IETF URNbis WG                                            A. Hoenes, Ed.
Internet-Draft                                                    TR-Sys
Obsoletes: 2141 (if approved)                          November 24, 2010
Intended status: Standards Track
Expires: May 28, 2011

                   Uniform Resource Name (URN) Syntax


   Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are intended to serve as persistent,
   location-independent, resource identifiers.  This document serves as
   the foundation of the 'urn' URI Scheme according to RFC 3986 and sets
   forward the canonical syntax for URNs, which subdivides URNs into
   "namespaces".  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.  This document supersedes RFC 2141.

   The requirements and procedures for URN Namespace registration
   documents are currently set forth in RFC 3406, which is also being
   updated by a companion, revised specification dubbed RFC 3406bis.


   This draft version has been obtained by importing the text from RFC
   2141 into modern tools and making a first rounds of updating steps.
   It is a chartered initial work item of the URNbis WG in the IETF; the
   aim is to bring URN RFCs in alignment with STD 66, STD 68, BCP 26,
   and the requirements from emerging distributed national and
   international URN resolution systems, and advance them on the IETF
   Standards Track.

   Comments are welcome on the mailing list (or sent to the
   document editor).  The home page of the URNbis WG is located 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

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on May 28, 2011.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  4
     1.1.  Historical Perspective and Motivation  . . . . . . . . . .  4
     1.2.  Background on Properties of URNs . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
     1.3.  Objective of this Memo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     1.4.  Requirement Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
   2.  URN Syntax . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
     2.1.  Namespace Identifier (NID) Syntax  . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
     2.2.  Namespace Specific String (NSS) Syntax . . . . . . . . . . 11
     2.3.  Special and Reserved Characters  . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
       2.3.1.  Delimiter Characters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
       2.3.2.  The Percent Character  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
       2.3.3.  Other Excluded Characters  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
   3.  Support of Existing Legacy Naming Systems and New Naming
       Systems  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
   4.  URN Presentation and Transport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
   5.  Lexical Equivalence of URNs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
     5.1.  Examples of Lexical Equivalence  . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
   6.  Functional Equivalence of URNs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
   7.  The 'urn' URI Scheme . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
     7.1.  Registration of URI Scheme 'urn' . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
   8.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
   9.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
   10. Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
   11. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
     11.1. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
     11.2. Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
   Appendix A.  How to Locate IETF Documents (Informative)  . . . . . 22
   Appendix B.  Handling of URNs by URL Resolvers/Browsers  . . . . . 22
   Appendix C.  Collected ABNF (Informative)  . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
   Appendix D.  Changes since RFC 2141 (Informative)  . . . . . . . . 23
     D.1.  Essential Changes from RFC 2141  . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
     D.2.  Changes from RFC 2141 to Individual Draft -00  . . . . . . 23
     D.3.  Changes from Individual Draft -00 to -02 . . . . . . . . . 24
     D.4.  Changes from Individual Draft -02 to WG Draft -00  . . . . 24

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1.  Introduction

   'urn' is a particular URI Scheme (according to STD 66, RFC 3986
   [RFC3986] and BCP 35, RFC 4395 [RFC4395]) that is dedicated to
   forming a hierarchical framework for persistent identifiers.

   Uniform Resource Names (URNs) are intended to serve as persistent,
   location-independent, resource identifiers and are designed to make
   it easy to map other namespaces (that share the properties of URNs)
   into URI-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.

   The first level of hierarchy is given by the classification of URIs
   into "URI Schemes", and for URNs, the second level is organized into
   "URN Namespaces".  Henceforth both terms are used in this
   capitalization to distinguish them from the more general common
   meaning of "scheme" and "namespace".

1.1.  Historical Perspective and Motivation

   For the intended audience of this RFC, which is expected to include
   groups interested in persistent identifiers in general and not in
   continuous contact with the IETF and the RFC series, this section
   gives a brief outline of the evolution of the matter over time.
   Appendix A gives hints on how to obtain RFCs and related information.

   Attempts to define generally applicable identifiers for network
   resources go back to the mid-1970 years.  Among the applicable RFCs
   is RFC 615 [RFC0615], which subsequently has been obsoleted by
   RFC 645 [RFC0645].

   The seminal document in the RFC series regarding URIs (Uniform
   Resource Identifiers) for use with the World Wide Web (WWW) has been
   RFC 1630 [RFC1630], published in 1994.  In the same year, the general
   concept or Uniform Resource Names has been laid down in RFC 1737
   [RFC1737] and that of Uniform Resource Locators in RFC 1736

   The original formal specification of URN Syntax, RFC 2141 [RFC2141]
   has been adopted in 1997.  That document was based on the original
   specification of URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) in RFC 1738
   [RFC1738] and RFC 1808 [RFC1808], which later on, in 1998, has been
   generalized and consolidated in the Generic URI specification, RFC
   2396 [RFC2396].  Most parts of these URI/URL documents have been
   superseded in 2005 by STD 66, RFC 3986 [RFC3986].  Notably, RFC 2141
   makes (essentially normative) reference to a draft version of RFC

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   Over time, the terms "URI", "URL", and "URN" have been refined and
   slightly shifted according to emerging insight and use.  This has
   been clarified in a joint effort of the IETF and the World Wide Web
   Council, published 2002 for the IETF in RFC 3305 [RFC3305].

