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Request For Comments - RFC2168

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Network Working Group                                       R. Daniel
Request for Comments: 2168             Los Alamos National Laboratory
Category: Experimental                                    M. Mealling
                                              Network Solutions, Inc.
                                                            June 1997

               Resolution of Uniform Resource Identifiers
                      using the Domain Name System

Status of this Memo

   This memo defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet
   community.  This memo does not specify an Internet standard of any
   kind.  Discussion and suggestions for improvement are requested.
   Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) are the foundation of the World Wide
   Web, and are a vital Internet technology. However, they have proven
   to be brittle in practice. The basic problem is that URLs typically
   identify a particular path to a file on a particular host. There is
   no graceful way of changing the path or host once the URL has been
   assigned. Neither is there a graceful way of replicating the resource
   located by the URL to achieve better network utilization and/or fault
   tolerance. Uniform Resource Names (URNs) have been hypothesized as a
   adjunct to URLs that would overcome such problems. URNs and URLs are
   both instances of a broader class of identifiers known as Uniform
   Resource Identifiers (URIs).

   The requirements document for URN resolution systems[15] defines the
   concept of a "resolver discovery service". This document describes
   the first, experimental, RDS. It is implemented by a new DNS Resource
   Record, NAPTR (Naming Authority PoinTeR), that provides rules for
   mapping parts of URIs to domain names.  By changing the mapping
   rules, we can change the host that is contacted to resolve a URI.
   This will allow a more graceful handling of URLs over long time
   periods, and forms the foundation for a new proposal for Uniform
   Resource Names.

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   In addition to locating resolvers, the NAPTR provides for other
   naming systems to be grandfathered into the URN world, provides
   independence between the name assignment system and the resolution
   protocol system, and allows multiple services (Name to Location, Name
   to Description, Name to Resource, ...) to be offered.  In conjunction
   with the SRV RR, the NAPTR record allows those services to be
   replicated for the purposes of fault tolerance and load balancing.


   Uniform Resource Locators have been a significant advance in
   retrieving Internet-accessible resources. However, their  brittle
   nature over time has been recognized for several years. The Uniform
   Resource Identifier working group proposed the development of Uniform
   Resource Names to serve as persistent, location-independent
   identifiers for Internet resources in order to overcome most of the
   problems with URLs. RFC-1737 [1] sets forth requirements on URNs.

   During the lifetime of the URI-WG, a number of URN proposals were
   generated. The developers of several of those proposals met in a
   series of meetings, resulting in a compromise known as the Knoxville
   framework.  The major principle behind the Knoxville framework is
   that the resolution system must be separate from the way names are
   assigned. This is in marked contrast to most URLs, which identify the
   host to contact and the protocol to use. Readers are referred to [2]
   for background on the Knoxville framework and for additional
   information on the context and purpose of this proposal.

   Separating the way names are resolved from the way they are
   constructed provides several benefits. It allows multiple naming
   approaches and resolution approaches to compete, as it allows
   different protocols and resolvers to be used. There is just one
   problem with such a separation - how do we resolve a name when it
   can't give us directions to its resolver?

   For the short term, DNS is the obvious candidate for the resolution
   framework, since it is widely deployed and understood. However, it is
   not appropriate to use DNS to maintain information on a per-resource
   basis. First of all, DNS was never intended to handle that many
   records. Second, the limited record size is inappropriate for catalog
   information. Third, domain names are not appropriate as URNs.

   Therefore our approach is to use DNS to locate "resolvers" that can
   provide information on individual resources, potentially including
   the resource itself. To accomplish this, we "rewrite" the URI into a
   domain name following the rules provided in NAPTR records. Rewrite
   rules provide considerable power, which is important when trying to

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   meet the goals listed above. However, collections of rules can become
   difficult to understand. To lessen this problem, the NAPTR rules are
   *always* applied to the original URI, *never* to the output of
   previous rules.

   Locating a resolver through the rewrite procedure may take multiple
   steps, but the beginning is always the same. The start of the URI is
   scanned to extract its colon-delimited prefix. (For URNs, the prefix
   is always "urn:" and we extract the following colon-delimited
   namespace identifier [3]). NAPTR resolution begins by taking the
   extracted string, appending the well-known suffix ".urn.net", and
   querying the DNS for NAPTR records at that domain name.  Based on the
   results of this query, zero or more additional DNS queries may be
   needed to locate resolvers for the URI. The details of the
   conversation between the client and the resolver thus located are
   outside the bounds of this draft. Three brief examples of this
   procedure are given in the next section.

