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Versions: 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10                                 
IETF IDN Working Group               Editors Zita Wenzel, James Seng
Internet Draft                    draft-ietf-idn-requirements-08.txt
21 June 2001                                Expires 21 December 2001

             Requirements of Internationalized Domain Names

Status of this Memo

This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups. Note that
other groups may also distribute working documents as

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."

The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

Intended Scope

The intended scope of this document is to explore requirements for the
internationalization of domain names on the Internet. It is not
intended to document user requirements. It is recommended that
solutions not necessarily be within the DNS itself, but could be a layer
interjected between the application and the DNS. Proposals SHOULD
fulfill most, if not all, of the requirements. This document MAY be
updated based on actual trials.


This document describes the requirement for encoding international
characters into DNS names and records. This document is guidance for
developing protocols for internationalized domain names.

1. Introduction

At present, the encoding of Internet domain names is restricted to a
subset of 7-bit ASCII (ISO/IEC 646). HTML, XML, IMAP, FTP, and many
other text based protocols on the Internet have already been at least
partially internationalized. It is important for domain names to be
similarly internationalized or for an equivalent solution to be found.
This document assumes that the most effective solution involves putting
non-ASCII names inside some parts of the overall DNS system although
this assumption may not be the consensus of the IETF community.
However, several sections of this document, including "Definitions and
Conventions" should be useful in any case.

This document is being discussed on the "idn" mailing list. To join the
list, send a message to <majordomo@ops.ietf.org> with the words
"subscribe idn" in the body of the message. Archives of the mailing
list can also be found at ftp://ops.ietf.org/pub/lists/idn*.

1.1 Definitions and Conventions

A language is a way that humans interact. In computerized form, a text
in a written language can be expressed as a string of characters.
The same set of characters can often be used for many written languages,
and many written languages can be expressed using different scripts.
The same characters are often shown with somewhat different glyphs
(shapes) for display of a text depending on the font used, the
automatic shaping applied, or the automatic formation of ligatures. In
addition, the same characters can be shown with somewhat different
glyphs (shapes) for display of a text depending on the language being
used, even within the same font or through automatic font change.

A character is a member of a set of elements used for organization,
control, or representation of textual data.

A graphic character is a character, other than a control function,
that has a visual representation normally handwritten, printed, or

Characters mentioned in this document are identified by their position
in the Unicode character set. This character set is also
known as the UCS (ISO 10646). The notation U+12AB, for example,
indicates the character at position 12AB (hexadecimal) in the Unicode
character set. Note that the use of this notation is not an
indication of a requirement to use Unicode.

Examples quoted in this document should be considered as a method to
further explain the meanings and principles adopted by the document. It
is not a requirement for the protocol to satisfy the examples.

Unicode Technical Report #17 defines a character encoding
model in several levels (much of the text below is quoted from
Unicode Technical Report #17):

1. A abstract character repertoire (ACR) is defined as the set of
   abstract characters to be encoded, normally a familiar alphabet
   or symbol set. The word abstract just means that these objects
   are defined by convention (such as the 26 letters of the English
   alphabet, uppercase and lowercase forms). Examples: the ASCII
   repertoire, the Latin 9 repertoire, the JIS X 0208 repertoire,
   the UCS repertiore (of a particular version).

2. A coded character set (CCS) is defined to be a mapping from a
   set of abstract characters to the set of non-negative integers.
   This range of integers need not be contiguous. An abstract
   character is defined to be in a coded character set if the coded
   character set maps from it to an integer. That integer is said
   to be the code point for the abstract character. That abstract
   character is then an encoded character. Examples: ASCII, Latin-15,
   JIS X 0208, the UCS.

3. A character encoding form (CEF) is a mapping from the set of integers
   used in a CCS to the set of sequences of code units. A code unit
   is an integer occupying a specified binary width in a computer
   architecture, such as a septet, an octet, or a 16-bit unit. The
   encoding form enables character representation as actual data in
   a computer. The sequences of code units do not necessarily have the
   same length. Examples: ASCII, Latin-15, Shift-JIS, UTF-16, UTF-8.

