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The IETF Process: an Informal Guide

Abstract

This document is an informal guide to various IETF process documents, intended mainly to assist IETF participants in navigating the labyrinth. It may be out of date when you read it, if new documents have appeared recently. Please refer to the various RFCs, IESG Statements, or discuss with Working Group chairs or Area Directors for official guidance.

Administrivia

Date: 2013-01-22

Document editor: Brian Carpenter

Discussion forum: ietf@ietf.org



Table of Contents

1.  Introduction
2.  The guide
    2.1.  General description of workflow in the IETF
    2.2.  Definition of standards track and related document types
    2.3.  Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
    2.4.  Review and approval process
    2.5.  Bodies involved in the process
    2.6.  Conduct of participants
    2.7.  Publication process
    2.8.  Parameter registration process (IANA)
    2.9.  Administration
    2.10.  Modifying the process
3.  Acknowledgements
4.  Change log
5.  References
    5.1.  Normative References (Rules)
    5.2.  Informative References




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1.  Introduction

BCP 9 (RFC 2026) has been the basis for the IETF standards process for many years. However, many other process documents exist, some of which are partial updates to BCP 9. This situation is complicated, so the present document offers a structured way of looking at the official documents. It may be out of date when you read it, if new official documents have appeared recently.

It is difficult to linearise a complicated and interlocked process. This document presents a guide in one particular order, but that is not intended to imply priority or importance, and it cannot capture all interactions between components.

Formally, IETF processes are described in Best Current Practices (BCPs) published as RFCs. Many of the RFCs mentioned below are BCPs. RFC numbers have been used rather than BCP numbers, for convenient lookup. To avoid any accidental ambiguity, this guide does not attempt to paraphrase or summarize their contents; the reader should consult the original RFCs.



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2.  The guide



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2.1.  General description of workflow in the IETF

Such a document does not exist, although the Tao of the IETF (http://www.ietf.org/tao.html) offers most of it informally:



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2.2.  Definition of standards track and related document types

The main document is
[RFC2026] (Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” October 1996.).
However, a very significant change was introduced in October 2011, reducing the standards track to two maturity levels:
[RFC6410] (Housley, R., Crocker, D., and E. Burger, “Reducing the Standards Track to Two Maturity Levels,” October 2011.).
Additional requirements for routing protocols were previously defined in RFC 1264, but this is now obsolete. It should be noted that practice and interpretation have grown around the documented rules; the Tao is helpful in this respect.



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2.3.  Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)



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2.4.  Review and approval process

The formal process is currently defined by two documents that must be read together:
[RFC2026] (Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” October 1996.),
[RFC6410] (Housley, R., Crocker, D., and E. Burger, “Reducing the Standards Track to Two Maturity Levels,” October 2011.).



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2.5.  Bodies involved in the process

The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) is quite separate from the the IETF
[RFC2014] (Weinrib, A. and J. Postel, “IRTF Research Group Guidelines and Procedures,” October 1996.).



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2.6.  Conduct of participants

See
[RFC3005] (Harris, S., “IETF Discussion List Charter,” November 2000.),
[RFC3184] (Harris, S., “IETF Guidelines for Conduct,” October 2001.),
[RFC3683] (Rose, M., “A Practice for Revoking Posting Rights to IETF mailing lists,” February 2004.),
[RFC3934] (Wasserman, M., “Updates to RFC 2418 Regarding the Management of IETF Mailing Lists,” October 2004.),
[RFC4633] (Hartman, S., “Experiment in Long-Term Suspensions From Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Mailing Lists,” August 2006.).
Conduct is also discussed in the Tao and in
[RFC2418] (Bradner, S., “IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures,” September 1998.)

  • The appeal process is described in RFC 2026.


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2.7.  Publication process



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2.8.  Parameter registration process (IANA)



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2.9.  Administration

See
[RFC4071] (Austein, R. and B. Wijnen, “Structure of the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA),” April 2005.),
[RFC4371] (Carpenter, B. and L. Lynch, “BCP 101 Update for IPR Trust,” January 2006.),
[RFC4333] (Huston, G. and B. Wijnen, “The IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) Member Selection Guidelines and Process,” December 2005.).