   The NAPTR RR provides the level of indirection needed to keep the
   naming system independent of the resolution system, its protocols,
   and services.  Coupled with the new SRV resource record proposal[4]
   there is also the potential for replicating the resolver on multiple
   hosts, overcoming some of the most significant problems of URLs. This
   is an important and subtle point. Not only do the NAPTR and SRV
   records allow us to replicate the resource, we can replicate the
   resolvers that know about the replicated resource. Preventing a
   single point of failure at the resolver level is a significant
   benefit. Separating the resolution procedure from the way names are
   constructed has additional benefits.  Different resolution procedures
   can be used over time, and resolution procedures that are determined
   to be useful can be extended to deal with additional namespaces.


   The NAPTR proposal is the first resolution procedure to be considered
   by the URN-WG. There are several concerns about the proposal which
   have motivated the group to recommend it for publication as an
   Experimental rather than a standards-track RFC.

   First, URN resolution is new to the IETF and we wish to gain
   operational experience before recommending any procedure for the
   standards track. Second, the NAPTR proposal is based on DNS and
   consequently inherits concerns about security and administration. The
   recent advancement of the DNSSEC and secure update drafts to Proposed
   Standard reduce these concerns, but we wish to experiment with those
   new capabilities in the context of URN administration.  A third area
   of concern is the potential for a noticeable impact on the DNS.  We

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   believe that the proposal makes appropriate use of caching and
   additional information, but it is best to go slow where the potential
   for impact on a core system like the DNS is concerned. Fourth, the
   rewrite rules in the NAPTR proposal are based on regular expressions.
   Since regular expressions are difficult for humans to construct
   correctly, concerns exist about the usability and maintainability of
   the rules. This is especially true where international character sets
   are concerned. Finally, the URN-WG is developing a requirements
   document for URN Resolution Services[15], but that document is not
   complete. That document needs to precede any resolution service
   proposals on the standards track.


   "Must" or "Shall" - Software that does not behave in the manner that
              this document says it must is not conformant to this
   "Should" - Software that does not follow the behavior that this
              document says it should may still be conformant, but is
              probably broken in some fundamental way.
   "May" -    Implementations may or may not provide the described
              behavior, while still remaining conformant to this

Brief overview and examples of the NAPTR RR:

   A detailed description of the NAPTR RR will be given later, but to
   give a flavor for the proposal we first give a simple description of
   the record and three examples of its use.

   The key fields in the NAPTR RR are order, preference, service, flags,
   regexp, and replacement:

   * The order field specifies the order in which records MUST be
     processed when multiple NAPTR records are returned in response to a
     single query.  A naming authority may have delegated a portion of
     its namespace to another agency. Evaluating the NAPTR records in
     the correct order is necessary for delegation to work properly.

   * The preference field specifies the order in which records SHOULD be
     processed when multiple NAPTR records have the same value of
     "order".  This field lets a service provider specify the order in
     which resolvers are contacted, so that more capable machines are
     contacted in preference to less capable ones.

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   * The service field specifies the resolution protocol and resolution
     service(s) that will be available if the rewrite specified by the
     regexp or replacement fields is applied. Resolution protocols are
     the protocols used to talk with a resolver. They will be specified
     in other documents, such as [5]. Resolution services are operations
     such as N2R (URN to Resource), N2L (URN to URL), N2C (URN to URC),
     etc.  These will be discussed in the URN Resolution Services
     document[6], and their behavior in a particular resolution protocol
     will be given in the specification for that protocol (see [5] for a
     concrete example).

   * The flags field contains modifiers that affect what happens in the
     next DNS lookup, typically for optimizing the process. Flags may
     also affect the interpretation of the other fields in the record,
     therefore, clients MUST skip NAPTR records which contain an unknown
     flag value.

   * The regexp field is one of two fields used for the rewrite rules,
     and is the core concept of the NAPTR record. The regexp field is a
     String containing a sed-like substitution expression. (The actual
     grammar for the substitution expressions is given later in this
     draft). The substitution expression is applied to the original URN
     to determine the next domain name to be queried. The regexp field
     should be used when the domain name to be generated is conditional
     on information in the URI. If the next domain name is always known,
     which is anticipated to be a common occurrence, the replacement
     field should be used instead.

