A new Internet Draft has potentially far reaching consequences. It is from the Internet Architecture Board and is intended to influence the work of the IETF that “decides” on the protocols etc the Internet runs on.
The key segment is:
Many who participate in the IETF are most comfortable making what we believe to be purely technical decisions; our process is defined to favor technical merit, through our well-known mantra of “rough consensus and running code.”
Nevertheless, the running code that results from our process (when things work well) inevitably has an impact beyond technical considerations, because the underlying decisions afford some uses while discouraging others; while we believe we are making purely technical decisions, in reality, we are defining what is possible on the Internet itself.
This impact has become significant. As the Internet increasingly mediates essential functions in societies, it has unavoidably become profoundly political; it has helped people overthrow governments and revolutionize social orders, control populations, collect data about individuals, and reveal secrets. It has created wealth for some individuals and companies while destroying others’.
All of this raises the question: Who do we go through the pain of gathering rough consensus and writing running code for?
After all, there are a variety of identifiable parties in the broader Internet community that standards can provide benefit to, such as (but not limited to) end users, network operators, schools, equipment vendors, specification authors, specification implementers, content owners, governments, non-governmental organisations, social movements, employers, and parents.
Successful specifications will provide some benefit to all of the relevant parties because standards do not represent a zero-sum game. However, there are sometimes situations where there is a need to balance the benefits of a decision between two (or more) parties.
In these situations, when one of those parties is an “end user” of the Internet – for example, a person using a Web browser, mail client, or another agent that connects to the Internet – the Internet Architecture Board argues that the IETF should protect their interests over those of parties.
I look forward to seeing this draft adopted.