Standards Organizations/Bodies

Internet Administration

Key Standards Bodies

Control of Standards

Who owns the Internet?


A leading software developer which is most famous for Microsoft Windows. Modern versions of Microsoft Windows come with the socket implementation called WinSock, and so many people have been introduced to using the Internet by using a computer running Microsoft Windows.


With a history of requiring the Internet, Google has defined SPDY to improve upon HTTP, and regularly sponsors development such as the “Google Summer of Code” (“GSoC”) projects.

A company that was quite popular in the 1980's when much of America first started getting much exposure to using computers, many people at the time bought an Apple as their first personal computer. Since then, Apple released the popular Macintosh platform, and gained popularity with the release of Mac OSX and other technology products, starting with the iPod music player and then expanding to the iPhone and the iPad tablet. Apple has amassed huge popularity.
Any other vendor of popular operating systems?

The distributors of NetBSD, or perhaps Debian, the technical foundation behind Ubuntu

The military of the United States of America?

The predecessor to the Internet was called ARPANet, named after the “Advanced Research Projects Agency” (“ARPA”), which was part of the USA's military “Department of Defense” (“DoD”). ARPA has since been renamed to DARPA (“Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency”) which has been known to provide technical funding, helping the OpenBSD group to create OpenSSH. The National Security Agency also has a substantial amount of people studying cryptology, which is used on the Internet.

The Federal Government of the United States of America (but not specifically the military)?

Another notable sponsor of technology may include the National Science Foundation (“NSF”). The “Corporation for National Research Initiatives” is “largely funded by federal grants” (according to Wired Magazine 3.10 article about the IETF: “How Anarchy Works” (“printer-friendly version”) (Wired Magazine 3.10 article about the IETF: “How Anarchy Works”, broken up into multiple pages).


Famous for devices with circuitry that is housed in blue plastic, they make a bunch of networking equipment including broadband modems.


Many Linksys devices have shown the logo of Cisco, which is a recognized giant in the industry of providing networking equipment to large organizations.


They are known to compete with Linksys, and have sold many “switches” which are used to connect computers and computer equipment.

Broadband service provider

Some companies provide local service for Internet connectivity and landline phone service, and perhaps even television content. Coudl the Internet be owned by a central organization that is partially owned by a telephone company, and partially owned by a different telephone company, and partially owned by a cable company?

A different giant corporation
Or, is it some other “Fortune 500” company that mass produces a product or charges subscribes who are willing to pay for a specific provided service?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, and, um, no.

A fascinating fact about the Internet is that it is not owned by a single individual for-profit company, nor by any single recognized world government.

If we accept that there is no one single owner of the Internet, then let's look at another question. Who controls the Internet? Who determines how network communications get handled?

Amazingly, even though many modern technical societies are heavily influenced by corporations which may frequently act out of their own self-interest, the Internet is really run by consensus. That word consensus may imply some other words, such as agreements and cooperation.

A widely implemented pursuit is a goal of enough compatability for working inter-operability. Many organizations, who would happily and eagerly applaud troubles experienced by their competitors, do actually work well with these same competitors to help make sure that standards are followed well enough for basic functionality to occur.

The way that the Internet works is dictated, or at least heavily influenced, by those who are involved in making it run. There is not one single organization that completely controls how the whole Internet works. The leading corporate organizations have realized that they can frequently benefit most by using technology in a way that offers some compatability/inter-operability. Offering such functionality can help to achieve goals such as customer satisfaction and help to convince governments that the governments don't currently need to proceed with initiating procedures to penalize for violations of “anti-trust”/monopolization law. To achieve these sorts of desired concepts, some of the most well-recognized names, such as Microsoft and Google and Apple and Adobe (who invented the PDF format and has bought out Macromedia), regularly follow the standards set by created by organizations that are typically rather independent of any specific company. Such an organization is called a “standards body”. These standards are created by organizations that are typically rather independent of any specific company. Examples of a “standards body” include the IETF and the IEEE and the W3C.

Wikipedia's article on David D. Clark notes, “From 1981 to 1989, he acted as chief protocol architect in the development of the Internet, and chaired the Internet Activities Board. A few years later, for the IETF's 24th plenary meeting, David Dana Clark created a presentation called “A Cloudy Crystal Ball - Visions of the Future” (and the title of each slide noted, “Views of the Future”), and the first slide noted: “Alternate title: Apocalypose Now”). This presentation was delivered 7pm-9pm July 16, 1992 A.D. On slide 19 of this presentation (available on IETF 24 PDF page 551, which the paper labels as page 543), the last two lines of the slide stated the following:

We reject kings, presidents and voting.
We believe in: rough consensus and running code.

