The IETF is responsible for many of the underlying standards that make the Internet work, including the Internet Protocol (IP) for data transfer, Domain Name System (DNS) for matching domain names with IP addresses, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) for sending e-mail, and Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) for traffic engineering.
Over the years, the IETF has published more than 4,500 documents that describe standards for the Internet’s fundamental technologies, and these documents are referenced by network operators on a daily basis.
Unlike other standards bodies that rely on corporate or government members, the IETF is known for its outspoken, individualistic participants, who have rigorous debates at their thrice-annual meetings and online chats. IETF leaders, who work on a volunteer basis, come from the world’s most powerful networking companies, including Cisco, Juniper, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia.
Like the Internet itself, the IETF has migrated away from its roots in the U.S. Defense Department to becoming increasingly commercial and global over the years. Back in 1996, the IETF was led by Michael Corrigan, then the technical manager for the Defense Data Network program. Today, the IETF chair is Housley, who runs his own consulting shop called Vigil Security. In between, the group has been led by network engineers from the United States, Norway and Great Britain, who worked for such industry stalwarts as Cisco and IBM.
The IETF also has grown over the years, although it’s not as big as it was during the dot-com boom years of 1999 and 2000 when its meetings held standing-room-only crowds.
The IETF held its first meeting on the afternoon of Jan. 16, 1986 in San Diego with 21 attendees. In March, the group will hold its 80th meeting in Prague, and more than 1,000 attendees are expected. The group will publicly recognize its 25th birthday at the Prague meeting.