Sunday, January 16, 2011


The IETF at 25

The first meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) was held on this day in 1986, making today the IETF’s 25th birthday, in some sense.

The IETF is the organization that’s developed and documented most of the standards that the Internet runs on, from the protocols that define how data is transferred, to those that get the data packets to the right place, to those that specify how to send and retrieve email. A visit to these pages involves the use of dozens of IETF standards — along with some standards produced by other bodies, such as IEEE and W3C — that work together flawlessly (mostly) to let you read what I’ve written.

Getting all that standardized to make everything interoperate is a sometimes difficult task that can be frustrating and fun at the same time. I’ve been working with the IETF for about two thirds of those 25 years, and it’s the part of my job that I enjoy the most.

Many folks wonder if the Internet isn’t finished, and ask why the IETF is still around. The answer is that new features are always needed as new applications and new technology push the limits of what we have, and demand updates to old standards and creation of new ones.

So, happy birthday to the IETF... and thanks to all my colleagues who’ve devoted a great deal of their time and expertise to this work.

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