This is a purely informative rendering of an RFC that includes verified errata. This rendering may not be used as a reference.

The following 'Verified' errata have been incorporated in this document: EID 21
Network Working Group                                         P. Hoffman
Request for Comments: 4677                                VPN Consortium
FYI: 17                                                        S. Harris
Obsoletes: 3160                                   University of Michigan
Category: Informational                                   September 2006

                 The Tao of IETF: A Novice's Guide to
                  the Internet Engineering Task Force

Status of This Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).


   This document describes the inner workings of IETF meetings and
   Working Groups, discusses organizations related to the IETF, and
   introduces the standards process.  It is not a formal IETF process
   document but instead an informational overview.

Table of Contents

   1. Introduction ....................................................4
   2. Acknowledgements ................................................5
   3. What Is the IETF? ...............................................5
      3.1. Humble Beginnings ..........................................6
      3.2. The Hierarchy ..............................................7
           3.2.1. ISOC (Internet Society) .............................7
           3.2.2. IESG (Internet Engineering Steering Group) ..........8
           3.2.3. IAB (Internet Architecture Board) ..................10
           3.2.4. IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) .........11
           3.2.5. RFC Editor .........................................11
           3.2.6. IETF Secretariat ...................................12
      3.3. IETF Mailing Lists ........................................12
   4. IETF Meetings ..................................................13
      4.1. Registration ..............................................14
      4.2. Take the Plunge and Stay All Week! ........................15
      4.3. Newcomer Training .........................................16
      4.4. Dress Code ................................................16
      4.5. Seeing Spots Before Your Eyes .............................16
      4.6. Terminal Room .............................................17
      4.7. Meals and Other Delights ..................................17
      4.8. Social Event ..............................................18
      4.9. Agenda ....................................................18
      4.10. EDU to the Rescue ........................................19
      4.11. Where Do I Fit In? .......................................19
           4.11.1. IS Managers .......................................19
           4.11.2. Network Operators and ISPs ........................19
           4.11.3. Networking Hardware and Software Vendors ..........20
           4.11.4. Academics .........................................20
           4.11.5. Computer Trade Press ..............................20
      4.12. Proceedings ..............................................21
      4.13. Other General Things .....................................21
   5. Working Groups .................................................22
      5.1. Working Group Chairs ......................................23
      5.2. Getting Things Done in a Working Group ....................24
      5.3. Preparing for Working Group Meetings ......................25
      5.4. Working Group Mailing Lists ...............................26
      5.5. Interim Working Group Meetings ............................27
   6. BOFs ...........................................................27
   7. New to the IETF and Coming to a Meeting? STOP HERE!
      (Temporarily) ..................................................28
   8. RFCs and Internet Drafts .......................................29
      8.1. Getting an RFC Published ..................................29
      8.2. Letting Go Gracefully .....................................30
      8.3. Internet Drafts ...........................................31
           8.3.1. Recommended Reading for Writers ....................32
           8.3.2. Filenames and Other Matters ........................33

      8.4. Standards-Track RFCs ......................................34
           8.4.1. Telling It Like It Is -- Using MUST and SHOULD
                  and MAY ............................................35
           8.4.2. Normative References in Standards ..................36
           8.4.3. IANA Considerations ................................37
           8.4.4. Security Considerations ............................37
           8.4.5. Patents in IETF Standards ..........................37
      8.5. Informational and Experimental RFCs .......................38
   9. How to Contribute to the IETF ..................................39
      9.1. What You Can Do ...........................................39
      9.2. What Your Company Can Do ..................................40
   10. IETF and the Outside World ....................................40
      10.1. IETF and Other Standards Groups ..........................40
      10.2. Press Coverage of the IETF ...............................41
   11. Security Considerations .......................................42
   Appendix A. Related Information ...................................43
      A.1. Why "the Tao"? ............................................43
      A.2. Useful Email Addresses ....................................43
      A.3. Useful Documents and Files ................................44
      A.4. Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in the Tao ................44
   Appendix B. IETF Guiding Principles ...............................45
      B.1. General ...................................................45
      B.2. Management and Leadership .................................45
      B.3. Process ...................................................46
      B.4. Working Groups ............................................46
      B.5. Documents .................................................47
   Informative References ............................................48

1.  Introduction

   Since its early years, attendance at Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF) face-to-face meetings has grown phenomenally.  Many of the
   attendees are new to the IETF at each meeting, and many of those go
   on to become regular attendees.  When the meetings were smaller, it
   was relatively easy for a newcomer to get into the swing of things.
   Today, however, a newcomer meets many more new people, some
   previously known only as the authors of documents or thought-
   provoking email messages.

   This document describes many aspects of the IETF, with the goal of
   explaining to newcomers how the IETF works.  This will give them a
   warm, fuzzy feeling and enable them to make the meeting and the
   Working Group discussions more productive for everyone.

   Of course, it's true that many IETF participants don't go to the
   face-to-face meetings at all.  Instead, they're active on the mailing
   list of various IETF Working Groups.  Since the inner workings of
   Working Groups can be hard for newcomers to understand, this document
   provides the mundane bits of information that newcomers will need in
   order to become active participants.

   The IETF is always in a state of change.  Although the principles in
   this document are expected to remain largely the same over time,
   practical details may well have changed by the time you read it; for
   example, a web-based tool may have replaced an email address for
   requesting some sort of action.

   Many types of IETF documentation are mentioned in the Tao, from BCPs
   to RFCs and FYIs and STDs.  BCPs make recommendations for Best
   Current Practices in the Internet; RFCs are the IETF's main technical
   documentation series, politely known as "Requests for Comments"; FYIs
   provide topical and technical overviews that are introductory or
   appeal to a broad audience; and STDs are RFCs identified as
   "standards".  See Section 8 for more information.

   The acronyms and abbreviations used in this document are usually
   expanded in place and are explained fully in Appendix A.

   This document is intended to obsolete FYI 17, RFC 3160.  See Section
   3.2.5 for information on what it means for one RFC to obsolete

2.  Acknowledgements

   The original version of this document, published in 1994, was written
   by Gary Malkin.  His knowledge of the IETF, insights, and unmatched
   writing style set the standard for this later revision, and his
   contributions to the current document are also much appreciated.
   Paul Hoffman wrote significant portions of this revision and provided
   encouragement, expertise, and much-needed guidance.  Other
   contributors include Brian Carpenter, Scott Bradner, Michael Patton,
   Donald E. Eastlake III, Tony Hansen, Pekka Savola, Lisa Dusseault,
   the IETF Secretariat, members of the User Services Working Group, and
   members of the PESCI design team.

3.  What Is the IETF?

   The Internet Engineering Task Force is a loosely self-organized group
   of people who contribute to the engineering and evolution of Internet
   technologies.  It is the principal body engaged in the development of
   new Internet standard specifications.  The IETF is unusual in that it
   exists as a collection of happenings, but is not a corporation and
   has no board of directors, no members, and no dues; see [BCP95], "A
   Mission Statement for the IETF", for more detail.

   Its mission includes the following:

   o  Identifying, and proposing solutions to, pressing operational and
      technical problems in the Internet

   o  Specifying the development or usage of protocols and the near-term
      architecture to solve such technical problems for the Internet

   o  Making recommendations to the Internet Engineering Steering Group
      (IESG) regarding the standardization of protocols and protocol
      usage in the Internet

   o  Facilitating technology transfer from the Internet Research Task
      Force (IRTF) to the wider Internet community

   o  Providing a forum for the exchange of information within the
      Internet community between vendors, users, researchers, agency
      contractors, and network managers

   The IETF meeting is not a conference, although there are technical
   presentations.  The IETF is not a traditional standards organization,
   although many specifications are produced that become standards.  The
   IETF is made up of volunteers, many of whom meet three times a year
   to fulfill the IETF mission.

   There is no membership in the IETF.  Anyone may register for and
   attend any meeting.  The closest thing there is to being an IETF
   member is being on the IETF or Working Group mailing lists (see
   Section 3.3).  This is where the best information about current IETF
   activities and focus can be found.

   Of course, no organization can be as successful as the IETF is
   without having some sort of structure.  In the IETF's case, that
   structure is provided by other organizations, as described in
   [BCP11], "The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process".
   If you participate in the IETF and read only one BCP, this is the one
   you should read.

   In many ways, the IETF runs on the beliefs of its members.  One of
   the "founding beliefs" is embodied in an early quote about the IETF
   from David Clark: "We reject kings, presidents and voting.  We
   believe in rough consensus and running code".  Another early quote
   that has become a commonly-held belief in the IETF comes from Jon
   Postel: "Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you

   The IETF is really about its members.  Because of the unrestrictive
   membership policies, IETF members come from all over the world and
   from many different parts of the Internet industry.  See Section 4.11
   for information about the ways that many people fit into the IETF.

   One more thing that is important for newcomers: the IETF in no way
   "runs the Internet", despite what some people mistakenly might say.
   The IETF makes standards that are often adopted by Internet users,
   but it does not control, or even patrol, the Internet.  If your
   interest in the IETF is because you want to be part of the overseers,
   you may be badly disappointed by the IETF.

3.1.  Humble Beginnings

   The first IETF meeting was held in January 1986 at Linkabit in San
   Diego, with 21 attendees.  The 4th IETF, held at SRI in Menlo Park in
   October 1986, was the first that non-government vendors attended.
   The concept of Working Groups was introduced at the 5th IETF meeting
   at the NASA Ames Research Center in California in February 1987.  The
   7th IETF, held at MITRE in McLean, Virginia, in July 1987, was the
   first meeting with more than 100 attendees.

   The 14th IETF meeting was held at Stanford University in July 1989.
   It marked a major change in the structure of the IETF universe.  The
   IAB (then Internet Activities Board, now Internet Architecture
   Board), which until that time oversaw many "task forces", changed its
   structure to leave only two: the IETF and the IRTF.  The IRTF is
   tasked to consider long-term research problems in the Internet.  The
   IETF also changed at that time.

   After the Internet Society (ISOC) was formed in January 1992, the IAB
   proposed to ISOC that the IAB's activities should take place under
   the auspices of the Internet Society.  During INET92 in Kobe, Japan,
   the ISOC Trustees approved a new charter for the IAB to reflect the
   proposed relationship.

   The IETF met in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in July 1993.  This was
   the first IETF meeting held in Europe, and the US/non-US attendee
   split was nearly 50/50.  About one in three IETF meetings are now
   held in Europe or Asia, and the number of non-US attendees continues
   to be high -- about 50%, even at meetings held in the United States.

3.2.  The Hierarchy

3.2.1.  ISOC (Internet Society)

   The Internet Society is an international, non-profit, membership
   organization that fosters the expansion of the Internet.  One of the
   ways that ISOC does this is through financial and legal support of
   the other "I" groups described here, particularly the IETF.  ISOC
   provides insurance coverage for many of the people in the IETF
   process and acts as a public relations channel for the times that one
   of the "I" groups wants to say something to the press.  The ISOC is
   one of the major unsung (and under-supported) heroes of the Internet.