4. A character encoding scheme (CES) is a mapping of code units into
   serialized octet sequences. Character encoding schemes are relevant
   to the issue of cross-platform persistent data involving code units
   wider than a byte, where byte-swapping may be required to put data
   into the byte polarity canonical for a particular platform.

   The CES may involve two or more CCS's, and may include code units
   (e.g. single shifts, SI/SO, or escape sequences) that are not part
   of the CCS per se, but which are defined by the character encoding
   architecture and which may require an external registry of particular
   values (as for the ISO 2022 escape sequences). In such a case, the
   CES is called a compound CES. (A CES that only involves a single
   CCS is called a simple CES.)

   Examples: ASCII, Latin-15, Shift-JIS, UTF-16BE, UTF-16LE, UTF-8.

5. The mapping from an abstract character repertoire (ACR) to a
   serialized sequence of octets is called a Character Map (CM). A simple
   character map thus implicitly includes a CCS, a CEF, and a CES,
   mapping from abstract characters to code units to octets. A compound
   character map includes a compound CES, and thus includes more than one
   CCS and CEF. In that case, the abstract character repertoire for the
   character map is the union of the repertoires covered by the coded
   character sets involved.

   In the IAB architecture, character maps get IANA charset
   identifiers. A sequence of encoded characters must be unambiguously
   mapped onto a sequence of octets by the charset. The charset must be
   specified in all instances, as in Internet protocols, where textual
   content is treated as an ordered sequence of octets, and where the
   textual content must be reconstructible from that sequence of
   octets. Charset names are registered by the IANA according to
   procedures documented in RFC 2278. In many cases, the same name is
   used for both a character map and for a character encoding scheme,
   such as UTF-16BE. Typically this is done for simple character maps
   when such usage is clear from context.

6. A transfer encoding syntax (TES) is a reversible transform of encoded
   data which may (or may not) include textual data represented in
   one or more character encoding schemes. Examples: 8bit,
   Quoted-Printable, BASE64, UTF-7 (defunct), UTF-5, and RACE.

1.2 Description of the Domain Name System

The Domain Name System is defined by RFC 1034 and RFC 1035, with
clarifications, extensions and modifications given in RFC 1123,
RFC 1996, RFC 2181, and others. Of special importance here are the
security extensions described in RFC 2535 and related RFCs.

Over the years, many different words have been used to describe the
components of resource naming on the Internet (e.g., URI, URN); to make
certain that the set of terms used in this document are well-defined and
non-ambiguous, the definitions are given here.

A master server for a zone holds the main copy of that zone. This copy
is sometimes stored in a zone file. A slave server for a zone holds a
complete copy of the records for that zone. Slave servers MAY be either
authorized by the zone owner (secondary servers) or unauthorized
(sometimes called "stealth secondaries"). Master and authorized slave servers
are listed in the NS records for the zone, and are termed
"authoritative" servers. In many contexts outside this document, the
term "primary" is used interchangeably with "master" and "secondary" is
used interchangeably with "slave".

A caching server holds temporary copies of DNS records; it uses records
to answer queries about domain names. Further explanation of these terms
can be found in RFC 1034 and RFC 1996.

DNS names can be represented in multiple forms, with different
properties for internationalization. The most important ones are:

- Domain name: The binary representation of a name used internally in
  the DNS protocol. This consists of a series of components of 1-63
  octets, with an overall length limited to 255 octets (including the
  length fields).

- Master file format domain name: This is a representation of the name
  as a sequence of characters in some character sets; the common
  convention (derived from RFC 1035 section 5.1) is to represent the
  octets of the name as ASCII characters where the octet is in the set
  corresponding to the ASCII values for [a-z,A-Z,0-9,-], using an escape
  mechanism (\x or \NNN) where not, and separating the components of the
  name by the dot character (".").

The form specified for most protocols using the DNS is a limited form of
the master file format domain name. This limited form is defined in
RFC 1034 Section 3.5 and RFC 1123. In most implementations of
applications today, domain names in the Internet have been limited to
the much more restricted forms used, e.g., in email. Those names are
limited to the upper- and lower-case letters a-z (interpreted in a
case-independent fashion), the digits, and the hyphen-minus, all in

1.3 Definition of "hostname" and "Internationalized Domain Name"

In the DNS protocols, a name is referred to as a sequence of octets.
However, when discussing requirements for internationalized domain
names, what we are looking for are ways to represent characters that
are meaningful for humans.

