[ih] Query: When did the IETF change to "everyone can come"?

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Mon Dec 4 08:36:00 PST 2006

    > From: Harald Alvestrand <harald at alvestrand.no>

    > The IETF started out as "people who work on DARPA projects related to
    > the ARPAnet"

No, actually, it was pretty always focussed on the Internet, even before it
became the IETF.

(It was the Internet Architecture Task Force before that [a subsidiary of the
IAB, whatever that acronym meant that week], and before that it was the
Internet Working Group, which originally was the only thing there was; later
the IAB/ICCB split off from the IWG - and just to make things confusing,
there's a wholly different group called the INWG from the early 70's where a
lot of fundamental work on internetworking happened.)

The ARPANet was only involved because it was the only long-haul backbone we
really had available to tie the various sites together. (Yes, long-haul
commercial X.25 networks existed, but using them wasn't economically

In the beginning there was a certain amount of personnel continuity with
people who had worked on stuff for the ARPANet, of course, but there really
weren't any organizational links to speak of. There were RFC's, of course,
but in the beginning the Internet work didn't use them - they used IEN's
instead. And of course DARPA was a key player, but at the research level it
was a new organization.

    > It continued as "people who work on ARPAnet/Internet connected
    > networks"

Well, US Federal Government funded (along with a few foreign partners, but I
think some of them were actually DARPA-funded - I think UCL was, IIRC). There
was this thing called the FRICC, which stood for "Federal Research Internet
Coordinating Committee", which was really the Internet governing body after
it left off being a DARPA research thing.

    > At some point, it changed to "anyone who wants to can come".
    > Can someone help me by pointing out (with references, if possible) at
    > which IETF meetings those changes happened?

That decision was really just a mirror of the larger decision, which was to
open access to the Internet itself. The IETF never formally decided to be
open, it just naturally followed the expansion of the Internet community. And
the decision on the Internet itself was taken way above the IETF's pay grade,
since it was a Federal government decision, with (IIRC) NSF being a key
player, but the Congress having a large role to play too.

Of course, even before that formal decision there was also a certain amount of
sub-rosa Internet spread, too. That's because unlike an ARPANet connection,
which necessarily involved getting the Feds in the loop because one had to
connect directly to it, one could hook onto the Internet via some
friendly/brave site which let you go through them, provided you could come up
with a plausible link to government-support activity to cover the posteriors
of your co-conspirators.  E.g. Proteon's initial Internet connectivity was via
MIT, which justified it on the ground that they were using it to support
government contractors.

And, in a similar fashion, one could slide into the IETF meetings to, if one
knew people and could make it sound plausible; e.g. I seem to recall getting
people from Proteon (as opposed to me going as a long-standing member, and
being a link to Proteon) to IETF's pretty early on.

Probably the best source for the rise of public access to the Internet I
could recommend is:

  Janet Abbate, "Inventing the Internet"

which is a careful scholarly history which I highly recommend. It has a few
minor errors, but generally gets it right (from my perspective). The start
of the public spread is coveered in Chapter 6.

As to when the IETF became open, just look at the lists of attendees in the
minutes. I don't have time to research mine, alas...


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