The Internet is for End Users

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (individual)
Last updated 2019-06-09
Stream (None)
Intended RFC status (None)
Formats plain text xml pdf html bibtex
Stream Stream state (No stream defined)
Consensus Boilerplate Unknown
RFC Editor Note (None)
IESG IESG state I-D Exists
Telechat date
Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
Network Working Group                                      M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                             June 10, 2019
Intended status: Informational
Expires: December 12, 2019

                     The Internet is for End Users


   This document explains why the IETF should consider end-users as its
   highest priority concern, and how.

Note to Readers

   The issues list for this draft can be found at [1].

   The most recent (often, unpublished) draft is at [2].

   Recent changes are listed at
   pages/for-the-users [3].

   See also the draft's current status in the IETF datatracker, at [4].

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on December 12, 2019.

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 1]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2019 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  What Are "End Users"? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Why End Users Should Be Prioritised . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  How End Users are Prioritised . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     7.1.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     7.2.  URIs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Appendix A.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8

1.  Introduction

   Many who participate in the IETF are most comfortable making what we
   believe to be purely technical decisions; our process is defined to
   favor technical merit, through our well-known mantra of "rough
   consensus and running code."

   Nevertheless, the running code that results from our process (when
   things work well) inevitably has an impact beyond technical
   considerations, because the underlying decisions afford some uses
   while discouraging others; while we believe we are making purely
   technical decisions, in reality, we are defining what is possible on
   the Internet itself.  Or, in the words of Lawrence Lessig [CODELAW]:

      Ours is the age of cyberspace.  It, too, has a regulator... This
      regulator is code -- the software and hardware that make
      cyberspace as it is.  This code, or architecture, sets the terms
      on which life in cyberspace is experienced.  It determines how
      easy it is to protect privacy, or how easy it is to censor speech.

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 2]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

      It determines whether access to information is general or whether
      information is zoned.  It affects who sees what, or what is
      monitored.  In a host of ways that one cannot begin to see unless
      one begins to understand the nature of this code, the code of
      cyberspace regulates.

   This impact has become significant.  As the Internet increasingly
   mediates essential functions in societies, it has unavoidably become
   profoundly political; it has helped people overthrow governments and
   revolutionize social orders, control populations and reveal secrets.
   It has created wealth for some individuals and companies while
   destroying others'.

   All of this raises the question: Who do we go through the pain of
   gathering rough consensus and writing running code for?

   After all, there are a variety of identifiable parties in the broader
   Internet community that standards can provide benefit to, such as
   (but not limited to) end users, network operators, schools, equipment
   vendors, specification authors, specification implementers, content
   owners, governments, non-governmental organisations, social
   movements, employers, and parents.

   Successful specifications will provide some benefit to all of the
   relevant parties because standards do not represent a zero-sum game.
   However, there are sometimes situations where there is a need to
   balance the benefits of a decision between two (or more) parties.

   In these situations, when one of those parties is an "end user" of
   the Internet - for example, a person using a Web browser, mail
   client, or another agent that connects to the Internet - this
   document argues that the IETF should protect their interests over
   those of parties.

   Section 2 explains what is meant by "end users"; Section 3 outlines
   why they should be prioritised in IETF work, and Section 4 describes
   how that can be done.

2.  What Are "End Users"?

   In this document, "end users," means non-technical users whose
   activities IETF protocols are designed to support, sometimes
   indirectly.  Thus, the end user of a protocol to manage routers is
   not a router administrator; it is the people using the network that
   the router operates within.

   End users are not necessarily a homogenous group; they might have
   different views of how the Internet should work (from their

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 3]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

   viewpoint) and might occupy several roles, such as a seller, buyer,
   publisher, reader, service provider and consumer.  An end user might
   be browsing the Web, monitoring remote equipment, playing a game,
   video conferencing with colleagues, sending messages to friends, or
   performing an operation in a remote surgery theatre.