In this document, this is referred to as a "hostname". While this term
has been used for many different purposes over the years, it is used
here in the sense of sequence of characters (not octets) representing a
domain name conforming to the limited hostname syntax RFC 952.

This document attempts to define the requirements for an
"Internationalized Domain Name" (IDN). This is defined as a sequence of
characters that can be used in the context of functions where a hostname
is used today, but contains one or more characters that are outside the
set of characters specified as legal characters for host names
RFC 1123.

1.4 A multilayer model of the DNS function

The DNS can be seen as a multilayer function:

- The bottom layer is where the packets are passed across the Internet
  in a DNS query and a DNS response. At this level, what matters is
  the format and meaning of bits and octets in a DNS packet.

- Above that is the "DNS service", created by an infrastructure of DNS
  servers, NS records that point to those DNS servers, that is
  pointed to by the root servers (listed in the "root cache file" on
  each DNS server often called "named.cache"). It is at this level
  that the statement "the DNS has a single root" RFC 2826 makes
  sense, but still, what is being transferred are octets, not

- Interfacing to the user is a service layer, often called "the resolver
  library", and often embedded in the operating system or system
  libraries of the client machines. It is at the top of this layer that
  the API calls commonly known as "gethostbyname" and "gethostbyaddress"
  reside. These calls are modified to support IPv6 RFC 2553. A
  conceptually similar layer exists in authoritative DNS servers,
  comprising the parts that generate "meaningful" strings in DNS files.
  Due to the popularity of the "master file" format, this layer often
  exists only in the administrative routines of the service maintainers.

- The user of this layer (resolver library) is the application programs
  that use the DNS, such as mailers, mail servers, Web clients, Web
  servers, Web caches, IRC clients, FTP clients, distributed file
  systems, distributed databases, and almost all other applications on

Graphically, one can illustrate it like this:

+---------------+                            +---------------------+
| Application   |                            | (Base data)         |
+---------------+                            +---------------------+
      |  Application service interface                 |
      |  For ex. GethostbyXXXX interface               | (no standard)
+---------------+                            +---------------------+
| Resolver      |                            | Auth DNS server     |
+---------------+                            +---------------------+
      |     <-----   DNS service interface   ----->    |
|  DNS service                                                     |
|  +-----------------------+         +--------------------+        |
|  | Forwarding DNS server |         | Caching DNS server |        |
|  +-----------------------+         +--------------------+        |
|                                                                  |
|                 +-------------------------+                      |
|                 | Parent-zone DNS servers |                      |
|                 +-------------------------+                      |
|                                                                  |
|                 +-------------------------+                      |
|                 | Root DNS servers        |                      |
|                 +-------------------------+                      |
|                                                                  |

1.5 Service model of the DNS

The Domain Name Service is used for multiple purposes, each of which is
characterized by what it puts into the system (the query) and what it
expects as a result (the reply).

The most used ones in the current DNS are:

- Hostname-to-address service (A, AAAA, A6): Enter a hostname, and get
  back an IPv4 or IPv6 address.

- Hostname-to-mail server service (MX): As above, but the expected
  return value is a hostname and a priority for SMTP servers.

- Address-to-hostname service (PTR): Enter an IPv4 or IPv6 address (in
  in-addr.arpa or ip6.arpa form respectively) and get back a hostname.

- Domain delegation service (NS). Enter a domain name and get back
  nameserver records (designated hosts which provide authoritive
  nameservice) for the domain.

New services are being defined, either as entirely new services (IPv6 to
hostname mapping using binary labels) or as embellishments to other
services (DNSSEC returning information about whether a given DNS service
is performed securely or not).

