Response to WG last call, Problem Statement: Thoughts on the IETF problem statement

Keith Moore moore at
Fri Nov 21 03:53:55 CET 2003

I disagree with most of these problem statements, especially those 
regarding IETF's "culture" and organizational goals.  In particular, It 
would be a very bad move for IETF to regard the Internet as exclusively 
or even mostly "commercial" in nature, especially given the extensive 
history (which continues to this day) of noncommercial efforts 
producing a significant number of useful innovation, widely-used 
products, and widely-used protocols.   The Internet and IETF both 
continue to evolve, and even if most of the current participants are 
"commercial" we should not insist that they shall be so in the future - 
indeed, I'd argue that to be successful in the future we must find a 
way to attract more participants who take a long view.

Many of these statements are not "problems" but rather assumptions 
about how IETF should be that are far from universally shared.

I do believe that some form of membership should be considered as part 
of a "solution" to some other problems (at least, it shouldn't be 
rejected outright), and that our procedures for the operation of 
working groups in particular are obsolete and need refinement.  But 
these are really topics for another group.

One interesting point regarding document format.  IETF has a very long 
history of exchanging and providing standards documents over the 
network - far more than other SDOs, and this certainly influenced 
IETF's choice of document format.  Nearly 40 years after its initial 
adoption, ASCII text remains a very versatile and portable format, 
sufficient for most (not all) of IETF's purposes.  Few networking SDOs 
can claim that several of their 20-year old technical specifications 
are even accessible and readable, much less usable in other than a 
historical sense.  Specifications that are written to be usable for a 
long time should be produced in a format that will also continue to be 
usable into the future, and this argues for simplicity rather than 
aesthetic appeal.  Despite its name, PDF is already becoming somewhat 
nonportable, and the other popular formats are even worse.

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