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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05 rfc3629                                     
Network Working Group                                         F. Yergeau
Internet-Draft                                         Alis Technologies
Expires: March 2, 2003                                 September 1, 2002

              UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO 10646

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-

   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 http://

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on March 2, 2003.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2002).  All Rights Reserved.


   ISO/IEC 10646-1 defines a large character set called the Universal
   Character Set (UCS) which encompasses most of the world's writing
   systems.  The originally proposed encodings of the UCS, however, were
   not compatible with many current applications and protocols, and this
   has led to the development of UTF-8, the object of this memo.  UTF-8
   has the characteristic of preserving the full US-ASCII range,
   providing compatibility with file systems, parsers and other software
   that rely on US-ASCII values but are transparent to other values.
   This memo updates and replaces RFC 2279.
   Discussion of this draft should take place on the ietf-

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   charsets@iana.org mailing list.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
   2.  Notational conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
   3.  UTF-8 definition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
   4.  Syntax of UTF-8 Byte Sequences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  8
   5.  Versions of the standards  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  9
   6.  Byte order mark (BOM)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
   7.  Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
   8.  MIME registration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
   9.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
   10. Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
       Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
       Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
   A.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
   B.  Changes from RFC 2279  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
       Full Copyright Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

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1. Introduction
   ISO/IEC 10646 [ISO.10646-1] defines a large character set called the
   Universal Character Set (UCS), which encompasses most of the world's
   writing systems.  The same set of characters is defined by the
   Unicode standard [UNICODE], which further defines additional
   character properties and other application details of great interest
   to implementors.  Up to the present time, changes in Unicode and
   amendments and additions to ISO/IEC 10646 have tracked each other, so
   that the character repertoires and code point assignments have
   remained in sync.  The relevant standardization committees have
   committed to maintain this very useful synchronism.
   ISO/IEC 10646 and Unicode define several encoding forms of their
   common repertoire: UTF-8, UCS-2, UTF-16, UCS-4 and UTF-32.  In an
   encoding form, each character is represented as one or more encoding
   units.  All standard UCS encoding forms except UTF-8 have an encoding
   unit larger than one octet, making them hard to use in many current
   applications and protocols that assume 8 or even 7 bit characters.
   UTF-8, the object of this memo, has a one-octet encoding unit.  It
   uses all bits of an octet, but has the quality of preserving the full
   US-ASCII [US-ASCII] range: US-ASCII characters are encoded in one
   octet having the normal US-ASCII value, and any octet with such a
   value can only stand for an US-ASCII character, and nothing else.
   UTF-8 encodes UCS characters as a varying number of octets, where the
   number of octets, and the value of each, depend on the integer value
   assigned to the character in ISO/IEC 10646 (the character number,
   a.k.a.  code point or Unicode scalar value).  This encoding form has
   the following characteristics (all values are in hexadecimal):
   o  Character numbers from U+0000 to U+007F (US-ASCII repertoire)
      correspond to octets 00 to 7F (7 bit US-ASCII values).  A direct
      consequence is that a plain ASCII string is also a valid UTF-8
   o  US-ASCII octet values do not appear otherwise in a UTF-8 encoded
      character stream.  This provides compatibility with file systems
      or other software (e.g.  the printf() function in C libraries)
      that parse based on US-ASCII values but are transparent to other
   o  Round-trip conversion is easy between UTF-8 and other encoding
   o  The first octet of a multi-octet sequence indicates the number of
      octets in the sequence.

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   o  The octet values C0, C1, FE and FF never appear.  If the range of
      character numbers is restricted to U+0000..U+10FFFF (the UTF-16
      accessible range), then the octet values F5..FD also never appear.
   o  Character boundaries are easily found from anywhere in an octet
   o  The lexicographic sorting order of UTF-8 strings is the same as if
      ordered by character numbers.  Of course this is of limited
      interest since a sort order based on character numbers is not
      culturally valid.
   o  The Boyer-Moore fast search algorithm can be used with UTF-8 data.
   o  UTF-8 strings can be fairly reliably recognized as such by a
      simple algorithm, i.e.  the probability that a string of
      characters in any other encoding appears as valid UTF-8 is low,
      diminishing with increasing string length.