   Starting in spring 2005, the ISOC also became home base for the
   IETF's directly employed administrative staff.  This is described in
   more detail in [BCP101], "Structure of the IETF Administrative
   Support Activity (IASA)".  The staff initially includes only an
   Administrative Director (IAD) who works full-time overseeing IETF
   meeting planning, operational aspects of support services (the
   secretariat, IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), and the
   RFC Editor, which are described later in this section), and the
   budget.  He or she (currently it's a he) leads the IETF
   Administrative Support Activity (IASA), which takes care of tasks
   such as collecting meeting fees and paying invoices, and also
   supports the tools for the work of IETF working groups, the IESG, the
   IAB, and the IRTF (more about these later in this section).

   As well as staff, the IASA comprises volunteers and ex officio
   members from the ISOC and IETF leadership.  The IASA and the IAD are
   directed by the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC), which
   is selected by the IETF community.  Here's how all this looks:

                          Internet Society

   Neither the IAD nor the IAOC have any influence over IETF standards
   development, which we turn to now.

3.2.2.  IESG (Internet Engineering Steering Group)

   The IESG is responsible for technical management of IETF activities
   and the Internet standards process.  It administers the process
   according to the rules and procedures that have been ratified by the
   ISOC Trustees.  However, the IESG doesn't do much direct leadership,
   such as the kind you will find in many other standards organizations.
   As its name suggests, its role is to set directions rather than to
   give orders.  The IESG ratifies or corrects the output from the
   IETF's Working Groups (WGs), gets WGs started and finished, and makes
   sure that non-WG drafts that are about to become RFCs are correct.

   The IESG consists of the Area Directors (ADs), who are selected by
   the Nominations Committee (which is usually called "the NomCom") and
   are appointed for two years.  The process for choosing the members of
   the IESG is detailed in [BCP10], "IAB and IESG Selection,
   Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the Nominating and
   Recall Committees".

   The current areas and abbreviations are shown below.

   Area                    Description
   Applications (APP)      Protocols seen by user programs, such as
                           email and the web

   General (GEN)           Catch-all for WGs that don't fit in other
                           areas (which is very few)

   Internet (INT)          Different ways of moving IP packets and
                           DNS information

   Operations and          Operational aspects, network monitoring,
   Management (OPS)        and configuration

   Real-time               Delay-sensitive interpersonal
   Applications and        communications
   Infrastructure (RAI)

   Routing (RTG)           Getting packets to their destinations

   Security (SEC)          Authentication and privacy

   Transport (TSV)         Special services for special packets

   Because the IESG has a great deal of influence on whether Internet
   Drafts become RFCs, many people look at the ADs as somewhat godlike
   creatures.  IETF participants sometimes reverently ask Area Directors
   for their opinion on a particular subject.  However, most ADs are
   nearly indistinguishable from mere mortals and rarely speak from
   mountaintops.  In fact, when asked for specific technical comments,
   the ADs may often defer to members at large whom they feel have more
   knowledge than they do in that area.

   The ADs for a particular area are expected to know more about the
   combined work of the WGs in that area than anyone else.  On the other
   hand, the entire IESG reviews each Internet Draft that is proposed to
   become an RFC.  Any AD may record a "DISCUSS" ballot position against
   a draft if he or she has serious concerns.  If these concerns cannot
   be resolved by discussion, an override procedure is defined such that
   at least two IESG members must express concerns before a draft can be
   blocked from moving forward.  These procedures help ensure that an
   AD's "pet project" doesn't make it onto the standards track if it
   will have a negative effect on the rest of the IETF protocols and
   that an AD's "pet peeve" cannot indefinitely block something.

   This is not to say that the IESG never wields power.  When the IESG
   sees a Working Group veering from its charter, or when a WG asks the
   IESG to make the WG's badly designed protocol a standard, the IESG
   will act.  In fact, because of its high workload, the IESG usually
   moves in a reactive fashion.  It eventually approves most WG requests
   for Internet Drafts to become RFCs, and usually only steps in when
   something has gone very wrong.  Another way to think about this is
   that the ADs are selected to think, not to just run the process.  The
   quality of the IETF standards comes both from the review they get in
   the Working Groups and the scrutiny that the WG review gets from the

   The IETF is run by rough consensus, and it is the IESG that judges
   whether a WG has come up with a result that has community consensus.
   (See Section 5.2 for more information on WG consensus.)  Because of
   this, one of the main reasons that the IESG might block something
   that was produced in a WG is that the result did not really gain
   consensus in the IETF as a whole, that is, among all of the Working
   Groups in all areas.  For instance, the result of one WG might clash
   with a technology developed in a different Working Group.  An
   important job of the IESG is to watch over the output of all the WGs
   to help prevent IETF protocols that are at odds with each other.
   This is why ADs are supposed to review the drafts coming out of areas
   other than their own.

3.2.3.  IAB (Internet Architecture Board)

   The IAB is responsible for keeping an eye on the "big picture" of the
   Internet, and it focuses on long-range planning and coordination
   among the various areas of IETF activity.  The IAB stays informed
   about important long-term issues in the Internet, and it brings these
   topics to the attention of people it thinks should know about them.
   The IAB web site is at

   IAB members pay special attention to emerging activities in the IETF.
   When a new IETF Working Group is proposed, the IAB reviews its
   charter for architectural consistency and integrity.  Even before the
   group is chartered, the IAB members are more than willing to discuss
   new ideas with the people proposing them.

   The IAB also sponsors and organizes the Internet Research Task Force
   and convenes invitational workshops that provide in-depth reviews of
   specific Internet architectural issues.  Typically, the workshop
   reports make recommendations to the IETF community and to the IESG.

   The IAB also:

   o  Approves NomCom's IESG nominations

   o  Acts as the appeals board for appeals against IESG actions

   o  Appoints and oversees the RFC Editor

   o  Approves the appointment of the IANA

   o  Acts as an advisory body to ISOC

   o  Oversees IETF liaisons with other standards bodies

   Like the IESG, the IAB members are selected for multi-year positions
   by the NomCom and are approved by the ISOC Board of Trustees.

3.2.4.  IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority)

   The core registrar for the IETF's activities is the IANA.  Many
   Internet protocols require that someone keep track of protocol items
   that were added after the protocol came out.  Typical examples of the
   kinds of registries needed are for TCP port numbers and MIME types.
   The IAB has designated the IANA organization to perform these tasks,
   and the IANA's activities are financially supported by ICANN, the
   Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

   Ten years ago, no one would have expected to see the IANA mentioned
   on the front page of a newspaper.  IANA's role had always been very
   low key.  The fact that IANA was also the keeper of the root of the
   domain name system forced it to become a much more public entity, one
   that was badly maligned by a variety of people who never looked at
   what its role was.  Nowadays, the IETF is generally no longer
   involved in the IANA's domain name and IP address assignment
   functions, which are overseen by ICANN.

   Even though being a registrar may not sound interesting, many IETF
   participants will testify to how important IANA has been for the
   Internet.  Having a stable, long-term repository run by careful and
   conservative operators makes it much easier for people to experiment
   without worrying about messing things up.  IANA's founder, Jon
   Postel, was heavily relied upon to keep things in order while the
   Internet kept growing by leaps and bounds, and he did a fine job of
   it until his untimely death in 1998.

3.2.5.  RFC Editor

   The RFC Editor edits, formats, and publishes Internet Drafts as RFCs,
   working in conjunction with the IESG.  An important secondary role is
   to provide one definitive repository for all RFCs (see  Once an RFC is published, it is never
   revised.  If the standard it describes changes, the standard will be
   re-published in another RFC that "obsoletes" the first.

   One of the most popular misconceptions in the IETF community is that
   the role of the RFC Editor is performed by IANA.  In fact, the RFC
   Editor is a separate job, although both the RFC Editor and IANA
   involved the same people for many years.  The IAB approves the
   organization that will act as RFC Editor and the RFC Editor's general
   policy.  The RFC Editor is funded by IASA and can be contacted by
   email at

3.2.6.  IETF Secretariat

   There are, in fact, a few people who are paid to maintain the IETF.
   The IETF Secretariat provides day-to-day logistical support, which
   mainly means coordinating face-to-face meetings and running the
   IETF-specific mailing lists (not the WG mailing lists).  The
   Secretariat is also responsible for keeping the official Internet
   Drafts directory up to date and orderly, maintaining the IETF web
   site, and helping the IESG do its work.  It provides various tools
   for use by the community and the IESG.  The IETF Secretariat is under
   contract to IASA, which in turn is financially supported by the fees
   of the face-to-face meetings.

3.3.  IETF Mailing Lists

   Anyone who plans to attend an IETF meeting should join the IETF
   announcement mailing list,  This is
   where all of the meeting information, RFC announcements, and IESG
   Protocol Actions and Last Calls are posted.  People who would like to
   "get technical" may also join the IETF general discussion list,  This is where discussions of cosmic significance are
   held (Working Groups have their own mailing lists for discussions
   related to their work).  Another mailing list, mailto:i-d-, announces each new version of every Internet Draft
   as it is published.

   Subscriptions to these and other IETF-run mailing lists are handled
   by a program called "mailman".  Mailman can be somewhat finicky about
   the format of subscription messages, and sometimes interacts poorly
   with email programs that make all email messages into HTML files.
   Mailman will treat you well, however, if you format your messages
   just the way it likes.

   To join the IETF announcement list, for example, send email to  Enter the word 'subscribe'
   (without the quotes) in the Subject line of the message and in the
   message body.  To join the IETF discussion list, send email to
   <> and enter the word 'subscribe' as
   explained above.  If you decide to withdraw from either list, use the
   word 'unsubscribe'.  Your messages to mailman should have nothing
   other than the commands 'subscribe' or 'unsubscribe' in them.  Both
   lists are archived on the IETF web site,

   Do not, ever, under any circumstances, for any reason, send a request
   to join a list to the list itself!  The thousands of people on the
   list don't need, or want, to know when a new person joins.
   Similarly, when changing email addresses or leaving a list, send your
   request only to the "-request" address, not to the main list.  This
   means you!!

   The IETF discussion list is unmoderated.  This means that all can
   express their opinions about issues affecting the Internet.  However,
   it is not a place for companies or individuals to solicit or
   advertise, as noted in [BCP45], "IETF Discussion List Charter".  It
   is a good idea to read the whole RFC (it's short!) before posting to
   the IETF discussion list.  Actually, the list does have two
   "sergeants at arms" who keep an eye open for inappropriate postings,
   and there is a process for banning persistent offenders from the
   list, but fortunately this is extremely rare.

