Long-Term IETF Evolution

In the midst of a day’s discussion about particular issue that troubles us with technology or something else, it can be difficult to focus on topics that have a longer timescale. As you probably remember, I had asked a design team to write a draft about various trends around us that affect the IETF.

We got some feedback on that draft, but the draft stopped short of making specific statements about what the IETF should do. And unless we bring the thoughts to a bit more practical level, the discussion stays abstract and remote.

So, I thought I’d try to state my view about what we should focus on in the future, in the hopes that it will generate discussion. Feel free to suggest alternate views or question these!

I claim that we need to do four major things:

    1. Make it easier for people to be involved in the IETF.
    2. Be even better positioned to use online collaboration.
    3. Focus on linking open standards to code, operationals, and interoperability.
    4. Evolve IETF sponsorship models to focus more on our work than meetings.

The first two items are about improved ability to people be involved in IETF work in different ways, and at low cost level. We need open an source developer to come collaborate on a standard for the duration of his or her project, without requiring a multi-year learning project to do it. We need people with too little time on their hands or too little travel funds to be able to participate more fully in the virtual IETF. This requires some practical changes, such as evolving our tools. But it will also require cultural and maybe process changes, if we are to enable, for instance, people with experience but not much IETF experience to be able to drive things more fully.

We have also been searching for our place in the world of many different forms of collaboration. Standards vs. open source, for instance. I think a natural place for the IETF to sit in is in the borderline between code and standard; hence hackathons, interops, and operational experience need to form an even bigger part of our gatherings than they are today.

Finally, as you know the IETF operations are funded from three sources: The Internet Society, meeting fees from our participants, and sponsorships. I’ll note that two thirds of that is tied to meetings, and re-balancing that differently is probably prudent. For instance, the sponsorship part could perhaps move from current meeting host model to other models that are more based on the work that we do. This wouldn’t be a change to who our funders are or how much financing is needed, but rather a change of the format.

But these are just my initial thoughts. Please discuss! The best place for discussing this on the IETF main discussion list, ietf@ietf.org.

Jari Arkko, IETF Chair