download the
   file being interrogated using the D command.

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   Menu item 1 within the first submenu (selected in the dialogue shown
   here) is titled "InterNIC Registration Archives." As its submenu
   implies, this is a place to obtain files containing the InterNIC's
   domain registration policies, domain data, registration forms, and
   other information related to registering names and domains on the

**SMCVAX$ telnet

  UNIX(r) System V Release 4.0 (ds2)

**login: gopher

           Welcome to the InterNIC Directory and Database Server.

                   Internet Gopher Information Client v2.1.3
                          Home Gopher server: localhost

   -->  1.  About InterNIC Directory and Database Services/
        2.  InterNIC Directory and Database Services (AT&T)/
        3.  InterNIC Registration Services (NSI)/
        4.  README

  Press ? for Help, q to Quit                                 Page: 1/1
**View item number: 3

                   Internet Gopher Information Client v2.1.3
                        InterNIC Registration Services (NSI)

   -->  1.  InterNIC Registration Archives/
        2.  Whois Searches (InterNIC IP, ASN, DNS, and POC Registry) <?>

  Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu              Page: 1/1
**View item number: 1
                   Internet Gopher Information Client v2.1.3
                           InterNIC Registration Archives

   -->  1.  archives/
        2.  domain/
        3.  netinfo/
        4.  netprog/
        5.  policy/
        6.  pub/
        7.  templates/

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  Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu              Page: 1/1
**Really quit (y/n) ? y

  Connection closed by Foreign Host



   The problem with being blessed with so much information from FTP,
   archie, Gopher, and other sources is exactly that -- too much
   information. To make it easier for users to locate the system on
   which their desired information resides, a number of other tools have
   been created.

   VERONICA (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized
   Archives) was developed at the University of Nevada at Reno as an
   archie- like adjunct to Gopher. As the number of Gopher sites quickly
   grew after its introduction, it became increasingly harder to find
   information in gopherspace since Gopher was designed to search a
   single database at a time. VERONICA maintains an index of titles of
   Gopher items and performs a keyword search on all of the Gopher sites
   that it has knowledge of and access to, obviating the need for the
   user to perform a menu-by-menu, site-by-site search for information.
   When a user selects an item from the menu of a VERONICA search,
   "sessions" are automatically established with the appropriate Gopher
   servers, and a list of data items is returned to the originating
   Gopher client in the form of a Gopher menu so that the user can
   access the files. VERONICA is available as an option on many Gopher

   Another Gopher-adjunct is JUGHEAD (Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy
   Excavation And Display). JUGHEAD supports key word searches and the
   use of logical operators (AND, OR, and NOT). The result of a JUGHEAD
   search is a display of all menu items which match the search string
   which are located in the University of Manchester and UMIST
   Information Server, working from a static database that is re-created
   every day. JUGHEAD is available from many Gopher sites, although
   VERONICA may be a better tool for global searches.

   The Wide Area Information Server (WAIS, pronounced "ways") was
   initiated jointly by Apple Computer, Dow Jones, KMPG Peat Marwick,
   and Thinking Machines Corp. It is a set of free-ware, share-ware, and
   commercial software products for a wide variety of hardware/software
   platforms, which work together to help users find information on the
   Internet. WAIS provides a single interface through which a user can

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   access many different information databases. The user interface
   allows a query to be formulated in English and the WAIS server will
   automatically choose the appropriate databases to search. Further
   information about WAIS can be obtained by reading the WAIS FAQ, from
   host in file /pub/usenet/news.answers/wais-faq.

7. The World Wide Web

   The World Wide Web (WWW) is thought (erroneously) by many to be the
   same thing as the Internet. But the confusion, in many ways, is
   justified; by early 1996, the WWW accounted for over 40% of all of
   the traffic on the Internet. In addition, the number of hosts on the
   Internet named www has grown from several hundred in mid-1994 to
   17,000 in mid-1995 to 212,000 in mid-1996 to over 410,000 by early
   1997. The Web has made information on the Internet accessible to
   users of all ages and computer skill levels. It has provided a
   mechanism so that nearly anyone can become a content provider.
   According to some, growth in the number of WWW users is unparalleled
   by any other event in human history.

   The WWW was developed in the early 1990s at the CERN Institute for
   Particle Physics in Geneva, Switzerland. The Web was designed to
   combine aspects of information retrieval with multimedia
   communications, unlike archie and Gopher, which were primarily used
   for the indexing of text-based files. The Web allows users to access
   information in many different types of formats, including text,
   sound, image, animation, and video. WWW treats all searchable
   Internet files as hypertext documents.  Hypertext is a term which
   merely refers to text that contains pointers to other text, allowing
   a user reading one document to jump to another document for more
   information on a given topic, and then return to the same location in
   the original document. WWW hypermedia documents are able to employ
   images, sound, graphics, video, and animation in addition to text.