   * The replacement field is the other field that may be used for the
     rewrite rule. It is an optimization of the rewrite process for the
     case where the next domain name is fixed instead of being
     conditional on the content of the URI. The replacement field is a
     domain name (subject to compression if a DNS sender knows that a
     given recipient is able to decompress names in this RR type's RDATA
     field). If the rewrite is more complex than a simple substitution
     of a domain name, the replacement field should be set to . and the
     regexp field used.

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   Note that the client applies all the substitutions and performs all
   lookups, they are not performed in the DNS servers. Note also that it
   is the belief of the developers of this document that regexps should
   rarely be used. The replacement field seems adequate for the vast
   majority of situations. Regexps are only necessary when portions of a
   namespace are to be delegated to different resolvers. Finally, note
   that the regexp and replacement fields are, at present, mutually
   exclusive. However, developers of client software should be aware
   that a new flag might be defined which requires values in both

Example 1

   Consider a URN that uses the hypothetical DUNS namespace. DUNS
   numbers are identifiers for approximately 30 million registered
   businesses around the world, assigned and maintained by Dunn and
   Bradstreet. The URN might look like:


   The first step in the resolution process is to find out about the
   DUNS namespace. The namespace identifier, "duns", is extracted from
   the URN, prepended to urn.net, and the NAPTRs for duns.urn.net looked
   up. It might return records of the form:

;;      order pref flags service          regexp        replacement
 IN NAPTR 100  10  "s" "dunslink+N2L+N2C" ""  dunslink.udp.isi.dandb.com
 IN NAPTR 100  20  "s" "rcds+N2C"         ""  rcds.udp.isi.dandb.com
 IN NAPTR 100  30  "s" "http+N2L+N2C+N2R" ""  http.tcp.isi.dandb.com

   The order field contains equal values, indicating that no name
   delegation order has to be followed. The preference field indicates
   that the provider would like clients to use the special dunslink
   protocol, followed by the RCDS protocol, and that HTTP is offered as
   a last resort. All the records specify the "s" flag, which will be
   explained momentarily.  The service fields say that if we speak
   dunslink, we will be able to issue either the N2L or N2C requests to
   obtain a URL or a URC (description) of the resource. The Resource
   Cataloging and Distribution Service (RCDS)[7] could be used to get a
   URC for the resource, while HTTP could be used to get a URL, URC, or
   the resource itself.  All the records supply the next domain name to
   query, none of them need to be rewritten with the aid of regular

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   The general case might require multiple NAPTR rewrites to locate a
   resolver, but eventually we will come to the "terminal NAPTR". Once
   we have the terminal NAPTR, our next probe into the DNS will be for a
   SRV or A record instead of another NAPTR. Rather than probing for a
   non-existent NAPTR record to terminate the loop, the flags field is
   used to indicate a terminal lookup. If it has a value of "s", the
   next lookup should be for SRV RRs, "a" denotes that A records should
   sought.  A "p" flag is also provided to indicate that the next action
   is Protocol-specific, but that looking up another NAPTR will not be
   part of it.

   Since our example RR specified the "s" flag, it was terminal.
   Assuming our client does not know the dunslink protocol, our next
   action is to lookup SRV RRs for rcds.udp.isi.dandb.com, which will
   tell us hosts that can provide the necessary resolution service. That
   lookup might return:

    ;;                          Pref Weight Port Target
    rcds.udp.isi.dandb.com IN SRV 0    0    1000 defduns.isi.dandb.com
                           IN SRV 0    0    1000 dbmirror.com.au
                           IN SRV 0    0    1000 ukmirror.com.uk

   telling us three hosts that could actually do the resolution, and
   giving us the port we should use to talk to their RCDS server.  (The
   reader is referred to the SRV proposal [4] for the interpretation of
   the fields above).

   There is opportunity for significant optimization here. We can return
   the SRV records as additional information for terminal NAPTRs (and
   the A records as additional information for those SRVs). While this
   recursive provision of additional information is not explicitly
   blessed in the DNS specifications, it is not forbidden, and BIND does
   take advantage of it [8]. This is a significant optimization. In
   conjunction with a long TTL for *.urn.net records, the average number
   of probes to DNS for resolving DUNS URNs would approach one.
   Therefore, DNS server implementors SHOULD provide additional
   information with NAPTR responses. The additional information will be
   either SRV or A records.  If SRV records are available, their A
   records should be provided as recursive additional information.

   Note that the example NAPTR records above are intended to represent
   the reply the client will see. They are not quite identical to what
   the domain administrator would put into the zone files. For one
   thing, the administrator should supply the trailing '.' character on
   any FQDNs.

