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Retiring the Tao of the IETF

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 9592.
Authors Niels ten Oever , Greg Wood
Last updated 2024-06-21 (Latest revision 2024-02-26)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status Informational
Stream WG state (None)
Document shepherd Lars Eggert
Shepherd write-up Show Last changed 2024-01-25
IESG IESG state Became RFC 9592 (Informational)
Action Holders
Consensus boilerplate Yes
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD Lars Eggert
Send notices to (None)
IANA IANA review state IANA OK - No Actions Needed
IANA action state No IANA Actions
Tao-Discuss                                                 N. ten Oever
Internet-Draft                                   University of Amsterdam
Obsoletes: 6722 (if approved)                                    G. Wood
Intended status: Informational                   IETF Administration LLC
Expires: 29 August 2024                                 26 February 2024

                      Retiring the Tao of the IETF


   This document retires and obsoletes the Tao of the IETF as an IETF-
   maintained document.  This document also obsoletes RFC 6722, which
   describes the publication process of the Tao. Furthermore, this
   document describes the rationale for the retirement of the Tao. For
   archival purposes, the last version of the Tao is included as an
   annex.  Information that new participants need to engage in the work
   of the IETF will continue to be provided through the IETF website in
   a more timely and accessible manner.  This is the way.

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 29 August 2024.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2024 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 (
   license-info) 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

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   extracted from this document must include Revised BSD License text as
   described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Reasons for Retirement  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  Infrequent updates  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.2.  Unwieldly format  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.3.  Changing participation modes  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Going forward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.1.  New communications opportunities  . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  Conclusion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   6.  Annex 1: Last Edition of the Tao  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     6.1.  Abstract  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     6.2.  1 Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       6.2.1.  1.1 Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in the Tao  . . .   7
     6.3.  2 What is the IETF? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       6.3.1.  2.1 Humble Beginnings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       6.3.2.  2.2 The Hierarchy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       6.3.3.  2.3 IETF Mailing Lists  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     6.4.  3 IETF Meetings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
       6.4.1.  3.1 Registration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
       6.4.2.  3.2 Take the Plunge and Stay All Week!  . . . . . . .  20
       6.4.3.  3.3 Newcomer Training . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
       6.4.4.  3.4 Dress Code  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
       6.4.5.  3.5 Working Group Meetings  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
       6.4.6.  3.6 Seeing Spots Before Your Eyes . . . . . . . . . .  22
       6.4.7.  3.7 Terminal Room . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
       6.4.8.  3.8 Meals and Snacks  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
       6.4.9.  3.9 Social Event  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
       6.4.10. 3.10 Agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
       6.4.11. 3.11 EMODIR to the Rescue . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
       6.4.12. 3.12 Where Do I Fit In? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25
       6.4.13. 3.13 Proceedings  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
       6.4.14. 3.14 Other General Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  27
       6.4.15. 3.15 Remote Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
     6.5.  4 Working Groups  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
       6.5.1.  4.1 Working Group Chairs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
       6.5.2.  4.2 Getting Things Done in a Working Group  . . . . .  30
       6.5.3.  4.3 Working Group Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . .  31
       6.5.4.  4.4 Preparing for Working Group Meetings  . . . . . .  32
       6.5.5.  4.5 Working Group Mailing Lists . . . . . . . . . . .  33
       6.5.6.  4.6 Interim Working Group Meetings  . . . . . . . . .  34
     6.6.  5 BOFs and Dispatching  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  34
     6.7.  6 RFCs and Internet-Drafts  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  35

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       6.7.1.  6.1 The Overall Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  35
       6.7.2.  6.2 Common Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  37
       6.7.3.  6.3 Writing an Internet-Draft . . . . . . . . . . . .  38
       6.7.4.  6.4 Standards-Track RFCs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  42
       6.7.5.  6.5 RFCs Other than Standards-Track . . . . . . . . .  42
     6.8.  7 How to Contribute to the IETF . . . . . . . . . . . . .  43
       6.8.1.  7.1 What You Can Do . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  43
       6.8.2.  7.2 What Your Company Can Do  . . . . . . . . . . . .  44
     6.9.  8 IETF and the Outside World  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  44
       6.9.1.  8.1 IETF and Other SDOs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  44
       6.9.2.  8.2 Press Coverage of the IETF  . . . . . . . . . . .  45
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  46
   8.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  46
   9.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  46
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  46

1.  Introduction

   Since its publication as [RFC1391] in 1993, The “Tao of the IETF”
   (“Tao”) has described the inner workings of IETF meetings and Working
   Groups, discussed organizations related to the IETF, and introduced
   the working processes to new participants.  The Tao never was a
   formal IETF process document, but rather a community-developed and
   maintained informational overview.  After the Tao was published as an
   RFC for 13 years, it was published as a webpage for over a decade
   following the process described in [RFC6722].  However, the Tao did
   not keep up with the changes in the processes of the community and
   the organization, and thereby ceased to be a reliable source of
   information.  We gratefully want to acknowledge all the individuals
   who contributed to the Tao over the years.  The changing nature of
   IETF participation, a better understanding of how to most effectively
   convey information to new participants, and experience with
   publishing the Tao as a webpage all suggest a new approach to
   collecting, updating, and communicating the information new
   participants need to engage in the work of the IETF successfully.
   This document formally retires and obsoletes the “Tao of the IETF” as
   a single standalone document.

2.  Reasons for Retirement

   In short, the breadth of topics covered in the Tao, the unpredictable
   and different schedule for updates to the topics, and the high
   overhead for revising and reviewing the content did not match the
   needs or preferences of the intended audience of the Tao.

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2.1.  Infrequent updates

   The Tao was originally published as [RFC1391] in January 1993.  In
   the following 17 years, four additional versions of the Tao were
   published as RFCs: [RFC1539] in October 1993, [RFC1718] in November
   1994, [RFC3160] in August 2001, and [RFC4677] in September 2006.  In
   August 2012, [RFC6722] was published to document the process for
   publishing the Tao as a webpage so that it “can be updated more
   easily”. However, in the subsequent 11 years, only four additional
   versions were published.  The length of the Tao meant that review and
   approval of the entire document took considerable effort and time,
   leading to very infrequent updates.

2.2.  Unwieldly format

   The large, consolidated document format of the Tao made for a heavy
   investment by readers, in addition to the difficulty editors faced
   keeping pace with the changes required to keep it current.  For
   example, the emergence of IETF Hackathon popularity with new
   participants prompted an update.  However, that content was
   effectively buried in an already long document.

2.3.  Changing participation modes

   The original Tao aimed to welcome new participants to IETF meetings,
   as attendance grew rapidly along with the growth of the Internet in
   the 1990s.  As other avenues for initial participation in the IETF
   emerged over the ensuing decades, the main focus of the Tao remained
   on in-person meeting participation.  For example, remote
   participation in IETF meetings has become a much more significant
   aspect in the past few years.

3.  Going forward

   The content of the Tao has already been integrated into the website
   of the IETF, which is the main channel of communication for IETF
   newcomers and a general audience.  The content is continuously kept
   up to date with a variety of media to serve different audiences.  The
   IETF seeks to ensure that the website continues to address the needs
   of our ever-evolving community and potential newcomers.

3.1.  New communications opportunities

   The IETF and its community continuously seek to improve its
   communication to newcomers and existing participants alike.  Examples
   of possible ways of doing this:

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   *  More focused guides, for example on IETF Hackathon participation,
      starting new work, etc.

   *  Alternative formats, e.g. multiple shorter documents, on-demand
      video, podcasts, etc.

   *  New channels for communications, e.g. blog posts, improved
      Datatracker, Slack, etc.

4.  Conclusion

   The coverage of a wide range of topics, the unpredictable and
   different schedule for updates to the topics, and the high overhead
   for revising and reviewing the content, means that the Tao required a
   lot of effort to maintain and was commonly out-of-date, and thus did
   not serve its intended purpose of informing the community and
   newcomers.  Therefore, this document is the end of the road for “Tao
   of the IETF”, the document is now retired.  For archival reasons, the
   last version of the Tao can be found in the annex below.

5.  Acknowledgements

   The next phase of work to welcome new participants to the IETF builds
   on and gratefully acknowledges everyone who has contributed to the
   Tao, and other efforts to help newcomers to the IETF become engaged
   and productive participants.

