Re: adapting IETF in light of github and similar tools

Phillip Hallam-Baker <> Tue, 20 April 2021 19:55 UTC

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From: Phillip Hallam-Baker <>
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 15:54:44 -0400
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Subject: Re: adapting IETF in light of github and similar tools
To: Eliot Lear <>
Cc: John Levine <>, Lloyd Wood <>, The IETF List <>
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On Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 12:57 PM Eliot Lear <>

> We have to decide what business we’re in.  If we are in the tooling
> business and want to compete with Microsoft, then we should be concerned.
> But as a standards organization, I don’t think we are.  I think we are in
> the business of doing open standards.  And it’s not as if Microsoft forces
> people to use Word and Excel on Github, or even provides a comfortable
> experience on GH for those apps.
> Eliot

Arriving at the Washington National airport with over an hour and a half
before my US Air Shuttle took off and three people in line ahead of me, I
thought I was fine. I missed the flight.

The problem was that US Air had made the mistake of thinking they were in
the airline business and they were actually in the information business.
And their SABRE flight check in system hadn't been changed since it was
state of the art in the 1950s. The fact that it took a clerk 15 minutes to
book a single passenger onto a flight was one of the main reasons the
airline went bust. But that didn't stop the CEO singing the praises of his
utterly obsolete information infrastructure. Its not just computer types
can get wedged on legacy systems 30 years after their sell by date has

Modern businesses are all in the information business and their business is
their IT systems and business processes at least as much as it is people
and plant.

My point is that IETF is in the information business and the community
building business and in a very real sense we are the set of tools we use.
In the past that was nroff, mailing lists and three in-person meetings a
year. And that model is no longer sustainable.

I really have no problem with Microsoft being the technology provider, they
have contributed a great deal to IETF over the years. But I do have a
problem with trying to use a tool designed to support one application for a
very different application. Fortunately, code is malleable, cloneable and
changeable. There are multiple options:

1) Use Github as-is

2) Partner with Microsoft (or similarly placed competitor) to design a new
collaboration infrastructure. IETF gets the tools it needs, partner gets a
framework for a collaboration infrastructure building product it can sell
to a much wider audience - modern business is process.

3) A group of IETF-ers take VC money to build system (2) above and then
sell the result back to Microsoft or similarly placed competitor as exit

Of course, the fact that the large business process these days is to
outsource innovation to angel funded startups, the most likely one is:

4) A group of IETF-ers take VC money from Microsoft and/or similarly placed
competitors to build system (2) above and then sell the result back to
Microsoft or similarly placed competitor as exit strategy.

I know someone with an interesting technology that allows such a
collaboration infrastructure to be entirely end-to-end encrypted so the
cloud provider hosting the IT systems has no visibility into the business
they are supporting. An essential step if the operators are going to
mitigate liability.