   Only the Secretariat and certain IETF office holders can approve
   messages sent to the announcement list, although those messages can
   come from a variety of people.

   Even though the IETF mailing lists "represent" the IETF membership at
   large, it is important to note that attending an IETF meeting does
   not mean you'll be automatically added to either mailing list.

4.  IETF Meetings

   The computer industry is rife with conferences, seminars,
   expositions, and all manner of other kinds of meetings.  IETF face-
   to-face meetings are nothing like these.  The meetings, held three
   times a year, are week-long "gatherings of the tribes" whose primary
   goal is to reinvigorate the WGs to get their tasks done, and whose
   secondary goal is to promote a fair amount of mixing between the WGs
   and the areas.  The cost of the meetings is paid by the people
   attending and by the corporate host for each meeting (if any),
   although IASA kicks in additional funds for things such as the audio
   broadcast of some Working Group sessions.

   For many people, IETF meetings are a breath of fresh air when
   compared to the standard computer industry conferences.  There is no
   exposition hall, few tutorials, and no big-name industry pundits.
   Instead, there is lots of work, as well as a fair amount of time for
   socializing.  IETF meetings are of little interest to sales and
   marketing folks, but of high interest to engineers and developers.

   Most IETF meetings are held in North America, because that's where
   most of the participants are from; however, meetings are held on
   other continents about once every year.  The past few meetings have

   had about 1,300 attendees.  There have been more than 65 IETF
   meetings so far, and a list of upcoming meetings is available on the
   IETF web pages,

   Newcomers to IETF face-to-face meetings are often in a bit of shock.
   They expect them to be like other standards bodies, or like computer
   conferences.  Fortunately, the shock wears off after a day or two,
   and many new attendees get quite animated about how much fun they are
   having.  One particularly jarring feature of recent IETF meetings is
   the use of wireless Internet connections throughout the meeting
   space.  It is common to see people in a WG meeting apparently reading
   email or perusing the web during presentations they find
   uninteresting.  Remember, however, that they may also be consulting
   the drafts under discussion, looking up relevant material online, or
   following another meeting using instant messaging.

4.1.  Registration

   To attend an IETF meeting, you have to register and you have to pay
   the registration fee.  The meeting site and advance registration are
   announced about two months ahead of the meeting -- earlier if
   possible.  An announcement goes out via email to the IETF-announce
   mailing list, and information is posted on the IETF web site,, that same day.

   To pre-register, you must submit your registration on the web.  You
   may pre-register and pre-pay, pre-register and return to the web site
   later to pay with a credit card, pre-register and pay on-site at the
   meeting, or register and pay on-site.  To get a lower registration
   fee, you must pay by the early registration deadline (about one week
   before the meeting).  The registration fee covers all of the week's
   meetings, the Sunday evening reception (cash bar), daily continental
   breakfasts, and afternoon coffee and snack breaks.

   Credit card payments on the web are encrypted and secure, or, if you
   prefer, you can use Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) to send your payment
   information to the Registrar (

   Registration is open throughout the week of the meeting.  However,
   the Secretariat highly recommends that attendees arrive for early
   registration, usually beginning at noon on Sunday and continuing
   throughout the Sunday evening reception.  The reception is a popular
   event where you can get a small bite to eat and socialize with other
   early arrivals.

   Registered attendees (and there aren't any other kind) receive a
   registration packet.  It contains much useful information, including
   a general orientation sheet, the most recent agenda, and a name tag.

   Attendees who pre-paid will also find their receipt in their packet.
   It's worth noting that neither attendee names and addresses nor IETF
   mailing lists are ever offered for sale.

   In your registration packet is a sheet titled "Note Well".  You
   should indeed read it carefully because it lays out the rules for
   IETF intellectual property rights.

   If you need to leave messages for other attendees, you can do so at
   the cork boards that are often near the registration desk.  These
   cork boards will also have last-minute meeting changes and room

   You can also turn in lost-and-found items to the registration desk.
   At the end of the meeting, anything left over from the lost and found
   will usually be turned over to the hotel or brought back to the
   Secretariat's office.

   Incidentally, the IETF registration desk is often a convenient place
   to arrange to meet people.  If someone says "meet me at
   registration", they almost always mean the IETF registration desk,
   not the hotel registration desk.

4.2.  Take the Plunge and Stay All Week!

   IETF meetings last from Monday morning through Friday lunchtime.
   Associated meetings often take place on the preceding or following
   weekends.  It is best to plan to be present the whole week, to
   benefit from cross-fertilization between Working Groups and from
   corridor discussions.  As noted below, the agenda is fluid, and there
   have been many instances of participants missing important sessions
   due to last-minute scheduling changes after their travel plans were
   fixed.  Being present the whole week is the only way to avoid this

   If you cannot find meetings all week to interest you, you can still
   make the most of the IETF meeting by working between sessions.  Most
   IETF attendees carry laptop computers, and it is common to see many
   of them in the terminal room or in the hallways working during
   meeting sessions.  There is often good wireless Internet coverage in
   many places of the meeting venue (restaurants, coffee shops, and so
   on), so catching up on email when not in meetings is a fairly common
   task for IETFers.

4.3.  Newcomer Training

   Newcomers are encouraged to attend the Newcomer Training, which is
   especially designed for first-time attendees.  The orientation is
   organized and conducted by the IETF EDU team and is intended to
   provide useful introductory information.  The session covers what's
   in the attendee packets, what all the dots on name tags mean, the
   structure of the IETF, and many other essential and enlightening
   topics for new IETFers.

   Immediately following the Newcomers' Training is the IETF Standards
   Process Orientation.  This session demystifies much of the standards
   process by explaining what stages a document has to pass through on
   its way to becoming a standard, and what has to be done to advance to
   the next stage.

   There is usually ample time at the end for questions.  The
   Secretariat provides hard copies of the slides of the "IETF Structure
   and Internet Standards Process" presentation -- these very useful
   slides are also available online at under "Educational

   The orientation is normally held on Sunday afternoon, along with
   tutorials of interest to newcomers and old-timers alike.  Check the
   agenda for exact times and locations.

4.4.  Dress Code

   Since attendees must wear their name tags, they must also wear shirts
   or blouses.  Pants or skirts are also highly recommended.  Seriously
   though, many newcomers are often embarrassed when they show up Monday
   morning in suits, to discover that everybody else is wearing T-
   shirts, jeans (shorts, if weather permits) and sandals.  There are
   those in the IETF who refuse to wear anything other than suits.
   Fortunately, they are well known (for other reasons) so they are
   forgiven this particular idiosyncrasy.  The general rule is "dress
   for the weather" (unless you plan to work so hard that you won't go
   outside, in which case, "dress for comfort" is the rule!).

4.5.  Seeing Spots Before Your Eyes

   Some of the people at the IETF will have a little colored dot on
   their name tag.  A few people have more than one.  These dots
   identify people who are silly enough to volunteer to do a lot of
   extra work.  The colors have the meanings shown here.

   Color     Meaning
   Blue      Working Group/BOF chair
   Green     Host group
   Red       IAB member
   Yellow    IESG member
   Orange    Nominating Committee member

   (Members of the press wear orange-tinted badges.)

   Local hosts are the people who can answer questions about the
   terminal room, restaurants, and points of interest in the area.

   It is important that newcomers to the IETF not be afraid to strike up
   conversations with people who wear these dots.  If the IAB and IESG
   members and Working Group and BOF chairs didn't want to talk to
   anybody, they wouldn't be wearing the dots in the first place.

4.6.  Terminal Room

   One of the most important (depending on your point of view) things
   the host does is provide Internet access for the meeting attendees.
   In general, wired and wireless connectivity is excellent.  This is
   entirely due to the Olympian efforts of the local hosts and their
   ability to beg, borrow, and steal.  The people and companies that
   donate their equipment, services, and time are to be heartily
   congratulated and thanked.

   Although preparation far in advance of the meeting is encouraged,
   there may be some unavoidable "last minute" things that can be
   accomplished in the terminal room.  It may also be useful to people
   who need to make trip reports or status reports while things are
   still fresh in their minds.

   You need to be wearing your badge in order to get into the terminal
   room.  The terminal room provides lots of power strips, lots of
   Ethernet ports for laptops, wireless (for the people who don't need
   Ethernet but want power), usually a printer for public use, and
   sometimes workstations.  What it doesn't provide are terminals; the
   name is historical.  The help desk in the terminal room is a good
   place to ask questions about network failures, although they might
   point you off to different networking staff.

4.7.  Meals and Other Delights

   Marshall Rose once remarked that the IETF was a place to go for "many
   fine lunches and dinners".  Although it is true that some people eat
   very well at the IETF, they find the food on their own; lunches and

   dinners are not included in the registration fee.  The Secretariat
   does provide appetizers at the Sunday evening reception (not meant to
   be a replacement for dinner), continental breakfast every morning,
   and (best of all) cookies, brownies, and other yummies during
   afternoon breaks.

   If you prefer to get out of the hotel for meals, the local host
   usually provides a list of places to eat within easy reach of the
   meeting site.

4.8.  Social Event

   Another of the most important things organized and managed by the
   host is the IETF social event.  Sometimes, the social event is a
   computer- or high-tech-related event.  At one Boston IETF, for
   example, the social was dinner at the Computer Museum.  Other times,
   the social might be a dinner cruise or a trip to an art gallery.
   Note, however, that not all IETF meetings have social events.

   Newcomers to the IETF are encouraged to attend the social event.  All
   are encouraged to wear their name tags and leave their laptops
   behind.  The social event is designed to give people a chance to meet
   on a social, rather than technical, level.

4.9.  Agenda

   The agenda for the IETF meetings is a very fluid thing.  It is
   typically sent to the IETF announcement list a few times prior to the
   meeting, and it is also available on the web.  The final agenda is
   included in the registration packets.  Of course, "final" in the IETF
   doesn't mean the same thing as it does elsewhere in the world.  The
   final agenda is simply the version that went to the printer.  The
   Secretariat will post agenda changes on the bulletin board near the
   IETF registration desk (not the hotel registration desk).  These late
   changes are not capricious: they are made "just in time" as session
   chairs and speakers become aware of unanticipated clashes.  The IETF
   is too dynamic for agendas to be tied down weeks in advance.

   Assignments for breakout rooms (where the Working Groups and BOFs
   meet) and a map showing the room locations are also shown on the
   agenda.  Room assignments can change as the agenda changes.  Some
   Working Groups meet multiple times during a meeting, and every
   attempt is made to have a Working Group meet in the same room for
   each session.

