Much of the daily work of the IETF is conducted on electronic mailing lists.
Any interested individual with technical expertise can contribute to IETF work via email. There are four categories of mailing lists:
The IETF discussion list serves two purposes. It furthers the development and specification of Internet technology through discussion of technical issues, and it hosts discussions of IETF direction, policy, and procedures. As this is the most general IETF mailing list, considerable latitude is allowed with respect to topics discussed. Advertising, whether to solicit business or to promote employment opportunities, falls well outside the range of acceptable topics, as do discussions of a personal nature.
The IETF discussion list is meant for initial discussion only. Discussions that fall within the area of any working group list (or other well established list) should be moved to that more specific list as soon as this is pointed out, unless the issue is one for which the working group needs wider input or direction.
In addition to the topics noted above, appropriate postings include:
More information about the IETF Discussion list and other discussion lists can be found on our the discussion list webpage.
Announcement lists are used for distributing information about various topics and are not set up to be used for discussion. The IETF maintains four announcement lists:
Each IETF Working Group has its own discussion list for the work being done within the group. This is the list used to consider documents and is where issues are considered officially--even if they are preliminarily discussed in person at meetings. Information about and links to mailing lists for active IETF working groups are available at the IETF Datatracker.
Non-Working Group lists are for discussing topics that may be of interest to IETF participants but aren't directly considering work within a Working Group or other IETF work. However, statements addressed to these lists are considered IETF contributions and are subject to the IETF intellectual property rights rules as defined in RFC 5378 and RFC 3979.
To request a non-WG mailing list, please refer to "Non-Working Group Email List Guidelines".
Contributions to IETF work, including to IETF email lists, are covered by the Note Well policy.
Archives are maintained for each list and can be found in a number of ways:
The IETF uses Mailman to manage IETF email discussions.
When you subscribe to a IETF email list, Mailman will offer you the opportunity to enter a privacy password. As they state on the list subscription page, "this provides only mild security, but should prevent others from messing with your subscription. Do not use a valuable password as it will occasionally be emailed back to you in cleartext. If you choose not to enter a password, one will be automatically generated for you, and it will be sent to you once you've confirmed your subscription. You can always request a mail-back of your password when you edit your personal options. "
Please note that although Mailman will send the password reminders for each subscription in clear text in an email (these can be turned off by the user, by individual list or globally for that email address), the passwords are encrypted on the server and can not be read by anyone, list admins or server admins.
Occasionally list subscribers will have their addresses disabled due to the internal Mailman bounce policy; this policy is explained below.
Each email address that mailman sends to has a corresponding bounce score. Every day that mail to an address bounces back will cause the bounce score for that email address to be increased, by 1 for a hard (fatal) bounce and by 0.5 for a soft (transient) bounce. If mailman can't determine whether it's a hard or a soft bounce it uses hard by default.
Once the bounce score for an email address reaches 5 the account (subscription) will be disabled. Mailman will try sending 3 warning messages, each 3 days apart, to the email address to the tell the recipient their account has been disabled and how to re-enable it. If the account is still disabled after this then mailman will remove the email address from the membership list.