It seems that a BIP (Bitcoin Improvement Proposal) is very similar to an RFC (Request for Comments). Can anybody confirm this, or describe major differences in the two approaches?
BIP's and RFC's are similar in that they
- debate an implementation in the community in order to improve it, and
- produce documentation that's useful to other coders.
However, they're different in a lot of other ways. This is largely because the two solve different problems: RFC's usually invent new protocols, whereas BIP's amend an existing system.
An RFC with a specific serial number always refers to a specific version of that document. If the RFC changes (and the change isn't something tiny, like spelling), it is assigned a new number.
On the other hand, a BIP is expected to go through multiple major revisions in the Draft stage. Changes are instead tracked through version control.
RFC's have authors, BIP's have champions. This isn't just a difference in terminology. The champion of a BIP needs to convince other people that it's a good idea before it will be accepted, whereas the RFC process is much less restrictive.