   The wealth of URI Schemes and URN Namespaces needs to be organized in
   a persistent way, in order to guide application developers and users
   to the standardized top level branches and the related
   specifications.  These registries are maintained by the Internet
   Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) [IANA] at [IANA-URI] and
   [IANA-URN], respectively.  Registration procedures for URI Schemes
   originally had been laid down in RFC 2717 [RFC2717] and guidelines
   for the related specification documents were given in RFC 2718
   [RFC2718].  These documents have been obsoleted and consolidated into
   BCP 35, RFC 4395 [RFC4395], which is based on, and aligned with, RFC

      Note that RFC 2141 predates RFC 2717 and, although the 'urn' URI
      scheme is listed in [IANA-URI] with a pointer to RFC 2141, this
      registration has never been performed formally.

   Similarly, the URN Namespace definition and registration mechanisms
   originally have been specified in RFC 2611 [RFC2611], which has been
   obsoleted by BCP 66, RFC 3406 [RFC3406].  Guidelines for documents
   prescribing IANA procedures have been revised as well over the years,
   and at the time of this writing, BCP 26, RFC 5226 [RFC5226] is the
   normative document.  Neither RFC 4395 nor RFC 3406 conform to RFC

   Early documents specifying URI and URN syntax, including RFC 2141,
   made use of an ad-hoc variant of the original Backus-Naur Form (BNF)
   that never has been formally specified.

   Over the years, the IETF has shifted to the use of a predominant
   formal language used to define the syntax of textual protocol
   elements, dubbed "Augmented Backus-Naur Form" (ABNF).  The
   specification of ABNF also has evolved, and now STD 68, RFC 5234
   [RFC5234] is the normative document for it (that also will be used in
   this RFC).

1.2.  Background on Properties of URNs

   RFC 1738 [RFC1738] defined the purpose of URNs as follows:

   o  The purpose or function of a URN is to provide a globally unique,
      persistent identifier used for recognition, for access to
      characteristics of the resource or for access to the resource

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   Section 2 of RFC 1738 [RFC1738] listed the functional requirements
   for URNs (quote slightly edited to reflect the time passed since that
   RFC had been written and the actual definition of the URN scheme that
   has happened):

   o  Global scope: A URN is a name with global scope which does not
      imply a location.  It has the same meaning everywhere.

   o  Global uniqueness: The same URN will never be assigned to two
      different resources.

   o  Persistence: It is intended that the lifetime of a URN be
      permanent.  That is, the URN will be globally unique forever, and
      may well be used as a reference to a resource well beyond the
      lifetime of the resource it identifies or of any naming authority
      involved in the assignment of its name.

   o  Scalability: URNs can be assigned to any resource that might
      conceivably be available on the network, for hundreds of years.

   o  Legacy support: The URN scheme permits the support of existing
      legacy naming systems, insofar as they satisfy the other
      requirements described here. [...]

   o  Extensibility: The URN scheme permits future extensions.

   o  Independence: It is solely the responsibility of a name issuing
      authority to determine the conditions under which it will issue a

   o  Resolution: URNs will not impede resolution. [...]

   The URN syntax described below also accommodates the fundamental
   "Requirements for URN Encoding" in Section 3 of RFC 1738 [RFC1738],
   as far as experience gained has not lead to lessen unrealistical
   detail requirements:

   o  Single encoding: The encoding for presentation for people in clear
      text, electronic mail and the like is the same as the encoding in
      other transmissions.

   o  Simple comparison: A comparison algorithm for URNs is simple,
      local, and deterministic. [...]

   o  Human transcribability: For URNs to be easily transcribable by
      humans without error, they need to be short, use a minimum of
      special characters, and be case insensitive. [...]

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   o  Transport friendliness: A URN can be transported unmodified in the
      common Internet protocols, such as TCP, SMTP, FTP, Telnet, etc.,
      as well as printed paper.

   o  Machine consumption: A URN can be parsed by a computer.

   o  Text recognition: The encoding of a URN needs to enhance the
      ability to find and parse URNs in free text.

1.3.  Objective of this Memo

   RFC 2141 does not seamlessly match current Internet Standards.  The
   primary objective of this document is the alignment with the URI
   Standard [RFC3986] and guidelines [RFC4395], the ABNF Standard
   [RFC5234] and the current IANA Guidelines [RFC5226] in general.

