Primer on the I-Orgs

The Internet Architecture Board (IAB)

  • Originally created by DARPA but became part of the ISOC system in 1992 when it was re-named the Internet Architecture Board.
  • Its legal status appears to be as a committee of IETF / chartered by ISOC.
  • The Charter of the IAB is contained in RFC 2850 dated May 20, 2000 (which replaces RFC 1601).
  • The charter documents the composition, selection, roles, and organization of the IAB.
Role / Function 1)  The IAB is charged with oversight of technical development of the Internet by ISOC (it does not create standards but acts as a overview body)2)  It oversees various task forces including the IETF and the IRTF.3)  Its functions include:

  • Architectural Oversight:  The IAB provides oversight of, and occasional commentary on, aspects of the architecture for the network protocols and procedures used by the Internet
  • Standards Process Oversight and Appeal: The IAB provides oversight of the process used to create Internet Standards. The IAB serves as an appeal board for complaints of improper execution of the standards process, through acting as an appeal body in respect of an Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) standards decision.
  • Request for Comments series: The IAB is responsible for editorial management and publication of the Request for Comments (RFC) document series.
  • External Liaison: The IAB acts as representative of the interests of the IETF in liaison relationships with other organizations concerned with standards and other technical and organizational issues relevant to the worldwide Internet.
  • Advice to the Internet Society: The IAB acts as a source of advice and guidance to the Board of Trustees and Officers of ISOC concerning technical, architectural, procedural, and (where appropriate) policy matters pertaining to the Internet and its enabling technologies.
  • Internet Engineering Steering Group Confirmation: The IAB confirms the IETF Chair and IESG Area Directors, from nominations provided by the IETF Nominating Committee.
  • Internet Research Task Force Chair: The IAB selects a chair of the IRTF for a renewable two year term
Organizational Structure and Functioning
  • The IAB consists of 12 members, composed of the chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and of twelve sitting members.
  • 6 members are nominated each year by a nominating committee drawn from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for a two year term. This process is described in RFC 2727. The slate of nominees is then approved by the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society
  • The IETF chair, who is also the chair of the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), may participate in all official IAB actions except the approval of IESG members and appeals against IESG decisions.
  • Ex-officio and liaison members of the IAB may also attend IAB meetings but shall not participate in determination of official actions.
  • Members of the IAB are to serve as individuals, and not as representatives of any company, agency, or other organization.
  • Members of the IAB owe no fiduciary duty of loyalty or care to   IAB, IETF, IRTF or IESG.
  • A member can have unlimited terms on the IAB.
  • The IAB attempts to reach all decisions unanimously.  If unanimity cannot be achieved, the chair may conduct informal polls to determine consensus.
  • The IAB may make decisions and take action if at least seven full members concur and there are no more than two dissents.
  • The IAB publishes minutes of all its meetings on the Internet, and conducts an open meeting at every IETF meeting. It publishes all its findings as RFCs, Internet Drafts or messages to the IETF mailing   list.
  • Comprised of 12 members selected by the IETF Nominations Committee, the IETF Chair (also selected by the IETF Nominations Committee), and several ex-officio and liaison positions.
  • Present membership includes 2 non-corporate affiliated members and 11 with corporate affiliations (for instance with Ericson, Microsoft, Cisco etc.)
  • Ex-officio members are also affiliated to various corporate groups.
  • No specific information on the IAB website or in its charter. It is likely funded through the ISOC.
  • Lack of global south membership
  • Corporate affiliation of IAB members
  • Appointments to the IAB are by IETF and ISOC (which in turn makes appointments to IETF).





