Internet Engineering Task Force

by Anirudh Sridhar last modified Dec 01, 2013 02:34 AM
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is an open standards body with no requirements for membership and does not have a formal membership process either.

It is responsible for developing and promoting Internet Standards. Internet Standards are technological specifications which are applicable to the internet and internet access. The IETF also closely works with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and other standard setting bodies. It mainly deals with the standards of the Internet Protocol suite (TCP/IP) which is a communication protocol used for the internet.

The mission of the IETF is to, "produce high quality, relevant technical and engineering documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the internet in such a way as to make the internet work better."[1]


The IETF consists of working groups and informal discussion groups. The subject areas of the working group can be broadly divided into the following categories:

  • Applications
  • General  Internet
  • Operations and Management,
  • Real-time Applications and Infrastructure,
  • Routing,
  • Security, and
  • Transport

The working groups are divided into, areas as mentioned above and they are managed by area directors.

IETF Standards Process

The process of developing Standards at the IETF looks simple but faces certain complications when put into practice.

A specification for a internet standards goes through a period of development followed by reviews by the community at large. Based upon the reviews and experiences, the specifications are revised and then the standards are adopted by an appropriate body after which it 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."[2]

The main goals of the Internet Standards Process are:

  • Technical Excellence;
  • Prior Implementation and Testing;
  • Clear, Concise, and Easily Understood Documentation;
  • Openness and Fairness; and
  • Timeliness[3]

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

W3C is a multi-stakeholder organization that involves groups from various sectors including multi nationals. W3C is also an international community dedicated to developing an open standard, "to ensure the long term growth of the web". It is led by the inventor of the web — Tim Berners-Lee.

The guiding principles of W3C"[4] are:

  • Web for All
    The W3C recognizes the social value of the internet as it enables communication, commerce and opportunities to share knowledge. One of their main goals is to make available these benefits to all irrespective of the hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.
  • Web on Everything
    The second guiding principle is to ensure that all devices are able to access the web. With the proliferation of the mobile device and smart phones; it has become more important to ensure access to the web irrespective the type of device.
  • Web for Rich Interaction
    The W3C Standards support and recognizes that the web was created as tool to share information and it has become more significant with the increasing demand for platforms such as Wikipedia and social networking platforms.
  • Web of Data and Services
    Web is often viewed as a giant repository or data and information but it is also seen as a set of services which includes exchange of messages. The two views complement each other and how web is perceived depends on the application.
  • Web of Trust
    Interaction on the web has increased and people ‘meet on the web’ and carry out commercial as well as social relationships. "W3C recognizes that trust is a social phenomenon, but technology design can foster trust and confidence.""[5]

[1]. Mission Statement for the IETF available at





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