   To access WWW servers, users must run client software called a
   browser.  The browser and server use the Hypertext Transfer Protocol
   (HTTP) [3].  WWW documents are written in the Hypertext Markup
   Language (HTML) [2, 20], a simple text-based formatting language that
   is hardware and software platform-independent. Users point the
   browser at some location using a shorthand format called a Uniform
   Resource Locator (URL), which allows a WWW servers to obtain files
   from any location on the public Internet using a variety of
   protocols, including HTTP, FTP, Gopher, and TELNET.

   Mosaic, developed in 1994 at the National Center for Supercomputer
   Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-
   Champaign, was the first widely-used browser. Because it was
   available at no cost over the Internet via anonymous FTP, and had a

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   version for Windows, Mac, and UNIX systems, Mosaic was probably the
   single reason that the Web attracted so many users so quickly. The
   most commonly used browsers today include the Netscape Navigator
   (, Microsoft's Internet Explorer
   (, and NCSA Mosaic

   The WWW is ideally suited to a windows environment, or other point-
   and-click graphical user interface. Nevertheless, several text-based
   Web browsers do exist, although their usefulness is limited if trying
   to obtain graphical images, or audio or video clips. One text-based
   Web browser is Lynx, and an example of its use is shown below. Items
   in square brackets in the sample dialogue are Lynx's way of
   indicating an image or other display that cannot be shown on an ASCII

**> lynx
  Looking up
  Making HTTP connection to HTTP request.
  HTTP request sent; waiting for response.Read 176 bytes of data.
  512 of 2502 bytes of data.
  1024 of 2502 bytes of data.
  Data transfer complete

                 Hill Associates

     [INLINE] Hill Associates, Inc.

  Leaders in Telecommunications Training and Education Worldwide

  Hill Associates is an international provider of voice and data
  telecommunications training and education. We cover the full breadth
  of the field, including telephony, computer networks, ISDN, X.25 and
  fast packet technologies (frame relay, SMDS, ATM), wireless, TCP/IP
  and the Internet, LANs and LAN interconnection, legacy networks,
  multimedia and virtual reality, broadband services, regulation,
  service strategies, and network security.

  Hill Associates' products and services include instructor-led,
  computer-based (CBT), and hands-on workshop courses. Courseware
  distribution media include audio tape, video tape, CD-ROM, and 3.5"
  disks (PC).

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  Hill Associates products, services, and corporate information

  * About Hill Associates
  * HAI Products and Services Catalog
  * Datacomm/2000-ED Series
  * Contacting Hill Associates
  * Employment Opportunities
  * HAI Personnel Home Pages

  On-line information resources from Hill Associates

  * HAI Telecommunications Acronym List
  * Articles, Books, and On-Line Presentations by HAI Staff
  * GCK's Miscellaneous Sites List...

  Hill Associates is host to the:

  * IEEE Local Computer Networks Conference Home Page...
  * Vermont Telecommunications Resource Center

  Please send any comments or suggestions to the HAI Webmaster. Come
  back again soon!

  Information at this site (c) 1994-1997 Hill Associates.

  Arrow keys: Up and Down to move. Right to follow a link; Left to go
  H)elp O)ptions P)rint G)o M)ain screen Q)uit /=search
  [delete]=history list

**URL to open:
  Looking up
  Making HTTP connection to HTTP request.
  HTTP request sent; waiting for response.Read 119 bytes of data.
  1000 bytes of data.
  Data transfer complete

  BBN On The World Wide Web

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   BBN Reports Fourth-Quarter and Year-End 1996 Results


  Who Won Our Sweepstakes
  How The Noc Solves Problems
  Noc Noc Who's There
  BBN Planet Network Map

  Contact BBN Planet
  Directions to BBN
  Text only index of the BBN Web site
  Corporate Disclaimer
  Send questions and comments about our site to
  (c) 1996 BBN Corporation

  Arrow keys: Up and Down to move. Right to follow a link; Left to go
  H)elp O)ptions P)rint G)o M)ain screen Q)uit /=search
  [delete]=history list

7.1. Uniform Resource Locators

   As more and more protocols have become available to identify files,
   archive and server sites, news lists, and other information resources
   on the Internet, it was inevitable that some shorthand would arise to
   make it easier to designate these sources. The common shorthand
   format is called the Uniform Resource Locator. The list below
   provides information on how the URL format should be interpreted for
   the protocols and resources that will be discussed in this document.
   A complete description of the URL format may be found in [4].

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       Identifies a specific file. E.g., the file htmlasst in the edu
     directory at host ftp.cs.da would be denoted, using the full URL
     form:  <URL:file://ftp.cs.da/edu/htmlasst>.

       Identifies an FTP site. E.g.:*.

