Paper: The Web We Weave: Untangling the Social Graph of the IETF

by sodestream Project • Monday 21 March 2022 • Permalink


The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is responsible for producing the standards that underpin the web (e.g., HTTP, WebSockets, and WebRTC). While the IETF follows an open, consensus-driven process, protocol standardisation is inherently social and political, and latent influential structures might exist in the community. Exploring and understanding these is essential to ensuring the IETF's resilience and openness. We use network analysis to explore the social graphs of IETF participants and the influence that key contributors have. We show that a small core dominates: the top 10% of participants contribute 43.75% of emails and come from a relatively small set of organisations. On the other hand, we also find that influence has become relatively more decentralised with time. IETF participants also propose and work on protocol drafts that are either adopted by a working group for further refinement or get rejected at the early stage. Using the social graph features combined with email text features, we perform regression analysis to understand the effect of user influence on the success of proposed protocol drafts being adopted. Our findings shed useful insights into behavior of participants across time, correlation between influence and success in draft adoption, and the significance of affiliated organisations in development of protocol drafts.