These services exist, conceptually, at the Application/Resolver
interface, NOT at the DNS-service interface. This document attempts to
set requirements for an equivalent of the "used services" given above,
where "hostname" is replaced by "Internationalized Domain Name". This
does not preclude the fact that IDN should work with any kind of DNS
queries. IDN is a new service. Since existing protocols like SMTP or
HTTP use the old service, it is a matter of great concern how the new
and old services work together, and how other protocols can take
advantage of the new service.

2. General Requirements

These requirements address two concerns: The service offered to the
users (the application service), and the protocol extensions, if needed,
added to support this service.

In the requirements, we attempt to use the term "service" whenever a
requirement concerns the service, and "protocol" whenever a requirement
is believed to constrain the possible implementation.

2.1 Compatibility and Interoperability

[1] The DNS is essential to the entire Internet. Therefore, the service
MUST NOT damage present DNS protocol interoperability. It MUST make the
minimum number of changes to existing protocols on all layers of the
stack. It MUST continue to allow any system anywhere that implements
the IDN specification to resolve any internationalized domain name.

[2] The service MUST preserve the basic concept and facilities of domain
names as described in RFC 1034. It MUST maintain a single, global,
universal, and consistent hierarchical namespace.

[3] The DNS protocol (the packet formats that go on the wire) MUST
NOT limit the codepoints that can be used. A service defined on top of
the DNS, for instance the IDN-to-address function, MAY limit the
codepoints that can be used. The service descriptions MUST describe
what limitations are imposed.

[4] The protocol MUST work for all features of DNS, IPv4, and
IPv6. The protocol MUST NOT allow an IDN to be returned to a requestor
that requests the IP-to-(old)-domain-name mapping service.

[5] The same name resolution request MUST generate the same response,
regardless of the location or localization settings in the resolver, in
the master server, and in any slave servers involved in the resolution

[6] The protocol MUST NOT require that the current DNS cache
servers be modified to support IDN. If a cache server can have
additional functionality to support IDN better, this additional
functionality MUST NOT cause problems for resolving correctly
functioning current domain names.

[7] A caching server MUST NOT return data in response to a query that
would not have been returned if the same query had been presented to an
authoritative server. This applies fully for the cases when:

- The caching server does not know about IDN
- The caching server implements the whole specification
- The caching server implements a valid subset of the specification

[8] The service MAY modify the DNS protocol RFC 1035 and other related
work undertaken by the DNSEXT WG. However, these changes SHOULD be as
small as possible and any changes SHOULD be coordinated with the

[9] The protocol supporting the service SHOULD be as simple as possible
from the user's perspective. Ideally, users SHOULD NOT realize that IDN
was added on to the existing DNS.

[10] The best solution is one that maintains maximum feasible
compatibility with current DNS standards as long as it meets the other
requirements in this document.

[11] The protocol should handle with care new revisions of the CCS.
Undefined codepoints should not be allowed unless a new revision of
the protocol can handle it. Protocol revisions should be tagged.

2.2 Internationalization

[12] Internationalized characters MUST be allowed to be represented and
used in DNS names and records. The protocol MUST specify what charset is
used when resolving domain names and how characters are encoded in DNS

[13] Codepoints SHOULD be from the Universal Set as defined in
ISO-10646 or Unicode. The specifics of versions MUST be defined in the
proposed solution. If multiple charsets are allowed, each charset MUST
be tagged and conform to RFC 2277.

[14] The protocol MUST NOT reject any non-IDN characters (to be
defined) in any DNS queries or responses.

[15] The protocol SHOULD NOT invent a new CCS for the purpose of IDN
only and SHOULD use an existing CES. The charset(s) chosen SHOULD also be

[16] The protocol SHOULD NOT make any assumptions about the location
in a domain name where internationalization might appear. In other
words, it SHOULD NOT differentiate between any part of a domain name
because this MAY impose restrictions on future internationalization
efforts. For example, the Top-Level Domains (TLDs) can be

[17] The protocol also SHOULD NOT make any localized restrictions in the
protocol. For example, an IDN implementation which only allows domain
names to use a single local script would immediately restrict
multinational organization.

[18] While there are a wide range of devices that use the DNS and a wide
range of characteristics of international scripts and methods of
domain name input and display, IDN is only concerned with the
protocol. Therefore, there MUST be a single way of encoding an
internationalized domain name within the DNS.