       Identifies a Gopher site and menu path; a "00" at the start of
     the path indicates a directory and "11" indicates a file. E.g.:

       Identifies a WWW server location. E.g.:

       Identifies an individual's Internet mail address. E.g.:

       Identifies a TELNET location (the trailing "/" is optional).
     E.g.: telnet://

7.2. User Directories on the Web

   While finding users on the Internet remains somewhat like alchemy if
   using the tools and utilities mentioned earlier, the Web has added a
   new dimension to finding people. Since 1995, many telephone companies
   have placed national white and yellow page telephone directories on-
   line, accessible via the World Wide Web.

   For a while, it seemed that the easiest and most reliable approach to
   finding people's e-mail address on the Internet was to look up their
   telephone number on the Web, call them, and ask for their e-mail
   address! More recently, however, many third parties are augmenting
   the standard telephone directory with an e-mail directory. These
   services primarily rely on users voluntarily registering, resulting
   in incomplete databases because most users don't know about all of
   the services.  Nevertheless, some of the personal directory services
   available via the Web with which e-mail addresses (and telephone
   numbers) can be found include Four11 Directory Services
   (, Excite
   (, and Yahoo! People
   Search (

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   In addition, the Knowbot Information Service (KIS), CNRI's automated
   username database search tool described earlier in this document, is
   also available on the Web, at
   Users can select several options for the KIS search, including the
   InterNIC, MILNET, MCImail, and Latin American Internic databases;
   UNIX finger and whois servers; and X.500 databases.

7.3. Other Service Accessible Via the Web

   Many of the other utilities described earlier in this document can
   also be accessed via the WWW. In general, the Web browser acts as a
   viewer to a remote client rather than requiring specialized software
   on the user's system.

   Several sites provide DNS information, obviating the need for a user
   to have a local DNS client such as NSLOOKUP. The hosts and are among the best DNS
   sites, allowing the user to access all DNS information. The site allows users to do multiple,
   sequential searches at a given domain.  Other Web sites providing
   simple DNS name/address translation services include,,
   bin/ns/nsgate, and

   Ping is another service available on the Web. The page allows a user to
   select a host name, number of times to ping (1-10), and number of
   seconds between each ping (1-10), and returns a set of summary
   statistics. Other Web-based ping sites include (sends ten pings, and reports the
   times and min/max/avg summary statistics) and (indicates whether the target host
   is alive or not).

   Traceroute is also available on the Web. Unfortunately, these servers
   trace the route from their host to a host that the user chooses,
   rather than from the user's host to the target. Nevertheless,
   interesting route information can be found at  Traceroute service and a list
   of a number of other traceroute sites on the Web can be found at

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   Access to archie is also available via the WWW, where your browser
   acts as the graphical interface to an archie server. To find a list
   of archie servers, and to access them via the Web, point your browser

   Finally, even Finger can be found on the World Wide Web; check out

8. Discussion Lists and Newsgroups

   Among the most useful features of the Internet are the discussion
   lists that have become available to allow individuals to discuss
   topics of mutual concern. Discussion list topics range from SCUBA
   diving and home brewing of beer to AIDS research and foreign policy.
   Several, naturally, deal specifically with the Internet, TCP/IP
   protocols, and the impact of new technologies.

   Most of the discussion lists accessible from the Internet are
   unmoderated, meaning that anyone can send a message to the list's
   central repository and the message will then be automatically
   forwarded to all subscribers of the list. These lists provide very
   fast turn-around between submission of a message and delivery, but
   often result in a lot of messages (including inappropriate junk mail,
   or "spam"). A moderated list has an extra step; a human list
   moderator examines all messages before they are forwarded to ensure
   that the messages are appropriate to the list and not needlessly

   Users should be warned that some lists generate a large number of
   messages each day. Before subscribing to too many lists, be sure that
   you are aware of local policies and/or charges governing access to
   discussion lists and e-mail storage.

8.1. Internet Discussion Lists

   Mail can be sent to almost all Internet lists at an address with the
   following form:


   The common convention when users want to subscribe, unsubscribe, or
   handle any other administrative matter is to send a message to the
   list administrator; do not send administrivia to the main list
   address!  The list administrator can usually be found at:


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   To subscribe to a list, it is often enough to place the word
   "subscribe" in the main body of the message, although a line with the

      subscribe list_name your_full_name

   will satisfy most mail servers. A similar message may be used to get
   off a list; just use the word "unsubscribe" followed by the list
   name. Not every list follows this convention, but it is a safe bet if
   you don't have better information!


