IETF Overview

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) provides a forum for working groups to coordinate technical developments of new protocols. Its most important function is the development and selection of standards within the Internet protocol suite. 

The IETF began in January 1986 as a forum for technical coordination by contractors for the then US Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA), working on the ARPANET, US Defense Data Network (DDN), and the Internet core gateway system. Since that time, the IETF has grown into a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. 

The IETF mission includes: 

1. Identifying and proposing solutions to pressing operational and technical problems in the Internet; 

2. Specifying the development or usage of protocols and the near-term architecture, to solve technical problems for the Internet; 

3. Facilitating technology transfer from the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) to the wider Internet community; and 

4. Providing a forum for the exchange of relevant information within the Internet community between vendors, users, researchers, agency contractors, and network managers. 

Technical activity on any specific topic in the IETF is addressed within working groups. All working groups are organized roughly by function into seven areas. Each is led by one or more area directors who have primary responsibility for that one area of IETF activity. Together with the Chair of the IETF/IESG, these technical directors compose the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). 

IETF/IESG Chair Fred Baker 

Applications Harald Alvestrand 

Keith Moore 

Internet Thomas Narten 

Jeffrey Burgan 

Operations & Management John Curron 

Deirdre Kostick 

Michael O'Dell 

Routing Joel Halpern 

Security Jeff Schiller 

Transport Scott Bradner 

Allyn Romanow 

User Services Joyce K. Reynolds

The IETF has a Secretariat, headquartered at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives in Reston, Virginia, with the following staff: 

IETF Executive Director Steve Coya 

IETF Meeting Coordinator Marcia Beaulieu 

IETF Proceedings Coordinator Dixie Walker 

IETF Meeting Registrar Julie Kirchhoff 

IETF Internet-Drafts Coordinator Cynthia Clark 

The working groups conduct business during plenary meetings of the IETF, during meetings outside of the IETF, and via electronic mail on mailing lists established for each group. The IETF holds 4.5 day meetings three times a year. These meetings are composed of working group sessions, technical presentations, network status reports, working group reporting, and an open IESG meeting. 

A Proceedings of each IETF plenary is published, which includes reports from each area, each working group, and each technical presentation. The Proceedings include a summary of all current standardization activities. 

Meeting reports, charters (which include the working group mailing lists), and general information on current IETF activities are available on-line for anonymous FTP from several Internet hosts, including 

On-Line IETF Information 

The Internet Engineering Task Force maintains up-to-date, on-line information on all of its activities. The following sub-sections contain: 

A description of the contents of several FTP directories; instructions on how to access the information via FTP, e-mail, and the World Wide Web; a description of the different formats of proceedings available; and, instructions on how to subscribe to the two major IETF mailing lists. 


IETF-related information is also available via the World Wide Web. The URL is: 

The IETF Directory (/ietf) 

Below is a list of the files available in the IETF directory and a short synopsis of what each file contains. Files prefixed with a "0" contain information about upcoming meetings, while files prefixed with a "1" contain general information about the IETF. 

0tao.txt: This file contains "A Guide for New Attendees of the Internet Engineering Task Force" (RFC 1718). People attending an IETF meeting for the first time are encouraged to read this document so they know what to expect at the meetings and how to participate in them. 

0mtg-agenda.txt: The current agenda for the upcoming IETF meeting, containing scheduled sessions for working groups, BOFs, and plenary presentations. 

0mtg-at-a-glance-yymm.txt: A file containing logistics information for individual IETF meetings, including the date and location, hotel and airline arrangements, meeting site accommodations and meeting costs. Each "at-a-glance" file is distinguished by the year and month of the meeting (e.g., 0mtg-at-a-glance-97apr.txt for the April 1997 meeting). 

0mtg-rsvp.txt: The form used to notify the Secretariat of your plans to attend the upcoming IETF meeting. 

0mtg-sites.txt: Dates and sites for upcoming IETF meetings. 

0mtg-multicast-guide-yymmm.txt: A schedule for sessions at the IETF meeting whose audio video will be "multicast" over the Internet. 

