Thursday, August 07, 2008


IETF 72, Dublin

IETF 72 posterWell, Dublin-ish. The IETF meeting was actually at Citywest, 30 minutes outside of Dublin. I guess that was great for the golfers, but I missed being in the city, and having the option of walking out and getting lunch and dinner. They provided dinner buses into Dublin, but that’s not the same as just walking down the street a block or three. It seems that Trinity College Dublin would have been a fine place to have the conference, and I’m sure there are other facilities that’d have worked as well.

Still, it was a good meeting. The facility we did have was somewhat expensive, but otherwise fine, and, of course, the meetings were productive and useful, as always. It was another full week (I had about two hours of free time the whole week, an hour or so each on Wednesday and Thursday), and managed to schedule the rest of the time, including meals, for work.

It’s too bad, someone pointed out, that it was the 72nd meeting, and not the 33rd — if it were the latter, we’d have heard the local presentations welcome us to the “torty-tord IETF”. As it was, we heard that there were almost torteen hundred attendees (or, one tousand tree hundred), so that was nice.

I’m going to keep the meeting summary on the short side this time, with just a few highlights, but it’ll still be a long post. If you want to read about the vacation days after the meeting, and see photos, look for my other post, to come tomorrow. If you’re really interested in this, click here to see the meeting summary.

apparea — Applications Area general session

Among the general announcements were that NFSv4 will probably be done in the Applications Area, and that there’d be a discussion of email standards status on Tuesday (of which I have a summary below). There was a presentation of two follow-ups from the Applications Area workshop in February — netappvlan and netappmodel — but with no ensuing discussion.

There was a brief discussion about FTP extensions. The points are that, while FTP seems quite mature, and not terribly ripe for extensions, it’s still big business and there are five documents that are out as Internet drafts, looking for standardization. Should these go through as individual submissions? Should we form a working group?

It looks like we’ll form a working group, and John Klensin and I have agreed to co-chair it. We expect it to be a short-lived and non-contentious group, and John and I agree that standards going through the group will require some real support behind them, and existing implementations as evidence that they’re real and worth moving forward.

dkim — Domain Keys Identified Mail

We had a quiet session at this meeting, and my co-chair, Stephen, wrote this succinct summary, which I’ll use here:

DKIM met Monday afternoon, 62 people attended.

The main goal of the meeting was to get the ADSP and Overview documents to the start of working group last call. Each had a couple of open issues at the start of the meeting that were discussed and resolved (modulo confirmation on the mailing list). The result was that a new revision of ADSP will be published this week. Working group last call on both documents will start at that point.

The deployment guide was briefly presented, and work on that continues.

A couple of proposals were made for new work that might require re-chartering. There was some, but not overwhelming, interest in pursuing these, but the group won’t have that discussion until after the two current documents are in the hands of the IESG.

idnabis — Internationalized Domain Names update

We had the usual minor issues discussion, but the most significant by far, taking most of the time in the two sessions, was in the “BiDi” (bi-directional text) document: how to deal with left-to-right text, such as numbers, dots, slashes, and the like, in otherwise right-to-left text, such as Hebrew and Arabic. We had a demonstration of what happens when such text is entered, and it’s not pretty. As someone typed “abc2.[Arabic-text]”, we watched the “.3” get turned around and moved, so it incorrectly appeared to be attached to the Arabic text. To be sure, this is a user-agent problem — the correct characters will be sent on the wire in the correct order — but it’s a very hard one to solve. There’s no resolution yet, but we have more information, and, as we say, “Our best people are working on it.”

We also had a discussion, which included at least one native speaker of Korean, about a request that we add another set of Korean characters to the list of characters forbidden in domain names.

eai — Email Address Internationalization

We had some discussion of EAI issues during a working dinner on Sunday, and came up with a recommended answer to the question of what to do about List-* header fields. I presented that answer in Monday’s EAI session: for List-ID, note that it is meant to be a machine-readable string, not a human-readable one, and should not be in UTF-8; for others, internationalize them by including multiple URIs, and downgrade by removing the UTF-8 version, leaving the non-UTF-8 versions for use after downgrade.