   A large set of discussion groups is maintained using a program called
   LISTSERV. LISTSERV is a service provided widely on BITNET and EARN,
   although it is also available to Internet users. A LISTSERV User
   Guide can be found on the Web at

   Mail can be sent to most LISTSERV lists at an address with the
   following form:


   The common convention when users want to subscribe, unsubscribe, or
   handle any other administrative matter is to send commands in a
   message to the LISTSERV server; do not send administrivia to the main
   list address!  The list server can usually be found at:


   LISTSERV commands are placed in the main body of e-mail messages sent
   to an appropriate list server location. Once you have found a list of
   interest, you can send a message to the appropriate address with any
   appropriate command, such as:

     subscribe  list_name  your_full_name Subscribe to a list
     unsubscribe  list_name               Unsubscribe from a list
     help                                 Get help & a list of commands
     index                                Get a list of LISTSERV files
     get  file_name                       Obtain a file from the server

8.3. Majordomo

   Majordomo is another popular list server for Internet discussion
   lists.  The Web site has a
   large amount of information about Majordomo.

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   Mail is sent to Majordomo lists using the same general address format
   as above:


   The common convention when users want to subscribe, unsubscribe, or
   handle any other administrative matter is to send a message to the
   Majordomo list server; do not send administrivia to the main list
   address!  The Majordomo server can usually be found at:


   Majordomo commands are placed in the main body of e-mail messages
   sent to an appropriate list server location. Available commands

     help          Get help & a list of commands
     subscribe list_name  your_e-mail
                   Subscribe to a list (E-mail address is optional)
     unsubscribe list_name your_e-mail
                   Unsubscribe from a list (E-mail address is optional)
     info list     Sends an introduction about the specified list
     lists         Get a list of lists served by this Majordomo server

8.4. Usenet

   Usenet, also known as NETNEWS or Usenet news, is another information
   source with its own set of special interest mailing lists organized
   into newsgroups. Usenet originated on UNIX systems but has migrated
   to many other types of hosts. Usenet clients, called newsreaders, use
   the Network News Transfer Protocol [13] and are available for
   virtually any operating system; several web browsers, in fact, have
   this capability built in.

   While Usenet newsgroups are usually accessible at Internet sites, a
   prospective Usenet client host must have appropriate newsreader
   software to be able to read news. Users will have to check with their
   local host or network administrator to find out what Usenet
   newsgroups are locally available, as well as the local policies for
   using them.

   Usenet newsgroup names are hierarchical in nature. The first part of
   the name, called the hierarchy, provides an indication about the
   general subject area. There are two types of hierarchies, called
   mainstream and alternative; the total number of newsgroups is in the
   thousands. The news.announce.newusers newsgroup is a good place for
   new Usenet users to find a detailed introduction to the use of
   Usenet, as well as an introduction to its culture.

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   Usenet mainstream hierarchies are established by a process that
   requires the approval of a majority of Usenet members. Most sites
   that receive a NETNEWS feed receive all of these hierarchies, which

       comp      Computers
       misc      Miscellaneous
       news      Network news
       rec       Recreation
       sci       Science
       soc       Social issues
       talk      Various discussion lists

   The alternative hierarchies include lists that may be set up at any
   site that has the server software and disk space. These lists are not
   formally part of Usenet and, therefore, may not be received by all
   sites getting NETNEWS. The alternative hierarchies include:

       alt       Alternate miscellaneous discussion lists
       bionet    Biology, medicine, and life sciences
       bit       BITNET discussion lists
       biz       Various business-related discussion lists
       ddn       Defense Data Network
       gnu       GNU lists
       ieee      IEEE information
       info      Various Internet and other networking information
       k12       K-12 education
       u3b       AT&T 3B computers
       vmsnet    Digital's VMS operating system

8.5 Finding Discussion Lists and Newsgroups

   Armed with the rules for signing up for a discussion list or
   accessing a newsgroup, how does one find an appropriate list given
   one's interests?

   There are tens of thousands of e-mail discussion lists on the
   Internet.  One List of Lists may be found using anonymous FTP at; the List of Lists can be
   searched using a Web browser by going to Other places to
   look are the Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists index at and the LISZT
   Directory of E-Mail Discussion Groups at

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   To obtain a list of LISTSERV lists, send e-mail to with the command lists global in the body of
   the message. Alternatively, look on the Web at The Web site has a Mailing Lists Database of lists served by
   LISTSERV and Majordomo.

   There are also thousands of Usenet newsgroups. One Usenet archive can
   be found at gopher://; see
   the /active-newsgroups and /alt-hierarchies subdirectories. Usenet
   news may also be read at gopher:// A good
   Usenet search facility can be found at DejaNews at; messages can also be posted to Usenet
   newsgroups from this site.

   Note that there is often some overlap between Usenet newsgroups and
   Internet discussion lists. Some individuals join both lists in these
   circumstances or, often, there is cross-posting of messages. Some
   Usenet newsgroup discussions are forwarded onto an Internet mailing
   list by an individual site to provide access to those users who do
   not have Usenet available.

