March 23, 2020 archive

IETF 107 Starts Today as a Virtual Meeting

A view of Vancouver from Skylab - photo from NASA

Later today, the 107th meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) will begin its working group sessions in an unconventional way. Previously, over 1,000 engineers were expected to be in Vancouver, Canada, to engage in the IETF’s work creating the open standards that make the Internet possible.

But with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the IETF leadership decided to cancel the in-person meeting in Vancouver. Instead a scaled-down, completely virtual meeting will take place. Only 12 of the IETF’s 115+ working groups will be meeting this week. Other working groups, and the research groups of the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) may schedule interim meetings in the weeks and months ahead.

You can participate remotely in IETF 107. The steps are all outlined in this “Guide for IETF 107 Participants“. Useful resources include:

To be clear, most of the work of the IETF in creating the Internet’s open standards ALREADY takes place online. People create “Internet-Draft” documents that propose new ways to make the Internet work better. Those documents are discussed and debated on email lists for working groups. Eventually those working groups reach “rough consensus” and the documents are published as “Requests For Comments” or simply “RFCs”.

However, sometimes people disagree about what would be best for the Internet. Sometimes people strongly disagree! Sometimes Working Groups just cannot make progress through email discussions.

And so three times a year, engineers from around the world gather in different locations to have face-to-face discussions. These are the “IETF meetings” such as the one this week. At these sessions, people can discuss and debate intensely. They can stand in long microphone lines to voice their points. They can hum in agreement or disagreement. They can also have side meetings, go to dinner or drinks with people, meet in hallways, and through all of that work out differences that help move Internet standards forward.

This week, some of those engineers (myself included) will be trying out a new model to see how well this can all work in a virtual setting.

Many thanks to the IETF leadership, secretariat, and support teams for all their work to make this “IETF 107 Virtual” happen! I am looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Please join in if you are interested in the work of the IETF!

P.S. If you are not aware of the connection between the IETF and the Internet Society, please read about our relationship.

Image credit: a photo of Vancouver from NASA

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