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Example 2

   Consider a URN namespace based on MIME Content-Ids. The URN might
   look like this:


   (Note that this example is chosen for pedagogical purposes, and does
   not conform to the recently-approved CID URL scheme.)

   The first step in the resolution process is to find out about the CID
   namespace. The namespace identifier, cid, is extracted from the URN,
   prepended to urn.net, and the NAPTR for cid.urn.net looked up. It
   might return records of the form:

  ;;       order pref flags service        regexp           replacement
   IN NAPTR 100   10   ""  ""  "/urn:cid:.+@([^\.]+\.)(.*)$/\2/i"    .

   We have only one NAPTR response, so ordering the responses is not a
   problem.  The replacement field is empty, so we check the regexp
   field and use the pattern provided there. We apply that regexp to the
   entire URN to see if it matches, which it does.  The \2 part of the
   substitution expression returns the string "gatech.edu". Since the
   flags field does not contain "s" or "a", the lookup is not terminal
   and our next probe to DNS is for more NAPTR records:
   lookup(query=NAPTR, "gatech.edu").

   Note that the rule does not extract the full domain name from the
   CID, instead it assumes the CID comes from a host and extracts its
   domain.  While all hosts, such as mordred, could have their very own
   NAPTR, maintaining those records for all the machines at a site as
   large as Georgia Tech would be an intolerable burden. Wildcards are
   not appropriate here since they only return results when there is no
   exactly matching names already in the system.

   The record returned from the query on "gatech.edu" might look like:

gatech.edu IN NAPTR
;;       order pref flags service           regexp  replacement
  IN NAPTR 100  50  "s"  "z3950+N2L+N2C"     ""    z3950.tcp.gatech.edu
  IN NAPTR 100  50  "s"  "rcds+N2C"          ""    rcds.udp.gatech.edu
  IN NAPTR 100  50  "s"  "http+N2L+N2C+N2R"  ""    http.tcp.gatech.edu

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   Continuing with our example, we note that the values of the order and
   preference fields are equal in all records, so the client is free to
   pick any record. The flags field tells us that these are the last
   NAPTR patterns we should see, and after the rewrite (a simple
   replacement in this case) we should look up SRV records to get
   information on the hosts that can provide the necessary service.

   Assuming we prefer the Z39.50 protocol, our lookup might return:

   ;;                        Pref Weight   Port Target
   z3950.tcp.gatech.edu IN SRV 0    0      1000 z3950.gatech.edu
                        IN SRV 0    0      1000 z3950.cc.gatech.edu
                        IN SRV 0    0      1000 z3950.uga.edu

   telling us three hosts that could actually do the resolution, and
   giving us the port we should use to talk to their Z39.50 server.

   Recall that the regular expression used \2 to extract a domain name
   from the CID, and \. for matching the literal '.' characters
   seperating the domain name components. Since '\' is the escape
   character, literal occurances of a backslash must be escaped by
   another backslash. For the case of the cid.urn.net record above, the
   regular expression entered into the zone file should be
   "/urn:cid:.+@([^\\.]+\\.)(.*)$/\\2/i".  When the client code actually
   receives the record, the pattern will have been converted to

Example 3

   Even if URN systems were in place now, there would still be a
   tremendous number of URLs.  It should be possible to develop a URN
   resolution system that can also provide location independence for
   those URLs.  This is related to the requirement in [1] to be able to
   grandfather in names from other naming systems, such as ISO Formal
   Public Identifiers, Library of Congress Call Numbers, ISBNs, ISSNs,

   The NAPTR RR could also be used for URLs that have already been
   assigned.  Assume we have the URL for a very popular piece of
   software that the publisher wishes to mirror at multiple sites around
   the world:


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   We extract the prefix, "http", and lookup NAPTR records for
   http.urn.net. This might return a record of the form

   http.urn.net IN NAPTR
   ;;  order   pref flags service      regexp             replacement
        100     90   ""      ""   "!http://([^/:]+)!\1!i"       .

