IETF nntpext Working Group

This was the web page for the IETF nntpext working group, the working group responsible for standardization of NNTP (the Network News Transfer Protocol). This workgroup concluded in 2005, but I'm keeping this page up to preserve links and information about the workgroup activities.

Mailing Lists

The former working group mailing list is ietf-nntp hosted at, which also has mailing list archives. The list has remained open after the conclusion of the working group and is the best place to discuss future NNTP work or the possible formation of additional working groups. To subscribe to the working group mailing list, send mail to ietf-nntp-request at or go to the Mailman list page for the list.

There was a separate mailing list for discussion of NNTP extensions, but at this point it's defunct. Extensions should instead be discussed on the main list above.


This description was taken directly from the IETF working group description and was the mission statement for the nntpext working group.

Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), defined in RFC 977, was released to the world in March 1986. It was designed to do two things for the "netnews" computer conferencing system:

  1. Provide access to the netnews article database on a network server for "reader" client programs. The situation everyone wanted was access to netnews throughout a network, without having to actually run the netnews server software and keep a local copy of the article database (a sizeable resource commitment, even then).

  2. Provide the means for interactive server to server article transfer over the Internet. The netnews system uses a "flood broadcast" mechanism to distribute articles to all sites, which as a consequence of its operation, creates many duplicate copies of any given article. These duplicates account for the netnews system's high reliability and speed in distributing articles, but they must be each eliminated at the receiving site, to avoid infinite replication. Originally, netnews was developed by the UUCP Network community, and used "batched" file transfer over modems and telephone lines to transmit articles from site to site. This mechanism did not allow for interrogating the remote system's database to see if the articles to be transmitted were already at the destination (a common case). NNTP's principal server to server article transfer mechanism allows for this interrogation of the receiver, and thus saves both network bandwidth and processing time on the remote.

Unfortunately, NNTP's original design had limitations which have become apparent over the decade since its release. For example, NNTP's server to server article transfer performance over the wide area Internet suffers because there are at least two protocol round-trips per article transfer, which does not allow two NNTP servers to continuously stream the articles that must be transferred between them, and thereby make full use of the available bandwidth (moderated by TCP's congestion control mechanisms).

Also, a number of extensions to the protocol are now in common use (and yet more have been proposed), but most such extensions are only documented in the source code that implements them, or in associated release notes - not in the NNTP standard. Such extensions would benefit from IETF community review, and proper specification. Where there is widespread interest in a particular kind of extension, the internet user community would benefit from consensus among implementors prior to deployment, as to the particulars of that extension.

The IETF NNTP extensions Working Group shall:

  1. Revise and publish a standards-track successor to RFC 977 that removes ambiguities from the original document, defines a mechanism for adding extensions to the protocol, and provides a mechanism for the server to inform the client of the extensions which it supports.

  2. Include in the same document some reasonable group of existing commonly used extensions forming a new base functionality for NNTP.

  3. Upon completion of the RFC977 successor document, and presuming that proposals for extensions to the NNTP protocol have been submitted for consideration by IESG, the working group may be asked by the IESG Applications Area Directors to review one or more extensions for NNTP. Part of the purpose of such a review will be to test the newly established mechanism for adding protocol extensions.

The first concern of this working group shall be for the interoperability of the various NNTP implementations, and therefore for clear and explicit specification of the protocol. It is very important that we document the existing situation before taking up any new work.


Requests for Comments

Common NNTP Extensions (56KB)
Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) (242KB)
Using Transport Layer Security (TLS) with Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) (29KB)
Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) Extension for Authentication (51KB)
Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) Extension for Streaming Feeds (26KB)

If you're curious about the history of any of these documents, you can review the older drafts that led up to them, as well as some other drafts that were reviewed by the working group at one point or another.

Last spun 2021-09-25 from thread modified 2013-01-04