2.3 Canonicalization

Matching rules are a complicated process for IDN. Canonicalization
of characters MUST follow precise and predictable rules to ensure
consistency. "Requirements for String Identity Matching and String
Indexing" is RECOMMENDED as a guide on canonicalization.

The DNS has to match a host name in a request with a host name held
in one or more zones. It also needs to sort names into order. It is
expected that some sort of canonicalization algorithm will be used as
the first step of this process. This section discusses some of the
properties which will be REQUIRED of that algorithm.

[19] To achieve interoperability, canonicalization MUST be done at a
single well-defined place in the DNS resolution process. The protocol
MUST specify canonicalization; it MUST specify exactly where in the
DNS that canonicalization happens and does not happen; it MUST specify
how additions to ISO 10646 will affect the stability of the DNS and
the amount of work done on the root DNS servers.

[20] The canonicalization algorithm MAY specify operations for case,
ligature, and punctuation folding.

[21] In order to retain backward compatibility with the current DNS,
the service MUST retain the case-insensitive comparison for US-ASCII
as specified in RFC 1035. For example, Latin capital letter A (U+0041)
MUST match Latin small letter a (U+0061). Unicode Technical Report #21
describes some of the issues with case mapping. Case-insensitivity for
non US-ASCII MUST be discussed in the protocol proposal.

[22] Case folding MUST be locale independent. If it were
locale-dependent, then different clients would get different results.
For example, Latin capital letter I (U+0049) case folded to lower case
in the Turkish context will become Latin small letter dotless i
(U+0131). But in the English context, it will become Latin small
letter i (U+0069).

[23] If other canonicalization is done, it MUST be done before the
domain name is resolved. Further, the canonicalization MUST be easily
upgradable as new languages and writing systems are added.

[24] Any conversion (case, ligature folding, punctuation folding, etc)
from what the user enters into a client to what the client asks for
resolution MUST be done identically on any request from any client.

[25] If the charset can be normalized, then it SHOULD be normalized
before it is used in IDN. Normalization SHOULD follow Unicode
Technical Report #15.

[26] The protocol SHOULD avoid inventing a new normalization form
provided a technically sufficient one is available.

2.4 Operational Issues

[27] Zone files SHOULD remain easily editable.

[28] An IDN-capable resolver or server SHALL NOT generate more traffic
than a non-IDN-capable resolver or server would when resolving an
ASCII-only domain name. The amount of traffic generated when resolving
an IDN SHALL be similar to that generated when resolving an ASCII-only

[29] The service SHOULD NOT add new centralized administration for the
DNS. A domain administrator SHOULD be able to create internationalized
names as easily as adding current domain names.

[30] The protocol MUST work with DNSSEC. The protocol MAY break
language sort order.

3. Security Considerations

Any solution that meets the requirements in this document MUST NOT be
less secure than the current DNS. Specifically, the mapping of
internationalized host names to and from IP addresses MUST have the
same characteristics as the mapping of today's host names.

Specifying requirements for internationalized domain names does not
itself raise any new security issues. However, any change to the DNS MAY
affect the security of any protocol that relies on the DNS or on
DNS names. A thorough evaluation of those protocols for security
concerns will be needed when they are developed. In particular, IDNs
MUST be compatible with DNSSEC and, if multiple charsets or
representation forms are permitted, the implications of this name-spoof
MUST be throughly understood.

4. References

[1]  World Wide Web Consortium, "Requirements for string identity
matching and String Indexing", http://www.w3.org/TR/WD-charreq, July

[2]  Olafur Gudmundson, Randy Bush, "IETF DNS Extensions Working Group"
[DNSEXT], namedroppers@ops.ietf.org.

[3]  K. Harrenstien, M.K. Stahl, E.J. Feinler, "DoD Internet Host Table
Specification", RFC 952, October 1985.

[4]  P. Mockapetris, "Domain Names - Concepts and Facilities",
RFC 1034, November 1987.

[5]  P. Mockapetris, "Domain Names - Implementation and
Specification", RFC 1035, November 1987.

