Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
The Internet

Why the IETF Isn't Working 103

An anonymous reader writes "Vidya Narayanan spent seven years working on the Internet Engineering Task Force, and was nominated for the Internet Architecture Board. But she declined the nomination and left the IETF because standards bodies are not able to keep up with the rapid pace of tech development. She says, '[W]hile the pace at which standards are written hasn't changed in many years, the pace at which the real world adopts software has become orders of magnitude faster. Standards, unfortunately, have become the playground for hashing out conflicts and carrying out silo-ed agendas and as a result, have suffered a drastic degradation. ... Running code and rough consensus, the motto of the IETF, used to be realizable at some point. Nowadays, it is as though Margaret Thatcher's words, "consensus is the lack of leadership" have come to life. In the name of consensus, we debate frivolous details forever. In the name of patents, we never finish. One recent case in point is the long and painful codec battles in the WebRTC working group.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why the IETF Isn't Working

Comments Filter:
  • Corporatization (Score:5, Insightful)

    by justaguy516 ( 712036 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:25AM (#46738847)

    The working groups are infested by corporate types, from Cisco, Google, Microsoft, you name it. IETF was made what it was due to academics - van Jacobson, Jonathan Postel, Sally Floyd, Henning Schulzrine. No wranglings about patent rights or the need to keep their respective companies competitive edge.

  • Re:Corporatization (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:43AM (#46738903)

    Corporate types?! What, you've never seen academics argue about nothing? They'll call a meeting, someone will utter the idiom "knock on wood" in passing, and then they'll literally spend the rest of the day debating whether the idiom "to knock on wood" is anti-Semitic. The original reason for the meeting will be forgotten, they'll clear their schedules, and they'll even cancel their classes to continue the debate. No work will be done.

  • Re:Corporatization (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sun ( 104778 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @06:51AM (#46739039) Homepage

    No work will be done.

    As opposed to... ?


  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2014 @07:11AM (#46739101)

    The pace of development in the last decade has been way slower than in the decade before. In 1990 there was barely any commercial Internet, no WWW, and most people were on BBSes. By 2000, we had the basis of everything which made the modern Internet. The 14 years since have been mostly about incremental improvements - tweaks and performance enhancements here and there.

    As to Thatcher, she was just another front for business who did as she was told - just like actor-broadcaster Reagan. I'm not sure why those two folks are celebrated so much: they demonstrated neither principle nor originality. It scares me how much they're celebrated as figureheads of the free market when neither of them cared an ounce for it.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @08:12AM (#46739215) Journal
    Efficiency in private sector is defined to be maximizing the return on investment. Private sector efficiency is NOT delivering goods and services at the least cost to most people. If that is the *only* way to maximize the return on investment, they will do it. It happens on simple products like cereal, bread, milk etc. For private sector to deliver most at least cost, many conditions have to be met. There must be competition, product should be simple enough to be understood by the consumer to do value over price evaluation and there should unambiguous price feedback signal.

    But private sector efficiency of maximizing return on investment would also include, undermining competition by buying them out, collusion, cartel formation, lobbying the legislators, media misinformation campaigns, bribing the media personalities, intimidating critics and many other tactics. Some of it legal, some questionable, and some outright illegal.

    If we confuse the private sectors definition of "maximize return on investment", even after they have openly admitted "it is the fiduciary responsibility of the directors of corporations to maximize profit", with lofty goals like job creation, low prices, wide choices, improvement in living conditions, we are the fools, shame on us, not them.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @09:59AM (#46739589) Journal
    My point is, unless we have rules, regulation and the damned government interference, private sector would not deliver prosperity. My point is, it is not a coincidence, the rise of prosperity for the middle class coincided with increasing regulation starting with trust busting, disclosure in stock market, truth in advertising, truth in labeling, product liability laws.

    We have known this since the days of Adam Smith, but till about 1960s, the private sector preferred to invest in the developed world, and the third world figured only as a source of raw materials, not competition. Then Japan modernized, then Korea and Taiwan, then came other countries in the Pacific rim. By 1980s the interests of private sector and interests of the general population started diverging. We are still trying deal with the multinational private sector corporations using the lessons learned between 1780 and 1960, without giving due credit for the role of government regulation played in it.