   We acknowledge all of the past “Tao of the IETF” editors:

   *  Gary Scott Malkin

   *  Susan R.  Harris

   *  Paul Hoffman

   *  Kathleen Moriarty

   *  Niels ten Oever

   We also acknowledge all the work of the translators that made the Tao
   accessible to many different audiences.

   Finally, we also want to acknowledge the work of countless
   contributors over the years.

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6.  Annex 1: Last Edition of the Tao

   For archival purposes, the last edition of the Tao as published under
   the process described in RFC6722, is included below.  Note that links
   to the Tao and archives below may not work in the future.

6.1.  Abstract

   This document introduces you to the “ways of the IETF”: it will
   convey the might and magic of networking people and packets in the
   Internet’s most prominent standards body.  In this document we
   describe the inner workings of IETF meetings and Working Groups,
   discuss organizations related to the IETF, and introduce the
   standards process.  This is not a formal IETF process document but an
   informal and informational overview.

6.2.  1 Introduction

   The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the largest standard
   development organization (SDO) for the Internet.  Since its early
   years, participation in the IETF has grown phenomenally.  In-person
   attendance at face-to-face meetings now averages between 1000 and
   1500 participants (
   overview/).  At any given meeting, around 200 attendees are
   _newcomers_ (defined by the IETF as someone who has attended five or
   fewer meetings), and many of those go on to become regular
   participants.  When the IETF was smaller, it was relatively easy for
   a newcomer to adjust.  Today, however, a newcomer meets many more new
   people – some previously known only as the authors of documents or
   thought-provoking email messages.

   Of course, it’s true that many IETF participants don’t go to the
   face-to-face meetings at all - especially since the COVID-19 pandemic
   when meetings were completely online for a while.  There are also
   many participants who solely focus on the mailing lists 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 website also has a lot of
   newcomer information (
   started/) in various formats.  In this document we try to cover as
   much as possible in one place.

   The IETF is always evolving.  Although the principles in this
   document are expected to remain consistent 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.

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   Many types of IETF documentation are mentioned here.  The IETF
   publishes its technical documentation as RFCs, still known by their
   historical term _Requests for Comments_.  (Sometimes people joke that
   it stands for _Request for Compliance_.) STDs are RFCs identified as
   “standards”, and BCPs are RFCs that represent thoughts on Best
   Current Practices in the Internet.  Both STDs and BCPs are also RFCs.
   For example, BCP 9 ( points to a
   collection of RFCs that describe the IETF’s standardization
   processes.  See](#6)RFCs and Internet-Drafts for more details.

6.2.1.  1.1 Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in the Tao

   Some of the acronyms and abbreviations from this document are listed

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      | Term  | Meaning                                             |
      | AD    | Area Director                                       |
      | BCP   | Best Current Practice (a type of RFC)               |
      | BOF   | Birds of a Feather                                  |
      | IAB   | Internet Architecture Board                         |
      | IANA  | Internet Assigned Numbers Authority                 |
      | IASA  | IETF Administrative Support Activity                |
      | ICANN | Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers |
      | I-D   | Internet-Draft                                      |
      | IESG  | Internet Engineering Steering Group                 |
      | IPR   | Intellectual property rights                        |
      | IRSG  | Internet Research Steering Group                    |
      | IRT   | Internet Research Task Force                        |
      | ISO   | Internet Society                                    |
      | RF    | Request for Comments                                |
      | STD   | Standard (a type of RFC)                            |
      | WG    | Working Group                                       |

                                  Table 1

6.3.  2 What is the IETF?

   The IETF has no members and no dues; it 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 meetings (both in-person
   and virtual) and online activities (such as email and pull request
   discussions), in which individuals voluntarily participate.

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   The IETF welcomes all interested individuals: IETF participants come
   from all over the world and from many different parts of the Internet
   industry.  The IETF conducts its work solely in English.
   See](#3-12)Where do I fit in? for information about the ways that
   many people fit into the IETF.

   Quoting from RFC 3935: A Mission Statement for the IETF
   ( “the overall goal of the
   IETF is to make the Internet work better.  Its mission is to produce
   high quality, relevant technical and engineering documents that
   influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet in such
   a way as to make the Internet work better.  These documents include
   protocol standards, best current practices, and informational
   documents of various kinds.”

   The ways to do that include the following:

   *  Identifying and proposing solutions to pressing operational and
      technical problems in the Internet.

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

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

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

   *  Providing a forum for the exchange of information within the
      Internet community among vendors, users, researchers, agency
      contractors, operators, and network managers.

   RFC 3935 further states that the Internet isn’t value-neutral, and
   neither is the IETF.  The IETF wants the Internet to be useful for
   communities that share our commitment to openness and fairness.  The
   IETF embraces 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 the IETF chooses to create.

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   In many ways, the IETF runs on the beliefs of its participants.  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

   There is no membership in the IETF.  Anyone may sign up to working
   group mailing lists, or register for a meeting and then attend.  The
   closest thing there is to being an IETF member is being a participant
   on the IETF or Working Group](#2-3)mailing lists.  This is where the
   best information about current IETF activities and focus can be

   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 supporting organizations, as described
   in RFC 2028: The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process
   (  Please note that RFC 2028
   is outdated and being revised.

   The IETF web site ( is the best source for
   information about upcoming IETF meetings and newcomer materials.  The
   IETF Datatracker ( is the best source
   for information about Internet-Drafts, RFCs, and Working Groups.

   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 voluntary standards that are often adopted by Internet
   users, network operators, and equipment vendors, and it thus helps
   shape the trajectory of the development of the Internet.  But in no
   way does the IETF 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.  A saying you will
   sometimes hear is, “we are not the protocol police.”

6.3.1.  2.1 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 equipment 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.

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   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.  The IETF first met in Oceania (in Adelaide,
   Australia) in 2000, the first meeting in Asia (in Yokohama, Japan)
   was in 2002, and the first meeting in Latin America (in Buenos Aires,
   Argentina) was in 2016.  So far, the IETF has never met in Africa.

   The IETF currently has a “1-1-1” meeting policy where the goal is to
   distribute the meetings equally between North America, Europe, and
   Asia.  This policy is mainly aimed at distributing the travel effort
   for the existing IETF participants who physically attend meetings and
   for distributing the timezone difficulty for those who participate
   remotely.  The IETF has also met in Latin America and Oceania, but
   these continents are currently not part of the 1-1-1 rotation
   schedule.  More information on picking the venue and the meeting
   policy can be found in RFC 8718: IETF Plenary Meeting Venue Selection
   Process ( and RFC 8719: High-
   Level Guidance for the Meeting Policy of the IETF (https://www.rfc-

   Remote participation in IETF meetings has been growing significantly
   in the past few years, thanks in part to the ongoing effort to
   improve the tools and processes used to facilitate this mode of

6.3.2.  2.2 The Hierarchy  2.2.1 The Internet Society (ISOC) and the IETF Administration
          LLC (IETF LLC)

   The Internet Society (ISOC) is an international, non-profit,
   membership organization that supports and promotes the development of
   the Internet as a global technical infrastructure.  The mission of
   ISOC is “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the
   Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.” One of
   the ways that ISOC does this is through financial support of the

   The IETF Administration LLC (
   administration/) (IETF LLC) is a “disregarded entity” of ISOC, which
   means it is treated as a branch or division for tax purposes.  The
   IETF LLC has no role in the oversight or steering of the standards

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   process, the appeal chain, the confirming bodies for existing IETF
   and IAB appointments, the IRTF, or ISOC’s memberships in other
   organizations.  Rather, the IETF LLC, as overseen by its Board of
   Directors, is responsible for staffing and contracts with places like
   hotels to host IETF meetings.  Most of the day-to-day activities are
   delegated to the IETF Executive Director.

   Responsibilities of the IETF LLC include:

   *  Supporting the ongoing operations of the IETF, including meetings
      and non-meeting activities.

   *  Managing the IETF’s finances and budget.

   *  Raising money on behalf of the IETF.

   *  Establishing and enforcing policies to ensure compliance with
      applicable laws, regulations, and rules.

