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Year 2015 and Beyond

29 Dec 2015

With the year closing, I wanted to make a post highlighting some of the events and hot topics of the year. And say a few words about the challenges that lie ahead.


Let's start with technical and big-Internet affecting issues. When I talked with the steering group about the events of the year, these came up:

  • The publication of HTTP/2 in RFC 7540 [1]. This is the new protocol that supports web traffic in an efficient and secure manner, widely adopted in software and increasingly used in Internet [2,3,4].
  • Publication of the DNS privacy problem statement and subsequent work on potential solutions to address this problem [5,6].
  • More generally, eighteen months ago we made a promise that the IETF would understand the implications of pervasive surveillance on Internet technology [7]. We are starting to deliver on that promise, and as a result, are better equipped to look at improvements.
  • The IETF took on data modelling work for network management, mostly focused around YANG and various standards organisations and open source efforts that use these models [8,9].
  • We chartered new work to extend security protections to vulnerable parts of the real-time communications stack, such as the security work in PERC, STIR and the continuing work in RTCWEB WGs [10,11,12].
  • The IAB worked with operators to understand the implications of Internet traffic being more commonly encrypted [13].
  • We started supporting IEEE efforts on deterministic networking using IETF protocols for broader geographical coverage [14].

But there were also more internally oriented events for the IETF. For me the big thing was focusing more on open source and bringing back the running code aspect to the IETF. Our Hackathon events have now seen their first year, and grown to a successful ~100 person event. We are looking forward to the second year, and the next event will be April 2-3, just before IETF-95 in Buenos Aires [15].

We also re-organised the IETF areas, creating the new Applications and Real-time area (ART), and helping the steering group organise its work in a flexible manner on current topics [16].

We also saw development and increased usage of remote attendance facilities through Meetecho and other systems. Did you know that all 2015 IETF sessions are on YouTube [16]?

Here are some of the challenges that we saw coming up:

  • We need to continue the work on increasing the security of web and e-mail traffic. It will not be easy, and technology can only provide a part of the answers. But we must continue this work, as at least from my perspective the loss of privacy and personal control of information relating to a person is the most critical challenge facing the Internet today. It is also important to consider threats to privacy as a systemic problem, and not something only related to surveillance. The current Internet enables legitimate services to have a lot of privacy-sensitive information, and building ways to minimise exposure would be beneficial to both users and service providers in the long term.
  • The expanding Internet of Things applications, with their security, privacy, interoperability, and manageability issues is another major Internet future challenge. It is essential, for instance, that interoperable devices can be used to build systems around us, enabling competition and innovation.
  • We must start work on new tools that help operators to manage traffic in an all-encrypted world.
  • We need to continue extending management capabilities and security aspects for routing protocols.
  • The Internet transport protocols are evolving to match current day needs, with respect to security and efficiency. It is likely that a fairly large change will happen in this space, and proposals such as TCPINC or QUIC will change how we think about transport protocols [18,19].
  • We must accelerate the publication of the standard YANG data models, the challenge being the coordination of all these models.
  • We need to deliver on our promises to provide the privacy enhancements, real-time communication security tools, and many other topics that the working groups have been chartered to do.
  • We need to execute the IANA transition, finally. A plan for this transition has been produced by the IETF together with other Internet organisations [20].

What other challenges do we face in the Internet, and are there proposals that you would like to see taken forward to solve them? Let us know on

Inside the IETF, one of the key issues continues to be that we remain the most useful place for today’s Internet technologists to work with each other. I’m happy about our reach into more open source folks, our meetings and ISOC programs reaching out to different groups and different regions, but that is only the start. What can we do to make the IETF a better place for you to develop standards that you need?

With this, I want to thank everyone who has participated in IETF projects and wish you happy holidays. We have more work to do, but we should be happy about the things we’ve achieved in 2015. See you next year!

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