4.10.  EDU to the Rescue

   If certain aspects of the IETF still mystify you (even after you
   finish reading the Tao), you'll want to drop in on the on-site
   training offered by the Education (EDU) team.  These informal classes
   are designed for newcomers and seasoned IETFers alike.  In addition
   to the Newcomer Training, the EDU team offers workshops for document
   editors and Working Group chairs, plus an in-depth security tutorial
   that's indispensable for both novices and longtime IETF attendees.
   EDU sessions are generally held on Sunday afternoons.  You'll find
   more about the EDU team at

4.11.  Where Do I Fit In?

   The IETF is different things to different people.  There are many
   people who have been very active in the IETF who have never attended
   an IETF meeting.  You should not feel obligated to come to an IETF
   meeting just to get a feel for the IETF.  The following guidelines
   (based on stereotypes of people in various industries) might help you
   decide whether you actually want to come and, if so, what might be
   the best use of your time at your first meeting.

4.11.1.  IS Managers

   As discussed throughout this document, an IETF meeting is nothing
   like any trade show you have attended.  IETF meetings are singularly
   bad places to go if your intention is to find out what will be hot in
   the Internet industry next year.  You can safely assume that going to
   Working Group meetings will confuse you more than it will help you
   understand what is happening, or will be happening, in the industry.

   This is not to say that no one from the industry should go to IETF
   meetings.  As an IS manager, you might want to consider sending
   specific people who are responsible for technologies that are under
   development in the IETF.  As these people read the current Internet
   Drafts and the traffic on the relevant Working Group lists, they will
   get a sense of whether or not their presence would be worthwhile for
   your company or for the Working Groups.

4.11.2.  Network Operators and ISPs

   Running a network is hard enough without having to grapple with new
   protocols or new versions of the protocols with which you are already
   dealing.  If you work for the type of network that is always using
   the very latest hardware and software, and you are following the
   relevant Working Groups in your copious free time, you could
   certainly find participating in the IETF valuable.  A fair amount of
   IETF work also covers many other parts of operations of ISPs and

   large enterprises, and the input of operators is quite valuable to
   keep this work vibrant and relevant.  Many of the best operations
   documents from the IETF come from real-world operators, not vendors
   and academics.

4.11.3.  Networking Hardware and Software Vendors

   The image of the IETF being mostly ivory tower academics may have
   been true in the past, but the jobs of typical attendees are now in
   industry.  In most areas of the IETF, employees of vendors are the
   ones writing the protocols and leading the Working Groups, so it's
   completely appropriate for vendors to attend.  If you create Internet
   hardware or software, and no one from your company has ever attended
   an IETF meeting, it behooves you to come to a meeting if for no other
   reason than to tell the others how relevant the meeting was or was
   not to your business.

   This is not to say that companies should close up shop during IETF
   meeting weeks so everyone can go to the meeting.  Marketing folks,
   even technical marketing folks, are usually safe in staying away from
   the IETF as long as some of the technical people from the company are
   at the meeting.  Similarly, it isn't required, or likely useful, for
   everyone from a technical department to go, particularly if they are
   not all reading the Internet Drafts and following the Working Group
   mailing lists.  Many companies have just a few designated meeting
   attendees who are chosen for their ability to do complete and useful
   trip reports.  In addition, many companies have internal coordination
   efforts and a standards strategy.  If a company depends on the
   Internet for some or all of its business, the strategy should
   probably cover the IETF.

4.11.4.  Academics

   IETF meetings are often excellent places for computer science folks
   to find out what is happening in the way of soon-to-be-deployed
   protocols.  Professors and grad students (and sometimes overachieving
   undergrads) who are doing research in networking or communications
   can get a wealth of information by following Working Groups in their
   specific fields of interest.  Wandering into different Working Group
   meetings can have the same effect as going to symposia and seminars
   in your department.  Researchers are also, of course, likely to be
   interested in IRTF activities.

4.11.5.  Computer Trade Press

   If you're a member of the press and are considering attending IETF,
   we've prepared a special section of the Tao just for you -- please
   see Section 10.2.

4.12.  Proceedings

   IETF proceedings are compiled in the two months following each
   meeting and are available on the web and on CD.  Be sure to look
   through a copy -- the proceedings are filled with information about
   IETF that you're not likely to find anywhere else.  For example,
   you'll find snapshots of most WG charters at the time of the meeting,
   giving you a better understanding of the evolution of any given

   The proceedings sometimes start with an informative (and highly
   entertaining) message.  Each volume contains the final (hindsight)
   agenda, an IETF overview, area and Working Group reports, and slides
   from the protocol and technical presentations.  The Working Group
   reports and presentations are sometimes incomplete, if the materials
   haven't been turned in to the Secretariat in time for publication.

   An attendee list is also included, which contains names and
   affiliations as provided on the registration form.  For information
   about obtaining copies of the proceedings, see the web listing at

4.13.  Other General Things

   The IETF Secretariat, and IETFers in general, are very approachable.
   Never be afraid to approach someone and introduce yourself.  Also,
   don't be afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to jargon
   and acronyms.

   Hallway conversations are very important.  A lot of very good work
   gets done by people who talk together between meetings and over
   lunches and dinners.  Every minute of the IETF can be considered work
   time (much to some people's dismay).

   A "bar BOF" is an unofficial get-together, usually in the late
   evening, during which a lot of work gets done over drinks.  Bar BOFs
   spring up in many different places around an IETF meeting, such as
   restaurants, coffee shops, and (if we are so lucky) pools.

   It's unwise to get between a hungry IETFer (and there isn't any other
   kind) and coffee break brownies and cookies, no matter how
   interesting a hallway conversation is.

   IETFers are fiercely independent.  It's safe to question opinions and
   offer alternatives, but don't expect an IETFer to follow orders.

   The IETF meetings, and the plenary session in particular, are not
   places for vendors to try to sell their wares.  People can certainly
   answer questions about their company and its products, but bear in
   mind that the IETF is not a trade show.  This does not preclude
   people from recouping costs for IETF-related T-shirts, buttons, and
   pocket protectors.

   There is always a "materials distribution table" near the
   registration desk.  This desk is used to make appropriate information
   available to the attendees (e.g., copies of something discussed in a
   Working Group session, descriptions of online IETF-related
   information).  Please check with the Secretariat before placing
   materials on the desk; the Secretariat has the right to remove
   material that he or she feels is not appropriate.

   If you rely on your laptop during the meeting, it is a good idea to
   bring an extra battery.  It is not always easy to find a spare outlet
   in some meeting rooms, and using the wireless access can draw down
   your battery faster than you might expect.  If you are sitting near a
   power-strip in a meeting room, expect to be asked to plug and unplug
   for others around you.  Many people bring an extension cord with
   spare outlets, which is a good way to make friends with your neighbor
   in a meeting.  If you need an outlet adapter, you should try to buy
   it in advance because the one you need is usually easier to find in
   your home country.

5.  Working Groups

   The vast majority of the IETF's work is done in many Working Groups;
   at the time of this writing, there are about 115 different WGs.  (The
   term "Working Group" is often seen capitalized, but probably not for
   any good reason.)  [BCP25], "IETF Working Group Guidelines and
   Procedures", is an excellent resource for anyone participating in WG

   A WG is really just a mailing list with a bit of adult supervision.
   You "join" the WG by subscribing to the mailing list; all mailing
   lists are open to anyone.  Anyone can post to a WG mailing list,
   although most lists require non-subscribers to have their postings
   moderated.  Each Working Group has one or two chairs.

   More important, each WG has a charter that the WG is supposed to
   follow.  The charter states the scope of discussion for the Working
   Group, as well as its goals.  The WG's mailing list and face-to-face
   meetings are supposed to focus on just what is in the charter and not
   to wander off on other "interesting" topics.  Of course, looking a
   bit outside the scope of the WG is occasionally useful, but the large
   majority of the discussion should be on the topics listed in the

   charter.  In fact, some WG charters actually specify what the WG will
   not do, particularly if there were some attractive but nebulous
   topics brought up during the drafting of the charter.  The list of
   all WG charters makes interesting reading for folks who want to know
   what the different Working Groups are supposed to be doing.

5.1.  Working Group Chairs

   The role of the WG chairs is described in both [BCP11] and [BCP25].
   The IETF EDU team also offers special training for WG chairs on
   Sunday afternoons preceding IETF.

   As volunteer cat-herders, a chair's first job is to determine the WG
   consensus goals and milestones, keeping the charter up to date.
   Next, often with the help of WG secretaries or document editors, the
   chair must manage WG discussion, both on the list and by scheduling
   meetings when appropriate.  Sometimes discussions get stuck on
   contentious points and the chair may need to steer people toward
   productive interaction and then declare when rough consensus has been
   met and the discussion is over.  Sometimes chairs also manage
   interactions with non-WG participants or the IESG, especially when a
   WG document approaches publication.  Chairs have responsibility for
   the technical and non-technical quality of WG output.  As you can
   imagine given the mix of secretarial, interpersonal, and technical
   demands, some Working Group chairs are much better at their jobs than

   When a WG has fulfilled its charter, it is supposed to cease
   operations.  (Most WG mailing lists continue on after a WG is closed,
   still discussing the same topics as the Working Group did.)  In the
   IETF, it is a mark of success that the WG closes up because it
   fulfilled its charter.  This is one of the aspects of the IETF that
   newcomers who have experience with other standards bodies have a hard
   time understanding.  However, some WG chairs never manage to get
   their WG to finish, or keep adding new tasks to the charter so that
   the Working Group drags on for many years.  The output of these aging
   WGs is often not nearly as useful as the earlier products, and the
   messy results are sometimes attributed to what's called "degenerative
   Working Group syndrome".

   There is an official distinction between WG drafts and independent
   drafts, but in practice, sometimes there is not much procedural
   difference.  For example, many WG mailing lists also discuss
   independent drafts (at the discretion of the WG chair).  Procedures
   for Internet Drafts are covered in much more detail later in this

   WG chairs are strongly advised to go to the WG leadership training
   that usually happens on the Sunday preceding the IETF meeting.  There
   is also usually a WG chairs lunch mid-week during the meeting where
   chair-specific topics are presented and discussed.  If you're
   interested in what they hear there, take a look at the slides at

5.2.  Getting Things Done in a Working Group

   One fact that confuses many novices is that the face-to-face WG
   meetings are much less important in the IETF than they are in most
   other organizations.  Any decision made at a face-to-face meeting
   must also gain consensus on the WG mailing list.  There are numerous
   examples of important decisions made in WG meetings that are later
   overturned on the mailing list, often because someone who couldn't
   attend the meeting pointed out a serious flaw in the logic used to
   come to the decision.  Finally, WG meetings aren't "drafting
   sessions", as they are in some other standards bodies: in the IETF,
   drafting is done elsewhere.

   Another aspect of Working Groups that confounds many people is the
   fact that there is no formal voting.  The general rule on disputed
   topics is that the Working Group has to come to "rough consensus",
   meaning that a very large majority of those who care must agree.  The
   exact method of determining rough consensus varies from Working Group
   to Working Group.  Sometimes consensus is determined by "humming" --
   if you agree with a proposal, you hum when prompted by the chair; if
   you disagree, you keep your silence.  Newcomers find it quite
   peculiar, but it works.  It is up to the chair to decide when the
   Working Group has reached rough consensus.