9. Internet Documentation

   To fully appreciate and understand what is going on within the
   Internet community, users might wish to obtain the occasional
   Internet specification. The main body of Internet documents are
   Request for Comments (RFCs), although a variety of RFC subsets have
   been defined for various specific purposes. The sections below will
   describe the RFCs and other documentation, and how to get them.

   The Internet standardization process is alluded to in the following
   sections. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the guiding
   body for Internet standards; their Web site is
   The IETF operates under the auspices of the Internet Society (ISOC),
   which has a Web site at For complete, up-to-date
   information on obtaining Internet documentation, go to the InterNIC's
   Web site at The IETF's
   history and role in the Internet today is described in Kessler [15].
   For information on the organizations involved in the IETF standards
   process, see RFC 2028 [11]. For information on the relationship
   between the IETF and ISOC, see RFC 2031 [12].

9.1. Request for Comments (RFCs)

   RFCs are the body of literature comprising Internet protocols,
   standards, research questions, hot topics, humor (especially those
   dated 1 April), and general information. Each RFC is uniquely issued

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   a number which is never reused or reissued; if a document is revised,
   it is given a new RFC number and the old RFC is said to be obsoleted.
   Announcements are sent to the RFC-DIST mailing list whenever a new
   RFC is issued; anyone may join this list by sending e-mail to with the line "subscribe rfc-dist" in the
   body of the message.

   RFCs may be obtained through the mail (i.e., postal service), but it
   is easier and faster to get them on-line. One easy way to obtain RFCs
   on-line is to use RFC-INFO, an e-mail-based service to help users
   locate and retrieve RFCs and other Internet documents. To use the
   service, send e-mail to and leave the Subject: field
   blank; commands that may go in the main body of the message include:

     help                            (Help file)
     help: ways_to_get_rfcs          (Help file on how to get RFCs)

        Doc-ID: RFCxxxx              (Retrieve RFC xxxx; use all 4

     LIST: RFC                       (List all RFCs...)
        [options]                      (...[matching the following
        KEYWORDS: xxx                  (Title contains string "xxx")
        AUTHOR: xxx                    (Written by "xxx")
        ORGANIZATION: xxx              (Issued by company "xxx")
        DATED-AFTER: mmm-dd-yyyy
        DATED-BEFORE: mmm-dd-yyyy
        OBSOLETES: RFCxxxx             (List RFCs obsoleting RFC xxxx)

   Another RFC e-mail server can be found at the InterNIC. To use this
   service, send an e-mail message to, leaving
   the Subject: field blank. In the main body of the message, use one or
   more of the following commands:

     help                            (Help file)
     file /ftp/rfc/rfcNNNN.txt       (Text version of RFC NNNN)
     file /ftp/rfc/        (Postscript version of RFC NNNN)
     document-by-name rfcNNNN        (Text version of RFC NNNN)

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            TABLE 1. Primary RFC Repositories.

            HOST ADDRESS           DIRECTORY


   To obtain an RFC via anonymous FTP, connect to one of the RFC
   repositories listed in Table 1 using FTP. After connecting, change to
   the appropriate RFC directory (as shown in Table 1) using the cd
   command. To obtain a particular file, use the get command:

      GET RFC-INDEX.TXT  local_name       (RFC Index)
      GET RFCxxxx.TXT  local_name         (Text version of RFC xxxx)
      GET RFCxxxx.PS  local_name          (Postscript version of RFC

   The RFC index, or a specific reference to an RFC, will indicate
   whether the RFC is available in ASCII text (.txt) or Postscript (.ps)
   format. By convention, all RFCs are available in ASCII while some are
   also available in Postscript where use of graphics and/or different
   fonts adds more information or clarity; an increasing number are also
   being converted to HTML. Be aware that the index file is very large,
   containing the citing for over 2,000 documents. Note that not all
   RFCs numbered below 698 (July 1975) are available on-line.

   Finally, the InterNIC's Web site at contains the RFC index and
   a complete set of RFCs. More information about Web-based RFC servers
   can be found at

   The sample dialogue below, although highly abbreviated, shows a user
   obtaining RFC 1594 (Answers to Commonly asked "New Internet User"
   Questions) using e-mail and anonymous FTP.

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**SMCVAX$ mail
**MAIL> send
**To: in%""
  Enter your message below. Press CTRL/Z when complete, CTRL/C to quit
**retrieve: rfc
**doc-id: rfc1594
**MAIL> exit

**SMCVAX$ ftp
**Username: anonymous
**NIC.DDN.MIL> cd rfc
**NIC.DDN.MIL> get rfc1594.txt rfc-1594.txt
**NIC.DDN.MIL> exit

9.2. Internet Standards

   RFCs describe many aspects of the Internet. By the early 1990s,
   however, so many specifications of various protocols had been written
   that it was not always clear as to which documents represented
   standards for the Internet. For that reason, a subset of RFCs have
   been designated as STDs to identify them as Internet standards.