  • Re:No shit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lars_stefan_axelsson ( 236283 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @10:56AM (#46739857) Homepage

    You can hate on corporate types for various thing, but anyone who acts like academics know how to get anything done has never worked in academia. I work at a university and fuck me do we spend ages spinning our wheels, having meeting after endless meeting, discussing shit to death, and finally doing things 10 years after they needed to be done.

    Well having done both big corporate telecoms standardisation and academia, I know which place I rather work in... (And I ultimately put my money where my mouth is. Or rather, didn't put my money as it were, salary not being an academic strong suit).

    Sure, the local bike shedding can be tiresome, but our actual work, i.e. research, is cut throat and a model of efficiency and sanity. (Don't laugh. Cry if you have to, but don't laugh). There's very little politics in that side of the "business" and if you think there is, don't ever, for the love of all you hold holy, get involved in the corporate world. That's not just moving to the bad side of town, that's leaving civilisation altogether.

    We used to hold the IETF, current warts and all, as the highest standard to follow (pun intended), but also saw where we were headed with the increased pressure, as TCP/IP became important to the political types and not just a nerd affair for sensible, reasonable people any more. You know, the kind of people that can listen to argument, grudgingly realise that another suggestion has technical merit and go along with that, instead of pushing their hidden agenda at all cost, and above all else.

    When you've seen how the big boys make their sausage, you'd be as surprised as we were that your phone and mobile internet works at all. It's nothing short of an all out heroic struggle by the engineers in the trenches that makes it so. The rest of the system tries with all its might to prevent that from happening.

  • Re:Corporatization (Score:4, Insightful)

    by skids ( 119237 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @11:17AM (#46739949) Homepage

    Yeah, to say that "standards don't keep up with technological progress" is a one-sided perspective, since technology doesn't keep up with standards. If it did, I'd be more of a coder and less of an implementer, because 80% of my time is papering over standards noncompliance in vendor equipment.

    Better to say implementors and standards bodies don't coordinate like they should.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2014 @01:17PM (#46740787)

    I have been working on various standards committees for as long as Vidya Narayanan. She's not wrong, but she missed one glaringly large problem:

    The purpose of a standard is not to develop anything new. It is to codify common practices and references so that people can build on them. In many respects the purpose of a standard is to stop further development so that people can build things cheaply on common interfaces. If the development is ongoing (such as was the case with the CODEC wars) then it is too soon to make standards.

    So, yes, it is frustrating to watch politics slow down a standards effort to a crawl. That process is called development. It is a highly political process. At some point, you have to stop development, set the standard and start building. There will be winners and losers in this process.

    In other words, the ITEF is doing its job. Small groups will always be able to run rings around standards. But those small groups won't have the economic power and acceptance that a standard has.

    Choose whichever side you feel is best for your products.

  • Re:No shit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @02:24PM (#46741271) Journal

    You can hate on corporate types for various thing, but anyone who acts like academics know how to get anything done has never worked in academia. I work at a university and fuck me do we spend ages spinning our wheels, having meeting after endless meeting, discussing shit to death, and finally doing things 10 years after they needed to be done.

    I've worked at universities and I've contracted for some very big companies. If you think that universities are worse than companies, then you've never worked for a Really Big Company. Those guys seriously cannot find their ass with both hands without a document from legal, singned by an executive, passed to purchasing (all 3 in different countries, btw), then bounced back and forth for 7 or 8 iterations (72 hr round trip) because legal are incapable of either writing a coherent contract, purchasing don't give a flying fuck anyway because it's not their budget and not even their division of the company and besides are incapable of passing more than 30% of the requested changes to legal anyway, so you can only tend exponentially towards an agreed contract.

    Oh and at the end of it, they still will have only managed to find their ass with one hand.

    Oh and I shit you not, the invoices still go through a fucking fax machine: I found this out when one got bounced after about 40 days with an unintelligible message. Seriously a fax actually still exists in the critical path internally. It had been printed, the shoved bak into a fax machine, emailed somewhere eventualy tagged as invalid and emailed back.

    Speed is not what you find in an academic environment.

    Depends at what. They're not generally good at deciding what colour to paint the bikeshed in an efficient manner.

    On th eother hand, research (their primary job) does get done often with brutak efficiency. The teaching seems to bumble along somewhat reliably too.

    Bottom line however is large organisations are inefficient. There's no noticable difference between copanies, universities and government departments of a similar size.

We all like praise, but a hike in our pay is the best kind of ways.