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Jon Postel

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Title: Jon Postel  
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Jon Postel

Jon Postel
Born (1943-08-06)August 6, 1943
Died October 16, 1998(1998-10-16) (aged 55)
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Computer science
Alma mater UCLA
Doctoral advisor Dave Farber
Known for Request for Comment
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
Postel's Law
Influenced Tim Berners-Lee[1]

Jonathan Bruce Postel (; August 6, 1943 – October 16, 1998) was an American computer scientist who made many significant contributions to the development of the Internet, particularly with respect to standards. He is known principally for being the Editor of the Request for Comment (RFC) document series, and for administering the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) until his death. In his lifetime he was known as the God[2] of the Internet for his comprehensive influence on the medium.

The Internet Society's Postel Award is named in his honor, as is the Postel Center at Information Sciences Institute. His obituary was written by Vint Cerf and published as RFC 2468 in remembrance of Postel and his work. In 2012, Postel was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.[3]


Postel attended Van Nuys High School,[4] and then UCLA where he earned his B.S. (1966) as well as his M.A. (1968) in Engineering. He then went on to complete his Ph.D. there in Computer Science in 1974, with Dave Farber as his thesis advisor.

Map of the Internet, created by Jon Postel in 1982

While at UCLA, he was involved in early work on the ARPANET. He worked briefly at the MITRE Corporation, then helped set up the Network Information Center at SRI. In March 1977, he joined the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.[5] Postel was the RFC Editor from 1969 until his death, and wrote and edited many important RFCs, including RFC 791, RFC 792 and RFC 793, which define the basic protocols of the Internet protocol suite, and RFC 2223, Instructions to RFC Authors. He wrote or co-authored more than 200 RFCs.

Postel served on the Internet Architecture Board and its predecessors for many years. He was the Director of the names and number assignment clearinghouse, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), from its inception. He was the first member of the Internet Society, and was on its Board of Trustees. He was the original and long-time .us Top-Level Domain administrator. He also managed the Los Nettos Network.

All of the above were part-time activities he assumed in conjunction with his primary position as Director of the Computer Networks Division ("Division 7") of the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

DNS Root Authority test, U.S. response

Postel in 1994, with map of Internet top-level domains. Photo by Irene Fertik, USC News Service. © 1994, USC

On January 28, 1998, Postel, as a test, emailed eight of the twelve operators of Internet's regional NASA, DoD, and BRL with NSI. Though usage of the Internet was not interrupted, he soon received orders from senior government officials to undo this change,[19][20][21][22][23][24] which he did.[25] Within a week, the US NTIA issued A proposal to improve technical management of Internet names and addresses, including changes to authority over the Internet DNS root zone,[26] which ultimately, and controversially,[27] increased U.S. control.[28]


On October 16, 1998, Postel died of heart problems in Los Angeles,[17] nine months after the DNS Root Authority incident.

The significance of Jon Postel's contributions to building the Internet, both technical and personal, were such that a memorial recollection of his life forms part of the core technical literature sequence of the Internet in the form of RFC 2468 "I Remember IANA", written by Vinton Cerf.

Postel's Law

Perhaps his most famous legacy is from RFC 760, which includes a Robustness Principle which is often labeled Postel's Law: "an implementation should be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior" (reworded in RFC 1122 as "Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send").

In digital circuits, this principle has long been an important aspect of what is known as the static discipline.


Postel also means email in Albanian.[29]

See also


  1. ^ A Ten Year Tribute to Jon Postel where Berners-Lee comments on the "society, sets of values and ways of working" as, in part, established by Postel
  2. ^ q:Jon Postel
  3. ^ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Last accessed April 24, 2012
  4. ^ Hafner, Katie; Lyon, Matthew (1996). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. Simon & Schuster. p. 137.  
  5. ^ "USC Memorial Tribute for Jonathan B. Postel". University of Southern California. November 5, 1998. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ Jon Postel Home page. Information Sciences Institute, USC.
  7. ^ "Jon Postel Biography". Information Sciences Institute web site. June 5, 1997. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  8. ^ USC/ISI Computer Networks Division ("Div 7")
  9. ^ Internet Assigned Numbers Authority web site.
  10. ^ RFC-Editor
  11. ^ Remembering Jonathan B. Postel. Postel Center.
  12. ^ In Memory of Jon Postel. Internet Society.
  13. ^ Calverley, Bob; Krieger, Dianne (Spring 1999). "Jonathan B. Postel 1943–1998". USC Trojan Family Magazine. Retrieved April 8, 2011. 
  14. ^ About the Postel Award. ISOC.
  15. ^ The Postel Center
  16. ^ Los Nettos
  17. ^ a b 'God of the Internet' is dead. BBC, October 19, 1998.
  18. ^ In Memoriam. Domain Name Handbook.
  19. ^ Chandrasekaran, Rajiv (January 31, 1998). "Internet Reconfiguration Concerns Federal Officials".  
  20. ^ Gittlen, Sandra (February 4, 1998). "Taking the wrong root?". 
  21. ^ Gittlen, Sandra (February 9, 1998). "Surprise IP address system test creates a stir".  
  22. ^ Gerwig, Kate (February 9, 1998). "One Man's Attempt to Reroute Internet Traffic". 
  23. ^ Cave, Damien (July 2, 2002). "It's time for ICANN to go". 
  24. ^ Farber, Dave (July 2, 2002). "a comment on Gilmore: ICANN Must Go (good insights)". Interesting-people mailing list. 
  25. ^ Bridis, Ted ( 
  26. ^ "A proposal to improve technical management of Internet names and addresses. Discussion Draft 1/30/98". January 30, 1998. Archived from the original on February 7, 1998. 
  27. ^ Froomkin, A. Michael (2000). "Wrong turn in cyberspace: Using ICANN to route around the APA and the Constitution". University of Miami School of Law.  (cited 50 Duke L. J. 17 (2000))
  28. ^ Cukier, Kenneth (February 16, 1998). "Testing times for Net guardians". Total Telecom. 
  29. ^ Wiktionary contributors, "postel," Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary, [1] (accessed November 13, 2014).

External links

  • Research center at USC/ISI created in his honor.
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