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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05 rfc2141                                     
Internet-Draft                                                Ryan Moats
draft-ietf-urn-syntax-02.txt                                        AT&T
Expires in six months                                       January 1997

                               URN Syntax
                 Filename: draft-ietf-urn-syntax-02.txt

Status of This Memo

      This document is an Internet-Draft.  Internet-Drafts are working
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   Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are intended to serve as persistent
   resource identifiers. This document sets forward the canonical syntax
   for URNs.  A discussion of both existing legacy and new namespaces
   and requirements for URN presentation and transmission are presented.
   Finally, there is a discussion of URN equivalence and how to
   determine it.

1. Introduction

   Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are intended to serve as persistent
   resource identifiers and are designed to make it easy to map other
   namespaces (which share the properties of URNs) into URN-space.
   Therefore, the URN syntax provides a means to encode character data
   in a form that can be sent in existing protocols, transcribed on most
   keyboards, etc.

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2. Syntax

   All URNs have the following syntax (phrases enclosed in quotes are

                     <URN> ::= "urn:" <NID> ":" <NSS>

   where <NID> is the Namespace Identifier, and <NSS> is the Namespace
   Specific String.  The leading "urn:" sequence is case-insensitive.
   The Namespace ID determines the _syntactic_ interpretation of the
   Namespace Specific String (as discussed in [1]).

   RFC 1630 [2] and RFC 1737 [3] each presents additional considerations
   for URN encoding, which have implications as far as limiting syntax.
   On the other hand, the requirement to support existing legacy naming
   systems has the effect of broadening syntax.  Thus, we discuss the
   acceptable syntax for both the Namespace Identifier and the Namespace
   Specific String separately.

2.1 Namespace Identifier Syntax

   The following is the syntax for the Namespace Identifier. To (a) be
   consistent with all potential resolution schemes and (b) not put any
   undue constraints on any potential resolution scheme, the syntax for
   the Namespace Identifier is:

   <NID>         ::= <let-num> [ *<let-num-hyp> ]

   <let-num-hyp> ::= <upper> | <lower> | <number> | "-"

   <let-num>     ::= <upper> | <lower> | <number>

   <upper>       ::= "A" | "B" | "C" | "D" | "E" | "F" | "G" | "H" |
                     "I" | "J" | "K" | "L" | "M" | "N" | "O" | "P" |
                     "Q" | "R" | "S" | "T" | "U" | "V" | "W" | "X" |
                     "Y" | "Z"

   <lower>       ::= "a" | "b" | "c" | "d" | "e" | "f" | "g" | "h" |
                     "i" | "j" | "k" | "l" | "m" | "n" | "o" | "p" |
                     "q" | "r" | "s" | "t" | "u" | "v" | "w" | "x" |
                     "y" | "z"

   <number>      ::= "0" | "1" | "2" | "3" | "4" | "5" | "6" | "7" |
                     "8" | "9"

   This is slightly more restrictive that what is stated in [4] (which

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   allows the characters "." and "+").  Further, the Namespace
   Identifier is case insensitive, so that "ISBN" and "isbn" refer to
   the same namespace.

   To avoid confusion with the "urn:" identifier, the NID "urn" is
   reserved and MUST NOT be used.

2.2 Namespace Specific String Syntax

   As required by RFC 1737, there is a single canonical representation
   of the NSS portion of an URN.   The format of this single canonical
   form follows:

   <NSS>         ::= 1*<URN chars>

   <URN chars>   ::= <trans> | "%" <hex> <hex>

   <trans>       ::= <upper> | <lower> | <number> | <other> | <reserved>

   <hex>         ::= <number> | "A" | "B" | "C" | "D" | "E" | "F" |
                     "a" | "b" | "c" | "d" | "e" | "f"

   <other>       ::= "(" | ")" | "+" | "," | "-" | "." |
                     ":" | "=" | "?" | "@" | ";" | "$" |
                     "_" | "!" | "~" | "*" | "'"

   Depending on the rules governing a namespace, valid identifiers in a
   namespace might contain characters that are not members of the URN
   character set above (<URN chars>).  Such strings MUST be translated
   into canonical NSS format before using them as protocol elements or
   otherwise passing them on to other applications. Translation is done
   by encoding each character outside the URN character set as a
   sequence of one to six octets using UTF-8 encoding, and the encoding
   of each of those octets as "%" followed by two characters from the
   <hex> character set above. The two characters give the hexadecimal
   representation of that octet.

2.3 Reserved characters

   The remaining character set left to be discussed above is the
   reserved character set, which contains various characters reserved
   from normal use.  The reserved character set follows, with a
   discussion on the specifics of why each character is reserved.

   The reserved character set is:

   <reserved>    ::= "/" | "%"

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2.3.1 The "%" character

   The "%" character is reserved in the URN syntax for introducing the
   escape sequence for an octet.  Literal use of the "%" character in a
   namespace must be encoded using "%25" in URNs for that namespace.
   The presence of an "%" character in an URN MUST be followed by two
   characters from the <hex> character set.

   Namespaces MAY designate one or more characters from the URN
   character set as having special meaning for that namespace.  If the
   namespace also uses that character in a literal sense as well, the
   character used in a literal sense MUST be encoded with "%" followed
   by the hexadecimal representation of that octet.  Therefore, the
   process of registering a namespace identifier shall include
   publication of a definition of which characters have a special
   meaning to that namespace.