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2.10.  Modifying the process

RFC 2026 defines how process BCPs are discussed and approved. An experimental procedure is described in
[RFC3933] (Klensin, J. and S. Dawkins, “A Model for IETF Process Experiments,” November 2004.).
(Also see http://www.ietf.org/iesg/process-experiment.html).



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3.  Acknowledgements

Useful comments on this document were made by: Harald Alvestrand, Scott Bradner, Spencer Dawkins, Leslie Daigle, John Klensin, Paul Hoffman, and others.

This document was produced using the xml2rfc tool defined in RFC 2629 .



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4.  Change log


Updated with RFC 6771, 6859, 2013-01-22.
Updated with RFC 6576, 6701, 6702, 2012-09-04.
Updated with RFC 6635, 2012-06-12.
Updated with RFC 5657, 6220, 6410, 2011-10-11.
Updated with RFC 4775, 5704, 5706, 5741-45, and various format cleanups, 2011-02-14.
Updated with RFC 5680, 2009-10-29.
Updated with RFC 5226, 5377, 5378, 5434, 5633, 5620, 5633, draft-dawkins-nomcom-openlist, 2009-10-23.
Reformatted as an ad hoc web page at conclusion of ION experiment, cited RFC 4228, 4844-46, 5078, 2008-04-14.
DRAFT ion-procdocs 2007-06-27: cited RFC 4897, 4879, 4181, 4841, 4858.
DRAFT ion-procdocs 2007-02-14: public comments incorporated
DRAFT ion-procdocs 2007-01-29: converted to ION format
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-05: Earlier drafts of this document included references to drafts proposing changes to the standards process. These have been removed to make this document a more stable reference. It has been renamed from "roadmap" to "guide." Some editorial rearrangements have been made. 2006-08-02
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-04: minor additions, tuned Abstract and Introduction, 2006-02-20
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-03: minor additions, 2005-12-20
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-02: minor additions, 2005-10-11
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-01: minor additions, 2005-09-20
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-00: original version, 2005-08-22



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5.  References



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5.1. Normative References (Rules)