   This expression returns everything after the first double slash and
   before the next slash or colon. (We use the '!' character to delimit
   the parts of the substitution expression. Otherwise we would have to
   use backslashes to escape the forward slashes, and would have a
   regexp in the zone file that looked like

   Applying this pattern to the URL extracts "www.foo.com". Looking up
   NAPTR records for that might return:

   ;;       order pref flags   service  regexp     replacement
    IN NAPTR 100  100  "s"   "http+L2R"   ""    http.tcp.foo.com
    IN NAPTR 100  100  "s"   "ftp+L2R"    ""    ftp.tcp.foo.com

   Looking up SRV records for http.tcp.foo.com would return information
   on the hosts that foo.com has designated to be its mirror sites. The
   client can then pick one for the user.


   The format of the NAPTR RR is given below. The DNS type code for
   NAPTR is 35.

       Domain TTL Class Order Preference Flags Service Regexp


          The domain name this resource record refers to.
          Standard DNS Time To Live field
          Standard DNS meaning

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          A 16-bit integer specifying the order in which the NAPTR
          records MUST be processed to ensure correct delegation of
          portions of the namespace over time. Low numbers are processed
          before high numbers, and once a NAPTR is found that "matches"
          a URN, the client MUST NOT consider any NAPTRs with a higher
          value for order.

          A 16-bit integer which specifies the order in which NAPTR
          records with equal "order" values SHOULD be processed, low
          numbers being processed before high numbers.  This is similar
          to the preference field in an MX record, and is used so domain
          administrators can direct clients towards more capable hosts
          or lighter weight protocols.

          A String giving flags to control aspects of the rewriting and
          interpretation of the fields in the record. Flags are single
          characters from the set [A-Z0-9]. The case of the alphabetic
          characters is not significant.

          At this time only three flags, "S", "A", and "P", are defined.
          "S" means that the next lookup should be for SRV records
          instead of NAPTR records. "A" means that the next lookup
          should be for A records. The "P" flag says that the remainder
          of the resolution shall be carried out in a Protocol-specific
          fashion, and we should not do any more DNS queries.

          The remaining alphabetic flags are reserved. The numeric flags
          may be used for local experimentation. The S, A, and P flags
          are all mutually exclusive, and resolution libraries MAY
          signal an error if more than one is given. (Experimental code
          and code for assisting in the creation of NAPTRs would be more
          likely to signal such an error than a client such as a
          browser). We anticipate that multiple flags will be allowed in
          the future, so implementers MUST NOT assume that the flags
          field can only contain 0 or 1 characters. Finally, if a client
          encounters a record with an unknown flag, it MUST ignore it
          and move to the next record. This test takes precedence even
          over the "order" field. Since flags can control the
          interpretation placed on fields, a novel flag might change the
          interpretation of the regexp and/or replacement fields such
          that it is impossible to determine if a record matched a URN.

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          Specifies the resolution service(s) available down this
          rewrite path. It may also specify the particular protocol that
          is used to talk with a resolver. A protocol MUST be specified
          if the flags field states that the NAPTR is terminal. If a
          protocol is specified, but the flags field does not state that
          the NAPTR is terminal, the next lookup MUST be for a NAPTR.
          The client MAY choose not to perform the next lookup if the
          protocol is unknown, but that behavior MUST NOT be relied

          The service field may take any of the values below (using the
          Augmented BNF of RFC 822[9]):

           service_field = [ [protocol] *("+" rs)]
           protocol      = ALPHA *31ALPHANUM
           rs            = ALPHA *31ALPHANUM
        // The protocol and rs fields are limited to 32
        // characters and must start with an alphabetic.
        // The current set of "known" strings are:
        // protocol      = "rcds" / "thttp" / "hdl" / "rwhois" / "z3950"
        // rs            = "N2L" / "N2Ls" / "N2R" / "N2Rs" / "N2C"
        //               / "N2Ns" / "L2R" / "L2Ns" / "L2Ls" / "L2C"

          i.e. an optional protocol specification followed by 0 or more
          resolution services. Each resolution service is indicated by
          an initial '+' character.

          Note that the empty string is also a valid service field. This
          will typically be seen at the top levels of a namespace, when
          it is impossible to know what services and protocols will be
          offered by a particular publisher within that name space.

          At this time the known protocols are rcds[7], hdl[10] (binary,
          UDP-based protocols),  thttp[5] (a textual, TCP-based
          protocol), rwhois[11] (textual, UDP or TCP based), and
          Z39.50[12] (binary, TCP-based). More will be allowed later.
          The names of the protocols must be formed from the characters
          [a-Z0-9]. Case of the characters is not significant.