POP and IMAP are almost done, but there’s an issue about POP and downgrade — the document currently has uncertain language about how to downgrade a UTF-8 message if the client isn’t using UTF-8. In the event that an old client is being used to download the message, but that a newer client (perhaps after a software update) is later used against the same local message store, we agreed, after discussion, that it would be good to have a standard downgrade mechanism used, so there’s some hope that the new client can recover the original message. There was agreement to require the use of the standard EAI downgrade.

We decided to wave our hands around the issue of handling mailto URIs. It will eventually require its own document (a UTF-8-enabled mailto), and for now we’ll point out that mailto does not handle UTF-8 addresses, and that something to deal with that is forthcoming.

There was a report on some very successful experiments with the current EAI specs (including downgrade experiments). Many thanks to the organizations that participated in those. Notwithstanding that, it’s clear that the aggressive schedule that was suggested at IETF 71 isn’t realistic, and we’re setting up a new schedule for re-chartering to put the EAI specs on the standards track.

httpbis — HTTP update

There was a long issue list to get through here, and some issues have been harder than the chairs and authors thought they would be to get consensus on. I’m just including some brief notes here.

The next version of the drafts will include a new registry for messages, to parallel the one for status codes.

The formal grammar is being converted to ABNF, and that’s a lot of work to get right. There’s a particular trickiness with cleaning up LWSP, removing it from where it doesn’t belong, while being sure to leave it where it’s appropriate.

Internationalization is, as always, a sticky issue. Despite standard headers, HTTP implementations have done their own things with respect to internationalization, and it’s making it difficult to decide how to go here. There are questions about support of RFC 2047 encoding, internationalization of filenames in content-disposition headers, and such. There was quite some discussion on this.

There was a discussion of issues with the use of the message header registry in HTTP. The registry is for other uses and is shared by HTTP, and there’s concern about having information in the right place, making sure that implementors read everything necessary to get the implementation right, etc.

For more on internationalization, we came to the question of what character sets to allow in new header fields. The decision was to say that new header fields MUST only use US-ASCII, but that implementations SHOULD accept ISO-8859-1 (including UTF-8 as well, at this point, did not get acceptance).

We finished with a presentation and discussion about security requirements for HTTP, an item specifically out of scope for this first round through the working group, but something that might be added to a re-charter.

morg — Message Organization standards

The MORG BOF’s goal was to review a series of individual Internet drafts and ideas that all relate to searching, sorting, and organizing email messages using IMAP, and to consider forming a working group to bring these documents through the standards process.

The BOF chairs came in with a chunky set of drafts, most of them fairly immature, some of them with significant IMAP-community support already and some that are new items. We went through the drafts, got explanations of each, and discussed them — some in considerable detail.

As a result of the discussion, it seems clear that there are enough document authors, reviewers, and server implementors to get through this lot, and enough energy to easily support a working group. There was some concern, though, first brought up by John Klensin, that this could be another set of IMAP extensions that bloats IMAP, and that really isn’t in significant demand. The problem is that we don’t have much participation by client implementors.

Chris Newman supports the formation of a working group here, and I agree. Chris would like to see the chairs manage the work by assessing the implementation commitments, including commitments from client developers, and dropping items that don’t have commitments to implementation in clients. I also agree with that idea.

The “bloat” discussion led to a suggestion to consider “IMAP5”, which would start by removing features to create a minimal protocol with necessary function, making something that’s easier to implement and get right. Randy Gellens has already started a mailing list for that, and there’s been some initial discussion.

asrg — AntiSpam Research Group

There are two primary documents coming out of this research group so far, both dealing with DNS block-lists. The first, which describes how they work, has been reworked to go on the standards track (as an individual submission, since the IRTF can’t publish standards), rather than being an informational document. The second, recommending best practices in operating and managing a block list, still needs work, and will probably go out as a BCP.

We had some discussion about whether another document should be adopted by the ASRG — the decision was not to adopt it — and that discussion led into some talk about how to focus the ASRG on new research. I will discuss the ASRG at the CEAS conference in late August, and try to get more participation from the academic community into the ASRG (possibly recruiting an ASRG co-chair from that community).

vcarddav — VCard update and CardDAV

We had the usual document status update, and went over some open issues. One that seems simple, but that merited some discussion was that dates must currently be complete (day, month, year), but there are times when one doesn’t want them to be, or doesn’t know the full date (for birthdays, for example, one might just want day and month, but no year). We decided to use existing date syntax from the comparators RFC and adapt it for VCard.