   The IETF and ISOC continue to be strongly aligned on key principles.
   ISOC initiatives related to the IETF continue to support
   participation in, and deployment of, the standards created by the
   IETF.  2.2.2 Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG)

   The IESG is responsible for technical management of IETF activities
   and the Internet standards process.  However, the IESG doesn’t
   exercise 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 gets WGs
   started and finished, ratifies or steers the output from the IETF’s
   Working Groups (WGs), and makes sure that non-WG I-Ds that are about
   to become RFCs are correct.

   Check the IESG web pages ( to
   find up-to-date information about IESG statements, I-Ds processed,
   RFCs published, and documents in Last Call, as well as the monthly
   IETF status reports.

   The IESG consists of the Area Directors (ADs), who are selected by
   the Nominations Committee (NomCom) and are appointed for two years.
   The process for choosing the members of the IESG is detailed in BCP
   10 (

   The current Areas and abbreviations are shown below, and more details
   ( are on the IETF web site.

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     | Area                 | Description                            |
     | Applications and     | Protocols seen by user programs, such  |
     | Real-Time Area (art) | as email and the web and delay-        |
     |                      | sensitive interpersonal communications |
     | General (gen)        | IETF process, and 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       | Network management, AAA, and various   |
     | Management (ops)     | operational issues facing the Internet |
     | Routing (rtg)        | Getting packets to their destinations  |
     | Security (sec)       | Privacy, integrity, authentication,    |
     |                      | non-repudiation, confidentiality, and  |
     |                      | access control                         |
     | Transport (tsv)      | Transport for large volumes of traffic |
     |                      | at potentially high bandwidths         |

                                  Table 2

   Because the IESG reviews all Internet-Drafts before they become RFCs,
   ADs have quite a bit of influence.  The ADs for a particular Area are
   expected to know more about the combined work of the WGs in that Area
   than anyone else.  This is because the ADs actively follow the
   working groups for which they are responsible and assist working
   groups and chairs with charter and milestone reviews.  Some people,
   therefore, shy away from directly engaging with Area Directors.
   Don’t - they can be an important resource and help you find the
   person or the answer that you’re looking for.  They are, however,
   often very busy during meetings, and so an email to schedule a
   meeting can be useful, or just ask your questions.

   The entire IESG reviews each Internet-Draft (I-D or “draft”) that is
   proposed to become an RFC and should be aware of general trends that
   can be gleaned from the collective work products of the IETF.  For
   IETF produced RFCs, as part of the document reviews, ADs place
   ballots that may contain comments on documents.  The AD enters a
   position that may be _YES_, _NO OBJECTION_, _DISCUSS_, _ABSTAIN_, or
   _RECUSE_ as the result of their review.  Any AD may record a

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   _DISCUSS_ ballot position against a draft if they have serious
   concerns and would like to discuss these concerns.  It is common for
   documents to be approved with one or two _YES_ ballots, and the
   majority of the remaining IESG balloting _NO OBJECTION_.  An IETF
   blog post (
   provides advice on how draft authors could handle the various ballot

   Another 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 I-Ds coming out of
   Areas other than their own, and each Area has a _directorate_, a set
   of experienced volunteers who review I-Ds with a focus on potential
   issues for their area.

   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 ADs.  2.2.3 Internet Architecture Board (IAB)

   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.

   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
   ( (IRTF) 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 keeps the community informed
   through blog posts and by publishing RFCs.

   The IAB also:

   *  Approves NomCom’s IESG nominations

   *  Acts as the appeals board for appeals against IESG actions

   *  Oversees the RFC series policy and procedures

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   *  Acts as an advisory body to ISOC

   *  Oversees IETF liaisons with other standards bodies

   Like the IESG, the IAB members are selected for two-year positions by
   the NomCom and are approved by the ISOC Board of Trustees.  2.2.4 Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)

   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.  IANA’s work on behalf of the IETF is
   overseen by the IAB.  There is a joint group
   ( that
   advises IANA.  IANA is funded by ICANN (

   Even though being a registry 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.  2.2.5 RFC Editor and RFC Production Center (RPC)

   The RPC edits, formats, and publishes RFC’s.  This used to be done by
   one person, which is why you will still see the term _RFC Editor_;
   IETFers are fond of their history.  Also, if you are a document
   author, you will most commonly come in contact with people
   responsible for editing your draft.  Another important role is to
   provide one definitive repository ( for
   all RFCs.

   A common misconception is that all RFCs are the work of the IETF.  In
   fact, there are four sources of RFCs: the IETF, the IAB, the IRTF,
   and Independent streams.  It is likely that there will soon be a
   fifth source, which will be for documents on the RFC series itself.
   Only documents coming directly from the IETF through Working Groups,
   or sponsored by ADs, can have IETF consensus and be described as IETF
   specifications or standards.

   Once an RFC is published, it is never revised.  If the specification
   it describes changes, the standard will be re-published in another
   RFC that “obsoletes” the first.  If a technical or editorial error is
   found in an RFC, an errata may be filed for review.  If accepted, the
   errata will be linked to the RFC and may be held for the next
   document update.

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   At the time of this writing, the model for the RFC Editor and the RPC
   is being revised under an IAB Program
   development-program/).  In this revision, there is a position hired
   by the IETF LLC known as the RFC Series Editor, who is advised by a
   couple of groups.  As a newcomer, and potential author, the details
   shouldn’t matter much to you right now.

   The RPC is contracted by the IETF LLC.  2.2.6 IETF Secretariat

   There are a few people who are paid to support the IETF.  The IETF
   Secretariat provides day-to-day logistical support, which mainly
   means coordinating face-to-face meetings and running the IETF
   presence on the web, including the]( web
   site, mailing lists, the repository for Internet-Drafts, and so on.
   The Secretariat also provides administrative assistance to the IESG
   and others.

   The Secretariat is contracted by the IETF LLC.  2.2.7 IETF Trust

   The IETF Trust ( was set up to hold and
   license the intellectual property of the IETF, such as trademarks
   (the IETF logo, etc.) and copyrights.  The trust is a stable,
   legally-identifiable entity.  Most participants never interact with
   the IETF Trust, beyond seeing it mentioned in RFC boilerplate.  This
   is a good sign, and indicates that they are quietly doing their job.

6.3.3.  2.3 IETF Mailing Lists

   The IETF does most of its communication, and all of its official
   work, via email.

   Anyone who plans to participate in the IETF should join the IETF
   announcement mailing list (
   ietf-announce).  This is where all of the meeting information, RFC
   announcements, and IESG Protocol Actions and Last Calls are posted.
   This list is strongly moderated, and only the Secretariat and a small
   number of IETF leaders can approve messages sent to the announcement
   list, although those messages can come from a variety of people.

   There is also a general discussion list
   ( that is unmoderated.
   This means that everyone can express their opinions about issues
   affecting the Internet.  As an open discussion forum, it sometimes

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   spins out of control and it helps to be quick on the _DELETE MESSAGE_
   button while also being slow to take offense.  The mailing list does
   have a charter (, however,
   which points out that it is not a place for companies or individuals
   to solicit or advertise.  As of this writing, the charter is being
   revised.  It is lightly moderated by two people appointed by the IETF
   Chair; they used to be called the Sargent At Arms (SAA), and you
   might see that term sometimes.  There is also a process for banning
   persistent offenders from the list, but fortunately this is extremely

   There are also subset lists.  The i-d-announce
   ( list only posts
   when a new Internet-Draft is submitted.  It is moderated.  The last-
   call ( list is not
   moderated, and is for discussion of IETF Last Calls (the stage when
   the IETF community is given one last chance to comment on a draft
   before it is published as an RFC).

   Every Working Group has its own mailing list.

   Every IETF mailing list is archived.  (Unfortunately, the archives
   for some lists from many years ago, when the IETF did not have its
   own servers, have been lost.)

   Even though the IETF mailing lists “represent” the IETF participants
   at large, it is important to note that attending an IETF meeting does
   not mean you’ll be automatically added to any list; you’ll have to
   “opt in” directly.

6.4.  3 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 not like these.  The meetings, held three times
   a year, are week-long gatherings with the primary goals of helping
   Working Groups get their tasks done, and promoting a fair amount of
   mixing among the WGs and the Areas.  IETF meetings are of little
   interest to sales and marketing folks, but of high interest to
   engineers and developers.