   Further, experience from emerging international efforts to establish
   a general, distributed, stable URN resolution service are expected to
   be taken into account during the draft stage of this document.

   For advancing the URN specification on the Internet Standards-Track,
   it needs to be based on documents of comparable maturity.  Therefore,
   to further advancements of the formal maturity level of this RFC, it
   deliberately makes normative references only to documents at Full
   Standard or Best Current Practice level.

   Thus, this replacement document for RFC 2141 should make it possible
   to advance the URN framework on the Internet Standard maturity
   ladder.  All other related documents depend on it; therefore this is
   the first step to undertake.

   Out of scope for this document is a revision of the URN Namespace
   Definition Mechanisms document, BCP 66 [RFC3406].  This is going to
   be undertaken in a companion document, RFC 3406bis.

1.4.  Requirement Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

2.  URN Syntax

   This document defines the URI Scheme 'urn'.  Hence, URNs are specific
   URIs as specified in STD 66 [RFC3986].  The formal syntax definitions
   below are given in ABNF according to STD 68 [RFC5234] and make use of
   some "Core Rules" specified in Appendix B of that Standard and
   several generic rules defined in Appendix A of RFC 3986.

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   The syntax definitions below do, and syntax definitions in dependent
   documents MUST, conform to the URI syntax specified in RFC 3986, in
   the sense that additional syntax rules must only constrain the
   general rules from RFC 3986.  In other words: a general URI parser
   based on RFC 3986 MUST be able to parse any legal URN, and specific
   semantics can be obtained from URN-specific parsing.

      NOTE: The remainder of this Section still requires substantial
      work!  To give a starting point for WG discussion, within this
      entire Section, much of the elaborations and editorial comments
      from the Individual I-D predecessor of this draft are kept.  This
      will be cleaned up after discussion.

   URNs conform to the <path-rootless> variant of the general URI syntax
   specified in Section 3 of [RFC3986] :

      URI = scheme ":" path-rootless [ "?" query ] [ "#" fragment ]

      path-rootless = segment-nz *( "/" segment )

      segment-nz    = 1*pchar
      segment       = *pchar

      pchar = unreserved / pct-encoded / sub-delims / ":" / "@"

   In the case of URNs, we have:

      scheme     = "urn"

   and the following additional syntax rule is superimposed on
   <path-rootless> to establish a level of hierarchy called "Namespace":

      urn-path   = NID ":" NSS

   Here "urn" is the URI scheme name, <NID> is the Namespace Identifier,
   and <NSS> is the Namespace Specific String.  The colons are REQUIRED
   separator characters.

   Per RFC 3986, the URN Scheme name (here "urn") is case-insensitive.

   The Namespace ID (also a case-insensitive string) determines the
   syntactic structure and the semantic interpretation of the Namespace
   Specific String.  Generic details on NID syntax can be found below in
   Section 2.1, and the NSS syntax is elaborated upon in Section 2.2.

   Each particular namespace is based on a specific document that must
   normatively describe (among other things) the details of the <NSS>
   values allowed in conjunction with the respective <NID>.  The

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   specification requirements and registration procedures for URN
   Namespaces are the subject of a dedicated document, currently RFC
   3406 [RFC3406] -- to be updated for conformance to BCP 26 and
   alignment with implementation experience, in RFC 3406bis.


      RFC 2141 has deferred the decision on whether <query> and
      <fragment> components are applicable to URNs and reserved the use
      of bare (unencoded) question mark ("?") and hash ("#") characters
      in URNs for future usage in conformance with the generic URI

      There is evidence of desire to be able to use these components
      (which are split off by the high-level parsing rules of RFC 3986),
      or at least the <fragment> component, in URNs belonging to
      selected namespaces.  Thus, this draft version tentatively aims at
      allowing these components in the general syntax.

      The considerations below reflect the current thinking based on
      implementation experience and preliminary discussion.

   The syntax of <query> and <fragment> are defined in RFC 3986.
   Question mark and hash sign remain reserved as separator characters
   for these URI components and cannot appear unencoded in an NSS.  This
   way, backwards compatibility with existing URN namespaces is
   guaranteed and compatibility with general URI parsers is improved.

   The <query> part MUST NOT be present in any *assigned* URN.  This
   specification reserves its use for future standardization related to
   URN resolution.  This part can only be added to an assigned URN and
   appear in a URI reference [RFC3986] to a URN that is intended to be
   used with URN resolution services, and, in accordance with the
   general specification of this part in RFC 3986, its purpose is
   restricted to designate service aspects of the intended resolution
   response, e.g., to select the kind and amount of metadata sought
   about the given object that is identified by the basic, assigned URN.