   UTF-8 was originally a project of the X/Open Joint
   Internationalization Group XOJIG with the objective to specify a File
   System Safe UCS Transformation Format [FSS_UTF] that is compatible
   with UNIX systems, supporting multilingual text in a single encoding.
   The original authors were Gary Miller, Greger Leijonhufvud and John
   Entenmann.  Later, Ken Thompson and Rob Pike did significant work for
   the formal definition of UTF-8.

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2. Notational conventions
   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].
   UCS characters are designated by the U+HHHH notation, where HHHH is a
   string of from 4 to 6 hexadecimal digits representing the character
   number in ISO/IEC 10646.

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3. UTF-8 definition
   UTF-8 is defined by Annex D of ISO/IEC 10646-1 [ISO.10646-1].
   Descriptions and formulae can also be found in the Unicode Standard
   [UNICODE] and in [FSS_UTF].
   In UTF-8, characters are encoded using sequences of 1 to 6 octets.
   If the range of character numbers is restricted to U+0000..U+10FFFF
   (the UTF-16 accessible range), then only sequences of one to four
   octets will occur.  The only octet of a "sequence" of one has the
   higher-order bit set to 0, the remaining 7 bits being used to encode
   the character number.  In a sequence of n octets, n>1, the initial
   octet has the n higher-order bits set to 1, followed by a bit set to
   0.  The remaining bit(s) of that octet contain bits from the number
   of the character to be encoded.  The following octet(s) all have the
   higher-order bit set to 1 and the following bit set to 0, leaving 6
   bits in each to contain bits from the character to be encoded.
   The table below summarizes the format of these different octet types.
   The letter x indicates bits available for encoding bits of the
   character number.

   Char. number range  |        UTF-8 octet sequence
      (hexadecimal)    |              (binary)
   0000 0000-0000 007F | 0xxxxxxx
   0000 0080-0000 07FF | 110xxxxx 10xxxxxx
   0000 0800-0000 FFFF | 1110xxxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx
   0001 0000-001F FFFF | 11110xxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx
   0020 0000-03FF FFFF | 111110xx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx
   0400 0000-7FFF FFFF | 1111110x 10xxxxxx ... 10xxxxxx
   Encoding a character to UTF-8 proceeds as follows:
   1.  Determine the number of octets required from the character number
       and the first column of the table above.  It is important to note
       that the rows of the table are mutually exclusive, i.e.  there is
       only one valid way to encode a given character.
   2.  Prepare the high-order bits of the octets as per the second
       column of the table.
   3.  Fill in the bits marked x from the bits of the character number,
       expressed in binary.  Start from the lower-order bits of the
       character number and put them first in the last octet of the
       sequence, then the next to last, etc.  until all x bits are
       filled in.

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   The definition of UTF-8 prohibits encoding character numbers between
   U+D800 and U+DFFF, which are reserved for use with the UTF-16
   encoding form (as surrogate pairs) and do not directly represent
   characters.  When encoding in UTF-8 from UTF-16 data, it is necessary
   to first decode the UTF-16 data to obtain character numbers, which
   are then encoded in UTF-8 as described above.
   Decoding a UTF-8 character proceeds as follows:
   1.  Initialize a binary number with all bits set to 0.  Up to 31 bits
       may be needed (up to 21 if the range of character numbers is
       known to be restricted to the UTF-16 accessible range).
   2.  Determine which bits encode the character number from the number
       of octets in the sequence and the second column of the table
       above (the bits marked x).
   3.  Distribute the bits from the sequence to the binary number, first
       the lower-order bits from the last octet of the sequence and
       proceeding to the left until no x bits are left.  The binary
       number is now equal to the character number.

   Implementations of the decoding algorithm above MUST protect against
   decoding invalid sequences.  For instance, a naive implementation may
   decode the overlong UTF-8 sequence C0 80 into the character U+0000,
   or the surrogate pair ED A1 8C ED BE B4 into U+233B4.  Decoding
   invalid sequences may have security consequences or cause other
   problems.  See Security Considerations (Section 10) below.

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4. Syntax of UTF-8 Byte Sequences
   A UTF-8 string is a sequence of bytes representing a sequence of UCS
   characters.  The byte sequence is valid UTF-8 only if it matches the
   following syntax, which is derived from the rules for encoding UTF-8
   and is expressed in the ABNF of [RFC2234].

