Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) R. Housley
Request for Comments: 6410 Vigil Security
BCP: 9 D. Crocker
Updates: 2026 Brandenburg InternetWorking
Category: Best Current Practice E. Burger
ISSN: 2070-1721 Georgetown University
October 2011 Reducing the Standards Track to Two Maturity Levels
This document updates the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Standards Process defined in RFC 2026. Primarily, it reduces the
Standards Process from three Standards Track maturity levels to two.
Status of This Memo
This memo documents an Internet Best Current Practice.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on
BCPs is available in Section 2 of RFC 5741.
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
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This document changes the Internet Standards Process defined in RFC
2026 . In recent years, the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF) witnessed difficulty advancing documents through the maturity
levels: Proposed Standard, Draft Standard, and finally Standard.
These changes are designed to simplify the Standards Process and
reduce impediments to standards progression while preserving the most
important benefits of the IETF engineering approach. In addition,
the requirement for annual review of Standards Track documents that
have not reached the top of the maturity ladder is removed from the
Internet Standards Process.
Over the years, there have been many proposals for refining the
Internet Standards Process to reduce impediments to standards
progression. During May 2010, the Internet Engineering Steering
Group (IESG) discussed many of these proposals. Then, a plenary
discussion at IETF 78 in July 2010 demonstrated significant support
for transition from a three-tier maturity ladder to one with two
In the Internet Standards Process, experience with a Proposed
Standard is expected to motivate revisions that clarify, modify,
enhance, or remove features. However, in recent years, the vast
majority of Standards Track documents are published as Proposed
Standards and never advance to a higher maturity level. Very few
specifications have advanced on the maturity ladder in the last
decade. Changing the Internet Standards Process from three maturity
levels to two is intended to create an environment where lessons from
implementation and deployment experience are used to improve
The primary aspect of this change is to revise the requirements for
advancement beyond Proposed Standard. RFC 2026  requires a report
that documents interoperability between at least two implementations
from different code bases as an interim step ("Draft Standard")
before a specification can be advanced further to the third and final
maturity level ("Standard") based on widespread deployment and use.
In contrast, this document requires measuring interoperability
through widespread deployment of multiple implementations from
different code bases, thus condensing the two separate metrics into
The result of this change is expected to be maturity-level
advancement based on achieving widespread deployment of quality
specifications. Additionally, the change will result in the
incorporation of lessons from implementation and deployment
experience, and recognition that protocols are improved by removing
complexity associated with unused features.
In RFC 2026 , widespread deployment is essentially the metric used
for advancement from Draft Standard to Standard. The use of this
same metric for advancement beyond Proposed Standard means that there
is no longer a useful distinction between the top two tiers of the
maturity ladder. Thus, the maturity ladder is reduced to two tiers.
In addition, RFC 2026  requires annual review of specifications
that have not achieved the top maturity level. This review is no
2. Two Maturity Levels
This document replaces the three-tier maturity ladder defined in RFC
2026  with a two-tier maturity ladder. Specifications become
Internet Standards through a set of two maturity levels known as the
"Standards Track". These maturity levels are "Proposed Standard" and
A specification may be, and indeed, is likely to be, revised as it
advances from Proposed Standard to Internet Standard. When a revised
specification is proposed for advancement to Internet Standard, the
IESG shall determine the scope and significance of the changes to the
specification, and, if necessary and appropriate, modify the
recommended action. Minor revisions and the removal of unused
features are expected, but a significant revision may require that
the specification accumulate more experience at Proposed Standard
2.1. The First Maturity Level: Proposed Standard
The stated requirements for Proposed Standard are not changed; they
remain exactly as specified in RFC 2026 . No new requirements are
introduced; no existing published requirements are relaxed.
2.2. The Second Maturity Level: Internet Standard
This maturity level is a merger of Draft Standard and Standard as
specified in RFC 2026 . The chosen name avoids confusion between
"Draft Standard" and "Internet-Draft".
The characterization of an Internet Standard remains as described in
RFC 2026 , which says:
An Internet Standard is characterized by a high degree of
technical maturity and by a generally held belief that the
specified protocol or service provides significant benefit to the
The IESG, in an IETF-wide Last Call of at least four weeks, confirms
that a document advances from Proposed Standard to Internet Standard.
The request for reclassification is sent to the IESG along with an
explanation of how the criteria have been met. The criteria are:
(1) There are at least two independent interoperating implementations
with widespread deployment and successful operational experience.
(2) There are no errata against the specification that would cause a
new implementation to fail to interoperate with deployed ones.
(3) There are no unused features in the specification that greatly
increase implementation complexity.
(4) If the technology required to implement the specification
requires patented or otherwise controlled technology, then the
set of implementations must demonstrate at least two independent,
separate and successful uses of the licensing process.
After review and consideration of significant errata, the IESG will
perform an IETF-wide Last Call of at least four weeks on the
requested reclassification. If there is consensus for
reclassification, the RFC will be reclassified without publication of
a new RFC.
As stated in RFC 2026 , in a timely fashion after the expiration
of the Last Call period, the IESG shall make its final determination
and notify the IETF of its decision via electronic mail to the IETF
Announce mailing list. No changes are made to Section 6.1.2 of RFC
2.3. Transition to a Standards Track with Two Maturity Levels
Any protocol or service that is currently at the Proposed Standard
maturity level remains so.
Any protocol or service that is currently at the Standard maturity
level shall be immediately reclassified as an Internet Standard.
Any protocol or service that is currently at the abandoned Draft
Standard maturity level will retain that classification, absent
explicit actions. Two possible actions are available:
(1) A Draft Standard may be reclassified as an Internet Standard as
soon as the criteria in Section 2.2 are satisfied.
(2) At any time after two years from the approval of this document as
a BCP, the IESG may choose to reclassify any Draft Standard
document as Proposed Standard.
3. Removed Requirements
3.1. Removal of Requirement for Annual Review
In practice, the annual review of Proposed Standard and Draft
Standard documents after two years (called for in RFC 2026 ) has
not taken place. Lack of this review has not revealed any ill
effects on the Internet Standards Process. As a result, the
requirement for this review is dropped. No review cycle is imposed
on Standards Track documents at any maturity level.
3.2. Requirement for Interoperability Testing Reporting
Testing for interoperability is a long tradition in the development
of Internet protocols and remains important for reliable deployment
of services. The IETF Standards Process no longer requires a formal
interoperability report, recognizing that deployment and use is
sufficient to show interoperability.
Although no longer required by the IETF Standards Processes, RFC 5657
 can be helpful to conduct interoperability testing.
4. Security Considerations
This document does not directly affect the security of the Internet.
A two-tier Standards Track has been proposed many times. Spencer
Dawkins, Charlie Perkins, and Dave Crocker made a proposal in 2003.
Additional proposals were made by Scott Bradner in 2004, Brian
Carpenter in June 2005, and Ran Atkinson in 2006. This document
takes ideas from many of these prior proposals; it also incorporates
ideas from the IESG discussion in May 2010, the IETF 78 plenary
discussion in July 2010, and yet another proposal submitted by
Spencer Dawkins, Dave Crocker, Eric Burger, and Peter Saint-Andre in