   Unlike RFC numbers that are never reused, STD numbers always refer to
   the latest version of the standard. UDP, for example, would be
   completely identified as "STD-6/RFC-768."  Note that STD numbers
   refer to a standard, which is not necessarily a single document; STD
   19, for example, is the NetBIOS Service Protocols standard comprising
   RFCs 1001 and 1002, and a complete citation for this standard would
   be "STD-19/RFC-001/RFC-1002."

   The availability of new STDs is announced on the RFC-DIST mailing
   list.  STD-1 [23] always refers to the latest list of "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards". The Internet standards process is
   described in RFC 2026 [5] and STD notes are explained in RFC 1311

   STDs can be obtained as RFCs via anonymous FTP from any RFC
   repository.  In addition, some RFC sites (such as
   provide an STD directory so that STD documents can be found in the
   path /STD/xx.TXT, where xx refers to the STD number.

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   STD documents may be obtained as RFCs using the methods described in
   Section 9.1. STDs may also be obtained via the RFC-INFO server using
   the RETRIEVE: STD  and Doc-ID: STDxxxx commands. Also, check out the
   InterNIC's Web site at for the STD index
   and a complete set of STDs.

9.3. For Your Information Documents

   The For Your Information (FYI) series of RFCs provides Internet users
   with information about many topics related to the Internet. FYI
   topics range from historical to explanatory to tutorial, and are
   aimed at the wide spectrum of people that use the Internet. The FYI
   series includes answers to frequently asked questions by both
   beginning and seasoned users of the Internet, an annotated
   bibliography of Internet books, and an explanation of the domain name

   Like the STDs, an FYI number always refers to the latest version of
   an FYI. FYI 4, for example, refers to the answers to commonly asked
   questions by new Internet users; its complete citation would be
   "FYI-4/RFC-1594."  The FYI notes are explained in FYI 1 [18].

   FYIs can be obtained as RFCs via anonymous FTP from any RFC
   repository.  In addition, some RFC sites (such as
   provide an FYI directory so that FYI documents can be found in the
   path /FYI/xx.TXT, where xx refers to the FYI number.

   FYI documents may be obtained as RFCs using the methods described in
   Section 9.1. FYIs may also be obtained via the RFC-INFO server using
   the RETRIEVE: FYI and Doc-ID: FYIxxxx commands. Also, check out the
   InterNIC's Web site at for the FYI index
   and a complete set of FYIs.

9.4. Best Current Practices

   Standards track RFCs are formally part of the IETF standards process,
   subject to peer review, and intended to culminate in an official
   Internet Standard. Other RFCs are published on a less formal basis
   and are not part of the IETF process. To provide a mechanism of
   publishing relevant technical information which it endorsed, the IETF
   created a new series of RFCs, called the Best Current Practices (BCP)
   series. BCP topics include variances from the Internet standards
   process and IP address allocation in private networks.

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   Like the STDs and FYIs, a BCP number always refers to the latest
   version of a BCP. BCP 5, for example, describes an IP address
   allocation plan for private networks; its complete citation would be
   "BCP-5/RFC-1918."  The BCP process is explained in BCP 1 [25].

   BCP documents may be obtained as RFCs using the methods described in
   Section 9.1. BCPs may also be obtained via the RFC-INFO server using
   the RETRIEVE: BCP and Doc-ID: BCPxxxx commands. Also, check out the
   RFC Editor's Web site at for the BCP
   index and a complete set of BCPs.

9.5. RARE Technical Reports

   RARE, the Reseaux Associes pour la Recherche Europeenne (Association
   of European Research Networks), has a charter to promote and
   participate in the creation of a high-quality European computer
   communications infrastructure for the support of research endeavors.
   RARE member networks use Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) protocols
   and TCP/IP. To promote a closer relationship between RARE and the
   IETF, RARE Technical Reports (RTRs) have also been published as RFCs
   since the summer of 1993.

   RTR documents may be obtained as RFCs using the methods described in
   Section 9.1. RTRs may also be obtained via the RFC-INFO server using
   the RETRIEVE: RTR  and Doc-ID: RTRxxxx commands. Also, check out the
   InterNIC's Web site at for the RTR index
   and a complete set of RTRs. Finally, RTRs may be obtained via
   anonymous FTP from

10. Perusing the Internet

   This guide is intended to provide the reader with a rudimentary
   ability to use the utilities that are provided by TCP/IP and the
   Internet. By now, it is clear that the user's knowledge, ability, and
   willingness to experiment are about the only limits to what can be

   There are several books that will help you get started finding sites
   on the Internet, including The INTERNET Yellow Pages [9]. But much
   more timely and up-to-date information can be found on the Internet
   itself, using such search tools as Yahoo! (,
   Excite (, Lycos (,
   WebCrawler (, and AltaAvista

