The Internet Society or ISOC is an international, nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. It states that its mission is "to assure the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world".
The Internet Society has offices near Washington, DC, USA, and in Geneva, Switzerland. It has a membership base comprising more than 80 organizational and more than 28,000 individual members. Members also form "chapters" based on either common geographical location or special interests. There are currently more than 90 chapters around the world.
The Society will be a non-profit organization and will be operated for international educational, charitable, and scientific purposes, among which are:
- To facilitate and support the technical evolution of the Internet as a research and education infrastructure and to stimulate involvement of the academic, scientific, and engineering communities (among others) in the evolution of the Internet.
- To educate the academic and scientific communities and the public concerning the technology, use, and application of the Internet.
- To promote scientific and educational applications of Internet technology for the benefit of educational institutions at all grade levels, industry, and the public at large.
- To provide a forum for exploration of new Internet applications and to foster collaboration among organizations in their operation and use of the Internet.
Many of the driving forces in the Internet arena, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), were (and still remain) very informal organizations from a legal perspective. There was a growing need for financial support and organization structure. The Internet Society was incorporated as a non-profit educational organization which could provide that support structure, as well as promoting other activities that were important to the development of the Internet.
Like many functions and organizations active in the Internet, growth and evolution have been so rapid that no single perspective gives an understanding of the Society. From one view, ISOC is the parent corporation of the IETF; as such all IETF Request for Comments documents, including those RFCs which describe "Internet Standards", are copyrighted by ISOC (although freely available to anyone, including non-members, at no charge). From another perspective, ISOC grew out of the IETF, to support those functions that require a corporate form rather than simply the ad-hoc approach of the IETF.
Under the standards category, ISOC supports and promotes the work of the standards settings bodies for which it is the organizational home: the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG), and the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF). ISOC also seeks to promote understanding and appreciation of the Internet model of open, transparent processes and consensus-based decision making.
Under the public policy category, ISOC works with governments, national and international organizations, Civil Society, the private sector, and other parties to promote policies about the Internet that conform to ISOC's core values. The following statement illustrates the foundation for ISOC's policy positions:
We envision a future in which people in all parts of the world can use the Internet to improve their quality of life, because standards, technologies, business practices, and government policies sustain an open and universally accessible platform for innovation, creativity, and economic opportunity.
Under the category of education, ISOC pursues its goals by coordinating and delivering hands-on technical training, seminars and conferences on topical Internet issues; supporting local and regional Internet organisations; issuing briefings and white papers on Internet technologies; and funding participation opportunities for Internet experts in developing countries.
The current board of Trustees is composed of