   UTF8-string = *( UTF8-char )
   UTF8-char   = UTF8-1 /
                 UTF8-2-head 1( UTF8-tail ) /
                 UTF8-3-head 1( UTF8-tail ) /
                 UTF8-4-head 2( UTF8-tail ) /
                 UTF8-5-head 3( UTF8-tail ) /
                 UTF8-6-head 4( UTF8-tail )
   UTF8-1      = %x00-7F
   UTF8-2-head = %xC2-DF
   UTF8-3-head = %xE0 %xA0-BF / %xE1-EC %x80-BF /
                 %xED %x80-9F / %xEE-EF %x80-BF
   UTF8-4-head = %xF0 %x90-BF / %xF1-F7 %x80-BF
   UTF8-5-head = %xF8 %x88-BF / %xF9-FB %x80-BF
   UTF8-6-head = %xFC %x84-BF / %xFD    %x80-BF
   UTF8-tail   = %x80-BF

   UTF8-string = *( UTF8-char )
   UTF8-char   = UTF8-1 / UTF8-2 / UTF8-3 / UTF8-4 / UTF8-5 / UTF8-6
   UTF8-char   = UTF8-1 /
                 UTF8-2 /
                 UTF8-3 /
                 UTF8-4 /
                 UTF8-5 /
   UTF8-1      = %x00-7F
   UTF8-2      = %xC2-DF UTF8-tail
   UTF8-3      = %xE0 %xA0-BF UTF8-tail / %xE1-EC 2( UTF8-tail ) /
                 %xED %x80-9F UTF8-tail / %xEE-EF 2( UTF8-tail )
   UTF8-4      = %xF0 %x90-BF 2( UTF8-tail ) / %xF1-F7 3( UTF8-tail )
   UTF8-5      = %xF8 %x88-BF 3( UTF8-tail ) / %xF9-FB 4( UTF8-tail )
   UTF8-6      = %xFC %x84-BF 4( UTF8-tail ) / %xFD 5( UTF8-tail )
   UTF8-tail   = %x80-BF

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5. Versions of the standards
   ISO/IEC 10646 is updated from time to time by publication of
   amendments and additional parts; similarly, new versions of the
   Unicode standard are published over time.  Each new version obsoletes
   and replaces the previous one, but implementations, and more
   significantly data, are not updated instantly.
   In general, the changes amount to adding new characters, which does
   not pose particular problems with old data.  In 1996, Amendment 5 to
   the 1993 edition of ISO/IEC 10646 and Unicode 2.0 moved and expanded
   the Korean Hangul block, thereby making any previous data containing
   Hangul characters invalid under the new version.  Unicode 2.0 has the
   same difference from Unicode 1.1.  The justification for allowing
   such an incompatible change was that there were no major
   implementations and no significant amounts of data containing Hangul.
   The incident has been dubbed the "Korean mess", and the relevant
   committees have pledged to never, ever again make such an
   incompatible change (see Unicode Consortium Policies [1]).
   New versions, and in particular any incompatible changes, have
   consequences regarding MIME charset labels, to be discussed in MIME
   registration (Section 8).

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6. Byte order mark (BOM)
   The Unicode Standard and ISO 10646 define the character "ZERO WIDTH
   NO-BREAK SPACE" (U+FEFF), which is also known informally as "BYTE
   ORDER MARK" (abbreviated "BOM").  The latter name hints at a second
   possible usage of the character, in addition to its normal use as a
   genuine "ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE" within text.  This usage,
   suggested by Unicode section 2.7 and ISO/IEC 10646 Annex H
   (informative), is to prepend a U+FEFF character to a stream of UCS
   characters as a "signature"; a receiver of such a serialized stream
   may then use the initial character as a hint that the stream consists
   of UCS characters.  The signature can also be used to recognize which
   UCS encoding is involved and, with encodings having a multi-octet
   encoding unit, as a way to recognize the serialization order of the
   octets.  UTF-8 having a single-octet encoding unit, this last
   function is useless and the BOM will always appear as the octet
   sequence EF BB BF.
   It is important to understand that the character U+FEFF appearing at
   any position other than the beginning of a stream MUST be interpreted
   with the semantics for the zero-width non-breaking space, and MUST
   NOT be interpreted as a byte-order mark.  The contrapositive of that
   statement is not always true: the character U+FEFF in the first
   position of a stream MAY be interpreted as a zero-width non-breaking
   space, and is not always a byte-order mark.  For example, if a
   process splits a UCS string into many parts, a part might begin with
   U+FEFF because there was a zero-width no-break space at the beginning
   of that substring.
   The Unicode standard further suggests than an initial U+FEFF
   character may be stripped before processing the text, the rationale
   being that such a character in initial position may be an artifact of
   the encoding (an encoding signature), not a genuine intended "ZERO
   WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE".  Note that such stripping might affect an
   external process at a different layer (such as a digital signature or
   a count of the characters) that is relying on the presence of all
   characters in the stream.
   In particular, in UTF-8 plain text it is likely, but not certain,
   that an initial octet sequence of EF BB BF is a signature.  When
   concatenating two strings, it is important to strip out those
   signatures, because otherwise the resulting string may contain an
   unintended "ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE" at the connection point.
   In an attempt at diminishing the uncertainty, Unicode 3.2 adds a new
   character, U+2060 WORD JOINER, with exactly the same semantics and
   usage as U+FEFF except for the signature function, and strongly
   recommends its exclusive use for expressing word-joining semantics.

