The IP Stack Evolution program covers various topics in the evolution of IPv4 and IPv6, the transport protocols running over IP, and the overall protocol stack architecture.

The program addresses challenges that affect the stack in some way and where the IETF community requires architectural guidance, responding to community requests as well as actively monitoring work within IETF WGs which touch on relevant topics.

There is an observed trend of functionality moving “up the stack”: where the “waist” was once IP, now most applications run over TCP/IP, or even HTTP/TCP/IP; the stack has become increasingly ossified. This is in response both to reduced path transparency within the Internet — middleboxes that limit the protocols of the traffic that can pass through them — as well as insufficiently flexible interfaces for platform and application developers. The emergence of both new application requirements demanding more flexibility from the stack, especially at layer 4, as well as the increasing ubiquity of encryption to protect against pervasive surveillance, provides an opportunity to re-evaluate and reverse this trend.

This program aims to provide architectural guidance, and a point of coordination for work at the architectural level to improve the present situation of ossification in the Internet protocol stack. Where a working group relevant to a particular aspect of IP stack evolution exists, the program will facilitate cross-group and cross-area coordination. The program also produces documents on the IAB stream providing general guidance on and covering architectural aspects of stack evolution.

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