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

[7]  P. Vixie, "A Mechanism for Prompt Notification of Zone Changes
(DNS NOTIFY)", RFC 1996, August 1996.

[8]  S. Bradner, "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
Levels", RFC 2119, March 1997.

[9]  R. Elz, R. Bush, "Clarifications to the DNS Specification",
RFC 2181, July 1997.

[10] H. Alvestrand, "IETF Policy on Character Sets and Languages", RFC
2277, January 1998.

[11] N. Freed and J. Postel, "IANA Charset Registration Procedures",
RFC 2278, January 1998.

[12] F. Yergeau, "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO 10646", RFC
2279, January 1998.

[13] D. Eastlake, "Domain Name System Security Extensions", RFC 2535,
March 1999.

[14] R. Gilligan et al, "Basic Socket Interface Extensions for IPv6",
RFC 2553, March 1999.

[15] L. Daigle et al, "A Tangled Web: Issues of I18N, Domain Names,
and the Other Internet protocols", RFC 2825, May 2000.

[16] Internet Architecture Board, "IAB Technical Comment on the Unique DNS
Root", RFC 2826, May 2000.

[17] P. Hoffman, "Comparison of Internationalized Domain Name
Proposals", draft-ietf-idn-compare-00.txt, June 2000.

[18] ISO/IEC 10646-1:2000 (note that an amendment 1 is in
preparation), ISO/IEC 10646-2 (in preparation), plus corrigenda and
amendments to these standards.

[19] The Unicode Consortium, "The Unicode Standard". Described at

[20] The Unicode Consortium, "The Unicode Standard -- Version 3.0",
ISBN 0-201-61633-5. Same repertoire as ISO/IEC 10646-1:2000. Described
at http://www.unicode.org/unicode/standard/versions/Unicode3.0.html.

[21] Coded Character Set -- 7-bit American Standard Code for
Information Interchange, ANSI X3.4-1986; also: ISO/IEC 646 (IRV).

[22] M. Davis and M. Duerst, Unicode Consortium, "Unicode
Normalization Forms", Unicode Standard Annex #15,
http://www.unicode.org/unicode/reports/tr15/, 2000-08-31.

[23] K. Whistler and M. Davis, Unicode Consortium, "Character Encoding
Model", Unicode Technical Report #17,
http://www.unicode.org/unicode/reports/tr17/, 2000-08-31.

[24] M. Davis, Unicode Consortium, "Case Mappings", Unicode Technical
Report #21, http://www.unicode.org/unicode/reports/tr21/, 2000-09-12.

5. Editors' Contact

Zita Wenzel, Ph.D.
Information Sciences Institute
University of Southern California
4676 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA
90292  USA
Tel: +1 310 448 8462
Fax: +1 310 823 6714

James Seng
i-DNS.net International Pte Ltd.
8 Temesek Boulevand
#24-02 Suntec Tower 3
Singapore 038988
Tel: +65 248 6208
Fax: +65 248 6198
Email: jseng@pobox.org.sg

6. Acknowledgements

The editors gratefully acknowledge the contributions of:

Harald Tveit Alvestrand <Harald@Alvestrand.no>
Mark Andrews <Mark.Andrews@nominum.com>
RJ Atkinson <request not to have email>
Alan Barret <apb@cequrux.com>
Marc Blanchet <blanchet@mailviagenie.qc.ca>
Randy Bush <randy@psg.com>
Andrew Draper <ADRAPER@altera.com>
Martin Duerst <duerst@w3.org>
Patrik Faltstrom <paf@swip.net>
Ned Freed <ned.freed@innosoft.com>
Olafur Gudmundsson <ogud@ogud.com>
Paul Hoffman <phoffman@imc.org>
Simon Josefsson <jas+idn@pdc.kth.se>
Kent Karlsson <keka@im.se>
John Klensin <klensin+idn@jck.com>
Tan Juay Kwang <tanjk@i-dns.net>
Dongman Lee <dlee@icu.ac.kr>
Bill Manning <bmanning@ISI.EDU>
Dan Oscarsson <Dan.Oscarsson@trab.se>
J. William Semich <bill@mail.nic.nu>
Yoshiro Yoneda <yone@nic.ad.jp>