The mission of the IETF is to make the Internet work better by producing high quality, relevant technical documents that influence the way people design, use, and manage the Internet.
The IETF pursues this mission in adherence to the following cardinal principles [see RFC 3935]:
Open process Any interested person can participate in the work, know what is being decided, and make his or her voice heard on the issue. Part of this principle is our commitment to making our documents, our WG mailing lists, our attendance lists, and our meeting minutes publicly available on the Internet.
Technical competence The issues on which the IETF produces its documents are issues where the IETF has the competence needed to speak to them, and that the IETF is willing to listen to technically competent input from any source. Technical competence also means that we expect IETF output to be designed to sound network engineering principles - this is also often referred to as "engineering quality".
Volunteer Core Our participants and our leadership are people who come to the IETF because they want to do work that furthers the IETF's mission of "making the Internet work better."
Rough consensus and running code We make standards based on the combined engineering judgement of our participants and our real-world experience in implementing and deploying our specifications.
Protocol ownership When the IETF takes ownership of a protocol or function, it accepts the responsibility for all aspects of the protocol, even though some aspects may rarely or never be seen on the Internet. Conversely, when the IETF is not responsible for a protocol or function, it does not attempt to exert control over it, even though it may at times touch or affect the Internet.
Harald T. Alvestrand