Network Working Group                                      M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                             July 22, 2019
Intended status: Informational
Expires: January 23, 2020

                     The Internet is for End Users


   This document explains why the IAB believes the IETF should consider
   end-users as its highest priority concern, and how that can be done.

Note to Readers

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

   The most recent (often, unpublished) draft is at [2].

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

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

Status of This Memo

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

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

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on January 23, 2020.

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Copyright Notice

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

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.

Table of Contents

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

1.  Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  What Are "End Users"?

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

   End users are not necessarily a homogenous group; they might have
   different views of how the Internet should work (from their
   viewpoint) and might occupy several roles, such as a seller, buyer,
   publisher, reader, service provider and consumer.  An end user might
   be browsing the Web, monitoring remote equipment, playing a game,
   video conferencing with colleagues, sending messages to friends, or
   performing an operation in a remote surgery theatre.

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

   A person whose interests we need to consider might not directly be
   using a specific system connected to the Internet.  For example, if a
   child is using a browser, the interests of that child's parents or

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   guardians may be relevant; if a person is pictured in a photograph,
   that person may have an interest in systems that process that
   photograph, or if a person entering a room triggers sensors that send
   data to the Internet than that person's interests may be involved in
   our deliberations about how those sensor readings are handled.

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

3.  Why End Users Should Be Prioritised

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

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

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

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

   In other words, the IETF is concerned with developing and maintaining
   the Internet to promote the social good, and the society that the
   IETF is attempting to improve is composed of end users, along with
   groups of them forming businesses, governments, clubs, civil society
   organizations, and other institutions.

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

   Beyond fulfilling the IETF's mission, prioritising end users also
   helps to ensure the long-term health of the Internet.  Many aspects
   of the Internet are user-focused, and it will (deservedly) lose their
   trust if prioritises others' interests.  Because one of the primary

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   mechanisms of the Internet is the "network effect", such trust is
   crucial to maintain; the Internet itself depends upon it.

4.  How End Users are Prioritised

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

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

   The IAB encourages the IETF to explicitly consider user impacts and
   points of view in any IETF work.  The IAB also encourages the IETF to
   engage with the above parties on terms that suit them; it is not
   reasonable to require them to understand the mores and peculiarities
   of the IETF community - even though we encourage them to participate
   in it.

   That means, when appropriate, the technical community should take the
   initiative to contact these communities and explain our work, solicit
   their feedback, and encourage their participation.  In cases where it
   is not reasonable for a stakeholder community to engage in the IETF
   process, the technical community should meet with them.  IAB
   workshops can serve this purpose and the IAB encourages suggestions
   for topics where this would be of benefit.

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

   At the very least, however, we must examine our work for impact on
   end users, and take positive steps to avoid it where we see it.  In
   particular, when we've identified a conflict between the interests of
   end users and another stakeholder, we should err on the side of
   finding a solution that avoids harmful consequences to end users.

   Note that "harmful" is not defined in this document; that is
   something that the relevant body (e.g., Working Group) needs to
   discuss.  Furthermore, harm to end users is judged just like any

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   other decision in the IETF, with consensus gathering and the normal
   appeals process; merely asserting that something is harmful is not
   adequate.  The converse is also true, though; it's not permissible to
   avoid identifying harms, nor is it acceptable to ignore them when
   brought to us.

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

   Much of that advice has focused on maintaining the end-to-end
   security properties of a connection.  This does not mean that our
   responsibility to users stops there; protocol decisions might affect
   users in other ways.  For example, data collection by various
   applications even inside otherwise secure connections is a major
   problem in the Internet today.  Also, inappropriate concentration of
   power on the Internet has become a concerning phenomenon - one that
   protocol design might have some influence upon.

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

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

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document does not require action by IANA.

6.  Security Considerations

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

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7.  References

7.1.  Informative References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.2.  URIs




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Appendix A.  Acknowledgements

   This document was influenced by many discussions, both inside and
   outside of the IETF and IAB.  In particular, Edward Snowden's
   comments regarding the priority of end users at IETF 93 and the
   WHATWG's Priority of Constituencies for HTML were both influential.

   Many people gave feedback and input, including Harald Alvestrand,
   Mohamed Boucadair, Stephen Farrell, Joe Hildebrand, Lee Howard, Russ
   Housley, Niels ten Oever, Mando Rachovitsa, Martin Thomson, Brian
   Trammell, John Klensin, Eliot Lear, Ted Hardie, and Jari Arkko.

Author's Address

   Mark Nottingham


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