   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 for many participants.  The IETF believes that having a
   drink together (often beer in the hotel lobby, but drink whatever you
   want) is highly conducive to collaboration.

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   On the other hand, IETFers can sometimes be surprisingly direct,
   sometimes verging on rude.  To build a climate in which people of
   many different backgrounds are treated with dignity, decency, and
   respect, the IETF has an anti-harassment policy
   (, a code of
   conduct (, and an Ombudsteam
   ( that you can reach out to.

   The general flow of an IETF meeting is that it begins with an IETF
   Hackathon ( on Saturday and
   Sunday, tutorials and an informal gathering on Sunday, and WG and BoF
   meetings Monday through Friday.  WG meetings last for between one and
   2.5 hours each, and some WGs meet more than once, depending on how
   much work they anticipate doing.  The WG chairs set the agenda for
   their meeting time(s).

   There is a plenary session during the week, sometimes two.  Either
   the first part, or a separate Technical Plenary, will have one or
   more technical presentations on topics of interest to many Working
   Groups.  This is organized by the IAB.  The Administrative Plenary is
   organized by the IETF Chair, and will have greetings from the meeting
   sponsor, reports on meeting attendance and IETF finances, and
   progress reports from most groups mentioned in the “Hierarchy”
   section above.  This ends with an “open mic” session, with the
   various groups on stage.  This is a good time to share administrative
   concerns; praise is welcome, but more often concerns and gripes are

   There have been more than 110 IETF meetings so far.  The list of
   future meetings is available online
   (, and they are also
   announced on the _ietf-announce_ mailing list mentioned above.

   Note that COVID-19 disrupted the in-person meetings.  After several
   virtual or online meetings, the IETF tried its first hybrid meeting,
   in Vienna, in March 2022.

6.4.1.  3.1 Registration

   To attend an IETF meeting, either online or in person, you have to
   register and pay a registration fee.  If you cannot afford the online
   registration fee, you can apply for a fee waiver during the
   registration process.  The meeting site (if the meeting is not purely
   online) is generally announced at several 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.  Upcoming meeting
   locations are also mentioned at the plenary, and the host for the

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   next meeting often gives a welcome.

   You can register online at the IETF website, or in person throughout
   the week.  There are different fee schedules for early-bird,
   latecomers, single-day, and so on.  The general registration fee
   covers all of the week’s meetings, the Sunday evening _Welcome
   Reception_, and afternoon beverage and snack breaks.

   The IETF and related organizations are committed to transparency and
   protecting the privacy of individuals.  For information about the
   personal data that is collected, and how it is managed, please see
   the privacy statement (

   You might also consider subscribing to the meeting-specific email
   list, which is presented as an option when you register to
   participate in the meeting either in-person or remotely.  Discussions
   on the meetings list can be high volume and fairly wide-ranging about
   meeting-specific issues, but it is also a channel for sharing
   information that many find useful to understand what is going on
   during the meeting itself.  Topics often include information about
   local mass transit, interesting sites to see, desire to buy or sell a
   social event ticket, and so on.  Local experts, people who live in
   the area, often respond to questions and can be very helpful.

   Sunday is an excellent day to join the meeting, unless you already
   came on Saturday for the hackathon.  Sunday is the day for the
   newcomer’s tutorial, as well the Quick Connections session where
   newcomers get to meet with experienced IETF participants.  After
   these sessions there is the welcome reception, a popular event where
   you can get a small bite to eat and socialize with other attendees.

   During registration, you will be asked to confirm that you agree to
   follow the _Note Well_. You can also read it, anytime, online
   (  This points out the rules
   for IETF intellectual property rights (IPR), anti-harassment, and
   other important guiding policies for the IETF.  These slides will
   also be shown before every WG session; as it gets later in the week,
   the slide transitions tend to get faster and faster.

   If you need to leave messages for other attendees, you can do so at
   the cork boards that are usually near the IETF registration desk.
   These cork boards will also have last-minute meeting changes and room
   changes.  The agenda is available online, and changes can happen up
   to the last minute, such as cancelling a WG meeting.

   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

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   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,” you should clarify if they mean the IETF
   registration desk, or the hotel registration desk: This has been a
   common cause of missed connections.

6.4.2.  3.2 Take the Plunge and Stay All Week!

   IETF WG meetings are scheduled from Monday morning through Friday
   afternoon.  Associated non-WG meetings often take place on the
   preceding or following weekends, and unofficial “side meetings” can
   also be scheduled during the week.  It is best to plan to be present
   the whole week, to benefit from cross-fertilization between WGs and
   from hallway discussions (both offline as well as in online
   environments such as the _gather.town_ website).  As noted below, the
   agenda is fluid, and there have been 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 annoyance.

   If you cannot find meetings all week to interest you, you can still
   make the most of the IETF meeting by working between sessions.
   Almost every attendee has a laptop, and it is common to see many of
   them in the terminal room or in the lobbies and hallways working
   during meeting sessions.  The IETF sets up up a high-speed network
   throughout the hotel for the duration of the meeting, and there’s no
   charge to use the “IETF wifi.” This usually covers 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.

   Note that many people use their laptops actively during meeting
   sessions for practical purposes such as consulting drafts.  Power
   strips in all meeting rooms and hotel rooms will provide only the
   sockets permitted by local regulations, so ensure in advance that you
   have an appropriate travel adapter.

6.4.3.  3.3 Newcomer Training

   Newcomers should attend the Newcomer’s Tutorial on Sunday, which is
   especially designed for them.  The tutorial is organized and
   conducted by the IETF Education, Mentoring, and Outreach Directorate
   (_EMODIR_) team and is intended to provide useful introductory
   information.  The session covers the structure of the IETF, how to
   get the most out of the meeting, and many other essential and
   enlightening topics for new IETFers.  The IETF has a YouTube channel
   ( which has the previous tutorials.
   This has recently been broken down into four 15-minute segments

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   cwfr) which might be easier to view.

   _Quick Connections_ is a session limited to newcomers and experienced
   IETF participants.  It is a great chance to meet people, and
   establish contacts that can be useful during the rest of the week.
   Registration is required as space is limited.  It is held right
   before the welcome reception.

6.4.4.  3.4 Dress Code

   At meetings people generally dress informally, and newcomers could
   feel out of place if they show up Monday morning in suits.  The
   general rule is “dress for casual comfort.” Note that the hotel air
   conditioning might mean bringing a sweater or other covering as well.

6.4.5.  3.5 Working Group Meetings

   The heart of an IETF meeting is the WG meetings themselves.
   Different WGs chairs have very different styles, so it is impossible
   to generalize how a WG meeting will feel.  All WGs have agendas,
   however, and most will follow the following approach.

   At the beginning of the meeting, the chair will pass around the _blue
   sheets_, which are paper forms on which everyone writes their name
   and their affiliation.  These are archived and used for planning
   capacity needs for the next time the WG meets.  In very rare cases,
   they have been used to indicate exactly who showed up.  When you are
   handed the sheet, sign your name and pass it along in the same
   direction.  If you arrive after the start, at the end of the meeting
   you can go up front and sign it then.  For virtual attendance using
   the _MeetEcho_ video conference system, attendance is handled by
   accessing the application.

   After the blue sheets, there are calls for volunteers to take
   minutes.  More than one person can do so, and they are often done on
   a Web page using a collaborative editing app.  Taking minutes can be
   a good way to ensure you follow the discussions without distraction!
   The link to the web page will be part of the WG entry that is part of
   the online meeting agenda.  There is also a chance to make any last-
   minute updates to the agenda.  This is known as “agenda bashing.”
   Finally, there will be a review of the Note Well.  The order in which
   these things happen can vary, but they are all done before the
   meeting really “starts.”

   To speak during a meeting, go to the microphone(s) located near the
   middle of the room.  For controversial topics, there will be a line
   at the mic, but do not hesitate to be the first person at the line if
   you have a question or a contribution to the discussion.  The WG

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   chair or presenter will indicate when you can speak.  Although it
   would be easier to just raise your hand from where you are sitting,
   the mics perform a very useful task: they let the people listening
   remotely and in the room hear your question or comment.  When you
   first speak, say your name and affiliation for identification
   purposes.  If you miss this, folks will often say “name!” to remind
   you.  Don’t be embarrassed if this happens, it’s not uncommon.

