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Representing IPv6 Zone Identifiers in Address Literals and Uniform Resource Identifiers

The information below is for an old version of the document.
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This is an older version of an Internet-Draft whose latest revision state is "Replaced".
Authors Brian E. Carpenter , Bob Hinden
Last updated 2021-07-04
Replaced by draft-ietf-6man-rfc6874bis
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6MAN                                                        B. Carpenter
Internet-Draft                                         Univ. of Auckland
Obsoletes: 6874 (if approved)                                  R. Hinden
Updates: 3986 (if approved)                                  Check Point
Intended status: Standards Track                             4 July 2021
Expires: 5 January 2022

   Representing IPv6 Zone Identifiers in Address Literals and Uniform
                          Resource Identifiers


   This document describes how the zone identifier of an IPv6 scoped
   address, defined as <zone_id> in the IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture
   (RFC 4007), can be represented in a literal IPv6 address and in a
   Uniform Resource Identifier that includes such a literal address.  It
   updates the URI Generic Syntax specification (RFC 3986) accordingly,
   and obsoletes RFC 6874.

Discussion Venue

   This note is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   Discussion of this document takes place on the 6MAN mailing list
   (, which is archived at

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 5 January 2022.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2021 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Simplified BSD License text
   as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Web Browsers  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   5.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   6.  Contributor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   7.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     7.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     7.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Appendix A.  Options Considered . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Appendix B.  Change log . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   The Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) syntax specification [RFC3986]
   defined how a literal IPv6 address can be represented in the "host"
   part of a URI.  Two months later, the IPv6 Scoped Address
   Architecture specification [RFC4007] extended the text representation
   of limited-scope IPv6 addresses such that a zone identifier may be
   concatenated to a literal address, for purposes described in that
   specification.  Zone identifiers are especially useful in contexts in
   which literal addresses are typically used, for example, during fault
   diagnosis, when it may be essential to specify which interface is
   used for sending to a link-local address.  It should be noted that
   zone identifiers have purely local meaning within the node in which
   they are defined, often being the same as IPv6 interface names.  They
   are completely meaningless for any other node.  Today, they are
   meaningful only when attached to addresses with less than global
   scope, but it is possible that other uses might be defined in the

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   The IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture specification [RFC4007] does not
   specify how zone identifiers are to be represented in URIs.
   Practical experience has shown that this feature is useful, in at
   least three use cases:

   1.  When using a web browser for simple debugging actions involving
       link-local addresses on a host with more than one active link

   2.  When using a web browser to reconfigure a misconfigured device
       which only has a link local address and whose only configuration
       tool is a web server, again from a host with more than one active
       link interface.

   3.  When using an HTTP-based protocol for establishing link- local
       relationships, such as the Apple CUPS printing mechanism [CUPS].

   In the past, some browser versions directly accepted the IPv6 Scoped
   Address syntax [RFC4007] for scoped IPv6 addresses embedded in URIs,
   i.e., they were coded to interpret a "%" sign following the literal
   address as introducing a zone identifier [RFC4007], instead of
   introducing two hexadecimal characters representing some percent-
   encoded octet [RFC3986].  Clearly, interpreting the "%" sign as
   introducing a zone identifier is very convenient for users, although
   it formally breaches the established URI syntax [RFC3986].  This
   document defines an alternative approach that respects and extends
   the rules of URI syntax, and IPv6 literals in general, to be

   Thus, this document updates the URI syntax specification [RFC3986] by
   adding syntax to allow a zone identifier to be included in a literal
   IPv6 address within a URI.

   It should be noted that in contexts other than a user interface, a
   zone identifier is mapped into a numeric zone index or interface
   number.  The MIB textual convention InetZoneIndex [RFC4001] and the
   socket interface [RFC3493] define this as a 32-bit unsigned integer.
   The mapping between the human-readable zone identifier string and the
   numeric value is a host-specific function that varies between
   operating systems.  The present document is concerned only with the
   human-readable string.

   Several alternative solutions were considered while this document was
   developed.  Appendix A briefly describes the various options and
   their advantages and disadvantages.

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   This document obsoletes its predecessor [RFC6874] by greatly
   simplifying its recommendations and requirements for web browsers.
   Its effect on the formal URI syntax [RFC3986] is exactly the same as
   that of RFC 6874.

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

2.  Specification

   According to IPv6 Scoped Address syntax [RFC4007], a zone identifier
   is attached to the textual representation of an IPv6 address by
   concatenating "%" followed by <zone_id>, where <zone_id> is a string
   identifying the zone of the address.  However, the IPv6 Scoped
   Address Architecture specification gives no precise definition of the
   character set allowed in <zone_id>.  There are no rules or de facto
   standards for this.  For example, the first Ethernet interface in a
   host might be called %0, %1, %en1, %eth0, or whatever the implementer
   happened to choose.