The term “running code” simply refers to the concept of things actually functioning, successfully. Not every company necessarily needs to fully embrace every single standard. However, as long as there is enough agreement that things are compatible enough that there is some solid functionality, that can be good enough to satisfy many basic network designs.

Many politicians have been convinced to allow lots of leniency/latitude to the engineers who design Internet standards, perhaps largely because results have been deemed so beneficial to society.

Some specific main Internet standards bodies

For technicians who are interested in making sure that technology is following the most universally agreed-upon standards, some of the most important organizations for technicians to initially become familiar with are IANA, IETF, ICANN (which oversees IANA), and IEEE. The decisions by these organizations tend to be implemented and re-documented by many other vendors, including the vendors who distribute modern popular operating systems and other developers who create software widely used with network applications.

Internet Society (“ISOC”)

The “Internet Society”, often abbreviated as “ISOC”, is a non-profit organization that is legally recognized as being the “parent” organization for certain other groups. groups such as the IETF, ICANN, IANA, IESG, and more. These different groups which officially work “under” ISOC also tend to cooperate well with each other.

Wikipedia's article for “Internet Society” notes, “the Internet Society itself grew out of the IETF”. However, ISOC is recognized as the group that is treated as the parent/overseer of the IETF and other groups. ISOC is legally considered above the IETF, treated as the “parent” organization with authority, at least officially.

The basic job performed by the ISOC is handling necessary tasks which need to be handled, but which are less technical in nature, such as subjects related to law, relations with government officials, or possibly finances. By having these tasks be pushed off onto the ISOC, recognized technical experts in other organizations like the IETF may be able to better focus on technical issues rather than these types of bureaucratic ones.

ISOC's organizations have worked closely together. The chair (a.k.a. leader) of a board for one ISOC organization is often a member, or even the chair, of the board of one or more other ISOC organizations. The distinction between these different “organizations” is not for the purpose of trying to distribute power among different people. Rather, the purpose of having different organizations is often just for structural purposes, possibly for purposes such as just being a different legally-recognized role. Wikipedia's article on IRTF: “Operations” section states, “The IRSG membership includes the IRTF chair, the chairs of the various Research Groups and other individuals (members at large) from the research community selected by the IRTF chair.” So having the same people in charge does seem very intentional.

Style Guide, Logo page, ISOC Logo, ISOC logo
IAB (Internet Architecture Board)

It oversees a number of Task Forces, of which the most important are the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF).


The Internet Architecture Board has had a number of other names, including the Internet Activities Board and the Internet Advisory Board (according to Wikipedia's article on the Internet Architecture Board). These names just mentioned share the same acronym as the name currently in use.

IAB logo
[#ietf]: Internet Engineering Task Force
An Overview

One of the most initially admired aspects of this organization is that they do have an inspiring name. These people may not actually be a branch of specialized military commandos, but what they do is indeed quite impactful. People do adhere to the communications provided by the IETF. The IETF creates specifications that are widely used, including the extremely important “RFC” documents.

November 1994's RFC 1718 has stated, “Over the last two years, the attendance at Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) plenary meetings has grown phenomenally. Approximately one third of the attendees are new to the IETF at each meeting, and many of those go on to become regular attendees.” That growth rate may not have continued: That RFC has been obsoleted, and moved by RFC 6722 to The “tao” (“way”) of the Internet. Still, the “tao” guide provides an introdution to the IETF. The document states that it has “goal of explaining to newcomers how the IETF works”. The doucment also notes: “One more thing that is important for newcomers: the IETF in no way "runs the Internet", despite what some people mistakenly might say. The IETF makes voluntary standards that are often adopted by Internet users, but it does not control, or even patrol, the Internet.”

A guide called The “tao” (“way”) of the Internet says “The IETF is not a traditional standards organization, although many specifications that are produced become standards.”

However, despite the claims of not running the Internet, the IETF is the source of the “RFC” documents, which are the most official public documentation of standards for protocols such as IPv6 and IPv4 and TCP and UDP. Multiple of those get implemented by every standard server that provides some important publicly accessible services including web servers, servers following the most popular E-Mail standards, and DNS servers. Also, multiple of those protocols are used by every computer or device that are utilizing those standard services.

No matter how humble any IETF-endorsed text may be, the simple fact is that their work is widely recognized and used. Many organizations follow the guidelines published by the IETF's “RFC” documents, which are used in numerous standards.

So, really, the IETF oversees the operations of the Internet, despite any claims of not running it. The IETF may not try to legally enforce some compliance the way that a patrol of police would, but you can safely bet that many members of the IETF do monitor Internet activity.