6.4.6.  3.6 Seeing Spots Before Your Eyes

   Some attendees will have a little colored dot on their name tag, and
   a few people have more than one.  These dots identify people who have
   volunteered to do extra work, such as being a WG chair, an IESG
   member, and so on.  The colors have the meanings shown here.

                 | Color  | Meaning                     |
                 | Blue   | Working Group/BOF Chair     |
                 | Green  | Meeting Host/Sponsor        |
                 | Red    | IAB member                  |
                 | Yellow | IESG member                 |
                 | Pink   | IRSG member                 |
                 | Orange | Nominating Committee member |
                 | Black  | IETF LLC Board              |

                                 Table 3

   Members of the press wear orange-tinted badges with the word “press”
   on them.

   As newcomer, don’t 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!  Note, however, that IETF
   meetings are usually intense times for Area Directors.  Talking to an
   AD during an IETF meeting will often result in them asking you to
   send email after the meeting ends.  Also, when you start a hallway
   conversation with an Area Director (or even a WG chair, for that
   matter), it is often good to give them about 30 seconds of context
   for the discussion.

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   Near the registration area there are usually ribbons and markers so
   that people can label their specific interests, history, and so on.
   Many people use them to make (inside) jokes, which are sometimes

6.4.7.  3.7 Terminal Room

   The IETF wifi is provided by volunteers who run the Network
   Operations Center (NOC).  The terminal room is where you can get
   wired connectivity and limited access to a printer.  The people and
   companies that donate their equipment, services, and time are to be
   heartily congratulated and thanked.

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

6.4.8.  3.8 Meals and Snacks

   Although it is true that some people eat very well at the IETF, they
   find the food on their own since lunches and dinners are not included
   in the registration fee.  In addition to socializing, dinner meetings
   can be a good way to get additional work done.

   If sponsorship for it is secured, the welcome reception provides
   drinks and appetizers but is not meant to be a full replacement for
   dinner.  Sometimes a continental breakfast can be included with the
   hotel registration.  There IETF meeting also includes a morning
   coffee and snack break, and a similar one in the afternoon.

   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, and the meeting-specific email list is also a useful

6.4.9.  3.9 Social Event

   Another of the most important things organized and managed by the
   host is the IETF social event.  The social event is sometimes high-
   tech-related event, or it might be in an art museum or a reception
   hall.  Note, however, that not all IETF meetings have social events.

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   Newcomers to the IETF are encouraged to attend the social event.
   Wear your name tag and leave your laptop behind.  The social event is
   designed to give people a chance to meet on a social, rather than
   technical, level.  The social ticket costs extra, is reserved at
   registration time, and has limited capacity.  People looking to buy
   or sell a social ticket often post to the email list, or on the
   corkboards mentioned above.

6.4.10.  3.10 Agenda

   The agenda for the IETF meetings is a very fluid thing.  It is
   available on the web and through the IETF mobile apps starting a few
   weeks before the meeting.  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 last version posted before the meeting.  The
   Secretariat will post agenda changes on the bulletin board near the
   IETF registration desk (reminder, 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
   conflicts.  The IETF is too dynamic for agendas to be tied down weeks
   in advance.

   A map showing the hotel layout and, specifically the meeting rooms,
   is also available with 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.

6.4.11.  3.11 EMODIR to the Rescue

   If, after you finish reading this document, certain aspects of the
   IETF still mystify you, you’ll want to drop in on the on-site
   training offered by the Education, Mentoring, and Outreach (EMODIR)
   team.  In addition to the Newcomer training mentioned above, EMODIR
   also hosts informal newcomer gatherings during the coffee break
   sessions.  Details vary for each meeting, so watch the agenda and the
   newcomer-specific email list.

   EMODIR also organized in-depth technical tutorials, useful for
   newcomers and experienced IETFers alike.  These are also announced as
   part of the program, and are usually on Sundays.

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   Finally, EMODIR runs the _IETF Guides_ program, pairing newcomers
   with an experienced IETF person to help you become acclimated and
   effective quickly.  This has not worked out very well during the all-
   virtual meetings, frankly.  If you are interested, watch for the
   announcement.  Ideally you have a call with your mentor before the
   meeting, a meeting during the beginning of the meeting, and check in
   some time during the meeting, so they can help you with any questions
   you might have.

   Details on EMODIR membership and charter are available online

6.4.12.  3.12 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, and you should not feel obligated to come to an IETF
   meeting just to get a feel for the IETF.  If, however, you decide to
   come, this document and RFC 4144: How to Gain Prominence and
   Influence in Standards Organizations (https://www.rfc- provides some pointers on how to make your
   meeting a success.  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.  3.12.1 IT 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 IT 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 email 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.

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   Knowledge of how networks are run is indispensible for the
   development of new (versions of) protocols.  Especially if you work
   for the type of network that is always using the very latest hardware
   and software, and you are already following the relevant Working
   Groups, you could certainly find participating in the IETF valuable.
   Note that the IETF has several WGs focused on operations, that might
   be particularly relevant.

   Finally, note that the IETF is increasingly focused on encrypting
   network traffic, and that this has implications for operators.  A
   fair amount of IETF work also covers many other parts of operations
   of ISPs and large enterprises, and the input of operators from each
   of these types of organizations 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.  3.12.3 Networking Hardware and Software Vendors

   The image of the IETF being mostly network researchers may have been
   true in the distant past, but the jobs of today’s attendees are
   typically 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, or run a service available on
   the Internet, 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 or pre-sales, are 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, especially 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, but note that IETF participation is
   as an _individual_ not a formal representative of their employer.

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   IETF meetings are often excellent places for all kinds of researchers
   to find out what is happening in the way of soon-to-be-deployed
   protocols, and networking architecture and infrastructure.
   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.

   In addition, the IRTF and ACM co-host the annual Applied Networking
   Research Workshop (, normally scheduled during
   the July IETF meeting Registration is required, IETF attendees can
   attend for free.  The IRTF also hosts the Applied Networking Research
   Prize (, which includes a cash prize, a travel
   grant to attend, and a chance to present.  See the web page for
   requirements.  3.12.5 Computer Trade Press

   If you’re a member of the press and are considering attending IETF,
   please see the](#8-2)special section below.

6.4.13.  3.13 Proceedings

   IETF proceedings are compiled in the weeks and months after each
   meeting and are available online (
   proceedings/).  Be sure to look through a copy at least once; the
   proceedings are filled with information about IETF that you’re not
   likely to find anywhere else.  For example, you’ll copies of every
   session’s slides, links to the video recording, copies of the blue
   sheets (attendance), and so on.

6.4.14.  3.14 Other General Things

   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.  If
   someone is presenting an update to their draft, feel free to step up
   to the mic and ask a clarifying question.  Before you do, however,
   make sure to have read the draft first.  Working Group meetings are
   not a time for general tutorials.

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   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 side meeting (historically but often inaccurately called a “bar
   BOF”) is an unofficial get-together between WG meetings or in the
   late evening, during which a lot of work gets done.  These side
   meetings spring up in many different places around an IETF meeting,
   such as restaurants, coffee shops, unused hall spaces and the like.
   You can read more about Birds-of-a Feather sessions (BOFs)](#5)in
   section 5.

   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.

   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 they feel is not appropriate.

6.4.15.  3.15 Remote Participation

   People have joined IETF meetings remotely for a long time, but the
   tools for this have changed a lot over the years.  Currently the IETF
   uses a browser- based tool known as _MeetEcho_. There is also a text-
   based discussion forum called _Jabber_. This is integrated into
   MeetEcho, but there are also stand-alone clients available.  Planned
   for 2022, the _Zulip_ text will be available.  Each WG will have its
   own stream.

   The links for the Meetecho rooms, the Jabber chats, and meeting
   materials, can always be found in the right-hand side of the agenda,
   under the different icons.  All sessions are recorded and can be
   viewed after the meeting, along with chat logs and meeting minutes.
   This can be useful to refresh your memory while writing a trip
   report, or for catching up on what happened when you wanted to be in
   two WG meetings at once.  It happens; scheduling conflicts are

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6.5.  4 Working Groups

   The vast majority of the IETF’s work is done in its many Working
   Groups; at the time of this writing, there are well over one hundred
   different WGs.  BCP 25 (, “IETF
   Working Group Guidelines and Procedures,” is an excellent resource
   for anyone participating in WG discussions.  The full list of working
   groups can be found on the datatracker (

   A WG is really just a mailing list with a bit of supervision and
   facilitation.  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 non-subscribers have to have their postings
   approved first.