   In a URI, a literal IPv6 address is always embedded between "[" and
   "]".  This document specifies how a <zone_id> can be appended to the
   address.  According to URI syntax [RFC3986], "%" is always treated as
   an escape character in a URI, so, according to the established URI
   syntax [RFC3986] any occurrences of literal "%" symbols in a URI MUST
   be percent-encoded and represented in the form "%25".  Thus, the
   scoped address fe80::a%en1 would appear in a URI as

   A <zone_id> SHOULD contain only ASCII characters classified as
   "unreserved" for use in URIs [RFC3986].  This excludes characters
   such as "]" or even "%" that would complicate parsing.  However, the
   syntax described below does allow such characters to be percent-
   encoded, for compatibility with existing devices that use them.

   If an operating system uses any other characters in zone or interface
   identifiers that are not in the "unreserved" character set, they MUST
   be represented using percent encoding [RFC3986].

   We now present the necessary formal syntax.

   The URI syntax specification [RFC3986] formally defined the IPv6
   literal format in ABNF [RFC5234] by the following rule:

      IP-literal = "[" ( IPv6address / IPvFuture  ) "]"

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   To provide support for a zone identifier, the existing syntax of
   IPv6address is retained, and a zone identifier may be added
   optionally to any literal address.  This syntax allows flexibility
   for unknown future uses.  The rule quoted above from the previous URI
   syntax specification [RFC3986] is replaced by three rules:

      IP-literal = "[" ( IPv6address / IPv6addrz / IPvFuture  ) "]"

      ZoneID = 1*( unreserved / pct-encoded )

      IPv6addrz = IPv6address "%25" ZoneID

   This syntax fills the gap that is described at the end of
   Section 11.7 of the IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture specification

   The established rules for textual representation of IPv6 addresses
   [RFC5952] SHOULD be applied in producing URIs.

   The URI syntax specification [RFC3986] states that URIs have a global
   scope, but that in some cases their interpretation depends on the
   end-user's context.  URIs including a ZoneID are to be interpreted
   only in the context of the host at which they originate, since the
   ZoneID is of local significance only.

   The IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture specification [RFC4007] offers
   guidance on how the ZoneID affects interface/address selection inside
   the IPv6 stack.  Note that the behaviour of an IPv6 stack, if it is
   passed a non-null zone index for an address other than link-local, is

3.  Web Browsers

   This section discusses how web browsers might handle this syntax
   extension.  Unfortunately, there is no formal distinction between the
   syntax allowed in a browser's input dialogue box and the syntax
   allowed in URIs.  For this reason, no normative statements are made
   in this section.

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   Due to the lack of defined syntax, web browsers have been
   inconsistent in providing for ZoneIDs.  Many have no support, but
   there are examples of ad hoc support.  For example, some versions of
   Firefox allowed the use of a ZoneID preceded by a bare "%" character,
   but this feature was removed for consistency with established syntax
   [RFC3986].  As another example, some versions of Internet Explorer
   allowed use of a ZoneID preceded by a "%" character encoded as "%25",
   still beyond the syntax allowed by the established rules [RFC3986].
   This syntax extension is in fact used internally in the Windows
   operating system and some of its APIs.

   It is desirable for all browsers to recognise a ZoneID preceded by a
   percent-encoded "%".  In the spirit of "be liberal with what you
   accept", we also suggest that URI parsers accept bare "%" signs when
   possible (i.e., a "%" not followed by two valid and meaningful
   hexadecimal characters).  This would make it possible for a user to
   copy and paste a string such as "fe80::a%en1" from the output of a
   "ping" command and have it work.  On the other hand, "%ee1" would
   need to be manually rewritten to "fe80::a%25ee1" to avoid any risk of

   URIs including a ZoneID have no meaning outside the originating HTTP
   client node.  However, in some use cases, such as CUPS mentioned
   above, the URI will be reflected back to the client.

   The normal diagnostic usage for the ZoneID syntax will cause it to be
   entered in the browser's input dialogue box.  Thus, URIs including a
   ZoneID are unlikely to be encountered in HTML documents.  However, if
   they do (for example, in a diagnostic script coded in HTML), it would
   be appropriate to treat them exactly as above.

4.  Security Considerations

   The security considerations from the URI syntax specification
   [RFC3986] and the IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture specification
   [RFC4007] apply.  In particular, this URI format creates a specific
   pathway by which a deceitful zone index might be communicated, as
   mentioned in the final security consideration of the Scoped Address
   Architecture specification.

   To limit this risk, implementations MUST NOT allow use of this format
   except for well-defined usages, such as sending to link-local
   addresses under prefix fe80::/10.  At the time of writing, this is
   the only well-defined usage known.

