IETF Debates Streamlined Standards Process

By: Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Date: October 1, 2010

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IETF chair Russ Housley’s proposal to streamline the Internet standards process dominated the discussion at the IETF 78 plenary session on Wednesday night. Russ proposed replacing the current three-step process—which includes Draft Standard, Proposed Standard, and Internet Standard—with a two-step process that includes only Proposed Standard and Internet Standard.

Driving his proposal is his view that the initial publication of Internet-Drafts takes too long because the drafts receive too much scrutiny. Instead, Russ proposes an environment where good-enough documents are published as soon as rough consensus has been achieved—plus it’s easier to revise such documents.

Between Proposed Standard and Internet Standard, Russ suggests only one requirement: proof of interoperability. He would remove the requirement for a six-month waiting period between when a document can transition from a Proposed Standard to an Internet Standard. Indeed, he suggests that some documents can go straight to Internet Standard if they include documentation of interoperability. In another change, Internet Standards would be allowed to reference Proposed Standards.

Russ’s proposal includes no changes to Informational RFCs. However, it would abandon the STD numbering system.

Attendees at the plenary session were split on the proposal. Bob Hinden said he liked the idea of getting the group back to focusing on running code. Ross Callon said he thought the proposal would improve the standards process, especially with downward references allowed.

Olafur Gudmundsson said he’s worried about the rapid advancement of complicated drafts straight to Internet Standard. Several attendees—including Bernard Aboba, John Klensin, and Thomas Narten—questioned whether Russ’s proposal would actually speed up the process of publishing standards.

Most of the plenary attendees were in favor of eliminating one step in the current three-step standardization process, but they did not agree with the idea of documents’ being able to go straight to Internet Standard. The group showed no consensus on Russ’s proposal, and it was decided that more discussion was needed on the mailing list.

In other IETF news, the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award was given to Prof. Jianping Wu of CERNET at the Tsinghua University in recognition of his work as a champion of Internet development and deployment in China.

The IETF plenary concluded with a champagne toast in recognition of the significant progress being made in the deployment of the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC). More than 200 IETF participants who have contributed to the development of this standard during the past 17 years were recognized. DNSSEC is currently deployed on,,, and and will be deployed soon on and the .arpa domain.

This article was posted on 31 January 2011