[RFC2014] Weinrib, A. and J. Postel, “IRTF Research Group Guidelines and Procedures,” BCP 8, RFC 2014, October 1996 (TXT, XML).
[RFC2026] Bradner, S., “The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3,” BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996 (TXT).
[RFC2028] Hovey, R. and S. Bradner, “The Organizations Involved in the IETF Standards Process,” BCP 11, RFC 2028, October 1996 (TXT, XML).
[RFC2360] Scott, G., “Guide for Internet Standards Writers,” BCP 22, RFC 2360, June 1998 (TXT, XML).
[RFC2418] Bradner, S., “IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures,” BCP 25, RFC 2418, September 1998 (TXT, XML).
[RFC2438] O'Dell, M., Alvestrand, H., Wijnen, B., and S. Bradner, “Advancement of MIB specifications on the IETF Standards Track,” BCP 27, RFC 2438, October 1998 (TXT, XML).
[RFC2850] Internet Architecture Board and B. Carpenter, “Charter of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB),” BCP 39, RFC 2850, May 2000 (TXT).
[RFC3005] Harris, S., “IETF Discussion List Charter,” BCP 45, RFC 3005, November 2000 (TXT).
[RFC3184] Harris, S., “IETF Guidelines for Conduct,” BCP 54, RFC 3184, October 2001 (TXT).
[RFC3233] Hoffman, P. and S. Bradner, “Defining the IETF,” BCP 58, RFC 3233, February 2002 (TXT).
[RFC3552] Rescorla, E. and B. Korver, “Guidelines for Writing RFC Text on Security Considerations,” BCP 72, RFC 3552, July 2003 (TXT).
[RFC3677] Daigle, L. and Internet Architecture Board, “IETF ISOC Board of Trustee Appointment Procedures,” BCP 77, RFC 3677, December 2003 (TXT).
[RFC3683] Rose, M., “A Practice for Revoking Posting Rights to IETF mailing lists,” BCP 83, RFC 3683, February 2004 (TXT, HTML, XML).
[RFC3777] Galvin, J., “IAB and IESG Selection, Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the Nominating and Recall Committees,” BCP 10, RFC 3777, June 2004 (TXT).
[RFC3933] Klensin, J. and S. Dawkins, “A Model for IETF Process Experiments,” BCP 93, RFC 3933, November 2004 (TXT).
[RFC3934] Wasserman, M., “Updates to RFC 2418 Regarding the Management of IETF Mailing Lists,” BCP 25, RFC 3934, October 2004 (TXT).
[RFC3935] Alvestrand, H., “A Mission Statement for the IETF,” BCP 95, RFC 3935, October 2004 (TXT).
[RFC3967] Bush, R. and T. Narten, “Clarifying when Standards Track Documents may Refer Normatively to Documents at a Lower Level,” BCP 97, RFC 3967, December 2004 (TXT).
[RFC3979] Bradner, S., “Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology,” BCP 79, RFC 3979, March 2005 (TXT).
[RFC4052] Daigle, L. and Internet Architecture Board, “IAB Processes for Management of IETF Liaison Relationships,” BCP 102, RFC 4052, April 2005 (TXT).
[RFC4053] Trowbridge, S., Bradner, S., and F. Baker, “Procedures for Handling Liaison Statements to and from the IETF,” BCP 103, RFC 4053, April 2005 (TXT).
[RFC4071] Austein, R. and B. Wijnen, “Structure of the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA),” BCP 101, RFC 4071, April 2005 (TXT).
[RFC4181] Heard, C., “Guidelines for Authors and Reviewers of MIB Documents,” BCP 111, RFC 4181, September 2005 (TXT).
[RFC4333] Huston, G. and B. Wijnen, “The IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) Member Selection Guidelines and Process,” BCP 113, RFC 4333, December 2005 (TXT).
[RFC4371] Carpenter, B. and L. Lynch, “BCP 101 Update for IPR Trust,” BCP 101, RFC 4371, January 2006 (TXT).
[RFC4748] Bradner, S., “RFC 3978 Update to Recognize the IETF Trust,” RFC 4748, October 2006 (TXT).
[RFC4775] Bradner, S., Carpenter, B., and T. Narten, “Procedures for Protocol Extensions and Variations,” BCP 125, RFC 4775, December 2006 (TXT).
[RFC4841] Heard, C., “RFC 4181 Update to Recognize the IETF Trust,” BCP 111, RFC 4841, March 2007 (TXT).
[RFC4879] Narten, T., “Clarification of the Third Party Disclosure Procedure in RFC 3979,” BCP 79, RFC 4879, April 2007 (TXT).
[RFC4897] Klensin, J. and S. Hartman, “Handling Normative References to Standards-Track Documents,” BCP 97, RFC 4897, June 2007 (TXT).
[RFC5226] Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, “Guidelines for Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs,” BCP 26, RFC 5226, May 2008 (TXT).
[RFC5378] Bradner, S. and J. Contreras, “Rights Contributors Provide to the IETF Trust,” BCP 78, RFC 5378, November 2008 (TXT).
[RFC5633] Dawkins, S., “Nominating Committee Process: Earlier Announcement of Open Positions and Solicitation of Volunteers,” BCP 10, RFC 5633, August 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5657] Dusseault, L. and R. Sparks, “Guidance on Interoperation and Implementation Reports for Advancement to Draft Standard,” BCP 9, RFC 5657, September 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5680] Dawkins, S., “The Nominating Committee Process: Open Disclosure of Willing Nominees,” BCP 10, RFC 5680, October 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5742] Alvestrand, H. and R. Housley, “IESG Procedures for Handling of Independent and IRTF Stream Submissions,” BCP 92, RFC 5742, December 2009 (TXT).
[RFC6410] Housley, R., Crocker, D., and E. Burger, “Reducing the Standards Track to Two Maturity Levels,” BCP 9, RFC 6410, October 2011 (TXT).
[RFC6576] Geib, R., Morton, A., Fardid, R., and A. Steinmitz, “IP Performance Metrics (IPPM) Standard Advancement Testing,” BCP 176, RFC 6576, March 2012 (TXT).
[RFC6859] Leiba, B., “Update to RFC 3777 to Clarify Nominating Committee Eligibility of IETF Leadership,” BCP 10, RFC 6859, January 2013 (TXT).