The other significant discussion was on how to handle synchronization issues, especially with collision-detection in situations with multiple copies of the information (one on a host server, one on a laptop, and one on each of two or three mobile devices, for example). Included here is the discussion of unique IDs — whether to have per-property UIDs, whether to require persistence of UIDs, how to handle the situation where a particular device or data store can’t keep the UIDs persistently, and so on.

We also had a small discussion about internationalization questions, in light of EAI. I have a suspicion that we’ll encounter effects from EAI that we haven’t yet anticipated. In the end, I don’t think they’ll be serious, but we’ll have to deal with them.

sieve — Sieve mail filtering language

This was an uneventful session for a working group that’s wrapping up its old work and preparing to re-charter to add some new work — work that is itself close to being finished, actually. We went over document status, and there’s nothing notable to say about that. The most difficult document, which this working group is picking up from lemonade, was discussed there (see below).

We talked a little about possible issues that Sieve will have with EAI — most obviously, that it will likely make scripts more complex and ugly, as a script will have to handle multiple versions of the same email address. We expect to have a sieve-eai document in the new charter.

lemonade — Mail extensions for diverse service environments

We still had a full session of final discussion, despite having thought that we wouldn’t meet here at IETF 72, but this group is wrapping up. We made some decisions on the remaining issues, and agreed to move the last document (imap-sieve) to the Sieve working group.

We finished with an incomplete discussion of imap-sieve (we ran out of time), and we’ll continue that discussion on the Sieve mailing list. Ned Freed had brought up a series of thoughts about the extension, in an email message in May, and I’ve summarized that into eight main issues.

Email standards discussion

After our experience with getting RFC 2821 and RFC 2822 updated and through the process of progressing to Draft Standard, a few people thought it would be good to consider setting up a working group chartered to progress those documents to [full] Standard, and to move other Proposed Standard documents to Draft Standard. This dovetails with my idea of creating a long-standing working group for email standards maintenance, a topic that the IAB and IESG discussed in our joint meeting on Sunday.

We have consensus, energy from participants, and IESG support to create such a working group, and we now have a mailing list to discuss a proposed charter. I suggest that we do a three-stage approach:

  • In the first stage, set out a list of Draft Standards to progress to Standard, and then re-charter for the next stage.
  • In the second stage, set out a list of Proposed Standards to progress to Draft Standard, and then re-charter for the next stage.
  • In the third stage, set out a list of work that needs to be done that might result in new Proposed Standards for email.
  • Iterate on those three stages. When there’s no immediate work to do, go dormant and periodically review the situation, waking up and picking up work when there’s work to pick up.

Technical plenary

The technical topic at the plenary this time was operational experience with IPv6. We had a panel of five speakers, who talked about their experience with implementing and operating IPv6, and answered questions from the moderator and the attendees.

Internet Architecture Board

In addition to setting up and running the technical plenary panel, the IAB reported on its work as follows:

  • Informational documents:
    • We published RFC 5218, “What Makes for a Successful Protocol”, to help provide guidance for protocol designers.
    • We have “Design Choices When Expanding DNS” almost ready for final submission, giving architectural guidance use those who would use DNS for new purposes.
    • Work is wrapping up on “Principles of Internet Host Configuration”, advising on architectural issues involved in configuring Internet hosts.
    • We have a new document, “On RFC Streams Headers and Boilerplates”, dealing with an administrative issue.
  • At our IAB meeting in May, we began work on several Internet architectural projects, and two of them have made some progress since:
    • Evolution of the IP Model, looking at architectural problems caused by layer violations as assumptions leak into higher-layer protocols and applications about how the IP layer works.
    • Peer-to-Peer Architecture, covering architectural questions involved in peer-to-peer protocols and applications
  • We have set up a process for assigning liaison shepherds from the IAB, to better manage the liaison relationships between the IETF and other organizations, such as ITU-T, OMA, and W3C.
  • We set up some new liaison relationships and other inter-organizational work.
  • We have proposed a new organization of the RFC Editor job, splitting it into four functional roles that give the flexibility of contracting and managing different roles separately.


Kim said...

And here I thought y'all just sat around eating cookies and arguing about "must" and "should".

lidija said...

I think it's so very cool I know someone who work on this stuff. Who knew VCard was a protocol! Who knew FTP was still being developed!