Monthly Archives: August 2014

Celebrating the Importance of OpenStand


The OpenStand approach to creating global standards has never been more relevant—or important—than it is today.

Two years ago, when OpenStand was announced and endorsed by the IEEE, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), supporters agreed standards developed according OpenStand principles were key to the historic growth and evolution of the Internet.

As Chair of the IETF when OpenStand was announced, and Chair of the IAB today, I believe also that these principles are fundamental to the Internet’s future success—and that they establish a broader paradigm for standards covering many topics that are fundamental to a thriving global economy and the social wellbeing. The role of standards development organizations is often hidden in everyday life, but the impact of standards is felt by billions of people everyday.

In summary, the OpenStand principles are:

Due process. Decisions are made with equity and fairness among participants.

Broad consensus. Processes allow for all views to be considered and addressed, such that agreement can be found across a range of interests.

Transparency: Advance public notice of proposed standards development activities is provided, easily accessible records of decisions and the materials used in reaching those decisions are provided, and public comment periods are provided before final standards approval and adoption.

Balance: Standards activities are not exclusively dominated by any particular person, company or interest group.

Openness: Processes are open to all interested and informed parties.

Within the IETF, standards emerge from technical merit and rough consensus, but the standards are really considered a success when the market voluntarily adopts them. IETF participation is open to any interested individual, and processes are transparent. Every draft, discussion of the draft, as well as the final IETF standard, are freely available to everyone.

Internationalized domain names (IDNs) are just one specific instance of how standards developed in the IETF have helped make the Internet more accessible to the billions of people. IDNs allow all people to use domain names in their native script. Two years ago IDNs were just taking off, and they see even greater adoption and deployment today. One important part of the story behind the IDN standards is that the IETF did not get them right the first time. When the technical community saw that the original IDN standards were not being voluntarily adopted, they were revisited and refined.

More recently, major email providers are adopting and deploying the results of the IETF Email Address Internationalization (EAI) working group —another step towards making the Internet even more accessible to all people around the world.

One of the biggest developments for the Internet since the announcement of OpenStand has been the revelation of pervasive monitoring on a massive scale and scope. In response, the IAB and IETF have started work to improve the security, privacy, and overall trustworthiness of Internet protocols. Of course, this work is taking place through the usual open and transparent IETF processes, allowing the results, and the steps taken to reach them, to be examined by anyone.

Participants in the IETF say that their goal is to “make the Internet work better.” OpenStand principles help ensure IETF standards do just that, while providing open and accessible standards around the world. With support for OpenStand principles growing in the past two years, it’s clear that others understand the importance of these principles as well.

Russ Housley, IAB Chair

Mailing Lists: What works, what doesn’t?

(Kathleen’s opinions, not an IESG statement of any sort.)

The IETF has had another lively discussion about mailing list usage in the mailing list, followed by a long plenary debate on how to make it more useful to the community.  Thanks to those of you who stuck out the long discussion Wednesday night, providing insight and ideas to improve from the current state.  These discussions can be painful, but necessary to figure out how we evolve with time. 

A few things seemed apparent during the session:

  • IETF participants in the mailing list are passionate and appreciate use of that forum.   The number of active users is relatively small for the size of our community.
  • On the other hand, many are turned away from the list, seeing it as a time suck, high noise to signal ratio, and too aggressive.  These folks are very unlikely to join again.
  • The list is not an ideal venue for newcomers.  Moderation might help, but changes in culture of the list would take a year or more to be effective and noticeable to others.
  • Younger newcomers see mailing lists as archaic; perhaps a focus on change to the list to attract newcomers won’t meet our goals?
  • Ideally, feedback during the last call process would be increased because of discussions on the mailing list.  For the most part, that is not happening.  Perhaps that is okay for at least some drafts, demonstrating that drafts are good at that stage of the process.

What are we trying to accomplish?

  • Provide a forum for IETF-wide discussions on relevant topics including last call comments, proposed policy and process changes.
  • Ensure discussion forums exist and are archived, supporting transparency goals of the IETF.
  • Increase exposure for soon-to-be published drafts for both reviews and awareness.
  • Improve the quality of Internet standards, which requires a culture that fosters retention of newcomers.

The IETF discussion list is not meeting these goals.  Many find the IETF list painful, so they avoid it.  We still need the list as some find it very helpful and enjoy working in mailing lists.  Many in the IETF community contributed helpful comments during the Toronto Administrative Plenary, and several possibilities emerged.  What if we continued use of the mailing list for community-wide discussions to avoid any controversy and experimented with new communication methods to serve the other purposes, that currently do not work well through the list?  We want to attract and retain newcomers and at least the younger ones think the use of mailing lists is archaic.  Complementary to discussion forums, we could consider the use of new communication methods may also increase awareness of IETF protocols and thus the understanding of relevance to the larger community (twitter, see below).  Many of us, including me, are quite comfortable with the datatracker and existing tools, the following suggestions are not necessarily targeted towards those comfortable with the current set of tools.

Possible experiments:

  • Create a twitter account to announce both working group and IETF-wide last calls.  Those interested can either look at the twitter feed once a week to make sure they didn’t miss something, while those that follow it may choose to retweet drafts relevant to their followers.  Discussions would be directed to mailing lists or another tool as appropriate, and twitter use would be strictly a marketing tool.
  • Create an organized site to maintain a current list of drafts in working group and IETF last call.  The site should be modern and include social aspects as to attract newcomers and experts in specific areas who may not necessarily be regular IETF attendees (yet).  Ideally, the site would include easy ways to contribute comments, even to support comments posted by others or provide a simple statement of support for the work.  There should be one place to look at all comments during last call for the draft editors, shepherds, and others.  If we experimented with such a model, to Adrian Farrel’s point, we would need to ensure ease of commenting and debating comments in a structured and traceable way.

Authenticated edit access with traceability for changes (add, remove, etc.) on the new services would be necessary, to prevent the tools from becoming as ‘entertaining’ (and ultimately ineffective) as the use of Etherpad in the Toronto Administrative plenary. 😉

Kathleen Moriarty, Security Area Director, IETF