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   There are several other sources that cite locations from which to
   access specific information about a wide range of subjects using such
   tools as FTP, Telnet, Gopher, and WWW. One of the best periodic
   lists, and archives, is through the Scout Report, a weekly
   publication by the InterNIC's Net Scout Services Project at the
   University of Wisconsin's Computer Science Department. To receive the
   Scout Report by e-mail each week, join the mailing list by sending
   email to; place the line subscribe
   scout-report your_full_name in the body of the message to receive the
   text version or use subscribe scout-report-html your_full_name to
   receive the report in HTML. The Scout Report is also available on the
   Web at and, or via anonymous FTP at

   Another list is Yanoff's Internet Services List, which may be found
   at or Gary Kessler, one of the
   co-author's of this document, maintains his own eclectic
   Miscellaneous Sites List at

   If you are looking for Internet-specific information, one good
   starting point is The InterNIC
   is another valuable resource, with their Scout Report and Scout
   Toolkit (

   There is also a fair amount of rudimentary tutorial information
   available on the Internet. The InterNIC cosponsors "The 15 Minute
   Series" (, a collection of
   free, modular, and extensible training materials on specific Internet
   topics. ROADMAP96 ( is a
   free, 27-lesson Internet training workshop over e-mail.

   More books and specialized articles came out about the Internet in
   1993 and 1994 than in all previous years (squared!), and that trend
   has seemed to continue into 1995, 1996, and beyond. Three books are
   worth notable mention because they do not directly relate to finding
   your way around, or finding things on, the Internet. Hafner and Lyon
   [8] have written Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the
   Internet, a history of the development of the Advanced Research
   Projects Agency (ARPA), packet switching, and the ARPANET, focusing
   primarily on the 1960s and 1970s. While culminating with the
   APRANET's 25th Anniversary in 1994, its main thrusts are on the
   groups building the ARPANET backbone (largely BBN) and the host-to-
   host application and communication protocols (largely the Network
   Working Group). Salus' book, Casting The Net: From ARPANET to

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   INTERNET and beyond... [28], goes into the development of the network
   from the perspective of the people, protocols, applications, and
   networks. Including a set of "diversions," his book is a bit more
   whimsical than Hafner & Lyon's. Finally, Carl Malamud has written a
   delightful book called Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue
   [17], chronicling not the history of the Internet as much as a subset
   of the people currently active in building and defining  it. This
   book will not teach you how to perform an anonymous FTP file transfer
   nor how to use Gopher, but provides insights about our network (and
   Carl's gastro-pathology) that no mere statistics can convey.

11. Acronyms and Abbreviations

   ASCII     American Standard Code for Information Interchange
   BCP       Best Current Practices
   BITNET    Because It's Time Network
   DDN       Defense Data Network
   DNS       Domain Name System
   EARN      European Academic Research Network
   FAQ       Frequently Asked Questions list
   FTP       File Transfer Protocol
   FYI       For Your Information series of RFCs
   HTML      Hypertext Markup Language
   HTTP      Hypertext Transport Protocol
   ICMP      Internet Control Message Protocol
   IP        Internet Protocol
   ISO       International Organization for Standardization
   NetBIOS   Network Basic Input/Output System
   NIC       Network Information Center
   NICNAME   Network Information Center name service
   NSF       National Science Foundation
   NSFNET    National Science Foundation Network
   RFC       Request For Comments
   RARE      Reseaux Associes pour la Recherche Europeenne
   RTR       RARE Technical Reports
   STD       Internet Standards series of RFCs
   TCP       Transmission Control Protocol
   TTL       Time-To-Live
   UDP       User Datagram Protocol
   URL       Uniform Resource Locator
   WAIS      Wide Area Information Server
   WWW       World Wide Web

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12. Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

13. Acknowledgments

   Our thanks are given to all sites that we accessed or otherwise used
   system resources in preparation for this document. We also appreciate
   the comments and suggestions from our students and members of the
   Internet community, particularly after the last version of this
   document was circulated, including Mark Delany and the rest of the
   gang at the Australian Public Access Network Association, Margaret
   Hall (BBN), John Martin (RARE), Tom Maufer (3Com), Carol Monaghan
   (Hill Associates), Michael Patton (BBN), N. Todd Pritsky (Hill
   Associates), and Brian Williams. Special thanks are due to Joyce
   Reynolds for her continued encouragement and direction.

14. References

 [1] Anklesaria, F., M. McCahill, P. Lindner, D. Johnson, D. Torrey,
     and B. Alberti, "The Internet Gopher Protocol," RFC 1436,
     University of Minnesota, March 1993.

 [2] Berners-Lee, T. and D. Connolly, "Hypertext Markup Language - 2.0,"
     RFC 1866, MIT/W3C, November 1995.