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5.2. Informative References

[RFC1311] Postel, J., “Introduction to the STD Notes,” RFC 1311, March 1992 (TXT).
[RFC2031] Huizer, E., “IETF-ISOC relationship,” RFC 2031, October 1996 (TXT, HTML, XML).
[RFC2629] Rose, M., “Writing I-Ds and RFCs using XML,” RFC 2629, June 1999 (TXT, HTML, XML).
[RFC2860] Carpenter, B., Baker, F., and M. Roberts, “Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Technical Work of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority,” RFC 2860, June 2000 (TXT).
[RFC3669] Brim, S., “Guidelines for Working Groups on Intellectual Property Issues,” RFC 3669, February 2004 (TXT).
[RFC3710] Alvestrand, H., “An IESG charter,” RFC 3710, February 2004 (TXT).
[RFC4633] Hartman, S., “Experiment in Long-Term Suspensions From Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Mailing Lists,” RFC 4633, August 2006 (TXT).
[RFC4691] Andersson, L., “Guidelines for Acting as an IETF Liaison to Another Organization,” RFC 4691, October 2006 (TXT).
[RFC4844] Daigle, L. and Internet Architecture Board, “The RFC Series and RFC Editor,” RFC 4844, July 2007 (TXT).
[RFC4845] Daigle, L. and Internet Architecture Board, “Process for Publication of IAB RFCs,” RFC 4845, July 2007 (TXT).
[RFC4846] Klensin, J. and D. Thaler, “Independent Submissions to the RFC Editor,” RFC 4846, July 2007 (TXT).
[RFC4858] Levkowetz, H., Meyer, D., Eggert, L., and A. Mankin, “Document Shepherding from Working Group Last Call to Publication,” RFC 4858, May 2007 (TXT).
[RFC5078] Dawkins, S., “IAB and IESG Selection, Confirmation, and Recall Process: Revision of the Nominating and Recall Committees Timeline,” RFC 5078, October 2007 (TXT).
[RFC5377] Halpern, J., “Advice to the Trustees of the IETF Trust on Rights to Be Granted in IETF Documents,” RFC 5377, November 2008 (TXT).
[RFC5434] Narten, T., “Considerations for Having a Successful Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF) Session,” RFC 5434, February 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5704] Bryant, S., Morrow, M., and IAB, “Uncoordinated Protocol Development Considered Harmful,” RFC 5704, November 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5706] Harrington, D., “Guidelines for Considering Operations and Management of New Protocols and Protocol Extensions,” RFC 5706, November 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5741] Daigle, L., Kolkman, O., and IAB, “RFC Streams, Headers, and Boilerplates,” RFC 5741, December 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5743] Falk, A., “Definition of an Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) Document Stream,” RFC 5743, December 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5744] Braden, R. and J. Halpern, “Procedures for Rights Handling in the RFC Independent Submission Stream,” RFC 5744, December 2009 (TXT).
[RFC5745] Malis, A. and IAB, “Procedures for Rights Handling in the RFC IAB Stream,” RFC 5745, December 2009 (TXT).
[RFC6220] McPherson, D., Kolkman, O., Klensin, J., Huston, G., and Internet Architecture Board, “Defining the Role and Function of IETF Protocol Parameter Registry Operators,” RFC 6220, April 2011 (TXT).
[RFC6635] Kolkman, O., Halpern, J., and IAB, “RFC Editor Model (Version 2),” RFC 6635, June 2012 (TXT).
[RFC6701] Farrel, A. and P. Resnick, “Sanctions Available for Application to Violators of IETF IPR Policy,” RFC 6701, August 2012 (TXT).
[RFC6702] Polk, T. and P. Saint-Andre, “Promoting Compliance with Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Disclosure Rules,” RFC 6702, August 2012 (TXT).
[RFC6771] Eggert, L. and G. Camarillo, “Considerations for Having a Successful "Bar BOF" Side Meeting,” RFC 6771, October 2012 (TXT).


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