   Likewise, an individual end user might have many interests (e.g.,
   privacy, security, flexibility, reachability) that are sometimes in

   A person whose interests we need to consider might not directly be
   using a specific system connected to the Internet.  For example, if a
   child is using a browser, the interests of that child's parents or
   guardians may be relevant; if a person is pictured in a photograph,
   that person may have an interest in systems that process that
   photograph, or if a person entering a room triggers sensors that send
   data to the Internet than that person's interests may be involved in
   our deliberations about how those sensor readings are handled.

   While such less-direct interactions between people and the Internet
   may be harder to evaluate, such people are nonetheless included in
   this document's concept of end-user.

3.  Why End Users Should Be Prioritised

   While focused on technical matters, the IETF is not neutral about the
   purpose of its work in developing the Internet; in "A Mission
   Statement for the IETF" [RFC3935], the definitions include:

      The IETF community wants the Internet to succeed because we
      believe that the existence of the Internet, and its influence on
      economics, communication, and education, will help us to build a
      better human society.

   and later in Section 2.1, "The Scope of the Internet" it says:

      The Internet isn't value-neutral, and neither is the IETF.  We
      want the Internet to be useful for communities that share our
      commitment to openness and fairness.  We embrace technical
      concepts such as decentralized control, edge-user empowerment and
      sharing of resources, because those concepts resonate with the
      core values of the IETF community.  These concepts have little to
      do with the technology that's possible, and much to do with the
      technology that we choose to create.

   In other words, the IETF is concerned with developing and maintaining
   the Internet to promote the social good, and the society that the
   IETF is attempting to improve is composed of end users, along with

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 4]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

   groups of them forming businesses, governments, clubs, civil society
   organizations, and other institutions.

   Merely advancing the measurable success of the Internet (e.g.,
   deployment size, bandwidth, latency, number of users) is not
   adequate; doing so ignores how technology so often used as a lever to
   assert power over users, rather than empower them.

   Beyond fulfilling the IETF's mission, prioritising end users also
   helps to ensure the long-term health of the Internet.  Many aspects
   of the Internet are user-focused, and it will (deservedly) lose their
   trust if prioritises others' interests.  Because one of the primary
   mechanisms of the Internet is the "network effect", such trust is
   crucial to maintain; the Internet itself depends upon it.

4.  How End Users are Prioritised

   The IETF community does not have any unique insight into what is
   "good for end users."  To inform its decisions, it has a
   responsibility to interact with the greater Internet community,
   soliciting input from others and considering the issues raised.

   End users are typically not technical experts; their experience of
   the Internet is often based upon inadequate models of its properties,
   operation, and administration.  Therefore, the IETF should primarily
   engage with those who understand how changes to it will affect end
   users; in particular civil society organisations, as well as
   governments, businesses and other groups representing some aspect of
   end-user interests.

   The onus is on us to engage with these parties on terms that suit
   them; it is not acceptable to require them to understand the mores
   and peculiarities of the IETF community - even as we attempt to
   enculture them into it.  This means that when appropriate, we should
   take the initiative to contact these communities and explain our
   work, solicit their feedback, and encourage their participation.  In
   cases where it is not reasonable a stakeholder community to engage in
   the IETF, we should go to them - for example, holding workshops.

   At our best, this will result in work that promotes the social good.
   In some cases, we will consciously decide to be neutral and open-
   ended, allowing the "tussle" among stakeholders to produce a range of
   results (see [TUSSLE] for further discussion).

   At the very least, however, we must examine our work for harm to end
   users, and take positive steps to avoid it where we see it.  In
   particular, when we've identified a conflict between the interests of

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 5]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

   end users and another stakeholder, we should err on the side of
   finding a solution that avoids that harm.

   Note that "harm" is not defined in this document; that is something
   that the relevant body (e.g., Working Group) needs to discuss.
   Furthermore, harm to end users is judged just like any other decision
   in the IETF, with consensus gathering and the normal appeals process;
   merely asserting that something is harmful is not adequate.  The
   converse is also true, though; it's not permissible to avoid
   identifying harms, nor is it acceptable to ignore them when brought
   to us.