  • Founded in 1992, by the then Internet Architecture Board, as a non-profit organization headquartered in Reston,Virginia, USA with offices in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • One of its primary purposes was to provide a corporate structure to support the Internet standards development process. Therefore ISOC was started to support IETF work by providing a corporate shell to place the technical standardization processes of IETF on sound legal footing (and to ensure appropriate administrative/organisational standards and funding could be maintained).
Role / Functions
  • Mission is “to promote the open development, evolution, and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world.”
  • Per its Articles of Incorporation it shall carry out educational, charitable, and scientific purposes which shall include:
  1. To facilitate and support the technical evolution of the Internet as a research and education infrastructure, and to stimulate the involvement of the scientific community, industry, government and others in the evolution of the Internet;
  2. To educate the scientific community, industry and the public at large concerning the technology, use and application of the Internet;
  3. To promote educational applications of Internet technology for the benefit of government, colleges and universities, industry, and the public at large;
  4. To provide a forum for exploration of new Internet applications, and to stimulate collaboration among organizations in their operational use of the global Internet.
  • ISOC basically facilitates development of standards, protocols, administration, and the technical infrastructure of the Internet by supporting the work of standard setting bodies for which it is the organizational home i.e. the IETF, the IRTF, the IAB and the IESG.
  • It is the parent corporation of the IETF; as such all IETF RFCs, including those RFCs which describe “Internet Standards”, are copyrighted by the Internet Society (although freely available to anyone, including non-members, at no charge). However, ISOC itself grew out of the IETF, to support those functions that require a corporate form rather than simply the ad hoc approach of the IETF.
  • The IAB (Internet Architecture Board) is also part of the ISOC structure.
  • Carries out educational and public policy functions, including by working with governments.
  • Has a prominent role in IG discussions including significant involvement in WSIS and IGF.
  • It is the parent company of the Public Interest Registry which manages the .org registry
  • Organizes training, awareness courses, provides grants etc.
Organizations Structure & Functioning
  • ISOC comprises a Board of Trustees which directs the affairs of the organization, various Chapters (that are comprised of individual members), Organisational Members and various officers.
  • The Board can appoint various Committee under it including an audit committee, a compensation committee, an elections committee, an executive committee, a finance committee a nominations committee and a governance committee in addition to various posts such as treasurer, secretary, CEO etc.
  • With the exception of the President, Trustees are elected as follows: 4 appointees by the Organisational Members (commercial, non-commercial and educational), 4 appointeees by the Chapters (general membership), 4 appointees by the IETF (engineering community/IAB), and a maximum of 3 more trustees by the Board of Trustees itself.
  • The day to day activities of the Board of Trustees are carried out by a Executive Committee comprising 3 or more trustees appointed by the Board as well as various officers of ISOC who are to serve as ex-officio members.
  • Each ISOC chapter is a group consisting of individual members who are chartered according to the standards of performance as defined and published by ISOC. Chapters form a community that takes on a variety of programmes and activities. These programmes and activities may include one or more of the following: educational events, community programmes, public policy programmes, networking events and others consistent with the mission and principles of the Society. Note that an organizational member it appears can also be a Chapter member (upon payment of dues established by the relevant chapter).
  • ISOC has a President / CEO, who is responsible for the day-to-day conduct of the Society’s activities. The President is elected by the Board (and serves as a non-voting member on the Board).
  • In addition to voting rights (and other powers determined by the Board) the organizational members and chapters each have the right to form an advisory body for the purpose of providing information and advice to the Board of Trustees and the President of the Internet Society on matters of strategic importance to that community. The Board of Trustees may recognize such bodies after a petition to the Board for review and approval of the body’s charter, consistent with these By-Laws and the mission and principles of the Society.
  • It appears only the Organisational Members have formed an advisory body as aforesaid. The ISOC Advisory Committee consists of 2 nominees of each of the Organisational Members. The ISAC serves as an advisory body to Internet Society senior management and board on matters affecting the general welfare and effectiveness of the global Internet and its users.
  • It has a membership base comprising more than 145 organizational and more than 65,000 individual members. Members also form “chapters” based on either common geographical location or special interests. There are currently more than 100 chapters around the world.
  • Corporate / organisational membership is of different levels. Cisco, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Juniper Networks etc. are all Platinum Members (contributions of 100,000 USD annually). Gold Members include Microsoft and the US Department of Defence (contributions of USD 50,000 and 25,000 respectively). Silver members include AT & T, Google, Huawei, Verisign, Verizon etc. (contributions of USD 25,000 annually) (For a list of organisation members see
  • Individual membership is either global (free) or sustaining (annual fee of USD 75). Individual membership has no voting rights, though an individual can be part of a Chapter which has voting rights (they are not mandated to join a Chapter).
  • Membership fees and donations appear to be the largest source of funding
  • Organisational membership fees range from 100,000 USD annually for Platinum corporate membership to USD 1250 annually for ‘small business members’ from non-profit organisations.
  • Chapters are generally be funded by local membership dues or grants but also take in Organisational members on payment of a fee.
  • Only 2 of the 13 trustees are from the global south.
  • Only 4 of the 13 trustees are women.
  • Corporate influence over activities (due to greater financial weight).
  • All actions of the organization must comply with laws of USA (For instance note Article III, Section 3, Bylaws of ISOC which states “All actions must be taken in accordance with the applicable laws under which the Society is formed.”)
  • Value of votes cast in the organizational members portion of ISOC is skewed based on weightages assigned based on membership classification (Therefore a platinum members vote has greater weightage than a silver members vote – therefore money matters).
  • Prominence given to the Organisational members who can participate in local chapters, form the Advisory Committee etc.
  • Unable to prevent US government interfering in standard setting processes of IETF etc.