   The <fragment> part is not generally allowed in URNs.  It is only
   applicable to URN Namespaces that specifically opt to support its
   usage.  Thus, a URN Namespace registration document MAY specify the
   usage of <fragment> with URNs of that particular URN Namespace.
   Absent a registered namespace definition based on this document and
   RFC 3406bis that explicitly specifies its usage, URNs assigned within
   a particular URN Namespace MUST NOT contain a fragment identifier.

   The use of fragment identifiers may be useful if the URN Namespace is
   based on an existing identifier scheme that designates objects of

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   reasonable complexity that there's a need to make reference of parts
   of such resources in typical network access environments.

   A URN Namespace definition has two options to support fragment
   identifiers, and only one of these methods is possible within a given
   URN Namespace:

   (a)  Fragment identifiers (if any) are assigned individually to parts
        of a larger entity during the URN assignment process.  If a URN
        Namespace opts for this model, its specification MUST describe
        the additional syntax restrictions to be adhered and the
        particulars of the (per-URN) assignment process.

   (b)  A specific set of fragment identifiers is generally applicable
        to all resources targeted by URNs of the specific URN Namespace.
        In this case, the specification document MUST specify a finite
        set of <fragment> values, or precise, generic rules for the
        formation of syntactically valid fragment identifiers for the
        particular URN Namespace.  The specification SHOULD indicate the
        treatment of syntactically valid <fragment> values in case they
        are not semantically valid for a given base URN.  Absent such
        specification, the default is to ignore such fragment

   URN resolver clients MUST pass a given <fragment> part of a URN
   unchanged to the resolver service.  The default URN resolution
   behavior is to ignore any <fragment> part if either the applicable
   URN Namespace definition did not specify its use, or if no specific
   related information was available for the basic resource in case (b)
   above, or if that basic URN plus fragment identifier has not been
   assigned in case (a) above.

2.1.  Namespace Identifier (NID) 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, Namespace
   Identifiers are ASCII strings with the syntax:

      NID = ( ALPHA / DIGIT ) 0*31 ( ALPHA / DIGIT / "-" )

   Note for discussion:
      The above definition is taken from RFC 2141.  Should this be
      further restricted, e.g., to avoid possible confusion caused by
      multiple adjacent hyphens and NIDs looking like a numerical value
      or a numerical range?  Does it really make sense to allow single-
      letter NIDs?  Such restrictions would be fully backward compatible
      because no NIDs have been defined so far that would violate these

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      restrictions.  Hyphens have been used only in the naming pattern
      for "Informal Namespace IDs" per RFC 3406.

   Namespace Identifiers are case-insensitive, so that for instance
   "ISBN" and "isbn" refer to the same namespace.

   To avoid confusion with the URI Scheme name "urn", the NID "urn" is
   permanently reserved by this RFC and MUST NOT be used or registered.

2.2.  Namespace Specific String (NSS) Syntax

      In order to make visible the migration path from RFC 2141 and the
      influence of the evolution of URI syntax from RFC 2396 to RFC 3986
      on it, at this draft stage, the subsequent syntax description is
      highly annotated and expanded.  After discussion, a substantial
      consolidation is expected.

   As already required by RFC 1737, there is a single canonical
   representation of the NSS portion of an URN.

      If the DISCUSSes above and below can be affirmed (allowing
      optional <query> and <fragment> components as well as "&" and "~"
      in the path), the syntax below could be simplified very much to:

         NSS   = 1*pchar   ; or equivalent:    NSS   = segment-nz

   The format of this single canonical form follows:

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         NSS         = 1*URN-char

         URN-char    = trans / pct-encoded

         trans       = ALPHA / DIGIT / u-other
    ; NO?            / reserved
    ; Issue: This lead to ambiguity in RFC 2141 wrt "%".

         u-other     = ":" / "@"
                       ; those from RFC 3986 <gen-delims>
                       ; specifically allowed in <pchar>.
    ; From RFC 3986:
    ;    gen-delims  = ":" / "/" / "?" / "#" / "[" / "]" / "@"

                     / "!" / "$" /       "'" / "(" / ")"
                     / "*" / "+" / "," / ";" / "="
                       ; this is RFC 3986 <sub-delims> except "&".
    ; From RFC 3986:
    ;    sub-delims  = "!" / "$" / "&" / "'" / "(" / ")"
    ;                / "*" / "+" / "," / ";" / "="
    ; Issue: can/should "&" be allowed ?
    ; If we allow <query> and <fragment> according to the
    ; generic URI syntax, there seems to be no more need to exclude "&".

                     / "-" / "." / "_"   ; <unreserved> except "~"
    ; From RFC 3986:
    ;    unreserved  = ALPHA / DIGIT
    ;                / "-" / "." / "_" / "~"
    ; Issue: can/should "~" be allowed as well ?

    ; If we allow "&" and "~" , <trans> becomes <pchar> ,
    ; greatly simplifying the syntax rules and parsers!

