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Network Working Group                                         J. Klensin
Request for Comments: 3933                                    S. Dawkins
BCP: 93                                                    November 2004
Category: Best Current Practice

                  A Model for IETF Process Experiments

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet Best Current Practices for the
   Internet Community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).


   The IETF has designed process changes over the last ten years in one
   of two ways: announcement by the IESG, sometimes based on informal
   agreements with limited community involvement and awareness, and
   formal use of the same mechanism used for protocol specification.
   The first mechanism has often proven to be too lightweight, the
   second too heavyweight.

   This document specifies a middle-ground approach to the system of
   making changes to IETF process, one that relies heavily on a "propose
   and carry out an experiment, evaluate the experiment, and then
   establish permanent procedures based on operational experience" model
   rather than those previously attempted.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
   2.  Background and Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
   3.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   4.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   5.  References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
       5.1.  Normative Reference. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
       5.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   6.  Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
       Full Copyright Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Klensin & Dawkins        Best Current Practice                  [Page 1]

RFC 3933          A Model for IETF Process Experiments     November 2004

 1.  Introduction

   This document specifies a middle-ground approach to the system of
   making changes to IETF process, one that relies heavily on a "propose
   and carry out an experiment, evaluate the experiment, and then
   establish permanent procedures based on operational experience" model
   rather than those previously attempted.

 2.  Background and Specification

   Since the 1992 changes documented in [RFC1396], the IETF has used two
   mechanisms for process changes.

    1. IESG has adopted a number of procedural changes on its own
      initiative and documented them informally, utilizing the wide
      discretion implicitly granted to them by [RFC2026].  This provided
      a lightweight mechanism for change, but the lightness came with a
      cost: There was sometimes too little alignment with the larger
      IETF community.

    2. The IETF has also used the [RFC2026] protocol standards
      development process to identify a community of interest, hold one
      or more BoFs, charter a working group, discuss proposed changes
      within the community, develop IETF-wide consensus on the changes,
      and publish (usually) Best Current Practice specifications.  This
      provided full community involvement but also came with a cost in
      flexibility.  The IETF does not change its formal processes often
      (the IPR clarifications in [RFC3667, RFC3668] are the first
      documented changes to [RFC2026] since 1996), and the community is
      understandably reluctant to permanently alter or extend formally
      adopted processes with untried new procedures.

   There is a middle ground between BCP process updates and informal
   agreements.  This document specifies regularizing and formalizing the
   informal IESG mechanisms listed in 1 above as a means of moving
   forward with procedural changes that might prove valuable.

   The mechanisms outlined here add to the IESG's range of tools for
   dealing with process issues on an ongoing basis.  They supplement the
   existing tools rather than attempting to replace them with a single
   "magic bullet".  The choice of using the procedure outlined in this
   document or other mechanisms available to the IESG and the community
   -- present or future -- remains in the IESG's hands.  If the IESG
   does not exercise this discretion wisely, this document provides no
   additional remedies.

Klensin & Dawkins        Best Current Practice                  [Page 2]

RFC 3933          A Model for IETF Process Experiments     November 2004

   Some have interpreted the current procedures as giving the IESG all
   of the capabilities outlined here.  If this were true, this document
   only encourages the IESG to use this type of mechanism more
   frequently in preference to less streamlined ones, and to more
   explicitly document its actions and decisions.

   This specification permits and encourages the IESG to adopt and
   institute "process experiments" by using the following procedure:

    1. An I-D is written describing the proposed new or altered
      procedure.  A statement of the problem expected to be resolved is
      desirable but not required (the intent is to keep the firm
      requirements for such an experiment as lightweight as possible).
      Similarly, specific experimental or evaluative criteria, although
      highly desirable, are not required -- for some of the process
      changes we anticipate, having the IESG reach a conclusion at the
      end of the sunset period that the community generally believes
      things to be better (or worse) will be both adequate and
      sufficient.  The I-D must state an explicit "sunset" timeout
      typically, not to exceed one year after adoption.

    2. If the IESG believes the proposal is plausible and plausibly
      useful, a four-week IETF Last Call is initiated.  The IESG can
      institute whatever procedures it wishes to make this determination
      and to avoid denial of service attacks from large numbers of
      spurious or unimportant proposals.  In particular, they might
      institute a procedure requiring a number of endorsements, or
      endorsements of a particular type, before the IESG considers the
      proposal.  The IESG is, however, expected to understand that
      procedures or review processes that act as a mechanism for
      significant delays do not fall within the intent of this

    3. At the conclusion of the Last Call, the IESG reevaluates the
      plausibility and appropriateness of the proposal.  If they
      conclude that the proposed experiment is appropriate, a second I-D
      is generated (either by the IESG or by the original authors with
      IESG advice) that cleans up any definitional issues exposed in the
      Last Call and that explicitly identifies and responds to issues
      raised during the Last Call.

