Internet Engineering Task Force

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The Internet Engineering Task Force ( IETF , English for 'Internet Technology Working Group') is an organization that deals with the technical development of the Internet in order to improve its functionality.

Your mission is to create high quality, relevant technical documents that will affect the way people develop, use, and manage the Internet. These documents include Internet protocol standards , descriptions of currently known procedures, and various documents of a more informative nature. In contrast to the more research-oriented Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), the IETF is more concerned with the problems of the Internet that have to be solved in the short term , in particular with the standardization of the communication protocols used on the Internet. The Internet protocol family includes, for example, the Internet Protocol (IP), the UDP , TCP and SCTP transport protocols and the HTTP application protocol for the transmission of web content.

The IETF is an open , international voluntary association of network technicians, manufacturers, network operators, researchers and users, which is responsible for proposals for the standardization of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual and there is no formal membership or membership requirement. As a loose organization, the IETF has no legal form.

The organization's secretariat is located in Fremont, California .

Organization and way of working

The IETF consists of a large number of working groups , each of which deals with a specific topic and intends to stop working on that topic and then disband. Each working group has an appointed chairman (or sometimes several co-chairs) as well as a charter that formulates the objectives and specifies when which documents should be produced. The working groups act and discuss via email via open mailing lists and usually meet three times a year for more personal discussions at the so-called IETF meetings . According to the motto formulated by Dave ClarkWe reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code. ”No precise coordination is required for the decision-making process, a“ rough consensus ”within the working group is sufficient.

The work groups by topic in areas (Areas) divided; each area is supervised by an Area Director (AD) (most areas have two Co-ADs); the ADs appoint the chairs of the working groups. The Area Directors, together with the IETF Chairman, form the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), which is responsible for the overall operation of the IETF. Before a document created in the IETF is elevated to the official protocol standard on the Internet , it must be examined and approved by the IESG in order to ensure the high quality of the official standards. In the event of a dispute, the IESG also decides whether a rough consensus has been reached within a working group. New working groups are usually only set up when the need for them has been adequately justified, as assessed by the IESG. Usually, after a first discussion of participants with an AD about a new topic, a first meeting of like-minded interested parties takes place at a so-called Birds of a feather (BOF) during an IETF meeting. During a BOF, problems are discussed which can be solved by a new working group, if necessary, and initial proposals for a charter are developed. Such a meeting can take place several times until it is clear whether there are enough volunteers to found a new working group.

The IETF is formally active under the umbrella of the Internet Society (ISOC), primarily because the IETF itself is not a corporation and therefore has no legal form. The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is a committee that maintains the architectural overview of the IETF activities and supports the ISOC in an advisory capacity. The IAB also oversees the standardization process, appoints the RFC editor and is responsible for managing the assignment of protocol parameter values by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IAB is jointly responsible for the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC), which oversees the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA), which deals with the administrative matters of the IETF (including finances). From a financial point of view, the main costs are for the IETF meetings, the various servers and the administration itself. The IETF Secretariat is responsible for organizing the meetings and running the servers. The IETF only receives income from the participation fees for the IETF meetings and from the ISOC. The IAB also manages the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) with which the IETF has some cross-group relationships. The members of the IESG and the IAB are selected by a nomination committee (NomComm), which in turn is made up of a random selection of volunteer IETF participants (who take part in the IETF meetings on a regular basis).


The IETF is currently divided into seven thematic areas. Each working group within the IETF is assigned to exactly one of these areas.

  • Applications and real-time ( Applications and Real-Time - ART)
  • General ( General - GEN)
  • Internet services ( Internet - INT)
  • Operation and network management ( Operations and Management - OPS)
  • Routing (RTG)
  • Safety ( Security - SEC)
  • Transport Services (TSV)


The IETF began in January 1986 in San Diego with a quarterly meeting of US government-paid researchers. Starting with the fourth IETF meeting in October 1986, representatives from non-governmental suppliers were also invited. Since that time, all IETF meetings have been open to everyone. Most of the IETF's work, however, is done through mailing lists and participants do not need to attend the meetings because important decisions need to be discussed and made through the mailing list. The events of an IETF meeting are, however, reasonably easy to understand even for those who are not present: there are usually live broadcasts of the audio channels so that discussions can be followed live. Furthermore, these recordings are archived so that they can be listened to again later. In addition, participation via XMPP enables an interactive return channel so that remote participants can ask questions about it. Most working groups also provide a transcript and the slides presented by the participants in the meeting proceedings.

The initial meetings were very small, with fewer than 35 present for the first five and a maximum of 120 (at the 12th meeting in January 1989) for the first 13 meetings. Since the early 1990s, meetings have grown rapidly in terms of both participation and scope; the peak attendance was 2,810 in the July 2000 IETF in San Diego. With the restructuring in the industry in the early 2000s, the number of visitors decreased again and is currently around 1,500.

During the early 1990s the institutional form changed from being a US government activity to an independent, international organization affiliated with the Internet Society. The IETF's influence has been sometimes exaggerated by the trade press as the latter believed that the former was responsible for the success of the Internet through its work on the core protocols.

In detail, operations have changed quite a bit as the IETF has grown, but the basic mechanism remains draft specification publication, reviews and independent testing by those involved and republication. Interoperability of independently developed implementations is the main test of clarity in the IETF specifications that want to become standards. Most specifications focus more on individual protocols than on the interaction of components in system architectures. This has allowed their protocols to be used in many different systems and their standards to be routinely reused by institutions when it comes to developing complete architectures (e.g. 3GPP , IMS ).

However, because the IETF relies on volunteers and uses “rough consensus and working code” as a touchstone, it can also be slow when the number of volunteers is either too low to make progress or so large that consensus is difficult. For protocols like SMTP - which is responsible for transporting e-mail for a community numbering in the billions - there is also considerable resistance to any change that is not one hundred percent backwards compatible . The IETF is working on ways to increase the speed of work - but given the large number of volunteers there are many opinions about this, the consensus mechanisms slow down these efforts themselves.

An introduction to the IETF can be found in The Tao of IETF - A Novice's Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force .

Web links

References and comments

  1. ^ IETF Secretariat
  2. ^ IETF Areas. Retrieved March 18, 2019 .
  3. Happy Birthday, IETF! In: heise online. Retrieved January 17, 2016 .
  4. ^ Proceedings directory
  5. ^ The Tao of IETF - A Novice's Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force .