   The lack of formal voting has caused some very long delays for some
   proposals, but most IETF participants who have witnessed rough
   consensus after acrimonious debates feel that the delays often result
   in better protocols.  (And, if you think about it, how could you have
   "voting" in a group that anyone can join, and when it's impossible to
   count the participants?)  Rough consensus has been defined in many
   ways; a simple version is that it means that strongly held objections
   must be debated until most people are satisfied that these objections
   are wrong.

   Some Working Groups have complex documents or a complex set of
   documents (or even both).  Shaking all the bugs out of one or more
   complex documents is a daunting task.  In order to help relieve this
   problem, some Working Groups use "issue trackers", which are online
   lists of the open issues with the documents, the status of the issue,
   proposed fixes, and so on.  Using an issue tracker not only helps the
   WG not to forget to do something important, it helps when someone
   asks a question later about why something was done in a particular

   Another method that some Working Groups adopt is to have a Working
   Group "secretary" to handle the juggling of the documents and the
   changes.  The secretary can run the issue tracker if there is one, or
   can simply be in charge of watching that all of the decisions that
   are made on the mailing list are reflected in newer versions of the

   One thing you might find helpful, and possibly even entertaining,
   during Working Group sessions is to follow the running commentary on
   the Jabber room associated with that Working Group.  The running
   commentary is often used as the basis for the minutes of the meeting,
   but it can also include jokes, sighs, and other extraneous chatter.
   Jabber is a free, streaming XML technology mainly used for instant
   messaging.  You can find pointers to Jabber clients for many
   platforms at  The Jabber chatrooms have the
   name of the Working Group followed by "".  Those
   rooms are, in fact, available year-round, not just during IETF
   meetings, and some are used by active Working Group participants
   during protocol development.

5.3.  Preparing for Working Group Meetings

   The most important thing that everyone (newcomers and seasoned
   experts) should do before coming to a face-to-face meeting is to read
   the Internet Drafts and RFCs ahead of time.  WG meetings are
   explicitly not for education: they are for developing the group's
   documents.  Even if you do not plan to say anything in the meeting,
   you should read the group's documents before attending so you can
   understand what is being said.

   It's up to the WG chair to set the meeting agenda, usually a few
   weeks in advance.  If you want something discussed at the meeting, be
   sure to let the chair know about it.  The agendas for all the WG
   meetings are available in advance (see, where 'xx' is the
   meeting number), but many WG chairs are lax (if not totally
   negligent) about turning them in.

   The Secretariat only schedules WG meetings a few weeks in advance,
   and the schedule often changes as little as a week before the first
   day.  If you are only coming for one WG meeting, you may have a hard
   time booking your flight with such little notice, particularly if the
   Working Group's meeting changes schedule.  Be sure to keep track of
   the current agenda so you can schedule flights and hotels.  But, when
   it comes down to it, you probably shouldn't be coming for just one WG
   meeting.  It's likely that your knowledge could be valuable in a few
   WGs, assuming that you've read the drafts and RFCs for those groups.

   If you are on the agenda at a face-to-face meeting, you should
   probably come with a few slides prepared.  But don't come with a
   tutorial; people are supposed to read the drafts in advance.
   Projectors for laptop-based presentations are available in all the
   meeting rooms.

   And here's a tip for your slides in WG or plenary presentations:
   don't put your company's logo on every one, even though that is a
   common practice outside the IETF.  The IETF frowns on this kind of
   corporate advertising (except for the meeting sponsor in the plenary
   presentation), and most presenters don't even put their logo on their
   opening slide.  The IETF is about technical content, not company
   boosterism.  Slides are often plain black and white for legibility,
   with color used only when it really adds clarity.  Again, the content
   is the most important part of the slides, not how it's presented.

5.4.  Working Group Mailing Lists

   As we mentioned earlier, the IETF announcement and discussion mailing
   lists are the central mailing lists for IETF activities.  However,
   there are many other mailing lists related to IETF work.  For
   example, every Working Group has its own discussion list.  In
   addition, there are some long-term technical debates that have been
   moved off of the IETF list onto lists created specifically for those
   topics.  It is highly recommended that you follow the discussions on
   the mailing lists of the Working Groups that you wish to attend.  The
   more work that is done on the mailing lists, the less work that will
   need to be done at the meeting, leaving time for cross pollination
   (i.e., attending Working Groups outside one's primary area of
   interest in order to broaden one's perspective).

   The mailing lists also provide a forum for those who wish to follow,
   or contribute to, the Working Groups' efforts, but can't attend the
   IETF meetings.  That's why IETF procedures require all decisions to
   be confirmed "on the list" and you will often hear a WG chair say,
   "Let's take it to the list" to close a discussion.

   Many IETF discussion lists use either mailman or another list
   manager, Majordomo.  They usually have a "-request" address that
   handles the administrative details of joining and leaving the list.
   (See Section 3.3 for more information on mailman.)  It is generally
   frowned upon when such administrivia appears on the discussion
   mailing list.

   Most IETF discussion lists are archived.  That is, all of the
   messages sent to the list are automatically stored on a host for
   anonymous HTTP or FTP access.  Many such archives are listed online
   at or they are in a web-based
   archive.  If you don't find the list you're looking for, send a
   message to the list's "-request" address (not to the list itself!).
   The Working Group charter listings at are a useful source;
   note that the page has links to old, concluded WGs.

   Some WG lists apply size limits on messages, particularly to avoid
   large documents or presentations landing in everyone's mailbox.  It
   is well worth remembering that participants do not all have broadband
   connections (and even those with broadband connections sometimes get
   their mail on slow connections when they travel), so shorter messages
   are greatly appreciated.  Documents can be posted as Internet Drafts;
   presentation material can be posted to a web site controlled by the
   sender or sent personally to people who ask for it.  Some WGs set up
   special sites to hold these large documents so that senders can post
   there first, then just send to the list the URL of the document.

5.5.  Interim Working Group Meetings

   Working Groups sometimes hold interim meetings between IETFs.
   Interim meetings aren't a substitute for IETF meetings, however -- a
   group can't decide to skip a meeting in a location they're not fond
   of and meet in Cancun (or even someplace mundane) three weeks later,
   for example.  Interim meetings require AD approval and need to be
   announced at least one month in advance.  Location and timing need to
   allow fair access for all participants.  Like regular IETF meetings,
   someone needs to take notes and send them to, and the group needs to take attendance.
   Decisions tentatively made during an interim WG meeting still must be
   ratified on the mailing list.

6.  BOFs

   In order to form a Working Group, you need a charter and someone who
   is able to be chair.  In order to get those things, you need to get
   people interested so that they can help focus the charter and
   convince an Area Director that the project is worthwhile.  A face-

   to-face meeting is useful for this.  In fact, very few WGs get
   started by an Area Director; most start after a face-to-face BOF
   because attendees have expressed interest in the topic.

   A Birds of a Feather (BOF) meeting has to be approved by the Area
   Director in the relevant area before it can be scheduled.  If you
   think you really need a new WG, approach an AD informally with your
   proposal and see what he or she thinks.  The next step is to request
   a meeting slot at the next face-to-face meeting.  Of course, you
   don't need to wait for that meeting to get some work done, such as
   setting up a mailing list and starting to discuss a charter.

   BOF meetings have a very different tone than do WG meetings.  The
   purpose of a BOF is to make sure that a good charter with good
   milestones can be created and that there are enough people willing to
   do the work needed in order to create standards.  Some BOFs have
   Internet Drafts already in process, whereas others start from

   An advantage of having a draft before the BOF is to help focus the
   discussion.  On the other hand, having a draft might tend to limit
   what the other folks in the BOF want to do in the charter.  It's
   important to remember that most BOFs are held in order to get support
   for an eventual Working Group, not to get support for a particular

   Many BOFs don't turn into WGs for a variety of reasons.  A common
   problem is that not enough people can agree on a focus for the work.
   Another typical reason is that the work wouldn't end up being a
   standard -- if, for example, the document authors don't really want
   to relinquish change control to a WG.  (We'll discuss change control
   later in this document.)  Only two meetings of a BOF can be scheduled
   on a particular subject; either a WG has to form or the topic should
   be dropped.

7.  New to the IETF and Coming to a Meeting? STOP HERE! (Temporarily)

   If you're new to the IETF and this is the only reference you plan to
   read before coming to the meeting, stop here -- at least temporarily.
   Then, on your flight home, read the rest of the Tao.  By that time
   you'll be ready to get actively involved in the Working Groups that
   interested you at the meeting, and the Tao will get you started on
   your way.

   If you're planning to participate in the IETF remotely, through
   reading email lists and the proceedings, read on!

8.  RFCs and Internet Drafts

   If you're a new IETF participant and are looking for a particular RFC
   or Internet Draft, go to the RFC Editor's web pages, http://www.rfc-  That site also has links to other RFC
   collections, many with search capabilities.  If you know the number
   of the RFC you're looking for, go to the IETF RFC pages,  For Internet Drafts, the best resource
   is the IETF web site,, where you can
   search by title and keyword.

8.1.  Getting an RFC Published

   One of the most common questions seasoned IETFers hear from newcomers
   is, "How do I get an IETF standard published?"  A much better
   question is, "Should I write an IETF standard?" since the answer is
   not always "yes."  If you do decide to try to write a document that
   becomes an IETF standard, be warned that the overall process may be
   arduous, even if the individual steps are fairly straightforward.
   Lots of people get through the process unscathed, though, and there's
   plenty of written guidance that helps authors emerge with their ego
   more or less intact.

   Every IETF standard is published as an RFC (a "Request for Comments,"
   but everyone just calls them RFCs), and every RFC starts out as an
   Internet Draft (often called an "I-D").  The basic steps for getting
   something published as an IETF standard are as follows:

   1.  Publish the document as an Internet Draft.

   2.  Receive comments on the draft.

   3.  Edit your draft based on the comments.

   4.  Repeat steps 1 through 3 a few times.

   5.  Ask an Area Director to take the draft to the IESG (if it's an
       individual submission).  If the draft is an official Working
       Group product, the WG chair asks the AD to take it to the IESG.

