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Countries Listed in IETF Systems

31 Oct 2023

The IETF Administration LLC and Secretariat regularly receive questions and requests from the IETF community about the countries that are listed in IETF systems, in particular the list in the meeting registration system. Recent communications include a request for a new country to be added to this list and a recommendation that this list should be titled ‘Country or Region’. This post explains how this list is chosen and why we will not be acting on these requests.

As you might expect from a technical standards organization, IETF systems use ISO 3166,  the global standard technical list of codes for countries and their subdivisions, which incorporates the names of countries from UN sources.  

For practical reasons, we do not directly implement this list but rely instead on third-party code libraries, which generally include features that go beyond that standard.  The one non-standard feature used in IETF systems, is the replacement of some official short names of countries with more commonly used short names, as this simplifies and improves the user experience.  For example, in the meeting registration system the ISO 3166 short name of “Netherlands (Kingdom of the)” is replaced with “Netherlands”.  Similarly “Taiwan (Province of China)” is replaced with “Taiwan”.

We understand that there are a lot of strong feelings about this subject and the combination of choices above will leave some people very unhappy.  However, there is no straightforward neutral way to do this, nor is it possible to address a request to change without upsetting someone else. The choices above are a fair way to balance the many competing interests for what are, after all, just a set of IT systems.

In response to the two specific requests above:

On the question of adding a new country - we do not think it is appropriate for us to create a custom list instead of ISO 3166.  That is simply not an area of political controversy that we should be entering into.

On the question of renaming the list from ‘Country’ to ‘Country or Region’ - our current approach of simplifying ‘countries and their subdivisions’ is the same approach taken in ISO 3166 itself which is the standard for ‘Country Codes’.  While there are some places where the UI could support a more expansive term, in other places that would be problematic and we prefer consistency as that delivers a better user experience.

If you have any questions or comments, then please feel free to contact me directly at

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