   The IETF has already established a body of guidance for situations
   where this sort of conflict is common, including (but not limited to)
   [RFC7754] on filtering, [RFC7258] and [RFC7624] on pervasive
   surveillance, [RFC7288] on host firewalls, and [RFC6973] regarding
   privacy considerations.  When specific advice is not yet available,
   we try to find a different solution or another way to frame the
   problem, distilling the underlying principles into more general
   advice where appropriate.

   Much of that advice has focused on maintaining the end-to-end
   security properties of a connection.  This does not mean that our
   responsibility to users stops there; protocols decisions might affect
   users in other ways.  For example, inappropriate concentration of
   power on the Internet has become a concerning phenomenon - one that
   protocol design might have some influence upon.

   When the needs of different end users conflict (for example, two sets
   of end users both have reasonable desires) we again should try to
   minimise harm.  For example, when a decision improves the Internet
   for end users in one jurisdiction, but at the cost of potential harm
   to others elsewhere, that is not a good tradeoff.  As such, we
   effectively design the Internet for the pessimal environment; if a
   user can be harmed, they probably will be.

   There may be cases where genuine technical need requires compromise.
   However, such tradeoffs are carefully examined and avoided when there
   are alternate means of achieving the desired goals.  If they cannot
   be, these choices and reasoning ought to be thoroughly documented.

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document does not require action by IANA.

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 6]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

6.  Security Considerations

   This document does not have any direct security impact; however,
   failing to prioritise end users might well affect their security
   negatively in the long term.

7.  References

7.1.  Informative References

   [CODELAW]  Lessig, L., "Code Is Law: On Liberty in Cyberspace", 2000,

   [RFC3935]  Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF",
              BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, October 2004,

   [RFC6973]  Cooper, A., Tschofenig, H., Aboba, B., Peterson, J.,
              Morris, J., Hansen, M., and R. Smith, "Privacy
              Considerations for Internet Protocols", RFC 6973,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6973, July 2013,

   [RFC7258]  Farrell, S. and H. Tschofenig, "Pervasive Monitoring Is an
              Attack", BCP 188, RFC 7258, DOI 10.17487/RFC7258, May
              2014, <>.

   [RFC7288]  Thaler, D., "Reflections on Host Firewalls", RFC 7288,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7288, June 2014,

   [RFC7624]  Barnes, R., Schneier, B., Jennings, C., Hardie, T.,
              Trammell, B., Huitema, C., and D. Borkmann,
              "Confidentiality in the Face of Pervasive Surveillance: A
              Threat Model and Problem Statement", RFC 7624,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7624, August 2015,

   [RFC7754]  Barnes, R., Cooper, A., Kolkman, O., Thaler, D., and E.
              Nordmark, "Technical Considerations for Internet Service
              Blocking and Filtering", RFC 7754, DOI 10.17487/RFC7754,
              March 2016, <>.

   [TUSSLE]   Clark, D., Sollins, K., Wroclawski, J., and R. Braden,
              "Tussle in Cyberspace: Defining Tomorrow's Internet",

Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 7]
Internet-Draft        The Internet is for End Users            June 2019

7.2.  URIs





Appendix A.  Acknowledgements

   Thanks to Edward Snowden for his comments regarding the priority of
   end users at IETF93.

   Thanks to the WHATWG for blazing the trail with the Priority of

   Thanks to Harald Alvestrand for his substantial feedback and Mohamed
   Boucadair, Stephen Farrell, Joe Hildebrand, Lee Howard, Russ Housley,
   Niels ten Oever, Mando Rachovitsa, Martin Thomson, and Brian Trammell
   for their suggestions.

Author's Address

   Mark Nottingham


Nottingham              Expires December 12, 2019               [Page 8]