To avoid sounding too declarative, he labeled the note “Request for Comments” and sent it out on April 7, 1969. Titled “Host Software,” the note was distributed to the other sites the way all the first Requests for Comments (RFCs) were distributed: in an envelope with the lick of a stamp. RFC Number 1 described in technical terms the basic “handshake” between two computers—how the most elemental connections would be handled. “Request for Comments,” it turned out, was a perfect choice of titles. It sounded at once solicitous and serious. And it stuck.
“When you read RFC 1, you walked away from it with a sense of, ‘Oh, this is a club that I can play in too,’” recalled Brian Reid, later a graduate student at Carnegie-Mellon. “It has rules, but it welcomes other members as long as the members are aware of those rules.” The language of the RFC was warm and welcoming. The idea was to promote cooperation, not ego. The fact that Crocker kept his ego out of the first RFC set the style and inspired others to follow suit in the hundreds of friendly and cooperative RFCs that followed. “It is impossible to underestimate the importance of that,” Reid asserted. “I did not feel excluded by a little core of protocol kings. I felt included by a friendly group of people who recognized that the purpose of networking was to bring everybody in.” For years afterward (and to this day) RFCs have been the principal means of open expression in the computer networking community, the accepted way of recommending, reviewing, and adopting new technical standards.