Trying to Keep the Internet's Standards Setting Process in Perspective
Kai Jakobs, Technical University of Aachen, Germany
The Internet is emerging as a crucial part of the Global Information Infrastructure. This is not least due to the remarkable longevity and versatility of some of its protocols. Accordingly, many claim that the standards setting process adopted by the Internet community is vastly superior to those of the more 'traditional' standards setting bodies, such as ISO and ITU.
To define - and follow - an adequate standards setting process will indeed be one of the most important single contributors towards the Internet's future. Until not so long ago the process has worked remarkably well. Yet, in the light of the massive financial interests that are at stake these days, this paper voices some concerns regarding the adequacy of the current process in this new environment, where increasingly commercial interests play an important role.
A brief general description of the process adopted by the IETF is followed by a discussion of some of the more noteworthy characteristics of this process. These include the 'rough consensus', the 'everyone can speak' paradigm and the popular claim of 'individual participation'. This discussion, related observations and the subsequent conclusions are largely based on interviews with long-standing IETF 'members'.
Full Paper PDF (28KB) - Slides Word (62KB)