0mtg-traveldirections-yymmm.txt: Directions on how to get to the meeting hotel(s). 

1directories.txt: This file. 

1ietf-logo.gif: The IETF LOGO. 

1iab.txt: List of current IAB members. 

1iesg.txt: List of current IESG members. 

1ietf-description.txt: An introduction to the IETF. 

1id-guidelines.txt: Instructions for authors of Internet-Drafts. 

1ietf-description.txt: A short description of the IETF, the IESG and how to participate. 

1wg-summary.txt: A listing of all current working groups, their acronyms, chairs, mailing list, and any documents produced. 

1wg-charters.txt: A listing of all current working groups, their descriptions, acronyms, chairs, mailing list, and email archive location. 

1proceedings-request.txt: An order form for hard copies of IETF meeting proceedings. 

1rfc_index.txt: An RFC index.


Working groups have individual directories under /ietf, named by their acronym, for charters and minutes (e.g., the /ietf/snmpv2 directory contains the charter and minutes for the SNMPv2 Working Group). 

Area reports and Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF) session minutes are grouped into directories by meeting. The directory names are of the form yymmm (e.g., the /ietf/97apr directory contains the area summaries and BOF minutes for the April 1997 meeting). 

The Internet-Drafts Directory (/internet-drafts) 

The Internet-Drafts directory contains draft documents that may eventually be submitted to the IESG and/or RFC Editor to be considered for publication as RFCs. Internet-Drafts have no formal status, and are considered fluid documents that may change or be deleted at any time. They are indexed in the file 1id-abstracts.txt in the Internet-Drafts directory. Comments on the documents should be addressed to the author whose e-mail address is listed in the document. 

1id-abstracts.txt: This file lists the current Internet-Drafts, their titles, pathnames, authors, dates of publication, and abstracts. 

1id-index.txt: This file contains an abbreviated listing of Internet-Drafts (the document title, filename, and posting date). 

For more information on writing and submitting an Internet-Draft, see the "Guidelines to Authors of Internet-Drafts" document (1id-guidelines.txt in the /ietf directory). 

The IESG Directory (/iesg) 

The IESG directory contains the minutes of IESG meetings. The minutes of IESG meetings are contained in files named with the pattern iesg.yy-mm-dd (e.g., the /iesg/iesg.92-11-10 file contains the minutes of the IESG meeting held on 10 November 1992). 

FTP Access 

The IETF information described above is available by anonymous FTP from several sites. 



Pacific Rim: (The Internet-Drafts on this machine are stored in UNIX compressed form )

US East Coast:

US West Coast: 

To retrieve this information, FTP to one of the above sites, log in with username anonymous and your e-mail address as the password. When logged in, change to the desired directory (using the cd command), and retrieve the desired files (using the get command). 

E-mail Access 

Internet-Drafts and other IETF material, are available by mail server from To retrieve a file, mail a request to with a subject of anything you want. In the body, put one or more commands of the form:

FILE /ietf/1wg-summary.txt 

FILE /internet-drafts/1id-abstracts.txt 

FILE /iesg/iesg.92-11-10 


Where PATH lists the e-mail address where the response should be sent. If you have the mpack utility or a MIME-compliant mail reader, you may want to use the additional command: ENCODING mime 

This command results in the information being returned in a MIME message. 


For each IETF meeting, a set of proceedings is published that contains area reports, charters of active working groups, minutes from working group and BOF sessions, and material from plenary presentations. The proceedings are published in hard copy, CD-ROM, and on-line formats. Meeting attendees are given the option of requesting a hard copy of the proceedings for a price of US$50. On-line proceedings are available to everyone via: 

World Wide Web (see above)

Anonymous FTP from 

Mailing Lists 

Much of the daily work of the IETF is conducted on electronic mailing lists. There are mailing lists for each of the working groups, as well as an IETF general discussion list and an IETF announcement list. Mail on the working group mailing lists is expected to be technically relevant to the working groups supported by that list. 