   6.  Make any changes deemed necessary by the IESG (this might include
       giving up on becoming a standard).

   7.  Wait for the document to be published by the RFC Editor.

   A much more complete explanation of these steps is contained in
   [BCP9], "The Internet Standards Process".  Those who write drafts
   that they hope will become IETF standards must read BCP 9 so that

   they can follow the path of their document through the process.  BCP
   9 (and various other documents that update it) goes into great detail
   on a topic that is very often misunderstood, even by seasoned IETF
   participants: different types of RFCs go through different processes
   and have different rankings.    There are seven kinds of RFCs: 

   o  Proposed standards
   o  Draft standards
   o  Internet standards (sometimes called "full standards")
   o  Best Current Practice documents
   o  Informational documents
   o  Experimental protocols
   o  Historic documents
EID 21 (Verified) is as follows:

Section: 8.1

Original Text:

 There are six kinds of RFCs:

   o  Proposed standards
   o  Draft standards
   o  Internet standards (sometimes called "full standards")
   o  Informational documents
   o  Experimental protocols
   o  Historic documents

Corrected Text:

  There are seven kinds of RFCs:

   o  Proposed standards
   o  Draft standards
   o  Internet standards (sometimes called "full standards")
   o  Best Current Practice documents
   o  Informational documents
   o  Experimental protocols
   o  Historic documents
This enumeration omits the "Best Current Practice" documents.
The approval process for BCPs is quite different than Informational
RFCs. Because BCPs are so important, including their role in publishing
the the IETF Standards Process itself, they shoudl be included in this
Only the first three (proposed, draft, and full) are standards within the IETF. A good summary of this can be found in the aptly titled [RFC1796], "Not All RFCs Are Standards". There are also three sub-series of RFCs, known as FYIs, BCPs, and STDs. The For Your Information RFC sub-series was created to document overviews and topics that are introductory or that appeal to a broad audience; however, that series has not been added to in a long time. Best Current Practice documents describe the application of various technologies in the Internet. The STD RFC sub-series was created to identify RFCs that do in fact specify Internet standards. Some STDs are actually sets of more than one RFC, and the "standard" designation applies to the whole set of documents. 8.2. Letting Go Gracefully The biggest reason some people do not want their documents put on the IETF standards track is that they must give up change control of the protocol. That is, as soon as you propose that your protocol become an IETF standard, you must fully relinquish control of the protocol. If there is general agreement, parts of the protocol can be completely changed, whole sections can be ripped out, new things can be added, and the name can be changed. Some authors find it very hard to give up control of their pet protocol. If you are one of those people, don't even think about trying to get your protocol to become an IETF standard. On the other hand, if your goal is the best standard possible with the widest implementation, then you might find the IETF process to your liking. Incidentally, the change control on Internet standards doesn't end when the protocol is put on the standards track. The protocol itself can be changed later for a number of reasons, the most common of which is that implementors discover a problem as they implement the standard. These later changes are also under the control of the IETF, not the editors of the standards document. IETF standards exist so that people will use them to write Internet programs that interoperate. They don't exist to document the (possibly wonderful) ideas of their authors, nor do they exist so that a company can say, "We have an IETF standard". If a standards- track RFC only has one implementation (whereas two are required for it to advance on the standards track), it was probably a mistake to put it on the standards track in the first place. 8.3. Internet Drafts First things first. Every document that ends up in the RFC repository starts life as an Internet Draft. Internet Drafts are tentative documents -- they're meant for readers to comment on, so authors can mull over those comments and decide which ones to incorporate in the draft. In order to remind folks of their tentativeness, Internet Drafts are automatically removed from the online directories after six months. They are most definitely not standards or even specifications. As [BCP9] says: "An Internet Draft is NOT a means of 'publishing' a specification; specifications are published through the RFC mechanism.... Internet Drafts have no formal status, and are subject to change or removal at any time. Under no circumstances should an Internet Draft be referenced by any paper, report, or Request-for-Proposal, nor should a vendor claim compliance with an Internet Draft". You can always tell a person who doesn't understand the IETF (or is intentionally trying to fool people) when he or she brags about having published an Internet Draft; it takes no significant effort. When you submit an Internet Draft, you give some publication rights to the IETF. This is so that your Internet Draft is freely available to everyone who wants to read and comment on it. The rights you do and don't give to the IETF are described in [BCP78], "IETF Rights in Contributions". There is a very useful checking tool at Using this tool before you turn in an Internet Draft will help prevent the draft from being rejected due to errors in form and formatting. An I-D should have approximately the same format as an RFC. Contrary to many people's beliefs, an I-D does not need to look exactly like an RFC, but if you can use the same formatting procedures used by the RFC Editor when you create your I-Ds, it will simplify the RFC Editor's work when your draft is published as an RFC. [RFC2223], "Instructions to RFC Authors", describes the nroff formatting used by the RFC Editor. There is also a tool called "xml2rfc", available from, that takes XML-formatted text and turns it into a valid Internet Draft. An Internet Draft can be either a Working Group draft or an individual submission. Working Group drafts are usually reviewed by the Working Group before being accepted as a WG item, although the chairs have the final say. If you're interested in checking the status of a particular draft, or can't remember its exact name, or want to find out which drafts a WG is working on, two handy tools are available. The "Internet Drafts Database Interface", at, lets you search for a draft by author, Working Group, date, or filename. The "I-D Tracker", at, is especially useful for authors who want to track the progress of their draft as it makes its way through the publication process. There are some informal rules for Internet Draft naming that have evolved over the years. Internet Drafts that revise existing RFCs often have draft names with "bis" in them, meaning "again" or "twice"; for example, a draft might be called "draft-someone- rfc2345bis-00.txt". 8.3.1. Recommended Reading for Writers Before you create the first draft of your Internet Draft, you should read four documents: o More important than just explaining formatting, [RFC2223] also explains what needs to be in an Internet Draft before it can become an RFC. This document describes all the sections and notices that will need to be in your document, and it's good to have them there from the beginning so that readers aren't surprised when you put them in later versions. o [BCP22], "Guide for Internet Standards Writers", provides tips that will help you write a standard that leads to interoperability. For instance, it explains how to choose the right number of protocol options, how to respond to out-of-spec behavior, and how to show state diagrams. o The online "Guidelines to Authors of Internet Drafts",, has up-to-date information about the process for turning in Internet Drafts, as well as the most current boilerplate information that has to be included in each Internet Draft. o When you think you are finished with the draft process and are ready to request that the draft become an RFC, you should definitely read "Checklist for Internet Drafts (I-Ds) Submitted for RFC Publication",, a list of common issues that have been known to stop documents in the IESG. In fact, you should probably read that document well before you are finished, so that you don't have to make a bunch of last-minute changes. Also, you should visit the IETF Tools web pages,, where you'll find pointers to other tools that will automate some of your work for the IETF. 8.3.2. Filenames and Other Matters When you're ready to turn in your Internet Draft, send it to the Internet Drafts administrator at There is a real person at the other end of this mail address, whose job is to make sure you've included the minimum items you need for the Internet Draft to be published. When you submit the first version of the draft, you also tell the draft administrator your proposed filename for the draft. If the draft is an official Working Group product, the name will start with "draft-ietf-" followed by the designation of the WG, followed by a descriptive word or two, followed by "00.txt". For example, a draft in the S/MIME WG about creating keys might be named "draft-ietf-smime-keying-00.txt". If it's not the product of a Working Group, the name will start with "draft-" and the last name of one of the authors followed by a descriptive word or two, followed by "00.txt". For example, a draft that someone named Smith wrote might be named "draft-smith-keying-00.txt". If a draft is an individual submission but relates to a particular Working Group, authors sometimes follow their name with the name of the Working Group, such as "draft-smith-smime-keying-00.txt". You are welcome to suggest names; however, it is up to the Internet Drafts administrator (and, if it is an official WG draft, the WG chair) to come up with the filename. If you follow the naming guidelines given at, chances are quite good that your suggested filename will be fine. After the first edition of a draft, the number in the filename is incremented; for instance, the second edition of the S/MIME draft named above would be "draft-ietf-smime-keying-01.txt". Note that there are cases where the filename changes after one or more versions, such as when a personal effort is pulled into a Working Group; when a draft has its filename changed, the number reverts to -00. Be sure to let the Internet Drafts administrator know the previous name of the draft when such a name change occurs so that the databases can be kept accurate. 8.4. Standards-Track RFCs The procedure for creating and advancing a standard is described in [BCP9]. After an Internet Draft has been sufficiently discussed and there is rough consensus that what it says would be a useful standard, it is presented to the IESG for consideration. If the draft is an official WG draft, the WG chair sends it to the appropriate Area Director after it has gone through Working Group last call. If the draft is an individual submission, the draft's author or editor submits it to the appropriate Area Director. BCP 9 also describes the appeals process for people who feel that a Working Group chair, an AD, or the IESG has made the wrong decision in considering the creation or advancement of a standard. After the I-D is submitted to the IESG, the IESG announces an IETF- wide last call. This helps get the attention of people who weren't following the progress of the draft, and it can sometimes cause further changes to the draft. It is also a time when people in the WG who feel that they weren't heard can make their comments to everyone. The IETF last call is two weeks for drafts coming from WGs and four weeks for individual submissions. If the IESG approves the draft to become an Internet standard, they ask the RFC Editor to publish it as a Proposed standard. After it has been a Proposed standard for at least six months, the RFC's author (or the appropriate WG chair) can ask for it to become a Draft standard. Before that happens, however, someone needs to convince the appropriate Area Director that there are at least two independent, interoperable implementations of each part of the standard. This is a good test of the usefulness of the standard as a whole, as well as an excellent way to check if the standard was really readable. A few things typically happen at this point. First, it's common to find that some of the specifications in the standard need to be reworded because one implementor thought they meant one thing whereas another implementor thought they meant something else. Another common occurrence is that none of the implementations actually tried to implement a few of the features of the standard; these features get removed not just because no one tested them but also because they weren't needed. Don't be surprised if a particular standard doesn't progress from Proposed to Draft. In fact, most of the standards in common use are Proposed standards and never move forward. This may be because no one took the time to try to get them to Draft, or some of the normative references in the standard are still at Proposed standard, or it may be that everyone found more important things to do. A few years after a document has been a Draft standard, it can become an Internet standard, also known as "full standard" (it can happen in as little as four months, but this is rare). This doesn't happen often, and it is usually reserved for protocols that are absolutely required for the Internet to function. The IESG goes over the document with a fine-tooth comb and looks for evidence of widespread deployment before making a Draft standard an Internet standard. 