   More importantly, each WG has a charter that the WG is supposed to
   follow.  The charter states the scope of discussion for the Working
   Group and its goals.  The WG’s mailing list and face-to-face meetings
   are supposed to focus on only 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.  Each WG
   has its own page on the datatracker.

6.5.1.  4.1 Working Group Chairs

   Each Working Group has one or two (or, rarely, three) chairs.  The
   role of the WG chairs is described in both BCP 11 (https://www.rfc- and BCP 25 (

   Chairs have responsibility for the technical and non-technical
   quality of WG output.  The chair must keep the WG productive, and
   making progress on its drafts.  Sometimes there is a WG Secretary to
   help.  Document editors, too, are usually incentivized to make
   progress on their drafts.  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.  As you can

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   imagine given the mix of secretarial, interpersonal, and technical
   demands, some Working Group chairs are much better at their jobs than

6.5.2.  4.2 Getting Things Done in a Working Group

   One fact that confuses many newcomers 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.  This is sometimes
   phrased as “at the last WG meeting, we decided XXX; if you disagree
   please speak up by the end of the week” and you’ll therefore often
   hear the phrase “to be confirmed on the 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, and
   that those in the minority have had a chance to explain why.
   Generally consensus is determined by _humming_: if you agree with a
   proposal, you hum when prompted by the chair.  Most hum questions
   come in three parts: you hum to the first part if you agree with the
   proposal, to the second part if you disagree, or to the third part if
   you do not have enough information to make up your mind.  Newcomers
   find it quite peculiar, but it works.  It is up to the chair to
   decide when the Working Group has reached rough consensus; sometimes
   the responsible AD will also do so.

   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 invites all interested individuals to
   participate, and when it’s impossible to count the participants?)  A
   common definition and practice of humming can be found in RFC 7282:
   On Consensus and Humming in the IETF (https://www.rfc-

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   A related problem is that some people think that their topic should
   be discussed in the WG even when the WG chair believes it is outside
   the scope of the charter.  If the WG agrees, they can work to _re-
   charter_ so that the topic is in scope.  The individual can also
   bring their concerns to the responsible AD.

   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.

6.5.3.  4.3 Working Group Documents

   There is an official distinction between WG I-Ds and individual I-Ds.
   A WG will have to review an individual draft before deciding if it
   should be adopted by the WG.  The WG chairs appoint who will be the
   authors or editors of the I-Ds; often those who wrote the initial
   draft continue work on behalf of the WG.  Procedures for Internet-
   Drafts are covered in much more detail later in this document.

   For Working Group documents, the document editor serves at the
   pleasure of the WG Chair.  There is often more than one editor for
   Working Group documents, particularly for complex documents.  The
   document editor is responsible for ensuring that the contents of the
   document accurately reflects Working Group decisions; when a document
   editor does not follow the WG consensus, the WG Chairs will either be
   more forceful about getting changes that match the consensus or
   replace the document editor with someone more responsive to the WG.
   As a Working Group document is progressing, participants suggest
   changes on the Working Group’s mail list (or online if the document
   is maintained somewhere accessible); the editors are expected to
   follow the discussion and make changes when there is consensus.

   Sometimes a Working Group will consider several alternatives before
   selecting a particular Internet-Draft as a Working Group document.  A
   Working Group will often take ideas from several of the alternatives
   to create a single Working Group document; in such a case, the chair
   determines who will be listed as authors on the title page and who
   will be acknowledged as contributors in the body of the document.

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   When a WG document is ready to progress beyond the WG, the WG Chairs
   will assign a “shepherd” to take over the final process.  The role of
   the document shepherd is described in RFC 4858: Document Shepherding
   from Working Group Last Call to Publication (https://www.rfc-  The chair, who knows the history of the
   draft within the WG, often does the shepherd write-up.

6.5.4.  4.4 Preparing for Working Group Meetings

   The most important thing that *everyone* 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 and often the document is presented
   as a set of slides saying “here’s what changed since last meeting.”
   Even if you do not plan to say anything in the meeting, you should
   read, or at least skim, the group’s documents before attending so you
   can understand what is being said.

   It’s up to the WG chairs 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 on the datatracker, and links to
   will be found on every full meeting agenda.  Unfortunately, some WG
   chairs are lax (if not totally negligent) about turning them in.

   The Secretariat only makes the full IETF meeting schedule 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 I-Ds
   and RFCs for those groups.  Work in the IETF is often reciprocal,
   contribute positively to others work and you are more likely to
   receive comments and feedback on your work.

   If you are on the agenda at a face-to-face meeting, you should
   prepare a few slides and mail them to the chair before the meeting.
   Don’t come with a tutorial; people are supposed to read the I-Ds in
   advance.  Projectors for laptop-based presentations are available in
   all the meeting rooms.

   And here’s a tip for your slides: 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

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   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.

   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.  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.

6.5.5.  4.5 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 areas 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.

   Every WG has a dedicated page on the datatracker site, and the
   “About” tab will point to mailing list subscription and archives.

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6.5.6.  4.6 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 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 the group needs to take attendance.  Decisions tentatively
   made during an interim WG meeting must still be confirmed on the
   mailing list.  Interim meetings are subject to the IETF Note Well.
   Most interim meetings are virtual these days and have the same
   reporting requirements as face-to-face virtual meetings.

   The IESG has rules for advance notice on time and place of interim
   Working Group meetings, as well as reporting the results of the
   meetings.  The purpose of these rules is to make interim meetings
   accessible to as many Working Group members as possible and to
   maintain the transparency of the Working Group process.

6.6.  5 BOFs and Dispatching

   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
   without an initial meeting.

   A _Birds of a Feather_ (BOF) meeting has to be approved by the Area
   Director in the relevant area, in consultation with the IESG and the
   IAB, before it can be scheduled.  If you think you need a new WG,
   approach an AD with your proposal and see what they think.  You will
   have to write some informative background text, and they will work
   with you to get it scheduled.  Of course, you can also gather
   interested people and work on a draft charter in the meantime.

   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, that there are enough people willing to do
   the work needed in order to create standards, and that any standards
   would get adoption.  Often a self-selected group of key people will
   get together after the BOF to refine the draft charter.

   Generally, there are only two BOF meetings allowed for the same
   topic.  Sometimes it is obvious after one meeting that a WG should be
   created, and sometimes it is obvious a WG would not be successful.

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   If you have a draft already written, you can submit it to the
   relevant “dispatch” WG.  Each area has one of these.  Their job is to
   review submitted documents, and come to a decision about the next
   steps: possibilities include create a new WG, send to an existing WG,
   hold a BOF, and so on.

   An advantage of using the dispatch WG compared to a BOF is that the
   discussion is more limited and focused.  On the other hand, a draft
   might tend to limit what the other folks in the BOF want to do in the
   charter.  Remember that most BOFs are held in order to get support
   for an eventual Working Group, not to get support for a particular

6.7.  6 RFCs and Internet-Drafts

   This section discusses Internet-Drafts and RFCs in the IETF stream,
   that is, it describes how documents are produced and advanced within
   the IETF.  For a brief note on other RFC streams, see above.

   If you’re a new IETF participant and are looking for a particular RFC
   or Internet-Draft, you can use the IETF _Datatracker_. This website, (, has a
   text search capability (including content, keywords, author, and so
   on), and the search results point to the document status, page count,
   and other useful information.  A little-known hint is that
   _dt.ietf.org_ is an abbreviation (a DNS CNAME entry) for the longer
   “” hostname.

   Most RFCs in the IETF stream follow the same process, and the
   sections below discuss the process and some of the issues.  Note that
   there are other ways to get an RFC published
   started/#officialdocuments) , particularly if it is not intended for
   the standards track.  For the sake of brevity, we will not mention
   those here.  After all, this document is about “the Way of the IETF”
   and the main Way is “developing standards.”