 [3] _____, R. Fielding, and H. Frystyk, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol -
     HTTP/1.0," RFC 1945, MIT/LCS, UC Irvine, MIT/LCS, May 1996.

 [4] _____, L. Masinter, and M. McCahill, Editors, "Uniform Resource
     Locators (URL)," RFC 1738, CERN, Xerox Corp., University of
     Minnesota, December 1994.

 [5] Bradner, S. "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3," RFC
     2026, Harvard University, October 1996.

 [6] Comer, D. Internetworking with TCP/IP, Vol. I: Principles,
     Protocols, and Architecture, 3/e. Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Prentice-
     Hall, 1995.

 [7] Feit, S. TCP/IP: Architecture, Protocols, and Implementation with
     IPv6 and IP Security, 2/e. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.

 [8] Hafner, K. and M. Lyon. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins
     of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Top      Up      ToC       Page 50 
 [9] Hahn, H. and R. Stout. The Internet Yellow Pages, 3/e. Berkeley
     (CA): Osborne McGraw-Hill, 1996.

[10] Harrenstien, K., M. Stahl, and E. Feinler, "NICNAME/WHOIS,"
     RFC 954, SRI, October 1985.

[11] Hovey, R. and S. Bradner. "The Organizations Involved in the IETF
     Standards Process," RFC 2028, Digital, Harvard University, October

[12] Huizer, E. "IETF-ISOC Relationship," RFC 2031, SEC, October 1996.

[13] Kantor, B. and P. Lapsley. "Network News Transfer Protocol," RFC
     977, U.C. San Diego, U.C. Berkeley, February 1986.

[14] Kessler, G.C. "An Overview of TCP/IP Protocols and the Internet."
     URL: Last accessed: 17
     February 1997

[15] _____. "IETF-History, Background, and Role in Today's Internet."
     URL: Last accessed: 17
     February 1997.

[16] _____. "Running Your Own DNS." Network VAR, July 1996. (See also
     URL: Last accessed: 17
     February 1997.)

[17] Malamud, C. Exploring the Internet: A Technical Travelogue.
     Englewood Cliffs (NJ): PTR Prentice Hall, 1992.

[18] Malkin, G.S. and J.K. Reynolds, "F.Y.I. on F.Y.I.: Introduction to
     the F.Y.I. notes," FYI 1/RFC 1150, Proteon, USC/Information
     Sciences Institute, March 1990.

[19] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Concepts and Facilities,"
     STD 13/RFC 1034, USC/Information Sciences Institute, November 1987.

[20] National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA). "A
     Beginner's Guide to HTML." URL: Last
     accessed: 2 February 1997.

[21] Postel, J., "Domain Name System Structure and Delegation,"
     USC/Information Sciences Institute, RFC 1591, March 1994.

[22] _____, "Internet Control Message Protocol," USC/Information
     Sciences Institute, RFC 792, September 1981.

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[23] _____, Editor, "Internet Official Protocol Standards,"
     STD 1/RFC 2000, Internet Architecture Board, February 1997.

[24] _____, "Introduction to the STD Notes," RFC 1311, USC/Information
     Sciences Institute, March 1992.

[25] _____, T. Li, and Y. Rekhter, "Best Current Practices," BCP 1/RFC
     1818, USC/Information Sciences Institute, Cisco Systems, August

[26] _____ and J. Reynolds, "File Transfer Protocol (FTP),"
     STD 9/RFC 959, USC/Information Sciences Institute, October 1985.

[27] _____ and J. Reynolds, "TELNET Protocol Specification,"
     STD 8/RFC 854, USC/Information Sciences Institute, May 1983.

[28] Salus, P.H. Casting The Net: From ARPANET to INTERNET and beyond...
     Reading (MA): Addison-Wesley, 1995.

[29] Socolofsky, T.J. and C.J. Kale, "TCP/IP Tutorial," RFC 1180, Spider
     Systems Ltd., January 1991.

[30] Stevens, W.R. TCP/IP Illustrated, Volume 1: The Protocols. Reading
     (MA): Addison-Wesley, 1994.

[31] Williamson, S., "Transition and Modernization of the Internet
     Registration Service," RFC 1400, Network Solutions, Inc., March

[32] Zimmerman, D., "The Finger User Information Protocol," RFC 1288,
     Rutgers University, December 1991.

15. Authors' Address

   Gary C. Kessler
   Hill Associates
   17 Roosevelt Highway
   Colchester, VT  05446
   Phone:  +1 802-655-8659
   Fax:  +1 802-655-7974

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   Steven D. Shepard
   Hill Associates
   17 Roosevelt Highway
   Colchester, VT  05446
   Phone:  +1 802-655-8646
   Fax:  +1 802-655-7974