“On Consensus and Humming in the IETF” (draft version 1) section 5 notes, “It's the existence of the unaddressed open issue, not the number of people, which is determinative in judging consensus.” So, voting is not preferred method of decision making, as that simply determines popularlity. Instead, the chairperson of a group helps to make sure that voiced objections are addressed. This does not necessarily mean that full agreement by all participants has been achieved. As long as objectives can be contemplated and then considered to be addressed, an issue can likely move forward.

The IETF dearly cherishes consensus. Wired Magazine 3.10 article about the IETF: “How Anarchy Works” (“printer-friendly version”) (Wired Magazine 3.10 article about the IETF: “How Anarchy Works”, broken up into multiple pages)

IETF Logo, IETF Logos (redirecting URL) which redirects to: IETF Logos
RFC documents

RFC documents are widely recognized as being the most honored standards. Deviations from the standards defined by the RFC documents are commonly shunned as being irrelevant. Further details about RFC documents (and important related classifications: Standards and Best Current Practices) are available.

IETF BCP 95 - A Mission Statement for the IETF, BCP 58 - Defining the IETF
[#ietfdres]: Dress code

Dress code: TAO section 3.4: Dress Code, which may be updated, and RFC 4677 (Tao of IETF) section 4.4 (dress code) (or RFC 1718 page 7 for an older reference) for more permanent text (which conceivably could be useful for historical references). (IETF FYI 17 was presumably intended to be updatable, although that changed with RFC 6360.)

RFC 4677 (Tao of IETF) section 4.4 (dress code) states, “There are those in the IETF who refuse to wear anything other than suits.  Fortunately, they are well known (for other reasons) so they are forgiven this particular idiosyncrasy.” Newcomers violating the spirit of that dress code may even find that their dress code causes aprehension, as people may start to doubt whether they are ready for the IETF culture. See also: IETF conduct.

In addition to the idiosyncrasy jab, reading the related text shows some more of IETF's dry humor.

[#ietfcdct]: Expected behavior

People who are not familiar with the IETF culture, and yet anticipate becoming influential regardless, may be more prone to ineffectively end up causing some problems like what is described by the third paragraph of P. Resnick draft on consensus, version 01 (second version), section 6 (that is, the second paragraph of page 9).

One example is IETF dress code.

BCP 54 - IETF Guidelines for Conduct, such as recognition that activity is likely to occur on a mailing list, and that active participants should be familiar with current activity. Another topic is language (which, interestingly, IETF 3184 Page 2 starts by recommending that slang be limited, and then the next subsection 2 makes a statement “said in a somewhat more IETF-like way”, and uses “heat” to imply anger, and “light” to refer to imply, rather violating the principle just discussed about avoiding less clear language).

Some other related groups
IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC) and IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA) (the hyperlinked web page's URL suggetss IAOC, but the web page's title references IASA) have their abbreviations mentioned by RFC 5620 section 2 and it's subsection (section 2.1). These are documented by IETF BCP 101 (e.g. RFC 4071: Structure of the IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA).

(Misc note(s), resuming discussion about IAB...)

There are some RFCs related to IAB, such as RFC 1160: ”The Internet Activities Board”. Some are even BCP documents: IETF BCP 39: Charter of IAB is one example. Another is BCP10 (currently RFC 3777) which discusses how members of the IAB and IESG are selected and confirmed (and how they may be recalled, although Wikipedia's article on IETF: “Organization” section says “To date, no one has been removed by a NOMCOM, although several people have resigned their positions, requiring replacements.”

“Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” (“ICANN”)
Organization logo

ICANN logo


The organization does two things.

Assigned Names
One task of ICANN is to provide the central administration for DNS (e.g. being in charge of the key “root” servers, and overseeing tasks related to the Top Level Domain (“TLD”) names), which is what the term “Names” refers to.
Assigned Numbers
ICANN operates IANA.

Wikipedia's article for InterNIC: section called “ARIN and ICANN” notes, “In 1998 both IANA and InterNIC were reorganized under the control of” ICANN.

So, let's look at those tasks individually. Actually, since DNS uses some other protocols that IANA is involved in, let's start with covering IANA a bit.

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (“IANA”)

Actually, IANA is involved in so many important things, that even a brief summary is a bit lengthy, and so a section of documentation focused just on IANA has been set up.

Regional Internet Registries (RIRs)

Info about the Regional Internet Registries (“RIRs”) (“American Registry for Internet Numbers” (“ARIN”), “Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre” (“APNIC”), “Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre” (“RIPE NCC” or “RIPE-NCC”), “Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre” (“LACNIC”), and AfriNIC) is available on the page about IANA.

