The Internet Architecture Board maintains this list of documents that define standards for the Internet protocol suite. See RFC-1601 for the charter of the IAB and RFC-1160 for an explanation of the role and organization of the IAB and its subsidiary groups, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF). Each of these groups has a steering group called the IESG and IRSG, respectively. The IETF develops these standards with the goal of co-ordinating the evolution of the Internet protocols; this co-ordination has become quite important as the Internet protocols are increasingly in general commercial use. The definitive description of the Internet standards process is found in RFC-2026.
The majority of Internet protocol development and standardization activity takes place in the working groups of the IETF.
Protocols which are to become standards in the Internet go through a series of states or maturity levels (proposed standard, draft standard, and standard) involving increasing amounts of scrutiny and testing. When a protocol completes this process it is assigned a STD number (see RFC-1311). At each step, the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) of the IETF must make a recommendation for advancement of the protocol.
To allow time for the Internet community to consider and react to standardization proposals, a minimum delay of 6 months before a proposed standard can be advanced to a draft standard and 4 months before a draft standard can be promoted to standard.
It is general practice that no proposed standard can be promoted to draft standard without at least two independent implementations (and the recommendation of the IESG). Promotion from draft standard to standard generally requires operational experience and demonstrated interoperability of two or more implementations (and the recommendation of the IESG).
In cases where there is uncertainty as to the proper decision concerning a protocol a special review committee may be appointed consisting of experts from the IETF, IRTF and the IAB with the purpose of recommending an explicit action.
Advancement of a protocol to proposed standard is an important step since it marks a protocol as a candidate for eventual standardization (it puts the protocol "on the standards track"). Advancement to draft standard is a major step which warns the community that, unless major objections are raised or flaws are discovered, the protocol is likely to be advanced to standard. Some protocols have been superseded by better ones or are otherwise unused. Such protocols are still documented in this memorandum with the designation "historic".
Because it is useful to document the results of early protocol research and development work, some of the RFCs document protocols which are still in an experimental condition. The protocols are designated "experimental" in this memorandum. They appear in this report as a convenience to the community and not as evidence of their standardization.
Other protocols, such as those developed by other standards organizations, or by particular vendors, may be of interest or may be recommended for use in the Internet. The specifications of such protocols may be published as RFCs for the convenience of the Internet community. These protocols are labeled "informational" in this memorandum.
In addition to the working groups of the IETF, protocol development and experimentation may take place as a result of the work of the research groups of the Internet Research Task Force, or the work of other individuals interested in Internet protocol development. The the documentation of such experimental work in the RFC series is encouraged, but none of this work is considered to be on the track for standardization until the IESG has made a recommendation to advance the protocol to the proposed standard state.
A few protocols have achieved widespread implementation without the approval of the IESG. For example, some vendor protocols have become very important to the Internet community even though they have not been recommended by the IESG. However, the IAB strongly recommends that the standards process be used in the evolution of the protocol suite to maximize interoperability (and to prevent incompatible protocol requirements from arising). The use of the terms "standard", "draft standard", and "proposed standard" are reserved in any RFC or other publication of Internet protocols to only those protocols which the IESG has approved.
In addition to a state (like "Proposed Standard"), a protocol is also assigned a status, or requirement level, in this document. The possible requirement levels ("Required", "Recommended", "Elective", "Limited Use", and "Not Recommended") are defined in Section 4.2. When a protocol is on the standards track, that is in the proposed standard, draft standard, or standard state (see Section 5), the status shown in Section 6 is the current status.
Few protocols are required to be implemented in all systems; this is because there is such a variety of possible systems, for example, gateways, routers, terminal servers, workstations, and multi-user hosts. The requirement level shown in this document is only a one word label, which may not be sufficient to characterize the implementation requirements for a protocol in all situations. For some protocols, this document contains an additional status paragraph (an applicability statement). In addition, more detailed status information may be contained in separate requirements documents (see Section 3).