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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11            Standards Track
Network Working Group                                      M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                          February 5, 2018
Obsoletes: 5785 (if approved)
Intended status: Standards Track
Expires: August 9, 2018

        Defining Well-Known Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs)


   This memo defines a path prefix for "well-known locations", "/.well-
   known/", in selected Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) schemes.

Note to Readers

   _RFC EDITOR: please remove this section before publication_

   This draft is a proposed revision of RFC5875.

   The issues list for this draft can be found at
   https://github.com/mnot/I-D/labels/5785bis [1].

   The most recent (often, unpublished) draft is at
   https://mnot.github.io/I-D/5785bis/ [2].

   Recent changes are listed at https://github.com/mnot/I-D/commits/gh-
   pages/5785bis [3].

   See also the draft's current status in the IETF datatracker, at
   https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-nottingham-5785bis/ [4].

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 https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/current/.

   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."

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on August 9, 2018.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2018 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
   (https://trustee.ietf.org/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
     1.1.  Appropriate Use of Well-Known URIs  . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Notational Conventions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   3.  Well-Known URIs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     5.1.  The Well-Known URI Registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       5.1.1.  Registration Template . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   6.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     6.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     6.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     6.3.  URIs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   Appendix A.  Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Appendix B.  Changes from RFC5785 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8

1.  Introduction

   Some applications on the Web require the discovery of policy or other
   information about an origin [RFC6454] (sometimes called "site-wide
   metadata") before making a request.  For example, the Robots
   Exclusion Protocol (http://www.robotstxt.org/ [5]) specifies a way
   for automated processes to obtain permission to access resources;
   likewise, the Platform for Privacy Preferences [W3C.REC-P3P-20020416]
   tells user-agents how to discover privacy policy before interacting
   with an origin server.

   While there are several ways to access per-resource metadata (e.g.,
   HTTP headers, WebDAV's PROPFIND [RFC4918]), the perceived overhead

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   (either in terms of client-perceived latency and/or deployment
   difficulties) associated with them often precludes their use in these

   When this happens, one solution is designating a "well-known
   location" for data or services related to the origin, so that it can
   be easily located.  However, this approach has the drawback of
   risking collisions, both with other such designated "well-known
   locations" and with pre-existing resources.

   To address this, this memo defines a path prefix in HTTP(S) URIs for
   these "well-known locations", "/.well-known/".  Future specifications
   that need to define a resource for such metadata can register their
   use to avoid collisions and minimise impingement upon origins' URI

   Well-known URIs can also be used with other URI schemes, but only
   when those schemes' definitions explicitly allow it.

1.1.  Appropriate Use of Well-Known URIs

   There are a number of possible ways that applications could use well-
   known URIs.  However, in keeping with the Architecture of the World-
   Wide Web [W3C.REC-webarch-20041215], well-known URIs are not intended
   for general information retrieval or establishment of large URI

   Rather, they are designed to facilitate discovery of information
   about an origin when it isn't practical to use other mechanisms; for
   example, when discovering policy that needs to be evaluated before a
   resource is accessed, or when the information applies to many (or
   all) of the origin's resources.

   As such, the well-known URI space was created with the expectation
   that it will be used to make policy information and other metadata
   about the origin available directly (if sufficiently concise), or
   provide references to other URIs that provide it.  In general, the
   information it contains should be applicable to most Web origins
   (while acknowledging that many will not use a particular well-known
   location, for various reasons).

   In particular, well-known URIs are not a "protocol registry" for
   applications and protocols that wish to use HTTP as a substrate.
   Even if a particular origin is dedicated to the protocol in question,
   it is inappropriate to devote a URL on all origins to a specialist
   protocol that has little or no potential benefit for them.

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   Instead, such applications and protocols are encouraged to used a URI
   to bootstrap their operation, rather than using a hostname and a
   well-known URI.

   Exceptionally, the registry expert(s) may approve such a registration
   for documents in the IETF Stream [RFC5741], in consultation with the
   IESG, provided that the protocol in question cannot be bootstrapped
   with a URI (e.g., the discovery mechanism can only carry a hostname).
   However, merely making it easier to locate it is not a sufficient
   reason.  Likewise, future use unsupported by the specification in
   question is not sufficient reason to register a well-known location.

   Well-known locations are also not suited for information on topics
   other than the origin that they are located upon; for example,
   creating a well-known resource about a business entity or
   organisational structure presumes that Internet hosts and
   organisations share structure, and are likely to have significant
   deployment issues in environments where this is not true.

2.  Notational Conventions

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

3.  Well-Known URIs

   A well-known URI is a URI [RFC3986] whose path component begins with
   the characters "/.well-known/", and whose scheme is "HTTP", "HTTPS",
   or another scheme that has explicitly been specified to use well-
   known URIs.

   Applications that wish to mint new well-known URIs MUST register
   them, following the procedures in Section 5.1.

   For example, if an application registers the name 'example', the
   corresponding well-known URI on 'http://www.example.com/' would be

   Registered names MUST conform to the segment-nz production in
   [RFC3986].  This means they cannot contain the "/" character.

   Note that this specification defines neither how to determine the
   authority to use for a particular context, nor the scope of the
   metadata discovered by dereferencing the well-known URI; both should
   be defined by the application itself.

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   Typically, a registration will reference a specification that defines
   the format and associated media type to be obtained by dereferencing
   the well-known URI.

