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Programs & Groups

IAB Technical Programs and Administrative Support Groups are structured approaches managed and maintained by the IAB in order to support the IAB in more effectively executing its chartered responsibilities.

IAB Technical Programs and Administrative Support Groups are structured approaches managed and maintained by the IAB in order to support the IAB in more effectively executing its chartered responsibilities (see RFC2850 Section 2.1); in particular improving the long-term perspective on the Internet informed by technical and architectural considerations.

Below describes first some history of IAB programs and subsequently the general working method for both, Technical Programs and Administrative Support Groups.

A current list of active Technical Programs and Administrative Support Groups can be found in the Datatracker.


Traditionally the IAB has taken an interest in a number of architectural areas. Among the architectural areas, in no particular order:

  • IPv6 and its adoption and transitional coexistence with IPv4 given the realities of an IPv4-dominated Internet;
  • DNS health and security;
  • Web security;
  • The realities of maintaining the end-to-end and layered architecture;
  • Prevention of unwanted traffic;
  • The security and stability of the routing system; and
  • Internationalization of the Internet and balance with localization and retention of a global network.

These are some areas that require long-term perspective and may involve various activities and deliverables. For instance, such complex area may require a separate activity for scoping the work (BOFs, presentations, position papers), progressing the work, or stimulating the charter development of new work in the IETF. Such effort may further involve collaboration with other organisations.

The IAB started organizing the work in such areas in the form of programs to enable long term activities scoped and managed by the IAB, although for the actual work the IAB may form a team with specific expertise needed for the activity, which may not be within the IAB. Structuring work in this way has several objectives:

  • minimise dependency on the current IAB composition and specific expertise and competencies of its members;
  • minimise dependency on the tenure of IAB members;
  • increase bandwidth by shifting responsibilities of IAB members from doing the actual work to organising and delegating work, and providing guidance;
  • shift the IAB focus from the specifics of an activity to the development of the vision and maintenance of the big picture, to selecting priority areas and carrying out respective efforts.
  • improve visibility of the activities the IAB is busy with and provide an opportunity to the community to provide feedback on the content and priority of specific activities.

In 2020, the IAB further refined the process of establishing and managing programs and thereby realized a need to distinguish Technical Programs from Administrative Support Groups.

Types of Programs

The IAB so far organized its longer-term work in programs. However, some of those are mostly administrative (e.g., the liaison oversight program, the IANA program, plenary planning program, and also the RSOC), others are more focused on technical aspects, such as privsec and StackEvo in the past and then e.g. model-t.

Administrative programs provide a set of experts that help the IAB to address their oversight or administrative responsibilities, often by delegating these responsibilities to the program members. The goal is to have a stable set of experts that may either be continuously working (e.g., having frequent meetings on their own) or are available on request (maybe comparable to some directorates). Administrative programs are usually set up to exist for a long time.

Technical programs are usually created based on a then-current technical/architectural concern. Technical programs also tend to meet at IETF meetings but meetings are more need-based and potentially less or more frequent depending on the topic. The main goal of technical programs is to raise awareness and discussion of the specific concern in the community. This may be done by holding workshops, support the IAB in writing documents, or also just group discussion that then may respectively impact what the program members do within the community. Technical programs are expected to be closed when the identified concern is addressed or when sufficient awareness has been built in the broader community.

Problems with Openness, Awareness, and Membership Management

In the past IAB programs were (mostly) by-invitation closed groups that often used closed mailing lists to do the meat of their work. Membership was manage by the program lead, mostly on an a-hoc basis. Even though more open per-program mailing lists existed, many active program participants were unaware of their existence and they were not used. This lead to a situation were many IETF participants were entirely unaware of the existence of technical IAB programs, nor able to contribute.

The refactoring into Technical Programs and Administrative Support Groups enables Technical Programs to be more open with broader participation and as such also increases the legitimacy of any results produced, while Administrative Support Groups provide dedicated expertise and continuity to the IAB in selected administrative tasks that e.g. might also require a certain level of confidentially.

Programs & Groups