Since its early years, attendance at Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) face-to-face meetings has grown phenomenally. Many of the attendees are new to the IETF at each meeting, and many of those go on to become regular attendees. When the meetings were smaller, it was relatively easy for a newcomer to get into the swing of things. Today, however, a newcomer meets many more new people, some previously known only as the authors of documents or thought-provoking email messages.
This document describes many aspects of the IETF, with the goal of explaining to newcomers how the IETF works. This will give them a warm, fuzzy feeling and enable them to make the meeting and the Working Group discussions more productive for everyone. This document started out fairly short, but expanded over time in response to suggestions from IETF novices about what more they would have wanted to know before attending their first face-to-face meeting or becoming active in their first Working Group.
Of course, it's true that many IETF participants don't go to the face-to-face meetings at all. Instead, they're active on the mailing list of various IETF Working Groups. Since the inner workings of Working Groups can be hard for newcomers to understand, this document provides the mundane bits of information that newcomers will need in order to become active participants.
The IETF is always in a state of change. Although the principles in this document are expected to remain largely the same
over time, practical details may well have changed by the time you read it; for example, a web-based tool may have replaced an email address for requesting some sort of action.
Many types of IETF documentation are mentioned in the Tao, from BCPs to RFCs and STDs. BCPs make recommendations for Best Current Practices in the Internet; RFCs are the IETF's main technical documentation series, politely known as "Requests for Comments"; and STDs are RFCs identified as "standards". Actually, all three types of documents are RFCs; see Section 6 for more information.
This web page is a continuation of the series of the "Tao of the IETF" RFCs. See [RFC6722] for an explanation of how the last RFC in that series became this web page. This web-based version of the Tao is based on [RFC4677]. was co-authored with Susan Harris. The original version of this document, published in 1994, was written by Gary Malkin.
So, why "the Tao"? Pronounced "dow", Tao is the basic principle behind the teachings of Lao-tse, a Chinese master. Its familiar symbol is the black-and-white yin-yang circle. Taoism conceives the universe as a single organism, and human beings as interdependent parts of a cosmic whole. Tao is sometimes translated "the way", but according to Taoist philosophy the true meaning of the word cannot be expressed in words.
1.1 Acronyms and Abbreviations Used in the Tao
Some of the acronyms and abbreviations from this document are listed below.