          The service requests currently allowed will be described in
          more detail in [6], but in brief they are:
                N2L  - Given a URN, return a URL
                N2Ls - Given a URN, return a set of URLs
                N2R  - Given a URN, return an instance of the resource.
                N2Rs - Given a URN, return multiple instances of the
                       resource, typically encoded using

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                N2C  - Given a URN, return a collection of meta-
                       information on the named resource. The format of
                       this response is the subject of another document.
                N2Ns - Given a URN, return all URNs that are also
                       identifers for the resource.
                L2R  - Given a URL, return the resource.
                L2Ns - Given a URL, return all the URNs that are
                       identifiers for the resource.
                L2Ls - Given a URL, return all the URLs for instances of
                       of the same resource.
                L2C  - Given a URL, return a description of the

          The actual format of the service request and response will be
          determined by the resolution protocol, and is the subject for
          other documents (e.g. [5]). Protocols need not offer all
          services. The labels for service requests shall be formed from
          the set of characters [A-Z0-9]. The case of the alphabetic
          characters is not significant.

          A STRING containing a substitution expression that is applied
          to the original URI in order to construct the next domain name
          to lookup. The grammar of the substitution expression is given
          in the next section.

          The next NAME to query for NAPTR, SRV, or A records depending
          on the value of the flags field. As mentioned above, this may
          be compressed.

Substitution Expression Grammar:

   The content of the regexp field is a substitution expression. True
   sed(1) substitution expressions are not appropriate for use in this
   application for a variety of reasons, therefore the contents of the
   regexp field MUST follow the grammar below:

subst_expr   = delim-char  ere  delim-char  repl  delim-char  *flags
delim-char   = "/" / "!" / ... (Any non-digit or non-flag character other
               than backslash '\'. All occurances of a delim_char in a
               subst_expr must be the same character.)
ere          = POSIX Extended Regular Expression (see [13], section
repl         = dns_str /  backref / repl dns_str  / repl backref
dns_str      = 1*DNS_CHAR
backref      = "\" 1POS_DIGIT

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flags        = "i"
DNS_CHAR     = "-" / "0" / ... / "9" / "a" / ... / "z" / "A" / ... / "Z"
POS_DIGIT    = "1" / "2" / ... / "9"  ; 0 is not an allowed backref
value domain name (see RFC-1123 [14]).

   The result of applying the substitution expression to the original
   URI MUST result in a string that obeys the syntax for DNS host names
   [14]. Since it is possible for the regexp field to be improperly
   specified, such that a non-conforming host name can be constructed,
   client software SHOULD verify that the result is a legal host name
   before making queries on it.

   Backref expressions in the repl portion of the substitution
   expression are replaced by the (possibly empty) string of characters
   enclosed by '(' and ')' in the ERE portion of the substitution
   expression. N is a single digit from 1 through 9, inclusive. It
   specifies the N'th backref expression, the one that begins with the
   N'th '(' and continues to the matching ')'.  For example, the ERE
   has backref expressions:
                      \1  = ABCDEFG
                      \2  = BCDE
                      \3  = C
                      \4  = F
                 \5..\9  = error - no matching subexpression

   The "i" flag indicates that the ERE matching SHALL be performed in a
   case-insensitive fashion. Furthermore, any backref replacements MAY
   be normalized to lower case when the "i" flag is given.

   The first character in the substitution expression shall be used as
   the character that delimits the components of the substitution
   expression.  There must be exactly three non-escaped occurrences of
   the delimiter character in a substitution expression. Since escaped
   occurrences of the delimiter character will be interpreted as
   occurrences of that character, digits MUST NOT be used as delimiters.
   Backrefs would be confused with literal digits were this allowed.
   Similarly, if flags are specified in the substitution expression, the
   delimiter character must not also be a flag character.

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RFC 2168            Resolution of URIs Using the DNS           June 1997

Advice to domain administrators:

   Beware of regular expressions. Not only are they a pain to get
   correct on their own, but there is the previously mentioned
   interaction with DNS. Any backslashes in a regexp must be entered
   twice in a zone file in order to appear once in a query response.
   More seriously, the need for double backslashes has probably not been
   tested by all implementors of DNS servers. We anticipate that urn.net
   will be the heaviest user of regexps. Only when delegating portions
   of namespaces should the typical domain administrator need to use

   On a related note, beware of interactions with the shell when
   manipulating regexps from the command line. Since '\' is a common
   escape character in shells, there is a good chance that when you
   think you are saying "\\" you are actually saying "\".  Similar
   caveats apply to characters such as

   The "a" flag allows the next lookup to be for A records rather than
   SRV records. Since there is no place for a port specification in the
   NAPTR record, when the "A" flag is used the specified protocol must
   be running on its default port.