   If you are interested in learning more about how to author an
   Internet-Draft yourself, the]( Authors
   website has a lot of information and resources, including pointers to
   online tools that can help.

6.7.1.  6.1 The Overall Process

   The very first step is to have a draft document.  Internet-Drafts
   should follow a specific format, and are required to have particular
   sections.  This will be discussed more](#6-3)below.

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   RFCs are generally written by a Working Group.  If an appropriate WG
   doesn’t seem to exist, then the](#5)BOF or Dispatch process mentioned
   above can be used to learn which one is appropriate, or start the
   process to create one.

   Once a potential WG exists, the document must be _adopted_. To do
   this, you submit your individual draft to the datatracker.  It should
   start with draft-YOURNAME-brief-subject where _YOURNAME_ is your
   name.  Send a note to the WG mailing list, with an introduction to
   the draft, and why you think it is appropriate.  After any
   discusison, the WG Chair will issue a _call for adoption_. If
   consensus is to adopt the draft, you will be asked to submit it with
   the name draft-ietf-WGNAME-brief-subject; you can probably guess what
   _WGNAME_ should be.

   Note that as part of submitting an Internet Draft according to the
   rules, you grant the IETF certain rights.  These rights give the IETF
   the ability to reliably build upon the work you have brought forward.
   These rights are held by the IETF Trust.  BCP 78 (https://www.rfc- explains the certain rights the IETF
   Trust takes on for submissions.

   Once a WG adopt a document, the WG as a whole has the right of
   “change control.” This means the WG, can make any changes to the
   document, the one you initially wrote, that they want.  If you are
   not comfortable with this, then the IETF is not the place for your
   document.  There are a few more details on this below.

   The WG now “works on” the document.  This will be a combination of
   mailing list discussion, perhaps agenda time at a meeting, and
   publishing updated drafts.  (Every draft ends with _-NN_ where the
   digits indicate the draft number.)

   At some point, the document will seem finished.  The WG Chair will
   put the document in _WG Last Call_ (WGLC) which gives the members of
   the WG a chance for last-minute changes.  It can be frustrating to
   get a bunch of changes after you think you’re done, but don’t take it
   personally.  Like many things, people are often deadline-driven.

   After WGLC, the responsible AD (the one who oversees the WG) does a
   review.  They will probably have comments that must be resolved by
   you and the WG; it’s quite likely you’ll have to publish a new draft.
   Then the IESG and the overall IETF reviews the draft, as mentioned
   above.  The purpose of IETF Last Call is to get community-wide
   discussion on documents before the IESG considers them.  Note the
   word _discussion_ here.  It is generally considered bad form to send
   IETF Last Call comments on documents that you have not read, or to
   send comments but not be prepared to discuss your views.  The IETF

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   Last Call is not a vote.  Having said that, IETF Last Call comments
   that come from people who have just read the document for the first
   time can expose issues that IETF and WG regulars may have completely
   missed, which is why the discussion is open to everyone.

   Finally, the draft is given to the RFC Production Center (RPC), and
   prepared for publication.  There might be other changes required,
   including reviews by IANA for registrations and the like.  The most
   common item you’ll hear about this is _AUTH48_ state, which means the
   document is in the final stages of copy-editing by the RPC and you.
   The publication process can take weeks, but be patient, and you’ll
   eventually see an email announcement saying that your brand-new RFC
   has been published.  Congratulations!

   A much more complete explanation of these steps is contained in BCP 9
   (  This set of documents 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.

6.7.2.  6.2 Common Issues

   There are two major issues that often come up while preparing I-Ds:
   copyright and patents.

   We discussed copyright above, but expand on it here.  When the IETF
   adopts a Internet-Draft, it is required that the _boilerplate_, the
   common text that appears in every draft, has a notice that says the
   IETF, _and the document authors_ own the copyright.  This means that
   while the IETF can do what it wants with the document, within
   limitations so can you.  You cannot, for example, claim this is an
   IETF standard, nor use the IETF trademarks.

   Incidentally, the change control on Internet standards doesn’t end
   when the RFC is published.  Things can be changed later for a number
   of reasons, such as to solve a newly-discovered problem or address
   new use-cases.  These later changes are also under the control of the
   IETF, not the editors of the standards document.

   The second issue is patents.  The goal of the IETF is to have its
   standards widely used and validated by 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.”

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   Of course, this isn’t always possible.  Sometimes patents appear
   after a standard has been established and there is little the IETF
   can do about that.  Sometimes there’s a patent on something that is
   so valuable that there isn’t a non-patented equivalent, and generally
   the IETF tries to avoid it.

   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.  Ideally, and this is the common case when a
   patent-holder is active in a document, the patent holder will grant
   free use of the patent to implement the specification.

   The official rules for all intellectual property rights (IPR) in IETF
   documents, not just patents but also code samples and the like, are
   covered in BCP 78 ( and BCP 79

   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 IPR disclosures
   ( page.  If you still have
   issues, consult with the WG Chair or the responsible AD.
   Intellectual property rights aren’t mentioned in RFCs because RFCs
   never change after they are published, while knowledge of IPR can
   change at any time.  Therefore, an IPR list in an RFC could be
   incomplete and mislead the reader.  BCP 79 (https://www.rfc- provides specific text that should be added to
   RFCs where the author knows of IPR issues.

6.7.3.  6.3 Writing an Internet-Draft

   Every RFC starts its life as an I-D.  Internet-Drafts have the same
   format as an RFC, and are required to have all the content that
   should appear in the RFC.  This includes a couple of sections
   detailed below.  A draft may also have more information, such as an
   incremental list of changes from previous versions of the draft, or
   pointers to online locations for raising issues and suggesting

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   For the past several years, the official canonical source of RFCs as
   RFC 7991: The “xml2rfc” Version 3 Vocabulary (https://www.rfc-  Some people enjoy writing in XML, and some
   don’t.  An alternative for the second group is to use a specific
   dialect of markdown, which is then converted to XML as needed (and
   especially during the publication process).  A recent trend is the
   increasing use of markdown, and hosting I-Ds on GitHub to attract a
   wider audience of Internet-savvy users.  Some information on this can
   be found at RFC 8874: Working Group GitHub Usage Guidance

   The IETF is setting up a new site,
   (, to contain guides and online tools to
   help both new and experienced authors.  As of this writing, it’s
   still a draft but it does contain a great deal of useful content.
   You should feel free to use the site, and offer feedback.

   Outside of the formatting decision, the most important document you
   can read is [Guidelines to Authors of Internet-
   Drafts]((  That document
   explains the naming conventions, formatting requirements, required
   content, and details of how to submit (also called _post_) your
   draft.  6.3.1 Internet-Draft Language

   It is common for Internet-Drafts that revise existing RFCs to have
   draft names with “bis” in them, meaning “again” or “twice.” For
   example, a draft might be called “draft-ietf-uta-rfc6125bis” meaning
   that this is intended to be a revision of, and eventual replacement
   for, RFC6125.

   Writing clear specifications can be a bit of an art, particularly for
   people who don’t have English as their native language.  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

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   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.  Over time, the IETF has
   realized that defining a few words with specific meanings helps a
   great deal.  BCP 14 ( defines
   about a dozen keywords that can be used to clarify what are
   requirements, as compared to what is purely informative.  It defines
   the meaning of words like _MUST_ and points out that it has to appear
   in all uppercase to its special meaning.

   It is not uncommon for feedback on standards-track I-Ds to question
   the particular uses of what is called “2119 language.” For example,
   “The document says MAY but doesn’t explain why not; should it be a
   MUST?”  6.3.2 About References

   One aspect of writing IETF standards that trips up many newcomers 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
   not strictly needed to implement it.

   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 Internet Standard, all of the RFCs that appear as a
   normative reference must also be an Internet Standard.  This rule
   gives implementors assurance that everything in a Internet standard
   is quite stable, even the things referenced outside the standard.
   This rule, and its exceptions, is described in BCP 97

   There is no hard-and-fast rule about what is an “open standard”, but
   generally this means a stable standard that was made by a generally-
   recognized SDO, and that anyone can get a copy of, although not
   necessarily for free.  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, ask the WG chair or AD if a particular
   external standard can be used in an IETF standard.