    4. The document and experiment are then announced, the experiment is
      begun, and the document is forwarded for publication as an
      Experimental RFC.

Klensin & Dawkins        Best Current Practice                  [Page 3]

RFC 3933          A Model for IETF Process Experiments     November 2004

   The IESG is explicitly authorized to use this mechanism (based on
   Experimental RFCs) to gain experience with proposed changes to BCP
   specifications.  There is no requirement to approve a BCP
   specification for the experiment until the experiment is found to
   have value.

   The IESG could, of course, reach a "bad idea" conclusion at any stage
   in this process and abandon the experiment.  It might recommend
   publication of the experimental document, with a discussion of why it
   was a bad idea, but is not required to do so.  The list above is
   deliberately vague about where the I-Ds come from: a WG, design team,
   individual contribution, editing group, or other mechanism could be
   used in the first and/or third steps, but no specific mechanisms are
   required, and the IESG is explicitly permitted to generate such
   proposals internally.

   In each case, the IESG's decision to go forward (or not) with a
   procedural experiment, or the steps leading up to one, is expected to
   reflect their judgment of the existence of rough consensus in the
   community.  That judgment may be appealed using the usual procedures,
   but the IESG and the community are reminded that an experimental
   attempt to try something for a fixed period is typically a better
   engineering approach than extended philosophical discussion without
   any experience to back it up.

   Nothing above is to be construed as requiring an IETF-wide attempt
   for any given process experiment.  A proposal for such an experiment
   may specify selected areas, selected working groups, working groups
   meeting some specific criteria (e.g., those created after a
   particular time or of a specified age), or be specific in other ways.

   At or before the end of the "sunset" timeout, the IESG would either
   revise (or cause to be revised) the document into a BCP RFC or the
   procedure would expire and, presumably, not be tried again unless
   something changed radically.  A document describing why the
   experiment had succeeded or failed would be desirable but could not,
   realistically, be a requirement.  If the procedure went to BCP, the
   BCP would reflect what we would call "operational experience" in the
   real world.

   We note that, if the procedures the IESG has adopted (and the
   procedural exceptions it has made) over the last decade are
   legitimate, then the IESG has the authority to institute the changes
   specified here by bootstrapping this process.

Klensin & Dawkins        Best Current Practice                  [Page 4]

RFC 3933          A Model for IETF Process Experiments     November 2004

 3.  Security Considerations

   This document specifies a mechanism for evolving IETF procedures.  It
   does not raise or consider any protocol-specific security issues.  In
   considering experimental changes to procedures, the IESG should, of
   course, exercise due caution that such changes not reduce the quality
   of security review and consideration for protocols or, at least, that
   the process experiment proposals contain early detection and
   correction mechanisms should quality deterioration occur.

 4.  Acknowledgements

   The first revision of this document benefited significantly from
   suggestions and comments from Avri Doria, Margaret Wasserman, and
   Harald Alvestrand, and from discussions with the General Area
   Directorate and at its open meeting during IETF 59.  After mailing
   list discussion, considerable explanatory material was removed to a
   separate document for the current version.

   The first version of this document was posted as an Internet Draft on
   February 7, 2004.

 5.  References

 5.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2026] Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision
             3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.

 5.2.  Informative References

   [RFC1396] Crocker, S., "The Process for Organization of Internet
             Standards Working Group (POISED)", RFC 1396, January 1993.

   [RFC3667] Bradner, S., "IETF Rights in Contributions", BCP 78, RFC
             3667, February 2004.

   [RFC3668] Bradner, S., "Intellectual Property Rights in IETF
             Technology", BCP 79, RFC 3668, February 2004.

Klensin & Dawkins        Best Current Practice                  [Page 5]

RFC 3933          A Model for IETF Process Experiments     November 2004

 6.  Authors' Addresses

   John C Klensin
    1770 Massachusetts Ave, #322
   Cambridge, MA  02140

   Phone: +1 617 491 5735
   EMail: john-ietf@jck.com

   Spencer Dawkins
    1547 Rivercrest Blvd.
   Allen, TX  75002

   Phone: +1 469 330 3616
   EMail: spencer@mcsr-labs.org

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RFC 3933          A Model for IETF Process Experiments     November 2004

Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).

   This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
   contained in BCP 78, and at www.rfc-editor.org, and except as set
   forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

Intellectual Property

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
   made any independent effort to identify any such rights.  Information
   on the ISOC's procedures with respect to rights in ISOC Documents can
   be found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
   assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
   attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
   such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
   specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
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   this standard.  Please address the information to the IETF at ietf-


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   Internet Society.

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