   The URN Sytnax draft defines a canonical form for each URN, which
   requires %encoding characters outside a limited repertoire. The
   regular expressions MUST be written to operate on that canonical
   form. Since international character sets will end up with extensive
   use of %encoded characters, regular expressions operating on them
   will be essentially impossible to read or write by hand.


   For the edification of implementers, pseudocode for a client routine
   using NAPTRs is given below. This code is provided merely as a
   convience, it does not have any weight as a standard way to process
   NAPTR records. Also, as is the case with pseudocode, it has never
   been executed and may contain logical errors. You have been warned.

    // findResolver(URN)
    // Given a URN, find a host that can resolve it.
    findResolver(string URN) {
      // prepend prefix to urn.net
      sprintf(key, "%s.urn.net", extractNS(URN));
      do {

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RFC 2168            Resolution of URIs Using the DNS           June 1997

        rewrite_flag = false;
        terminal = false;
        if (key has been seen) {
          quit with a loop detected error
        add key to list of "seens"
        records = lookup(type=NAPTR, key); // get all NAPTR RRs for 'key'

        discard any records with an unknown value in the "flags" field.
        sort NAPTR records by "order" field and "preference" field
            (with "order" being more significant than "preference").
        n_naptrs = number of NAPTR records in response.
        curr_order = records[0].order;
        max_order = records[n_naptrs-1].order;

        // Process current batch of NAPTRs according to "order" field.
        for (j=0; j < n_naptrs && records[j].order <= max_order; j++) {
          if (unknown_flag) // skip this record and go to next one
          newkey = rewrite(URN, naptr[j].replacement, naptr[j].regexp);
          if (!newkey) // Skip to next record if the rewrite didn't
             match continue;
          // We did do a rewrite, shrink max_order to current value
          // so that delegation works properly
          max_order = naptr[j].order;
          // Will we know what to do with the protocol and services
          // specified in the NAPTR? If not, try next record.
          if(!isKnownProto(naptr[j].services)) {
          if(!isKnownService(naptr[j].services)) {

          // At this point we have a successful rewrite and we will
          // know how to speak the protocol and request a known
          // resolution service. Before we do the next lookup, check
          // some optimization possibilities.

          if (strcasecmp(flags, "S")
           || strcasecmp(flags, "P"))
           || strcasecmp(flags, "A")) {
             terminal = true;
             services = naptr[j].services;
             addnl = any SRV and/or A records returned as additional
                     info for naptr[j].
          key = newkey;

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RFC 2168            Resolution of URIs Using the DNS           June 1997

          rewriteflag = true;
      } while (rewriteflag && !terminal);

      // Did we not find our way to a resolver?
      if (!rewrite_flag) {
         report an error
         return NULL;

      // Leave rest to another protocol?
      if (strcasecmp(flags, "P")) {
         return key as host to talk to;

      // If not, keep plugging
      if (!addnl) { // No SRVs came in as additional info, look them up
        srvs = lookup(type=SRV, key);

      sort SRV records by preference, weight, ...
      foreach (SRV record) { // in order of preference
        try contacting srv[j].target using the protocol and one of the
            resolution service requests from the "services" field of the
            last NAPTR record.
        if (successful)
          return (target, protocol, service);
          // Actually we would probably return a result, but this
          // code was supposed to just tell us a good host to talk to.
      die with an "unable to find a host" error;


     -  A client MUST process multiple NAPTR records in the order
        specified by the "order" field, it MUST NOT simply use the first
        record that provides a known protocol and service combination.

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RFC 2168            Resolution of URIs Using the DNS           June 1997

     -  If a record at a particular order matches the URI, but the
        client doesn't know the specified protocol and service, the
        client SHOULD continue to examine records that have the same
        order. The client MUST NOT consider records with a higher value
        of order. This is necessary to make delegation of portions of
        the namespace work.  The order field is what lets site
        administrators say "all requests for URIs matching pattern x go
        to server 1, all others go to server 2".
        (A match is defined as:
          1)  The NAPTR provides a replacement domain name
          2) The regular expression matches the URN

     -  When multiple RRs have the same "order", the client should use
        the value of the preference field to select the next NAPTR to
        consider. However, because of preferred protocols or services,
        estimates of network distance and bandwidth, etc. clients may
        use different criteria to sort the records.
     -  If the lookup after a rewrite fails, clients are strongly
        encouraged to report a failure, rather than backing up to pursue
        other rewrite paths.
     -  When a namespace is to be delegated among a set of resolvers,
        regexps must be used. Each regexp appears in a separate NAPTR
        RR.  Administrators should do as little delegation as possible,
        because of limitations on the size of DNS responses.
     -  Note that SRV RRs impose additional requirements on clients.


