There has been several long threads over the last few months about
IETF issues. Some of the viewpoints may be read as philosophical
disagreements about how the IETF should do its thing.
"Postel apparently edited a series of reports called
"Request for Comments" or "RFC" for short. These seem to be
one of the principal means by which the technology of the
Internet has been documented, and also, as nearly as I can
tell, a lot of its culture."
Some people view RFCs as the main brand of the IETF. I'll postulate
that what makes the IETF is not the RFC Series even though a lot of
its culture is documented in them. The "brand" of the IETF is the
Internet Standards Process. It is much more than a process to publish RFCs.
The goals of the Internet Standards Process are:
- technical excellence;
- prior implementation and testing;
- clear, concise, and easily understood documentation;
- openness and fairness; and
The Process is based on procedures that are designed to be fair,
open, and objective; and to be flexible. The Process allows for open
participation; any person can voice out their opinion and that
opinion bears the same weight as any other. The strength of the IETF
is that it favors the individual; the IETF does not have members or
corporate members. There are well-known companies that participate
in the IETF. The IETF does not publish standards; it publishes an
ASCII document which is a record of the consensus at a given
time. That record, generally a derivative work based upon it, only
becomes an Internet Standard through an evolution with the Internet
community deploying the specification.
"If you want to do this thing, this is the description of how to
do it". It does not imply any attempt by the IETF to mandate its
use, or any attempt to police its usage - only that "if you say
that you are doing this according to this standard, do it this way"
Over the years, there has been a special class of RFCs that preempts
other RFCs. Some of them can be viewed as forward-looking. For
example, there is a proposal to create a new revenue source for the
IETF by selling naming rights in IETF protocols that has the
"consensus" of the community. The IAOC will definitely not be able
to implement that proposal.
The procedures and policies used internally are based on process
agility. Most decisions are based on judgement calls instead of a
stoic process. They favor the consensus instead of proclamations
from the mountain top.
The IETF favors free speech; not the kind defined for use within
geographical boundaries. Critics of the IETF have their say. That
doesn't imply that IETF participants have a licence for abuse. There
are heated and even passionate technical debates. Free speech within
the IETF, by virtue, is not based a national political system. After
all, the goal is to make the Internet work better.
What follows can be considered as pure speculation.
The values that keeps the mission on course is the commitment to
openness and fairness. This implies transparency and actions that
are publicly justifiable. The writing is already on the wall but it
have been ignored. There is enough evidence to build a case.
If any of the IETF (or related) bodies wants to claim a layer
violation, it can always do so. But that won't make the problem go
away. If there is a meltdown the IETF might accept a leveraged
buy-out to preserve the Internet Standards Process or at the very
least the RFC Series.
Please do not conflate the content of this message with the one from
the thread of the week. It doesn't even contain a rough sketch for a
Boston Tea Party*.