   It MAY also contain additional information, such as the syntax of
   additional path components, query strings and/or fragment identifiers
   to be appended to the well-known URI, or protocol-specific details
   (e.g., HTTP [RFC7231] method handling).

   Note that this specification does not define a format or media-type
   for the resource located at "/.well-known/" and clients should not
   expect a resource to exist at that location.

   Well-known URIs are only valid when rooted in the top of the path's
   hierarchy; they MUST NOT be used in other parts of the path.  For
   example, "/.well-known/example" is a valid use, but "/foo/.well-
   known/example" is not.

4.  Security Considerations

   This memo does not specify the scope of applicability of metadata or
   policy obtained from a well-known URI, and does not specify how to
   discover a well-known URI for a particular application.  Individual
   applications using this mechanism must define both aspects.

   Applications minting new well-known URIs, as well as administrators
   deploying them, will need to consider several security-related
   issues, including (but not limited to) exposure of sensitive data,
   denial-of-service attacks (in addition to normal load issues), server
   and client authentication, vulnerability to DNS rebinding attacks,
   and attacks where limited access to a server grants the ability to
   affect how well-known URIs are served.

   Security-sensitive applications using well-known locations should
   consider that some server administrators might be unaware of its
   existence (especially on operating systems that hide directories
   whose names begin with ".").  This means that if an attacker has
   write access to the .well-known directory, they would be able to
   control its contents, possibly without the administrator realising

5.  IANA Considerations

5.1.  The Well-Known URI Registry

   This document specifies procedures for the well-known URI registry,
   first defined in [RFC5785].

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   Well-known URIs are registered on the advice of one or more experts
   (appointed by the IESG or their delegate), with a Specification
   Required (using terminology from [RFC8126]).

   To allow for the allocation of values prior to publication, the
   expert(s) may approve registration once they are satisfied that such
   a specification will be published.

   Registration requests can be sent to the wellknown-uri-
   review@ietf.org mailing list for review and comment, with an
   appropriate subject (e.g., "Request for well-known URI: example").

5.1.1.  Registration Template

   URI suffix:  The name requested for the well-known URI, relative to
      "/.well-known/"; e.g., "example".

   Change controller:  For Standards-Track RFCs, state "IETF".  For
      others, give the name of the responsible party.  Other details
      (e.g., postal address, e-mail address, home page URI) may also be

   Specification document(s):  Reference to the document that specifies
      the field, preferably including a URI that can be used to retrieve
      a copy of the document.  An indication of the relevant sections
      may also be included, but is not required.

   Related information:  Optionally, citations to additional documents
      containing further relevant information.

6.  References

6.1.  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,

   [RFC5741]  Daigle, L., Ed., Kolkman, O., Ed., and IAB, "RFC Streams,
              Headers, and Boilerplates", RFC 5741,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5741, December 2009,

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   [RFC6454]  Barth, A., "The Web Origin Concept", RFC 6454,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6454, December 2011,

   [RFC8126]  Cotton, M., Leiba, B., and T. Narten, "Guidelines for
              Writing an IANA Considerations Section in RFCs", BCP 26,
              RFC 8126, DOI 10.17487/RFC8126, June 2017,

6.2.  Informative References

   [RFC4918]  Dusseault, L., Ed., "HTTP Extensions for Web Distributed
              Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV)", RFC 4918,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4918, June 2007,

   [RFC5785]  Nottingham, M. and E. Hammer-Lahav, "Defining Well-Known
              Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs)", RFC 5785,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5785, April 2010,

   [RFC7231]  Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Semantics and Content", RFC 7231,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7231, June 2014,

              Marchiori, M., "The Platform for Privacy Preferences 1.0
              (P3P1.0) Specification", World Wide Web Consortium
              Recommendation REC-P3P-20020416, April 2002,

6.3.  URIs

   [1] https://github.com/mnot/I-D/labels/5785bis

   [2] https://mnot.github.io/I-D/5785bis/

   [3] https://github.com/mnot/I-D/commits/gh-pages/5785bis

   [4] https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-nottingham-5785bis/

   [5] http://www.robotstxt.org/

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Appendix A.  Frequently Asked Questions

   1.  Aren't well-known locations bad for the Web?

       They are, but for various reasons - both technical and social -
       they are sometimes necessary.  This memo defines a "sandbox" for
       them, to reduce the risks of collision and to minimise the impact
       upon pre-existing URIs on sites.

   2.  Why /.well-known?

       It's short, descriptive, and according to search indices, not
       widely used.

   3.  What impact does this have on existing mechanisms, such as P3P
       and robots.txt?

       None, until they choose to use this mechanism.

   4.  Why aren't per-directory well-known locations defined?

       Allowing every URI path segment to have a well-known location
       (e.g., "/images/.well-known/") would increase the risks of
       colliding with a pre-existing URI on a site, and generally these
       solutions are found not to scale well, because they're too

   5.  I want to use a well-known location to make it easy to configure
       my protocol that uses HTTP.

       This is not what well-known locations are for; see Section 1.1.

Appendix B.  Changes from RFC5785

   o  Discuss appropriate and inappropriate uses more fully

   o  Adjust IANA instructions

   o  Update references

   o  Various other clarifications

Author's Address

   Mark Nottingham

   Email: mnot@mnot.net
   URI:   https://www.mnot.net/

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