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5.  Acknowledgements

   The lack of this format was first pointed out by Margaret Wasserman
   and later by Kerry Lynn.  A previous draft document by Martin Duerst
   and Bill Fenner [LITERAL-ZONE] discussed this topic but was not
   finalised.  Michael Sweet and Andrew Cady explained some of the
   difficulties caused by RFC 6874.

   Valuable comments and contributions were made by Karl Auer, Carsten
   Bormann, Benoit Claise, Stephen Farrell, Brian Haberman, Ted Hardie,
   Tatuya Jinmei, Yves Lafon, Barry Leiba, Radia Perlman, Tom Petch,
   Tomoyuki Sahara, Juergen Schoenwaelder, Dave Thaler, Martin Thomson,
   and Ole Troan.

6.  Contributor

   A co-author of RFC 6874 was:

   Stuart Cheshire
   Apple Inc.
   1 Infinite Loop
   Cupertino, CA 95014
   United States


7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC3986]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform
              Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66,
              RFC 3986, DOI 10.17487/RFC3986, January 2005,

   [RFC4007]  Deering, S., Haberman, B., Jinmei, T., Nordmark, E., and
              B. Zill, "IPv6 Scoped Address Architecture", RFC 4007,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4007, March 2005,

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   [RFC5234]  Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
              Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5234, January 2008,

   [RFC5952]  Kawamura, S. and M. Kawashima, "A Recommendation for IPv6
              Address Text Representation", RFC 5952,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5952, August 2010,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

7.2.  Informative References

   [CUPS]     Apple, "CUPS open source printing system", 2021,

              Fenner, B. and M. Duerst, "Formats for IPv6 Scope Zone
              Identifiers in Literal Address Formats", Work in Progress,
              October 2005.

   [RFC3493]  Gilligan, R., Thomson, S., Bound, J., McCann, J., and W.
              Stevens, "Basic Socket Interface Extensions for IPv6",
              RFC 3493, DOI 10.17487/RFC3493, February 2003,

   [RFC4001]  Daniele, M., Haberman, B., Routhier, S., and J.
              Schoenwaelder, "Textual Conventions for Internet Network
              Addresses", RFC 4001, DOI 10.17487/RFC4001, February 2005,

   [RFC6874]  Carpenter, B., Cheshire, S., and R. Hinden, "Representing
              IPv6 Zone Identifiers in Address Literals and Uniform
              Resource Identifiers", RFC 6874, DOI 10.17487/RFC6874,
              February 2013, <>.

Appendix A.  Options Considered

   The syntax defined above allows a ZoneID to be added to any IPv6
   address.  The 6man WG discussed and rejected an alternative in which
   the existing syntax of IPv6address would be extended by an option to
   add the ZoneID only for the case of link-local addresses.  It was
   felt that the solution presented in this document offers more
   flexibility for future uses and is more straightforward to implement.

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   The various syntax options considered are now briefly described.

   1.  Leave the problem unsolved.

       This would mean that per-interface diagnostics would still have
       to be performed using ping or ping6:

       ping fe80::a%en1

       Advantage: works today.

       Disadvantage: less convenient than using a browser.

   2.  Simply use the percent character:


       Advantage: allows use of browser; allows cut and paste.

       Disadvantage: invalid syntax under RFC 3986; not acceptable to
       URI community.

   3.  Simply use an alternative separator:


       Advantage: allows use of browser; simple syntax.

       Disadvantage: Requires all IPv6 address literal parsers and
       generators to be updated in order to allow simple cut and paste;
       inconsistent with existing tools and practice.

       Note: The initial proposal for this choice was to use an
       underscore as the separator, but it was noted that this becomes
       effectively invisible when a user interface automatically
       underlines URLs.

   4.  Simply use the "IPvFuture" syntax left open in RFC 3986:


       Advantage: allows use of browser.

       Disadvantage: ugly and redundant; doesn't allow simple cut and

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   5.  Retain the percent character already specified for introducing
       zone identifiers for IPv6 Scoped Addresses [RFC4007], and then
       percent-encode it when it appears in a URI, according to the
       already-established URI syntax rules [RFC 3986]:


       Advantage: allows use of browser; consistent with general URI

       Disadvantage: somewhat ugly and confusing; doesn't allow simple
       cut and paste.

       This is the option chosen for standardisation.

Appendix B.  Change log

   This section is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   *  draft-carpenter-6man-rfc6874bis-00, 2021-06-25:

      -  Initial version

Authors' Addresses

   Brian Carpenter
   School of Computer Science
   University of Auckland
   PB 92019
   Auckland 1142
   New Zealand


   Robert M. Hinden
   Check Point Software Technologies, Inc.
   800 Bridge Parkway
   Redwood City, CA 94065
   United States


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