    ; from RFC 2141:
    ;    reserved  = '%" / "/" / "?" / "#"         ; SIC!
    ;                ^ ^

   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-char>).  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 octets using UTF-8 encoding STD 63 [RFC3629], and the
   "percent-encoding" of each of those octets as "%" followed by two
   <HEXDIG> characters.  The two characters form the hexadecimal
   representation of that octet.

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2.3.  Special and Reserved Characters

   The remaining printable characters left to be discussed above
   comprise the generic delimiters and the reserved characters, which
   are restricted for special use only.  These characters are discussed
   below, giving the specifics of why each character is special or

2.3.1.  Delimiter Characters

   RFC 3986 [RFC3986] defines the general delimiter characters used in

      gen-delims = ":" / "/" / "?" / "#" / "[" / "]" / "@"

   From among the <gen-delims>, ":" and "@" are also included in <pchar>
   and hence allowed in the path components of URIs.

   The at-character ("@") in generic URIs only has a specific meaning
   when contained in the <authority> part, which is absent in URNs.
   Hence, "@" is available in the <NSS> part of URNs.

   With URNs, the colon (":") is used as a delimiter character not only
   between the scheme name ("urn") and the <NID>, but also between the
   latter and the <NSS>, and many existing URN namespaces additionally
   use ":" to further subdivide a single RFC 3986 path segment in the
   <NSS> in a hierarchical manner.

   Note: Using ":" as a sub-delimiter in the path in favor of "/" is
   attractive because it avoids possible complications that could arise
   from accidental inappropriate use of relative URI references
   [RFC3986] for URNs.

   The characters "/", "?", and "#" separate path components and the
   <query> and <fragment> parts in the generic URI syntax; they are
   restricted to this role in URNs as well, although the <path> in URNs
   only admits a single <segment> and hence "/" is not allowed.
   Therefore, these characters MUST NOT appear in the <NSS> part of a
   URN in unencoded form.  Namespaces that need these characters MUST
   employ in their URNs the appropriate percent-encoding for each such

   The square brackets ("[" and "]") also play a particular role when
   contained in the <authority> part, which is absent in URNs.  However,
   for conformance with the generic URI syntax, they are not allowed
   literally in the <NSS> component of URNs.  If a specific URN
   namespace reflects semantics that require these characters, they MUST
   be percent-encoded in the respective URNs.

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2.3.2.  The Percent Character

   The percent character ("%") is reserved in the URN syntax for
   introducing the escape sequence for an octet that is either not a
   printable ASCII character or reserved for special purposes, as
   described in this section.  The presence of a "%" character in a URN
   MUST always be followed by two <HEXDIG> characters, which three
   together semanticaly form an abstract <pct-encoded> octet.  Literal
   use of the "%" character in an underlying namespace MUST therefore be
   encoded as "%25" in URNs for that namespace.

   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.  Further, a
   character MUST NOT be percent-encoded if the character is not a
   reserved character.  Therefore, the process of registering a
   namespace identifier shall include publication of a definition of
   which characters have a special meaning to that namespace.

2.3.3.  Other Excluded Characters

   The following list is included only for the sake of completeness.  It
   includes the characters discussed in Sections 2.3.1 and 2.3.2.  Any
   octets/characters on this list are explicitly NOT part of the URN
   <NSS> character set, and if used in an URN, MUST be percent-encoded.

              excluded = CTL / SP        ; control characters and space
                       / DQUOTE          ; "
                       / "#"             ; from <gen-delims>
                       / "%"             ; see above
      ; DISCUSS!       / "&"             ; DISCUSS -- see above!
                       / "/"             ; from <gen-delims>
                       / "<" / ">"
                       / "?"             ; from <gen-delims>
                       / "["             ; from <gen-delims>
                       / "\"
                       / "]"             ; from <gen-delims>
                       / "^"
                       / "`"
                       / "{" / "|" / "}"
      ; DISCUSS!       / "~"             ; DISCUSS -- see above!
                       / %x7F            ; DEL (control character)
                       / %x80-FF         ; non-ASCII

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   The NUL octet (0 hex) is renowned for a long history of trouble in
   implementations.  It MUST NOT be used, in either unencoded or
   percent-encoded form.

   In textual context, a 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.

   [ Does that still make sense? -- it collides with possible query /
   fragment parts! ]

3.  Support of Existing Legacy Naming Systems and New Naming Systems

   Any namespace (existing or newly devised) that is proposed as a 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.

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 of URNs

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

   Two URNs are lexically equivalent if they are octet-by-octet equal
   after the following preprocessing:
      1. normalize the case of the leading "urn" scheme name;
      2. normalize the case of the NID;
      3. normalize the case of any percent-encoding.

   Note that percent-encoding MUST NOT be removed.  It is an
   implementation detail not affecting interoperability whether a URN
   comparison function internally prefers normalization (in the above 3
   steps) to lower or to upper case.

