Ancient IETF 'teapot' gag preserved for posterity as a standard

'Error 418: I'm a teapot' scores 'reserved' status in IANA Status Code Registry

The august and serious folk at the IETF have always had a soft spot for their April Fool's jokes, and so do others – so much that a proposal to deprecate a joke has met with successful resistance.

From what feels like the Internet Dark Ages of the 1990s, was the Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol, a joking anticipation of the Internet of Things, which gave the world HTTP Error 418:

2.3.2 418 I'm a teapot

Any attempt to brew coffee with a teapot should result in the error code "418 I'm a teapot". The resulting entity body MAY be short and stout.

The spirit of the joke was so appreciated that Error 418 popped up in projects like node.js, ASP.NET, Google Go and others besides.

Fast forward from 1998 to 2017, when IETF HTTPBIS Working Group chair Mark Nottingham rashly opined that Error 418 should be removed from node.js, ASP.NET, and Go.

His (perfectly reasonable) argument was that genuine standards might one day need the number and if the gag persisted in implementations even as a joke, that'd possibly become problematic:

“While we have a number of spare 4xx HTTP status codes that are unregistered now, the semantics of HTTP are something that (hopefully) are going to last for a long time, so one day we may need this code point.”

Proving that millennials aren't killing everything on the planet, high schooler Shane Brunswick mounted save418.com to preserve the error code.

Brunswick's argument was that “It’s a reminder that the underlying processes of computers are still made by humans. It'd be a real shame to see 418 go”, and he was supported by the author of a “418-related” April 1 RFC, I Nazsar, who crafted The Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol for Tea Efflux Appliances (HTCPCP-TEA) and said “I think you’re doing a great thing, trying to save something of the old whimsical Internet from the ravages of the Overly Professional”/

Brunswick carried the day, with Nottingham offering the most graceful reversal possible: on Friday, he hoisted this white flag, giving Error 418 “reserved” status in the IANA Status Code Registry.

If, one day, the registry runs out of status codes, 418's status could be revisited. ®

Bootnote: In our background reading for this story, Vulture South has made a shocking discovery: we know who to blame for the permanent trash-fire that is Internet of Things security. Here's the damning text, with italics added by The Reg.

From RFC 2324:

Coffee pots heat water using electronic mechanisms, so there is no fire. Thus, no firewalls are necessary, and firewall control policy is irrelevant .

Even the very first April 1 RFC, “TELNET RANDOMLY-LOSE Option” had to be annotated “note date of issue” because some people took it seriously. We fear the same is true of RFC 2324, given that there are insecure coffee machines out there.


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