[ih] Usenet query

Mark Goodge mark at good-stuff.co.uk
Mon Jul 13 08:05:10 PDT 2020

Afternoon all (or morning all, depending on where you are and what time 
you're reading this).

Was anyone here involved in the early days of Usenet, or the drafting of 
the various RFCs about it? If so, could you possibly help settle (or, at 
least, illuminate) a debate I'm involved in elsewhere about the purpose 
and uses of the "Organization:" header.

To give some background, it's fairly common these days for Usenet 
providers to insert their own Organization header where one isn't 
already set by the user. For example, Eternal September populates that 
header with "A Noiseless Patient Spider", while AIOE, rather more 
prosaically, uses the header to identify itself as "Aioe.org NNTP Server".

The question being debated is whether or not this is a valid use of the 
Organization header. On the one hand, there are those who assert that, 
by a strict reading of the RFCs, this header should only ever be added 
by the end user (or the owner of the end user's machine), and the Usenet 
provider shouldn't add it if the user omits it. In which case Eternal 
September et al are in breach of the RFCs. On the other hand, there are 
those who assert that the Organization can, legitimately, be the 
organisation which provides a person with Usenet access, in which case 
they are abiding by the RFCs. And, on the gripping hand, there are those 
who assert that since the RFCs which mention the Organization header do 
so purely descriptively, rather than making any kind of rule or 
recommendation (the relevant paragraphs contain neither MUST nor 
SHOULD), it's all irrelevant anyway because even if the RFCs described 
what was common practice at the time they were written, that doesn't 
necessarily have any bearing on contemporary practice.

Can anyone shed any light on this?


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