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   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 only have the effect of eliminating some of the false
   negatives obtained by the procedure above, i.e. they MUST NOT say
   that two URNs are not equivalent if the procedure above says they are

5.1.  Examples of Lexical Equivalence

   The following hypothetical URN comparisons highlight the lexical
   equivalence definitions:

      1- URN:foo:a123,456
      2- urn:foo:a123,456
      3- urn:FOO:a123,456
      4- urn:foo:A123,456
      5- urn:foo:a123%2C456
      6- URN:FOO:a123%2c456

   URNs 1, 2, and 3 are all lexically equivalent.  URN 4 is not
   lexically equivalent to any of the other URNs of the above set.
   URNs 5 and 6 are only lexically equivalent to each other.

6.  Functional Equivalence of URNs

   Functional equivalence is determined by practice within a given
   namespace and managed by resolvers for that namespace.  Thus, it is
   beyond the scope of this document.  Namespace registrations must
   include guidance on how to determine functional equivalence for that
   namespace, i.e., when two URNs are identical within a namespace.

   On the other hand, it is permissible to have two different URNs --
   even from different URN namespaces -- be assigned to a particular
   resource.  This can only be detected by resolving the URNs and
   analysis of the resolution responses; hence, this is out of scope for
   this memo.

7.  The 'urn' URI Scheme

   At the time of publication of RFC 2141, no formal registration
   procedure for URI Schemes had been established yet, and so IANA only
   informally has registered the 'urn' URI Scheme with a reference to

   Section 7.1 below contains the URI scheme registration template for
   the 'urn' scheme, in accordance with RFC 4395 [RFC4395].

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      Note: In order to be usable as a standalone text (after being
      extracted from this RFC), the template below does not contain
      formal anchors to the references listed in section 11, but instead
      gives the common document designations in prose.  However, for
      compliance with editorial policy, it needs to be noted here:

   This registration template refers to RFCs 2196, 2276, 2608, 3401
   through 3404, 3406, 3629 (STD 63), and 3986 (STD 66) ([RFC2169]
   [RFC2276] [RFC2608] [RFC3401] [RFC3402] [RFC3403] [RFC3404] [RFC3406]
   [RFC3629] [RFC3986]).

7.1.  Registration of URI Scheme 'urn'

   [ RFC Editor: Please replace "XXXX" in all instances of "RFC XXXX"
   below by the RFC number assigned to this document. ]

   URI scheme name:  urn

   Status:  permanent

   URI scheme syntax:

      See Section 2 of RFC XXXX.

   URI scheme semantics:

      'urn' URIs, known as Universal Resource Names (URNs), serve as
      persistent, location-independent, resource identifiers for
      concrete and abstract objects that have network accessible
      instances and/or metadata.

      URNs are structured hierarchically into URN Namespaces, the
      management of which is delegated to namespace-specific
      authorities.  Each such URN namespace is founded in an independent
      specification and registered with IANA, following the guidelines
      and procedures of BCP 66 (at the time of this registration: RFC

   Encoding considerations:

      All URNs are ASCII strings conforming to the general URI syntax
      from STD 66.  As described in Sections 2.2 and 2.3.2 of RFC XXXX,
      characters needed by the URN namespace specific semantics but not
      contained in the US-ASCII charset MUST be encoded in UTF-8
      according to STD 63; any octets outside the allowed character set
      MUST then be percent-encoded.

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   Applications/protocols that use this URI scheme:

      URNs that serve to identify abstract resources for protocol
      purposes are expected to be recognized directly by the
      implementations of these portocols.

      In general, resolution systems for URNs are specified on a per-
      namespace basis.  If appropriate for the namespace, these systems
      resolve URNs to (possibly multiple) URIs that allow the network
      access to the identified object or metadata on it.

      "Architectural Principles of Uniform Resource Name Resolution"
      (RFC 2276) explains the basic concepts.  Some resolution systems
      laid down in IETF specifications are:

      *  Trivial HTTP-based URN Resolution (RFC 2169)

      *  Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS, RFCs 3401-3404)

      *  Service Location Protocol (SLPv2, RFC 2608)

   Interoperability Considerations:

      Persistence and stability of URNs require appropriate resolution

   Security Considerations:

      See Section 8 of RFC XXXX.


      The IETF URNbis working group.
      This registration will be discussed on the following IETF lists:
      urn and uri-review (AT

   Author / Change controller:

      The authors of RFC XXXX.
      Change control is with the IESG.


      RFC XXXX.

      Procedures for the specification and registration of URN
      namespaces are detailed in BCP 66 (at the time of this writing:
      RFC 3406; the URNbis WG is chartered to provide a RFC 3406bis).

