As part of my email preservation report, I have visited the website of the Internet Engineering Task Force many times.  This group defines and maintains the protocols and standards that have come to comprise the Internet’s basic plumbing.  For example, they maintain the Request for Comment (RFC) documents that define the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and other standards that have been adopted worldwide by many organizations, in the interest of common communication standards.  In this respect, I was very interested to read this statement on their website.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is a loosely self-organized group of people who contribute to the engineering and evolution of Internet technologies. It is the principal body engaged in the development of new Internet standard specifications. The IETF is unusual in that it exists as a collection of happenings, but is not a corporation and has no board of directors, no members, and no dues.

[. . .]

In many ways, the IETF runs on the beliefs of its participants. One of the “founding beliefs” is embodied in an early quote about the IETF from David Clark: “We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code”. Another early quote that has become a commonly-held belief in the IETF comes from Jon Postel: “Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you accept”.

[. . .]

One more thing that is important for newcomers: the IETF in no way “runs the Internet”, despite what some people mistakenly might say. The IETF makes standards that are often adopted by Internet users, but it does not control, or even patrol, the Internet. If your interest in the IETF is because you want to be part of the overseers, you may be badly disappointed by the IETF.

What a great statement about the value of collaboration and openness! And what a great argument for working to preserve what has been achieved.

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