   The editors would like to thank Keith Moore for all his consultations
   during the development of this draft. We would also like to thank
   Paul Vixie for his assistance in debugging our implementation, and
   his answers on our questions. Finally, we would like to acknowledge
   our enormous intellectual debt to the participants in the Knoxville
   series of meetings, as well as to the participants in the URI and URN
   working groups.


   [1]  Sollins, Karen and Larry Masinter, "Functional Requirements
        for Uniform Resource Names", RFC-1737, Dec. 1994.

   [2]  The URN Implementors, Uniform Resource Names: A Progress Report,
        http://www.dlib.org/dlib/february96/02arms.html, D-Lib Magazine,
        February 1996.

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RFC 2168            Resolution of URIs Using the DNS           June 1997

   [3]  Moats, Ryan, "URN Syntax", RFC-2141, May 1997.

   [4]  Gulbrandsen, A. and P. Vixie, "A DNS RR for specifying
        the location of services (DNS SRV)", RFC-2052, October 1996.

   [5]  Daniel, Jr., Ron, "A Trivial Convention for using HTTP in URN
        Resolution", RFC-2169, June 1997.

   [6]  URN-WG, "URN Resolution Services", Work in Progress.

   [7]  Moore, Keith,  Shirley Browne, Jason Cox, and Jonathan Gettler,
        Resource Cataloging and Distribution System, Technical Report
        CS-97-346, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, December 1996

   [8]  Paul Vixie, personal communication.

   [9]  Crocker, Dave H. "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text
        Messages", RFC-822, August 1982.

   [10] Orth, Charles and Bill Arms; Handle Resolution Protocol
        Specification, http://www.handle.net/docs/client_spec.html

   [11] Williamson, S., M. Kosters, D. Blacka, J. Singh, K. Zeilstra,
        "Referral Whois Protocol (RWhois)", RFC-2167, June 1997.

   [12] Information Retrieval (Z39.50): Application Service Definition
        and Protocol Specification, ANSI/NISO Z39.50-1995, July 1995.

   [13] IEEE Standard for Information Technology - Portable Operating
        System Interface (POSIX) - Part 2: Shell and Utilities (Vol. 1);
        IEEE Std 1003.2-1992; The Institute of Electrical and
        Electronics Engineers; New York; 1993. ISBN:1-55937-255-9

   [14] Braden, R., "Requirements for Internet Hosts - Application and
        and Support", RFC-1123, Oct. 1989.

   [15] Sollins, Karen, "Requirements and a Framework for URN Resolution
        Systems", November 1996, Work in Progress.

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RFC 2168            Resolution of URIs Using the DNS           June 1997

Security Considerations

   The use of "urn.net" as the registry for URN namespaces is subject to
   denial of service attacks, as well as other DNS spoofing attacks. The
   interactions with DNSSEC are currently being studied. It is expected
   that NAPTR records will be signed with SIG records once the DNSSEC
   work is deployed.

   The rewrite rules make identifiers from other namespaces subject to
   the same attacks as normal domain names. Since they have not been
   easily resolvable before, this may or may not be considered a

   Regular expressions should be checked for sanity, not blindly passed
   to something like PERL.

   This document has discussed a way of locating a resolver, but has not
   discussed any detail of how the communication with the resolver takes
   place. There are significant security considerations attached to the
   communication with a resolver. Those considerations are outside the
   scope of this document, and must be addressed by the specifications
   for particular resolver communication protocols.

Author Contact Information:

   Ron Daniel
   Los Alamos National Laboratory
   MS B287
   Los Alamos, NM, USA, 87545
   voice:  +1 505 665 0597
   fax:    +1 505 665 4939
   email:  rdaniel@lanl.gov

   Michael Mealling
   Network Solutions
   505 Huntmar Park Drive
   Herndon, VA  22070
   voice: (703) 742-0400
   fax: (703) 742-9552
   email: michaelm@internic.net
   URL: http://www.netsol.com/

Daniel & Mealling             Experimental                     [Page 20]

©2018 Martin Webb