2.3.2 The "/" character

   The "/" character is RESERVED for future developments.  It might be
   used for denoting hierarchy to allow for relative URN processing, but
   the WG has not yet reached consensus on this, so such developments
   will be documented separately.  Meanwhile, namespace developers
   SHOULD NOT use an unencoded "/", but rather use %-encoding for "/"

2.4 Excluded characters

   The following list is included only for the sake of completeness.
   Any octets/characters on this list are explicitly NOT part of the URN
   character set, and if used in an URN, MUST be %encoded:

   <excluded> ::= octets 0-32 (0-20 hex) | "\" | """ | "#" | "&" | "<"
                  | ">" | "[" | "]" | "^" | "`" | "{" | "|" | "}" | octets 127-255 (7F-FF hex)

   An URN ends when an octet/character from the excluded character set
   (<excluded>) is encountered.  The character from the excluded
   character set is NOT part of the URN.

3. Support of existing legacy naming systems and new naming systems

   Any namespace (existing or newly-devised) that is proposed as an
   URN-namespace and fulfills the criteria of URN-namespaces MUST be
   expressed in this syntax.  If names in these namespaces contain
   characters other than those defined for the URN character set, they
   MUST be translated into canonical form as discussed in section 2.2.

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4. URN presentation and transport

   The URN syntax defines the canonical format for URNs and all URN
   transport and interchanges MUST take place in this format. Further,
   all URN-aware applications MUST offer the option of displaying URNs
   in this canonical form to allow for direct transcription (for example
   by cut and paste techniques).  Such applications MAY support display
   of URNs in a more human-friendly form and may use a character set
   that includes characters that aren't permitted in URN syntax as
   defined in this RFC (that is, they may replace %-notation by
   characters in some extended character set in display to humans).

5. Lexical Equivalence in URNs

For various purposes such as caching, it's often desirable to determine
if two URNs are the same without resolving them. The general purpose
means of doing so is by testing for "lexical equivalence" as defined

Two URNs are lexically equivalent if they are octet-by-octet equal after
the following preprocessing:

        1. normalize the case of the leading "urn:" token
        2. normalize the case of the NID
        3. normalizing the case of any %-escaping

Note that %-escaping MUST NOT be removed.

Some namespaces may define additional lexical equivalences, such as
case-insensitivity of the NSS (or parts thereof).  Additional lexical
equivalences MUST be documented as part of namespace registration, MUST
always have the effect of eliminating some of the false negatives
obtained by the procedure above, and MUST NEVER say that two URNs are
not equivalent if the procedure above says they are equivalent.
6. Examples of lexical equivalence

   The following URN comparisons highlight the lexical equivalence

           1- URN:foo:a123/456
           2- urn:foo:a123/456
           3- urn:FOO:a123/456
           4- urn:foo:A123/456
           5- urn:foo:a123%2F456
           6- URN:FOO:a123%2f456
   URNs 1, 2, and 3 are all lexically equivalent.  URN 4 is not
   lexically equivalent any of the other URNs of the above set.  URNs 5
   and 6 are only lexically equivalent to each other.

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7. Functional Equivalence in URNs

   Functional equivalence is determined by practice within a given
   namespace and managed by resolvers for that namespeace. Namespace
   registration must include guidance on how to determine functional
   equivalence for that namespace, i.e. when two URNs are the identical
   within a namespace.

8. Security considerations

   This document specifies the syntax for URNs.  While some namespaces
   resolvers may assign special meaning to certain of the characters of
   the Namespace Specific String, any security consideration resulting
   from such assignment are outside the scope of this document.  It is
   strongly recommended that the process of registering a namespace
   identifier include any such considerations.

9. Acknowledgments

   Thanks to various members of the URN working group and <<your name
   here!!>> for comments on earlier drafts of this document.  This
   document is partially supported by the National Science Foundation,
   Cooperative Agreement NCR-9218179.

10. References

   Request For Comments (RFC) and Internet Draft documents are available
   from <URL:ftp://ftp.internic.net> and numerous mirror sites.

         [1]         K. R. Sollins, "Requirements and a Framework for
                     URN Resolution Systems," Internet Draft (work in
                     progress),  November 1996.

          T. Berners-Lee, "Universal Resource Identifiers in WWW," RFC
          1630, June 1994.

         [3]         K. Sollins and L. Masinter,  "Functional Require-
                     ments for Uniform Resource Names," RFC 1737.
                     December 1994.

         [4]         T. Berners-Lee, R. Fielding, L. Masinter, "Uniform
                     Resource Locators (URL)," Internet Draft (work in
                     progress),  December 1996.

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11. Editor's address

   Ryan Moats
   15621 Drexel Circle
   Omaha, NE 68135-2358

   Phone:  +1 402 894-9456
   EMail:  jayhawk@ds.internic.net

Appendix A. Handling of URNs by URL resolvers/browsers.

   The URN syntax has been defined so that URNs can be used in places
   where URLs are expected.  A resolver that conforms to the current URL
   syntax specification [3] will extract a scheme value of "urn:"
   rather than a scheme value of "urn:<nid>".

   An URN MUST be considered an opaque URL by URL resolvers and either
   passed (with the "urn:" tag) to an URN resolver for resolution.  The
   URN resolver can either be an external resolver that the URL resolver
   knows of, or it can be functionality built-in to the URL resolver.

   To avoid confusion of users, an URL browser SHOULD display the com-
   plete URN (including the "urn:" tag) to ensure that there is no con-
   fusion between URN namespace identifiers and URL scheme identifiers.

                This Internet Draft expires July 31, 1997.

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