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8.  Security Considerations

   This document specifies the syntax and general requirements for URNs,
   which are the specific URIs that use the 'urn' URI scheme.  As such,
   the general security considerations of STD 66 [RFC3986] apply.
   However, each URN namespace will have specific security
   considerations, according to the semantics and usage of the
   underlying namespace.  While some namespaces may assign special
   meaning to certain of the characters of the Namespace Specific
   String, any security considerations resulting from such assignment
   are outside the scope of this document.  It is REQUIRED by BCP 66
   [RFC3406] that the process of registering a namespace identifier
   include any such considerations.

9.  IANA Considerations

   IANA is asked to update the existing informal registration of the
   'urn' URI Scheme by the template in Section 7.1 above and list this
   RFC as the current normative reference in [IANA-URI].

   IANA is asked to add a note to [IANA-URN] that 'urn' is a permanently
   reserved formal namespace identifier string that cannot be
   registered, in order to avoid confusion with the 'urn' URI scheme.

10.  Acknowledgements

   This document is heavily based on RFC 2141, the author of which has
   laid the foundation for this work; that RFC contained the following

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

   This document also heavily relies on and acknowledges the work done
   for STD 66 [RFC3986] and earlier RFCs that are being quoted
   informally, in particular RFC 1737 [RFC1737].

   Your name could go here ...

11.  References

11.1.  Normative References

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

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   [RFC3629]   Yergeau, F., "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO
               10646", STD 63, RFC 3629, November 2003.

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

   [RFC4395]   Hansen, T., Hardie, T., and L. Masinter, "Guidelines and
               Registration Procedures for New URI Schemes", BCP 35,
               RFC 4395, February 2006.

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

11.2.  Informative References

   [IANA]      IANA, "The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority",

   [IANA-URI]  IANA, "URI Schemes Registry",

   [IANA-URN]  IANA, "URN Namespace Registry",

   [RFC0615]   Crocker, D., "Proposed Network Standard Data Pathname
               syntax", RFC 615, March 1974.

   [RFC0645]   Crocker, D., "Network Standard Data Specification
               syntax", RFC 645, June 1974.

   [RFC1630]   Berners-Lee, T., "Universal Resource Identifiers in WWW:
               A Unifying Syntax for the Expression of Names and
               Addresses of Objects on the Network as used in the World-
               Wide Web", RFC 1630, June 1994.

   [RFC1736]   Kunze, J., "Functional Recommendations for Internet
               Resource Locators", RFC 1736, February 1995.

   [RFC1737]   Sollins, K. and L. Masinter, "Functional Requirements for
               Uniform Resource Names", RFC 1737, December 1994.

   [RFC1738]   Berners-Lee, T., Masinter, L., and M. McCahill, "Uniform
               Resource Locators (URL)", RFC 1738, December 1994.

   [RFC1808]   Fielding, R., "Relative Uniform Resource Locators",
               RFC 1808, June 1995.

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   [RFC2141]   Moats, R., "URN Syntax", RFC 2141, May 1997.

   [RFC2169]   Daniel, R., "A Trivial Convention for using HTTP in URN
               Resolution", RFC 2169, June 1997.

   [RFC2276]   Sollins, K., "Architectural Principles of Uniform
               Resource Name Resolution", RFC 2276, January 1998.

   [RFC2396]   Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform
               Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax", RFC 2396,
               August 1998.

   [RFC2608]   Guttman, E., Perkins, C., Veizades, J., and M. Day,
               "Service Location Protocol, Version 2", RFC 2608,
               June 1999.

   [RFC2611]   Daigle, L., van Gulik, D., Iannella, R., and P.
               Faltstrom, "URN Namespace Definition Mechanisms", BCP 33,
               RFC 2611, June 1999.

   [RFC2717]   Petke, R. and I. King, "Registration Procedures for URL
               Scheme Names", BCP 35, RFC 2717, November 1999.

   [RFC2718]   Masinter, L., Alvestrand, H., Zigmond, D., and R. Petke,
               "Guidelines for new URL Schemes", RFC 2718,
               November 1999.

   [RFC3305]   Mealling, M. and R. Denenberg, "Report from the Joint
               W3C/IETF URI Planning Interest Group: Uniform Resource
               Identifiers (URIs), URLs, and Uniform Resource Names
               (URNs): Clarifications and Recommendations", RFC 3305,
               August 2002.

   [RFC3401]   Mealling, M., "Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS)
               Part One: The Comprehensive DDDS", RFC 3401,
               October 2002.

   [RFC3402]   Mealling, M., "Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS)
               Part Two: The Algorithm", RFC 3402, October 2002.

   [RFC3403]   Mealling, M., "Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS)
               Part Three: The Domain Name System (DNS) Database",
               RFC 3403, October 2002.

   [RFC3404]   Mealling, M., "Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS)
               Part Four: The Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI)",
               RFC 3404, October 2002.

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   [RFC3406]   Daigle, L., van Gulik, D., Iannella, R., and P.
               Faltstrom, "Uniform Resource Names (URN) Namespace
               Definition Mechanisms", BCP 66, RFC 3406, October 2002.

