The process of creating an Internet Standard is straightforward: a specification undergoes a period of development and several iterations of review by the Internet community and revision based upon experience.
The basic formal definition of the IETF standards process is RFC 2026 (BCP 9). However, this document has been amended several times. The intellectual property rules are now separate, in RFC 5378 (BCP 78) (rights in contributions) and RFC 3979 (BCP 79) (rights in technology). Another update is RFC 3932 (BCP 92) (independent submissions to the RFC Editor).
From RFC 2026, section 1.2:
In outline, the process of creating an Internet Standard is straightforward: a specification undergoes a period of development and several iterations of review by the Internet community and revision based upon experience, is adopted as a Standard by the appropriate body... and is published. In practice, the process is more complicated, due to (1) the difficulty of creating specifications of high technical quality; (2) the need to consider the interests of all of the affected parties; (3) the importance of establishing widespread community consensus; and (4) the difficulty of evaluating the utility of a particular specification for the Internet community.
The goals of the Internet Standards Process are:
... The goal of technical competence, the requirement for prior implementation and testing, and the need to allow all interested parties to comment all require significant time and effort. On the other hand, today's rapid development of networking technology demands timely development of standards. The Internet Standards Process is intended to balance these conflicting goals. The process is believed to be as short and simple as possible without sacrificing technical excellence, thorough testing before adoption of a standard, or openness and fairness.
This document reproduces the rules for classifying documents as Informational and Experimental from RFC 2026, and amplifies those rules with guidelines relevant to ongoing IESG evaluations. It is not intended to change any of the underlying principles.
The IESG reviews and approves working group documents and candidates for the IETF standards track, and reviews other candidates for publication in the RFC series
This document describes the IESG ballot procedures. Three cases are described. For the vast majority of documents, the Normal IESG Ballot Procedure is used, and neither of the other procedures comes into play.
Any action made by an Area Director or the IESG may by made the subject of the conflict resolution mechanisms set out in RFC 2026. The primary aim of the appeals mechanism set out there is to resolve conflicts and move the IETF as a whole towards consensus.
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.