This document is an informal guide to various IETF process documents, intended mainly to assist IETF participants in navigating the labyrinth. It may be out of date when you read it, if new documents have appeared recently.
BCP 9 (RFC 2026) has been the basis for the IETF standards process for many years. However, many other process documents exist, some of which are partial updates to BCP 9. This situation is complicated, so the present document offers a structured way of looking at the official documents. It may be out of date when you read it, if new official documents have appeared recently.
It is difficult to linearise a complicated and interlocked process. This document presents a guide in one particular order, but that is not intended to imply priority or importance, and it cannot capture all interactions between components.
Formally, IETF processes are described in Best Current Practices (BCPs) published as RFCs. Many of the RFCs mentioned below are BCPs. RFC numbers have been used rather than BCP numbers, for convenient lookup. To avoid any accidental ambiguity, this guide does not attempt to paraphrase or summarize their contents; the reader should consult the original RFCs.
No single document formally covers this topic, although the Tao of the IETF offers most of it informally:
The main document is RFC 2026. Numerous documents have amended this one, and some have been amended or replaced in their turn. All these amendments are reflected below. A very significant change was introduced in 2011, reducing the standards track to two maturity levels: [RFC 6410] and [RFC 7127].
Consolidated lists of standards documents used to published as RFCs, but this is no longer the case; the information is on line at the RFC Editor website.
Additional requirements for routing protocols were previously defined in RFC 1264, but this is now obsolete. It should be noted that practice and interpretation have grown around the documented rules; the Tao of the IETF is helpful in this respect.
Useful comments on this document were made by: Harald Alvestrand, Scott Bradner, Spencer Dawkins, Leslie Daigle, John Klensin, Paul Hoffman, and others.
This document was produced using the xml2rfc tool defined in RFC 2629 .
Updated with RFC 7649, 7776, 7691, 8067, 8174, 8179, 8126, 2018-01-30
Removed section 5. References 2018-01-24
Updated references to 6982 with references to 7942 (BCP 205); fixed links broken with move to new website at www.ietf.org 2018-01-14
Updated with RFC 7282, 7322, 7437, 7418, 7475, 7500, other tweaks, 2015-08-25.
Updated with RFC 6982, 7120, 7127, 7154, 7221, took account of RFC 7100, 7101, other tweaks, 2014-05-07.
Updated with RFC 6771, 6859, 2013-01-22.
Updated with RFC 6576, 6701, 6702, 2012-09-04.
Updated with RFC 6635, 2012-06-12.
Updated with RFC 5657, 6220, 6410, 2011-10-11.
Updated with RFC 4775, 5704, 5706, 5741-45, and various format cleanups, 2011-02-14.
Updated with RFC 5680, 2009-10-29.
Updated with RFC 5226, 5377, 5378, 5434, 5633, 5620, 5633, draft-dawkins-nomcom-openlist, 2009-10-23.
Reformatted as an ad hoc web page at conclusion of ION experiment, cited RFC 4228, 4844-46, 5078, 2008-04-14.
DRAFT ion-procdocs 2007-06-27: cited RFC 4897, 4879, 4181, 4841, 4858.
DRAFT ion-procdocs 2007-02-14: public comments incorporated
DRAFT ion-procdocs 2007-01-29: converted to ION format
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-05: Earlier drafts of this document included references to drafts proposing changes to the standards process. These have been removed to make this document a more stable reference. It has been renamed from "roadmap" to "guide." Some editorial rearrangements have been made. 2006-08-02
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-04: minor additions, tuned Abstract and Introduction, 2006-02-20
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-03: minor additions, 2005-12-20
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-02: minor additions, 2005-10-11
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-01: minor additions, 2005-09-20
draft-carpenter-procdoc-roadmap-00: original version, 2005-08-22