   [RFC5226]   Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for Writing an
               IANA Considerations Section in RFCs", BCP 26, RFC 5226,
               May 2008.

Appendix A.  How to Locate IETF Documents (Informative)

   Request For Comments (RFCs) are available from the RFC Editor site
   using the canonical URIs <>
   or <> (where 'NNNN' is
   the serial number of the RFC), and from numerous mirror sites.
   Additional metadata for any RFC, including possible Errata, are
   available from <> (where 'NNNN'
   again is the serial number of the RFC).  A HTML-ized version and a
   PDF facsimile of each RFC are available from the IETF Tools site at
   <> and
   <>, respectively.

   Current Internet Draft documents are available via the search engines
   at <> and
   <>; archival copies of older
   IETF documents can be found at <>.

Appendix B.  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 URI
   syntax specification [RFC3986] will extract a scheme value of "urn"
   rather than a scheme value of "urn:<nid>".

   An URN MUST be considered an opaque URI by URL resolvers and passed
   (with the "urn:" tag) to a 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 into the URL resolver.

   To avoid confusion of users, a URL browser SHOULD display the
   complete URN (including the "urn:" tag) to ensure that there is no
   confusion between URN Namespace identifiers and URI Scheme names.

Appendix C.  Collected ABNF (Informative)

   As a service to implementers specifically interested in URN syntax,
   after consolidation of Section 2, the complete ABNF for URNs will be
   collected here, including the referenced rules from [RFC5234] and

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   [RFC3986].  In case of (unexpected) inconsistencies, these documents
   remain normative for the respective productions.



Appendix D.  Changes since RFC 2141 (Informative)

D.1.  Essential Changes from RFC 2141

   [ RFC Editor: please remove the Appendix D.1 headline and all
   subsequent subsections starting with Appendix D.2. ]

   T.B.D. (after consolidation of this memo)

D.2.  Changes from RFC 2141 to Individual Draft -00

   Abstract amended: URI scheme, replacement for 2141, point to 3406.
   Use contemporary boilerplate.  Added transient "Discussion" section.

   s1: added new 1st para (URI scheme) and 3rd para (hierarchy).
   s1.1 (Historical Perspective) added for background & motivation.
   s1.2 (Objective) added.
   s1.3 (2119 keywords) added -- used now throughout normative text.

   s2 (URN Syntax): Shifted from BNF to ABNF; explain relationship to
   3986 and gaps, how the gaps could be bridged, distinguish between URI
   generics and URN specifics; got rid of references to immature
   documents (1630, 1737).
   s2.1 (NID syntax): Use ABNF and RFC 5234 terminals (core rules);
   removed reference to an old draft of 2396; clarified prohibition to
   use "urn" as NID.
   s2.2 (NSS syntax): Shifted from BNF to ABNF; made ABNF consistent
   with subsequent textual description; exposition much expanded,
   showing relationship with 3986 and resulting incompatibilities;
   proposed how to bridge gaps, to make parsing more uniform among URIs;
   updated i18n considerations and pointer to UTF-8 specification.
   s.2.3, s2.3.*: reworked and much expanded, along the grouping of
   delimiter characters from 3986 in new s2.3.1 (including old s.2.3.2);
   made text fully consistent with ABNF in s2.2; consistent usage of
   term "percent-encoded"; old s.2.3.1 became s2.3.2; old s3.4 became
   s3.3.3, providing complete, annotated list of excluded characters,
   ordered by ascending code point; and restating design decisions
   needed to be made to close gaps to 3986.

   s3 through s6: only minor editorial changes.

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   s7: formal registration of 'urn' URI scheme added, using 4395

   s8: Security Cons. slightly amended.

   s9: new: IANA Cons. added wrt s7.1 and prohibition of NID "urn".

   s10: Acknowledgments amended.

   s11: References split into Normative and Informative; updated refs
   and added many; only FS and BCP allowed as Normative Refs to further
   promotion of document.

   Added Appendices A through D.

D.3.  Changes from Individual Draft -00 to -02

   Updated "Discussion" on front page to point to dedicated urn list.

   Numerous editorial improvements and additions for clarification, in
   particular in the Introduction.  No technical changes.

   More Informative References; missing details supplied in D.1.

D.4.  Changes from Individual Draft -02 to WG Draft -00

   Added new s2.1 with excerpts from RFC 1737 to Introduction to provide
   background on URN functional and syntax requirements.

   Supplied text in s2 regarding the envisioned use of query and
   fragment parts, based on various discussion -- including a
   preliminary evaluation in PersID.

   Changed "SHOULD never" to "MUST NOT" for NUL character in NSS.

   Various editorial and grammar fixes; corrected STD / BCP numbers.

Author's Address

   Alfred Hoenes (editor)
   Gerlinger Str. 12
   Ditzingen  D-71254


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