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Standards process

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.

Key Info

The basic formal definition of the IETF standards process is RFC 2026. However, this document has been amended several times. The intellectual property rules are now separate, in RFC 5378 (rights in contributions) and RFC 3979 (rights in technology). Another update is RFC 3932) (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:

  • technical excellence;
  • prior implementation and testing;
  • clear, concise, and easily understood documentation;
  • openness and fairness; and
  • timeliness.

... 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.

An informal description of the IETF process is provided in: The IETF process: an informal guide

Bibliography

  • [1] RFC 2026
    The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3

    This memo documents the process used by the Internet community for the standardization of protocols and procedures. It defines the stages in the standardization process, the requirements for moving a document between stages and the types of documents used during this process. This document spec...

  • [2] RFC 5378
    Rights Contributors Provide to the IETF Trust

    The IETF policies about rights in Contributions to the IETF are designed to ensure that such Contributions can be made available to the IETF and Internet communities while permitting the authors to retain as many rights as possible. This memo details the IETF policies on rights in Contributions ...

  • [3] RFC 3979
    Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology

    The IETF policies about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), such as patent rights, relative to technologies developed in the IETF are designed to ensure that IETF working groups and participants have as much information about any IPR constraints on a technical proposal as possible. The policies ...

  • [4] RFC 3932
    The IESG and RFC Editor Documents: Procedures

    This document describes the IESG's procedures for handling documents submitted for RFC publication via the RFC Editor, subsequent to the changes proposed by the IESG at the Seoul IETF, March 2004.

    Harald T. Alvestrand

  • [5] RFC 2026
    The Internet Standards Process -- Revision 3

    This memo documents the process used by the Internet community for the standardization of protocols and procedures. It defines the stages in the standardization process, the requirements for moving a document between stages and the types of documents used during this process. This document spec...