The Internet Research Task Force (IRTF)

  • The IAB oversaw a number of task forces which were coalesced in 1989 into two the IETF and IRTF.
  • The IRTF was tasked to consider long-term research problems in the Internet, and the IETF was to concentrate on short to medium-term engineering issues related to the Internet.
Role / Function
  • Promotes research of importance to the evolution of the Internet by creating focused, long-term Research Groups working on topics related to Internet protocols, applications, architecture and technology.
Organizational Structure and Functioning
  • The IRTF is managed by the IRTF Chair in consultation with the Internet Research Steering Group (IRSG).
  • IRSG members at large are chosen by the IRTF Chair in consultation with the rest of the IRSG and on approval by the IAB.
  • There are presently 9 research groups.
  • The current IRSG membership includes the IRTF Chair, 18 Research Group Chairs and 6 At-Large Members.
  • Appears to be funded through ISOC.


The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

  • The IETF is an open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual.
  • It derives its authority from the ISOC charter. It is not a corporation and has no board of directors or members.
  • The standards put out by IETF are voluntary in nature (they do not have to be adopted by anyone).
Role / Function 1)     It is the forum where the basic technical standards for Internet protocols are set and maintained. Its mission statement authorizes it to:

  • Identify and propose solutions to, pressing operational and technical problems in the Internet
  • Specify the development or usage of protocols and the near-term architecture to solve such technical problems for the Internet
  • Make recommendations to the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) regarding the standardization of protocols and protocol usage in the Internet
  • Facilitating technology transfer from the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) to the wider Internet community
  • Providing a forum for the exchange of information within the Internet community between vendors, users, researchers, agency contractors, and network managers

2)     The IETF does not standardize transmission hardware (this is left to organizations like the IEEE and the ITU) and does not standardize specialized application layer protocols. For example, we leave HTML and XML standards to the World-Wide Web Consortium. But the IETF does standardize all the protocol layers in between, from IP itself up to general applications like email and HTTP.

Organizational Structure and Functioning
  • The IETFs standards development work is organized into 8 areas. Each area has one or more Area Directors who comprise the Internet Engineering Standing Group (IESG).
  • The IESG is responsible for technical management of IETF activities, the Internet standards process, and for the actions associated with entry into and movement along the Internet “standards track,” including final approval of specifications as Internet Standards and publication as an RFC.  It administers the process according to the rules and procedures that have been ratified by the ISOC Board of Trustees.
  • Each area has many working groups each with its own charter. At present there are more than 100 WGs.
  • The WGs produce Internet Drafts (I-Ds) which often lead to the publication of an Internet standard as an RFC.
  • The IETF carries out most of its detailed technical work online, with the primary method being email. Every WG has a dedicated mailing list, and that’s where proposals are made and discussed, where issues are raised, and where consensus is established. (Since the IETF has no formal membership, decisions cannot be taken by voting; the method is to establish rough consensus on the mailing list.)
  • The IAB provides ‘architectural oversight’ to the IETF.  The IAB also adjudicates appeals when someone complains that the IESG has failed. The IAB and IESG are chartered by the Internet Society (ISOC) for these purposes.
  • The IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) consists of volunteers, all chosen directly or indirectly by the IETF community, as well as appropriate ex officio members from ISOC and IETF leadership. The IASA (support staff) and the IAD (administrative director) are directed by the IAOC.
  • There is no formal membership, no membership fee, and nothing to sign.
  • There are however meeting fees to attend IETF events (meetings are held 3 times a year)
  • By participating, you automatically accept the IETF’s rules, including the rules about intellectual property (patents, copyrights and trademarks).
  • Participation is on an individual basis.
  • Appears to be funded through ISOC
  • Largely corporate membership and participation, therefore questionable motives – see for instance comments in RFC 4440 dated March 2006 which states “Much of the early participation in the IETF as well as in the IRTF was from the academic and research communities. We don’t have     citation from this, but a look at the members of the IAB from the 1980′s and early 1990′s shows IAB members from institutions such as MIT, UCLA, BBN, UCL, SDSC, and the like, while IAB members from the last few years were more likely to list their organizations at the time of service as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, and   Verisign. We expect that a study of authors of RFCs would show a similar trend over time, with fewer authors from the academic and research communities, and more authors from the commercial world.  While the IRTF has continued to have significant participation from the academic and research communities, the IETF has focused on standards development and has become dominated by the needs of the commercial sector.”

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