Internet Names

Wikipedia's page for ICANN indicates that the “Focus” of this organization is: “Manage Internet protocol numbers and Domain Name System root”. (Domain Name Service, abbreviated DNS, is the Internet's most widely deployed method of name resolution, which allows names to be automatically converted to numbers that computers can use effectively in order to implement communications.)

Historically, this function used to be provided by an organization called NIC, which was later renamed to InterNIC in 1993 (right about the time that many people started to become familiar with the existance of the Internet). For several years, InterNIC was run by a company Network Solutions. Other organizations that have historically been involved include the Standford Research Institute (“SRI International”) and AT&T. Control over DNS has now been moved to a non-profit organization called ICANN. The ICANN archive of note moving DNS to ICANN identifies that the National Science Foundation noted a change, in the agreement with Network Solutions, regarding who was running DNS.

Domains are maintained by the organization that handles a TLD (Top-Level Domain). Typically these TLD handlers will pass the task onto organizations called Domain Registries.

Wikipedia's article about “Root name server”: “Root name server” section describes this in more detail.

Other organizations related to ISOC

Other organizations may include: IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC), IETF Administrative Support Activity (IASA), Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) (which RFC 2028 section 3.8 says has a “structure and mode of operation is much less formal than that of the IETF”, surprising given IETF's relaxed atmosphere such as the dress code), Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).

[#ieee]: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (“IEEE”)

Often Pronounced as “Eye-Triple-Eee”

Yes, the “Electrical and Electronics” portion of the name does seem a bit redundant.


IEEE Masterbrand

The IEEE's site has been known to use IEEE logo with catch phrase: “Advancing Technology for Humanity”.


This organization has been involved with electrical standards, including communications that involve electricity. Many of the standards relating to the media (communications over wires, the wires themselves, communications over airwaves, using light as communication) have been specified by IEEE.

Some specific standards used by computer network communications
802.1 - Ethernet
Ethernet Frames
Ethernet Address - OUI

Often referred to as the “physical address”, this is essentially a MAC address. For further details, see EUI-48 addresses, OUI.

[#ethertyp]: EtherType

Glossary entry for EtherType, Wikipedia's article on EtherType states, “Note that even very well known de facto uses of EtherTypes are not always recorded in the IEEE list of EtherType values”. IEEE EtherType public listing, Info about public listings.

IANA has some of the info at IANA: IEEE 802 numbers: Registry #1 (EtherTypes). RFC 5342: Appendix B lists some EtherTypes.

This info is also published by third parties, e.g. http://www.cavebear.com/archive/cavebear/Ethernet/Ethernet.txt lists EtherTypes. Wikipedia's article on EtherType lists “EtherType for some notable protocols”.

Wikipedia's article on “IEEE 802.1Q”: section called “Double tagging” notes, “If the 21st and 22nd bits are not 0x8100, then they are the Ethertype. If the Ethertype is 0x8100, then the entire frame is treated as VLAN tagged. When a frame is VLAN tagged, the value of 0x8100 becomes known as the TPID (Tag Protocol Identifier), and the frame's actual Ethertype will be pushed out by 4 bytes (after the entire 802.1Q header). In that case, the Ethertype will be bytes 25 and 26, unless the process is repeated due to double-tagging. (See: Wikipedia's article on 802.1Q: “Double tagging” section.)

If the EtherType is less than 1501, then the frame is an IEEE 802.3 frame (and not an “Ethernet II” frame), while an EtherType greater than 1535 (0x05FF) specifies that the frame is “Ethernet II” (and not an 802.3-style frame), according to Wikipedia's article on “Ethernet frame”: “Ethernet frame types” section, subsection called “Ethernet II”. There are, however, other Ethernet frame types (Wikipedia's article for “Ethernet frame”: section called “Ethernet frame types”).

Ethernet communications
e.g. back-off timers, etc.
802.11 - Wi-Fi

The most recognized sub-standards may be those that describe the modulation details, including the use of frequency (and the resulting speeds) : 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac. Another substandard that is often mentioned is 802.11i, when mentioning its more recognized name of WPA2.

There are certainly other 802 standards than just 802.1 (Ethernet) and 802.11 (WiFi).


The W3C is primarily noted for being in charge of the most widely recognized standards for HTML, which is the “language” used by the “browser” software for the “world wide web” (“WWW”). They have also led some similar/related standardization, including XML and CSS (which are heavily used) and PICS (which seems to have fallen off the wayside).

W3C logos, and also related technologies may have their own logo such as HTML Logo.