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   Every draft is required to have some content.  Some of this is
   boilerplate text about copyright, “2119 keyword,” and so on.  The
   document formatting tools will generate this for you automatically if
   you use the right keyword.  In addition, there are special sections
   that might be required for your draft, and you (and the WG) will have
   to write them.

   Many IETF standards have extension points, such as unassigned fields
   in a message header, or for something like email or HTTP, an actual
   message header.  As](#2-2-4)mentioned above, IANA maintains online
   registries for these.  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) approves any registration requests, and so on.

   Anyone writing a draft that needs one or more registries, or adds
   values to existing registries must have an “IANA Considerations”
   section.  Authors should read BCP 26 (https://www.rfc-, “Guidelines for Writing an IANA
   Considerations Section in RFCs,” which describes how to properly ask
   for IANA to make the changes requested in their draft.  If there are
   no considerations, it is a good idea to have the section and
   explicitly say “This document has no IANA requests.”

   Every draft must have a “Security Considerations” section.  This
   describes possible threats or attacks, known vulnerabilities,
   information that could be exposed, and so on.  It should also
   describe any strategies or mechanisms to mitigate them.  When the
   security directorate (SECDIR) reviews your draft, this section will
   be one of their major focuses.  Don’t gloss over the section, or say
   things like “use TLS to get security” without explaining how the
   protocol uses TLS and what it provides.  See BCP 72 (https://www.rfc-, “Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security
   Considerations”, for more information on writing good security
   considerations sections.

   Also, a draft might have a “Privacy Considerations” section.  An
   Informational RFC, RFC 6973: Privacy Considerations for Internet
   Protocols (, written by the
   IAB, is intended to raise the general awareness of privacy on the
   Internet.  It also provides advice for when a draft should have an
   explicit privacy section.

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   Some drafts benefit from having an “Implementation Status” section,
   as explained by]( BCP 205:
   Improving Awareness of Running Code: The Implementation Status

   More detail on the required content can be found online

6.7.4.  6.4 Standards-Track RFCs

   If the IESG approves the draft to become a standards-track RFC, they
   ask the RPC to publish it as a _Proposed Standard_.

   Don’t be surprised if a particular standard doesn’t progress from
   Proposed Standard to Internet Standard.  To become an Internet
   Standard, an RFC must have multiple interoperable implementations and
   the unused features in the Proposed Standard must be removed; there
   are additional requirements listed in BCP 9 (https://www.rfc-  Most of the protocols 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 Internet Standard, 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

6.7.5.  6.5 RFCs Other than Standards-Track

   As mentioned earlier, not all RFCs are standards.  In fact, many
   important RFCs are not on the standards track at all.  At the time of
   writing, there are also categories for Informational, Experimental,
   Best Current Practice, and Historical for standards that are no
   longer recommended for use.  The role of Informational RFCs can be
   confusing, and people sometimes refer to them as “standards,” when
   they are not.

   Experimental RFCs are for specifications that are interesting, but
   for which it is unclear if there will be widespead deployment, or if
   they will scale to work after such deployment.  That is, a
   specification might solve a problem, but there might not be IETF
   consensus that the problem is worth solving or that the specification
   is complete enough to address the problem.  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.

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   The IESG has created guidelines
   experimental/) that can help choose between Informational and
   Experimental classification.  This is a short informal read, and if
   are not sure where your document fits, it is worth reading.

   Finally, there are two sub-series of RFCs: Best Current Practice
   (BCP) and Internet Standards (STD).  BCP describes the application of
   various technologies in the Internet, and are also commonly used to
   document the many parts of the IETF process.  The STD sub-series was
   created to identify RFCs that do in fact specify Internet standards.

   These are an example of the aphorism that everything in computer
   science can be solved by a layer of indirection.  For example, a
   single BCP can refer to one or more RFCs, and the specific RFCs can
   change such as when a new version of a protocol is published.
   Likewise, some STDs are actually sets of more than one RFC, and the
   “standard” designation applies to the whole set of documents.

6.8.  7 How to Contribute to the IETF

6.8.1.  7.1 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.  Remember the tenet,
   “rough consensus and running code,” so you can help support the
   standards you want to become more widespread by creating more running
   code.  You can help the development of protocols before they become
   standards by implementing I-Ds (but not doing wide-spread deployment)
   to ensure that the authors have done a good job.  If you find errors
   or omissions, offer improvements based on your implementation
   experience.  A great way to get involved in this is by participating
   in the Hackathons.

   *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 receive kinds of technical (and, sadly, sometimes personal)

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   criticism.  Take the technical comments with equanimity and use it to
   improve your draft in order to produce the best and most
   interoperable standard, and ignore the personal ones.

6.8.2.  7.2 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 vendors that you are doing so.

   *Open Up:* If your company owns a patent that is used in an IETF
   standard, convince the company to make the patent available at no
   cost to anyone who is implementing the standard.  Patents have
   previously caused many serious problems for Internet standards
   because they prevent some companies from being able to freely
   implement them.  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.

   *Support:* The IETF has sponsorship opportunities
   ( and an endowment
   ( which can
   also take individual-sized donations.  Become a member of ISOC.  Urge
   any company that has benefited from the Internet to contribute, since
   this has the greatest financial benefit for the group.  It will, of
   course, also benefit the Internet as a whole.

6.9.  8 IETF and the Outside World

   While some IETF participants would like to think otherwise, the IETF
   does not exist in a standards vacuum.  This section discusses two
   important groups.

6.9.1.  8.1 IETF and Other SDOs

   There are many other standards organizations whose decisions affect
   the Internet.  Some of them 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 SDOs.  This isn’t always easy,
   since they usually have different structures and processes 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, many SDOs make a great

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   effort to interact well with the IETF despite the obvious cultural

   As stated in BCP 39 (, the IAB
   Charter: “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 the
   WG level, with formal relationships and liaison documents in a backup
   role.  The best place to check to see whether the IETF has any formal
   liaison at all is the list of IETF liaisons

   At the time of this writing, the IETF has around two dozen liaisons.
   Some of these liaison tasks fall to the IESG, whereas others fall to
   the IAB.  Full details about the processes for dealing with other
   SDOs can be found in BCP 102 (
   and BCP 103 (

6.9.2.  8.2 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 media to cover its
   actions.  But it can be hard to cover the IETF; a common mistake is
   reporting an individual’s Internet-Draft as something the IETF is
   working on, or that the IETF has approved a new standard when it was
   an Informational or Individual RFC.  Often, the press is not really
   to blame for the problem, as they might have been alerted to the
   story by a company trying to get publicity for a protocol, or they
   see the latest “controversy” on social media.

   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.

   Reporters looking for information about the IETF, or pointers to IETF
   participants working on a particular topic relevant to the IETF,
   should send a message to (, and
   a full page of contacts for a variety of needs is available online
   (  Replies are usually sent within a
   day.  Even if a direct answer to a particular query is not available,
   pointers to resources or people who can provide more information
   about a topic are often provided.

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7.  Security Considerations

   This document has no security considerations.

8.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

9.  Informative References

   [RFC1391]  Malkin, G., "The Tao of the IETF: A Guide for New
              Attendees of the Internet Engineering Task Force",
              RFC 1391, DOI 10.17487/RFC1391, January 1993,

   [RFC1539]  Malkin, G., "The Tao of IETF - A Guide for New Attendees
              of the Internet Engineering Task Force", RFC 1539,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC1539, October 1993,

   [RFC1718]  IETF and G. Malkin, "The Tao of IETF - A Guide for New
              Attendees of the Internet Engineering Task Force",
              RFC 1718, DOI 10.17487/RFC1718, November 1994,

   [RFC3160]  Harris, S., "The Tao of IETF - A Novice's Guide to the
              Internet Engineering Task Force", RFC 3160,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3160, August 2001,

   [RFC4677]  Hoffman, P. and S. Harris, "The Tao of IETF - A Novice's
              Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force", RFC 4677,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4677, September 2006,

   [RFC6722]  Hoffman, P., Ed., "Publishing the "Tao of the IETF" as a
              Web Page", RFC 6722, DOI 10.17487/RFC6722, August 2012,

Authors' Addresses

   Niels ten Oever
   University of Amsterdam

   Greg Wood
   IETF Administration LLC

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