8.4.1. Telling It Like It Is -- Using MUST and SHOULD and MAY Writing specifications that get implemented the way you want is a bit of an art. You can keep the specification very short, with just a list of requirements, but that tends to cause implementors to take too much leeway. If you instead make the specification very wordy with lots of suggestions, implementors tend to miss the requirements (and often disagree with your suggestions anyway). An optimal specification is somewhere in between. One way to make it more likely that developers will create interoperable implementations of standards is to be clear about what's being mandated in a specification. Early RFCs used all kinds of expressions to explain what was needed, so implementors didn't always know which parts were suggestions and which were requirements. As a result, standards writers in the IETF generally agreed to limit their wording to a few specific words with a few specific meanings. [STD3], "Requirements for Internet Hosts -- Application and Support", written way back in 1989, had a short list of words that had appeared to be useful, namely, "must", "should", and "may". These definitions were updated and further refined in [BCP14], "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", which is widely referenced in current Internet standards. BCP 14 also specifically defines "must not" and "should not", and it lists a few synonyms for the words defined. In a standard, in order to make it clear that you're using the definitions from BCP 14, you should do two things. First, refer to BCP 14 (although most people refer to it as RFC 2119, because that's what BCP 14 tells you to do), so that the reader knows how you're defining your words. Second, you should point out which instances of the words you are using come from BCP 14. The accepted practice for this is to capitalize the words. That is why you see "MUST" and "SHOULD" capitalized in IETF standards. BCP 14 is a short document, and it should be read by everyone who is reading or writing IETF standards. Although the definitions of "must" and "must not" are fairly clear, the definitions of "should" and "should not" cause a great deal of discussion in many WGs. When reviewing an Internet Draft, the question is often raised, "Should that sentence have a MUST or a SHOULD in it?" This is, indeed, a very good question, because specifications shouldn't have gratuitous MUSTs, but also should not have SHOULDs where a MUST is needed for interoperability. This goes to the crux of the question of over- specifying and under-specifying requirements in standards. 8.4.2. Normative References in Standards One aspect of writing IETF standards that trips up many novices (and quite a few long-time IETF folks) is the rule about how to make "normative references" to non-IETF documents or to other RFCs in a standard. A normative reference is a reference to a document that must be followed in order to implement the standard. A non-normative reference (sometimes called an "informative reference") is one that is helpful to an implementor but is not needed. An IETF standard may make a normative reference to any other standards-track RFC that is at the same standards level or higher, or to any "open standard" that has been developed outside the IETF. The "same level or higher" rule means that before a standard can move from Proposed to Draft, all of the RFCs for which there is a normative reference must also be at Draft or Internet standard. This rule gives implementors assurance that everything in a Draft standard or Internet standard is quite stable, even the things referenced outside the standard. This can also delay the publication of the Draft or Internet standard by many months (sometimes even years) while the other documents catch up. There is no hard-and-fast rule about what is an "open standard", but generally this means a stable standard that anyone can get a copy of (although they might have to pay for it) and that was made by a generally recognized standards group. If the external standard changes, you have to reference the particular instantiation of that standard in your specification, as with a designation of the date of the standard. Some external standards bodies don't make old standards available, which is a problem for IETF standards that need to be used in the future. When in doubt, a draft author should ask the WG chair or appropriate Area Director if a particular external standard can be used in an IETF standard. 8.4.3. IANA Considerations More and more IETF standards require the registration of various protocol parameters, such as named options in the protocol. As we noted in Section 3.2.4, the main registry for all IETF standards has long been IANA. Because of the large and diverse kinds of registries that standards require, IANA needs to have specific information about how to register parameters, what not to register, who (if anyone) will decide what is to be registered, and so on. Anyone writing an Internet standard that may need a new IANA registry or new values in a current IANA registry needs to read [BCP26], "Guidelines for Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs", which describes how RFC authors should properly ask for IANA to start or take over a registry. IANA also maintains registries that were started long before BCP 26 was produced. 8.4.4. Security Considerations One thing that's required in every RFC and Internet Draft is a "Security Considerations" section. This section should describe any known vulnerabilities of the protocol, possible threats, and mechanisms or strategies to address them. Don't gloss over this section -- in particular, don't say, "Here's our protocol, if you want security, just use IPsec". This won't do at all, because it doesn't answer the question of how IPsec interacts with your protocol, and vice versa. Be sure to check with your Working Group chair if you're not sure how to handle this section in your draft. See [BCP72], "Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations", for more information on writing good security considerations sections. 8.4.5. Patents in IETF Standards The problems of intellectual property have cropped up more and more often in the past few years, particularly with respect to patents. The goal of the IETF is to have its standards widely used and validated in the marketplace. If creating a product that uses a standard requires getting a license for a patent, people are less likely to implement the standard. Not surprisingly, then, the general rule has been "use good non-patented technology where possible". Of course, this isn't always possible. Sometimes patents appear after a standard has been established. Sometimes there's a patent on something that is so valuable that there isn't a non-patented equivalent. Sometimes the patent holder is generous and promises to give all implementors of a standard a royalty-free license to the patent, thereby making it almost as easy to implement as it would have been if no patent existed. The IETF's methods for dealing with patents in standards are a subject of much debate. The official rules for all intellectual property rights (IRP) in IETF documents (not just patents) are covered in [BCP78] and [BCP79], "Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology". Everyone who participates in IETF Working Groups will probably find these documents interesting because they lay out the rules that everyone agrees to follow. Patent holders who freely allow their patents to be used by people implementing IETF standards often get a great deal of goodwill from the folks in the IETF. Such generosity is more common than you might think. For example, RFC 1822 is a license from IBM for one of its security patents, and the security community has responded very favorably to IBM for this (whereas a number of other companies have made themselves pariahs for their intractability on their security patents). If you are writing an Internet Draft and you know of a patent that applies to the technology you're writing about, don't list the patent in the document. Instead, consult the IETF IPR Disclosure Page linked off the main IETF web site to determine how to proceed. Intellectual property rights aren't mentioned in RFCs because RFCs never change after they are published, but knowledge of IPR can change at any time. Therefore, an IPR list in an RFC could be incomplete and mislead the reader. [BCP9] provides specific text that should be added to RFCs where the author knows of IPR issues. 8.5. Informational and Experimental RFCs As we noted earlier, not all RFCs are standards. In fact, plenty of important RFCs are not on the standards track at all. Currently, there are two designations for RFCs that are not meant to be standards: Informational, like the Tao, and Experimental. (There is actually a third designation, Historic, but that is reserved for documents that were on the standards track and have been removed due to lack of current use, or that more recent thinking indicates the technology is actually harmful to the Internet.) The role of Informational RFCs is often debated in the IETF. Many people like having them, particularly for specifications that were created outside the IETF but are referenced by IETF documents. They are also useful for specifications that are the precursors for work being done by IETF Working Groups. On the other hand, some people refer to Informational RFCs as "standards" even though the RFCs are not standards, usually to fool the gullible public about something that the person is selling or supporting. When this happens, the debate about Informational RFCs is renewed. Experimental RFCs are for specifications that may be interesting, but for which it is unclear if there will be much interest in implementing them, or whether they will work once deployed. That is, a specification might solve a problem, but if it is not clear that many people think that the problem is important, or think that they will bother fixing the problem with the specification, the specification might be labeled an Experimental RFC. If, later, the specification becomes popular (or proves that it works well), it can be re-issued as a standards-track RFC. Experimental RFCs are also used to get people to experiment with a technology that looks like it might be standards-track material, but for which there are still unanswered questions. The IESG has created guidelines on how it chooses between Informational and Experimental status: If you are creating a document that you think might become an Experimental RFC, knowing the current thinking will help you justify your proposed choice. 9. How to Contribute to the IETF 9.1. What You Can Do *Read* -- Review the Internet Drafts in your area of expertise and comment on them in the Working Groups. Participate in the discussion in a friendly, helpful fashion, with the goal being the best Internet standards possible. Listen much more than you speak. If you disagree, debate the technical issues: never attack the people. *Implement* -- Write programs that use the current Internet standards. The standards aren't worth much unless they are available to Internet users. Implement even the "minor" standards, since they will become less minor if they appear in more software. Report any problems you find with the standards to the appropriate Working Group so that the standard can be clarified in later revisions. One of the oft-quoted tenets of the IETF is "running code wins", so you can help support the standards you want to become more widespread by creating more running code. *Write* -- Edit or co-author Internet Drafts in your area of expertise. Do this for the benefit of the Internet community, not to get your name (or, even worse, your company's name) on a document. Draft authors are subject to all kinds of technical (and sometimes personal) criticism; receive it with equanimity and use it to improve your draft in order to produce the best and most interoperable standard. 9.2. What Your Company Can Do *Share* -- Avoid proprietary standards. If you are an implementor, exhibit a strong preference for IETF standards. If the IETF standards aren't as good as the proprietary standards, work to make the IETF standards better. If you're a purchaser, avoid products that use proprietary standards that compete with the open standards of the IETF and tell the companies you buy from that you are doing so. *Open Up* -- If your company controls a patent that is used in an IETF standard, convince the company to make the patent available at no cost to everyone who is implementing the standard. In the past few years, patents have caused a lot of serious problems for Internet standards because they prevent some companies from being able to freely implement the standards. Fortunately, many companies have generously offered unlimited licenses for particular patents in order to help the IETF standards flourish. These companies are usually rewarded with positive publicity for the fact that they are not as greedy or short-sighted as other patent-holders. *Join* -- Become a member of ISOC. More important, urge any company that has benefited from the Internet to become a corporate member of ISOC, since this has the greatest financial benefit for the group. It will, of course, also benefit the Internet as a whole. 10. IETF and the Outside World 10.1. IETF and Other Standards Groups As much as many IETF participants would like to think otherwise, the IETF does not exist in a standards vacuum. There are many (perhaps too many) other standards organizations whose decisions affect the Internet. There are also a fair number of standards bodies that ignored the Internet for a long time and now want to get a piece of the action. In general, the IETF tries to have cordial relationships with other significant standards bodies. This isn't always easy, since many other bodies have very different structures than the IETF does, and the IETF is mostly run by volunteers who would probably prefer to write standards rather than meet with representatives from other bodies. Even so, some other standards bodies make a great effort to interact well with the IETF despite the obvious cultural differences. At the time of this writing, the IETF has some liaisons with large standards bodies, including the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), the W3C, the Unicode Consortium, and ISO/IEC JTC1 (Joint Technical Committee of the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission). As stated in the IAB Charter [BCP39], "Liaisons are kept as informal as possible and must be of demonstrable value in improving the quality of IETF specifications". In practice, the IETF prefers liaisons to take place directly at Working Group level, with formal relationships and liaison documents in a backup role. Some of these liaison tasks fall to the IESG, whereas others fall to the IAB. Detail-oriented readers will learn much about the formal methods for dealing with other standards bodies in [BCP102], "IAB Processes for Management of IETF Liaison Relationships", and [BCP103], "Procedures for Handling Liaison Statements to and from the IETF". The best place to check to see whether the IETF has any formal liaison at all is the list of IETF liaisons, The list shows that there are many different liaisons to ISO/IEC JTC1 subcommittees. 