The IETF announcement list is a "moderated" mailing list that receives the following types of messages:

meeting logistics, 

agendas for working group and BOF sessions at IETF meetings, 

working group actions, 

internet-Draft announcements, 

IESG last calls, 

IESG protocol and document actions, and 

RFC announcements. 

To join the announcement list, send a request to: with the word subscribe in the subject line. 

The IETF discussion list is open, and therefore has a wide range of topics. To join the IETF general discussion list, send a request to: with the word subscribe in the subject line. 

An archive of mail sent to the IETF lists is available via anonymous FTP from the directory/ietf-mail-archive/ietf on 

To join most other Internet mailing lists, send a request to the associated "-request" address (for example, to join the list@listhost list, send a message to list-request@listhost). Never send a subscription message to the list itself. 

General inquiries about the IETF should be sent to with a statement of the type of information requested (not just the word "help"). 

Guidelines to Authors of Internet Drafts 

The Internet-Draft directories are available to provide authors with the ability to distribute and solicit comments on documents they may eventually submit to the IESG for publication as an RFC. Submissions to the directories should be sent to 

Internet-Drafts are not an archival document series. These documents should not be cited or quoted in any formal document. Unrevised documents placed in the Internet-Drafts directories have a maximum life of six months. After that time, they must be updated, or they will be deleted. After a document becomes an RFC, it will be replaced in the Internet-Drafts Directories with an announcement to that effect. 

Internet-Drafts are generally in the format of an RFC, although they are expected to be rough drafts. This format is specified fully in RFC 1543. In brief, an Internet-Draft must be submitted in ASCII text, limited to 72 characters per line and 58 lines per page, followed by a formfeed character. Overstriking to achieve underlining is not acceptable. 

PostScript is acceptable, but only when submitted with a matching ASCII version (even if figures must be deleted). PostScript should be formatted for use on 8.5x11 inch paper. If A4 paper is used, an image area less than 10 inches high should be used to avoid printing extra pages when printed on 8.5x11 paper. 

There are differences between the RFC and Internet-Draft format. The Internet-Drafts are NOT RFCs and are NOT a numbered document series. The words "INTERNET-DRAFT" should appear in the upper left hand corner of the first page. The document should NOT refer to itself as an RFC or a draft RFC. 

The Internet-Draft should neither state nor imply that it has any standards status; to do so conflicts with the role of the RFC Editor and the IESG. The title of the document should not infer a status. Avoid the use of the terms Standard, Proposed, Draft, Experimental, Historic, Required, Recommended, Elective, or Restricted in the title of the Internet-Draft. All Internet-Drafts should include a section on the first page containing the following verbatim statement: 

"This document is an Internet-Draft. Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups. Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress." 

To view the entire list of current Internet-Drafts, please check the "1id-abstracts.txt" listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow Directories on: (Africa), (Europe), (Pacific Rim), (US East Coast), or (US West Coast). 

The document should have an abstract section, containing a two or three paragraph description suitable for referencing, archiving, and announcing the document. This abstract will be used in the 1id-abstracts.txt index and in the announcement of the Internet-Draft. The abstract should follow the "Status of this Memo" section. In addition, the Internet-Draft should contain a section giving name and contact information (postal mail, voice/fax number, and/or e-mail) for the authors. 

All Internet-Drafts should contain the full filename (beginning with draft- and including the version number) in the text of the document. The filename information should, at a minimum, appear on the first page (possibly with the title). 

For authors submitting updates to existing Internet-Drafts, the choice of the file name is easily determined (up the version by 1). For new documents, either suggest one or send a message to "" with the document title, noting if it is a product of a working group (and the name of the group), and an abstract. The file name to be assigned will be included in a response. Simply add the filename text to the document (ASCII and PostScript versions) and submit the Internet-Draft. Note that if a filename is suggested, but not used, the document will have to be resubmitted with the actual file name. 

A document expiration date must appear on the first and last page of the Internet-Draft. The expiration date is six months following the submission of the document as an Internet-Draft. Authors can calculate the six month period by adding five days to the date when the final version is completed to cover processing time. 

If the Internet-Draft is lengthy, please include, on the second page, a table of contents to make the document easier to reference.