Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

Definition of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in Network Encyclopedia.

What is IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force)?

IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) is an international community of networking engineers, network administrators, researchers, and vendors whose goal is to ensure the smooth operation and evolution of the Internet. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) receives its charter from the Internet Society (ISOC), and its daily operations are overseen by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).


The work of the IETF is performed by a number of working groups who are dedicated to such aspects of the Internet as routing, operations and management, transport, security, applications, and user services. These working groups interact primarily through mailing lists and are managed by area directors who belong to the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).

Some working groups develop extensions and newer versions of familiar protocols such as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP), Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Others develop new protocols such as the Common Indexing Protocol, Internet Open Trading Protocol, and the Internet Printing Protocol.

The working groups produce documents called Internet Drafts, which have a life span of six months, after which they must be deleted, updated, or established as a Request for Comments (RFC) document.

What IETF do?

The details of IETF operations have changed considerably as the organization has grown, but the basic mechanism remains publication of proposed specifications, development based on the proposals, review and independent testing by participants, and republication as a revised proposal, a draft proposal, or eventually as an Internet Standard. IETF standards are developed in an open, all-inclusive process in which any interested individual can participate. All IETF documents are freely available over the Internet and can be reproduced at will. Multiple, working, useful, interoperable implementations are the chief requirement before an IETF proposed specification can become a standard.[3] Most specifications are focused on single protocols rather than tightly interlocked systems. This has allowed the protocols to be used in many different systems, and its standards are routinely re-used by bodies which create full-fledged architectures (e.g. 3GPP IMS).

Because it relies on volunteers and uses “rough consensus and running code” as its touchstone, results can be slow whenever the number of volunteers is either too small to make progress, or so large as to make consensus difficult, or when volunteers lack the necessary expertise. For protocols like SMTP, which is used to transport e-mail for a user community in the many hundreds of millions, there is also considerable resistance to any change that is not fully backward compatible, except for IPv6. Work within the IETF on ways to improve the speed of the standards-making process is ongoing but, because the number of volunteers with opinions on it is very great, consensus on improvements has been slow to develop.

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