10.2. Press Coverage of the IETF Given that the IETF is one of the best-known bodies that is helping move the Internet forward, it's natural for the computer press (and even the trade press) to want to cover its actions. In recent years, a small number of magazines have assigned reporters and editors to cover the IETF in depth over a long period of time. These reporters have ample scars from articles that they got wrong, incorrect statements about the status of Internet Drafts, quotes from people who are unrelated to the IETF work, and so on. Major press errors fall into two categories: saying that the IETF is considering something when in fact there is just an Internet Draft in a Working Group, and saying that the IETF approved something when all that happened was that an Informational RFC was published. In both cases, the press is not fully to blame for the problem, since they are usually alerted to the story by a company trying to get publicity for a protocol that they developed or at least support. Of course, a bit of research by the reporters would probably get them in contact with someone who could straighten them out, such as a WG chair or an Area Director. The default press contact for the IETF is the IAD, who can be reached at The fact that those reporters who've gotten it wrong once still come back to IETF meetings shows that it is possible to get it right eventually. However, IETF meetings are definitely not for reporters who are naive about the IETF process (although if you are a reporter the fact that you are reading this document is a very good sign!). Furthermore, if you think that you'll get a hot story from attending an IETF meeting, you are likely to be disappointed. Considering all this, it's not surprising that some IETFers would prefer to have the press stay as far away from meetings as possible. Having a bit of press publicity for protocols that are almost near completion and will become significant in the industry in the next year can be a good thing. However, it is the rare reporter who can resist over-hyping a nascent protocol as the next savior for the Internet. Such stories do much more harm than good, both for the readers of the article and for the IETF. The main reason why a reporter might want to attend an IETF meeting is not to cover hot technologies (since that can be done in the comfort of your office by reading the mailing lists) but to meet people face-to-face. Unfortunately, the most interesting people are the ones who are also the busiest during the IETF meeting, and some folks have a tendency to run away when they see a press badge. However, IETF meetings are excellent places to meet and speak with document authors and Working Group chairs; this can be quite valuable for reporters who are covering the progress of protocols. Reporters who want to find out about "what the IETF is doing" on a particular topic would be well-advised to talk to more than one person who is active on that topic in the IETF, and should probably try to talk to the WG chair in any case. It's impossible to determine what will happen with a draft by looking at the draft or talking to the draft's author. Fortunately, all WGs have archives that a reporter can look through for recent indications about what the progress of a draft is; unfortunately, few reporters have the time or inclination to do this kind of research. Because the IETF doesn't have a press liaison, magazines or newspapers that run a story with errors won't hear directly from the IETF and therefore often won't know what they did wrong, so they might easily do it again later. 11. Security Considerations Section 8.4.4 explains why each RFC is required to have a Security Considerations section and gives some idea of what it should and should not contain. Other than that information, this document does not touch on Internet security. Appendix A. Related Information A.1. Why "the Tao"? Pronounced "dow", Tao is the basic principle behind the teachings of Lao-tse, a Chinese master. Its familiar symbol is the black-and- white yin-yang circle. Taoism conceives the universe as a single organism, and human beings as interdependent parts of a cosmic whole. Tao is sometimes translated "the way", but according to Taoist philosophy the true meaning of the word cannot be expressed in words. A.2. Useful Email Addresses Some useful email addresses are listed here. These addresses may change from time to time, and it's a good idea to check the IETF web pages for the correct address before sending your mail. Address Description ----------------------------------------------------------------- Requests for agenda slots at IETF meetings Requests for things to be done when you don't know exactly where to send the request General questions about the IETF Questions about registration, meeting locations, and fees Requests to join/leave IETF lists Questions for the Secretariat Questions or comments about the IETF web site Internet Draft submissions and queries Where to send Working Group minutes and slides for the IETF Proceedings Internet Assigned Numbers Authority RFC Editor Incoming liaison statements from other organizations Online upload pages are planned for the future to facilitate submission of Internet Drafts, Proceedings, and Liaison statements. A.3. Useful Documents and Files The IETF web site,, is the best source for information about meetings, Working Groups, Internet Drafts, RFCs, IETF email addresses, and much more. Click on "Additional Information" to find a variety of helpful links. Internet Drafts and other documents are also available in the "ietf" directory on anonymous FTP sites worldwide. For a listing of these sites, see Check the IESG web pages,, to find up- to-date information about drafts processed, RFCs published, and documents in Last Call, as well as the monthly IETF status reports. A.4. Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in the Tao Some of the acronyms and abbreviations from this document are listed below. Term Meaning ----------------------------------------------------------------- AD Area Director BCP Best Current Practice BOF Birds of a Feather FAQ Frequently Asked Question(s) FYI For Your Information (RFC) IAB Internet Architecture Board IAD IETF Administrative Director IANA Internet Assigned Numbers Authority IAOC IETF Administrative Oversight Committee IASA IETF Administrative Support Activity ICANN Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, I-D Internet Draft IESG Internet Engineering Steering Group, IETF Internet Engineering Task Force, INET Internet Society Conference, IPR Intellectual property rights IRTF Internet Research Task Force, ISO International Organization for Standardization, ISO-IEC/JTC1 Joint Technical Committee of the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission, ISOC Internet Society, ITU International Telecommunication Union, RFC Request for Comments STD Standard (RFC) W3C World Wide Web Consortium, WG Working Group Appendix B. IETF Guiding Principles If you've gotten this far in the Tao, you've learned a lot about how the IETF works. What you'll find in this appendix summarizes much of what you've read and adds a few new points to ponder. Be sure to read through all the principles; taken as a whole, they'll give you a new slant on what makes the IETF work. B.1. General P1. The IETF works by an open process and by rough consensus. This applies to all aspects of the operation of the IETF, including creation of IETF documents and decisions on the processes that are used. But the IETF also observes experiments and running code with interest, and this should also apply to the operational processes of the organization. P2. The IETF works in areas where it has, or can find, technical competence. P3. The IETF depends on a volunteer core of active participants. P4. Membership of the IETF or of its WGs is not fee-based or organizationally defined, but is based upon self-identification and active participation by individuals. B.2. Management and Leadership P5. The IETF recognizes leadership positions and grants power of decision to the leaders, but decisions are subject to appeal. P6. Delegation of power and responsibility are essential to the effective working of the IETF. As many individuals as possible will be encouraged to take on leadership of IETF tasks. P7. Dissent, complaint, and appeal are a consequence of the IETF's nature and should be regarded as normal events, but ultimately it is a fact of life that certain decisions cannot be effectively appealed. P8. Leadership positions are for fixed terms (although we have no formal limitation on the number of terms that may be served). P9. It is important to develop future leaders within the active community. P10. A community process is used to select the leadership. P11. Leaders are empowered to make the judgment that rough consensus has been demonstrated. Without formal membership, there are no formal rules for consensus. B.3. Process P12. Although the IETF needs clear and publicly documented process rules for the normal cases, there should be enough flexibility to allow unusual cases to be handled according to common sense. We apply personal judgment and only codify when we're certain. (But we do codify who can make personal judgments.) P13. Technical development work should be carried out by tightly chartered and focused Working Groups. P14. Parts of the process that have proved impractical should be removed or made optional. B.4. Working Groups P15. Working Groups (WGs) should be primarily responsible for the quality of their output, and therefore for obtaining early review; WG chairs as WG leaders, backed up by the IETF leadership, should act as a quality backstop. P16. WGs should be primarily responsible for assessing the negative impact of their work on the Internet as a whole, and therefore for obtaining cross-area review; the IETF leadership should act as a cross-area backstop. P17. Early review of documents is more effective in dealing with major problems than late review. P18. Area Directors (ADs) are responsible for guiding the formation and chartering of WGs, for giving them direction as necessary, and for terminating them. P19. WG chairs are responsible for ensuring that WGs execute their charters, meet their milestones, and produce deliverables that are ready for publication. P20. ADs are responsible for arranging backstop review and final document approval. B.5. Documents P21. IETF documents often start as personal drafts, may become WG drafts, and are approved for permanent publication by a leadership body independent of the WG or individuals that produced them. P22. IETF documents belong to the community, not to their authors. But authorship is recognized and valued, as are lesser contributions than full authorship. P23. Technical quality and correctness are the primary criteria for reaching consensus about documents. P24. IETF specifications may be published as Informational, Experimental, Standards Track, or Best Current Practice. P25. IETF Standards Track specifications are not considered to be satisfactory standards until interoperable independent implementations have been demonstrated. (This is the embodiment of the "running code" slogan.) But, on legal advice, the IETF does not take responsibility for interoperability tests and does not certify interoperability. P26. IETF processes are currently published as Best Current Practice documents. P27. Useful information that is neither a specification nor a process may be published as Informational. P28. Obsolete or deprecated specifications and processes may be downgraded to Historic. P29. The standards track should distinguish specifications that have been demonstrated to interoperate. P30. Standards Track and Best Current Practice documents must be subject to IETF wide rough consensus (Last Call process). WG rough consensus is normally sufficient for other documents. P31. Substantive changes made after a document leaves a WG must be referred back to the WG. P32. The IETF determines requirements for publication and archiving of its documents. Informative References [BCP9] Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996. [BCP10] Galvin, J., "IAB and IESG Selection, Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the Nominating and Recall Committees", BCP 10, RFC 3777, June 2004. [BCP11] Hovey, R. and S. Bradner, "The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process", BCP 11, RFC 2028, October 1996. [BCP14] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997. [BCP22] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997. [BCP25] Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 2418, September 1998. [BCP26] Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs", BCP 26, RFC 2434, October 1998. [BCP39] Internet Architecture Board and B. Carpenter, "Charter of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)", BCP 39, RFC 2850, May 2000. [BCP45] Harris, S., "IETF Discussion List Charter", BCP 45, RFC 3005, November 2000. [BCP72] Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, "Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations", BCP 72, RFC 3552, July 2003. [BCP78] Bradner, S., "IETF Rights in Contributions", BCP 78, RFC 3978, March 2005. [BCP79] Bradner, S., "Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology", BCP 79, RFC 3979, March 2005. [BCP95] Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF", BCP 95, RFC 3935, October 2004. [BCP101] Austein, R. and B. Wijnen, "Structure of the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA)", BCP 101, RFC 4071, April 2005. [BCP102] Daigle, L. and Internet Architecture Board, "IAB Processes for Management of IETF Liaison Relationships", BCP 102, RFC 4052, April 2005. [BCP103] Trowbridge, S., Bradner, S., and F. Baker, "Procedures for Handling Liaison Statements to and from the IETF", BCP 103, RFC 4053, April 2005. [RFC1796] Huitema, C., Postel, J., and S. Crocker, "Not All RFCs are Standards", RFC 1796, April 1995. [RFC2223] Postel, J. and J. Reynolds, "Instructions to RFC Authors", RFC 2223, October 1997. [STD3] Braden, R., "Requirements for Internet Hosts - Application and Support", STD 3, RFC 1123, October 1989. Authors' Addresses Paul Hoffman VPN Consortium 127 Segre Place Santa Cruz, CA 95060 US EMail: Susan Harris 1722 Chandler Road Ann Arbor, MI 48104 US EMail: Full Copyright Statement Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006). 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