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   Eventually, following this recommendation will make it all but
   certain that any initial U+FEFF is a signature, not an intended "ZERO

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7. Examples
   The character sequence U+0041 U+2262 U+0391 U+002E "A<NOT IDENTICAL
   TO><ALPHA>." is encoded in UTF-8 as follows:

       41 E2 89 A2 CE 91 2E
   The character sequence U+D55C U+AD6D U+C5B4 (Korean "hangugeo",
   meaning "the Korean language") is encoded in UTF-8 as follows:

       ED 95 9C EA B5 AD EC 96 B4
   The character sequence U+65E5 U+672C U+8A9E (Japanese "nihongo",
   meaning "the Japanese language") is encoded in UTF-8 as follows:

       E6 97 A5 E6 9C AC E8 AA 9E
   The character U+233B4 (a Chinese character meaning 'stump of tree'),
   prepended with a UTF-8 BOM, is encoded in UTF-8 as follows:

       EF BB BF F0 A3 8E B4

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8. MIME registration
   This memo serves as the basis for registration of the MIME charset
   parameter for UTF-8, according to [RFC2978].  The charset parameter
   value is "UTF-8".  This string labels media types containing text
   consisting of characters from the repertoire of ISO/IEC 10646
   including all amendments at least up to amendment 5 of the 1993
   edition (Korean block), encoded to a sequence of octets using the
   encoding scheme outlined above.  UTF-8 is suitable for use in MIME
   content types under the "text" top-level type.
   It is noteworthy that the label "UTF-8" does not contain a version
   identification, referring generically to ISO/IEC 10646.  This is
   intentional, the rationale being as follows:
   A MIME charset label is designed to give just the information needed
   to interpret a sequence of bytes received on the wire into a sequence
   of characters, nothing more (see [RFC2045], section 2.2).  As long as
   a character set standard does not change incompatibly, version
   numbers serve no purpose, because one gains nothing by learning from
   the tag that newly assigned characters may be received that one
   doesn't know about.  The tag itself doesn't teach anything about the
   new characters, which are going to be received anyway.
   Hence, as long as the standards evolve compatibly, the apparent
   advantage of having labels that identify the versions is only that,
   apparent.  But there is a disadvantage to such version-dependent
   labels: when an older application receives data accompanied by a
   newer, unknown label, it may fail to recognize the label and be
   completely unable to deal with the data, whereas a generic, known
   label would have triggered mostly correct processing of the data,
   which may well not contain any new characters.
   Now the "Korean mess" (ISO/IEC 10646 amendment 5) is an incompatible
   change, in principle contradicting the appropriateness of a version
   independent MIME charset label as described above.  But the
   compatibility problem can only appear with data containing Korean
   Hangul characters encoded according to Unicode 1.1 (or equivalently
   ISO/IEC 10646 before amendment 5), and there is arguably no such data
   to worry about, this being the very reason the incompatible change
   was deemed acceptable.
   In practice, then, a version-independent label is warranted, provided
   the label is understood to refer to all versions after Amendment 5,
   and provided no incompatible change actually occurs.  Should
   incompatible changes occur in a later version of ISO/IEC 10646, the
   MIME charset label defined here will stay aligned with the previous
   version until and unless the IETF specifically decides otherwise.

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9. IANA Considerations
   The entry for UTF-8 in the IANA charset registry should be updated to
   point to this memo.

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10. Security Considerations
   Implementors of UTF-8 need to consider the security aspects of how
   they handle illegal UTF-8 sequences.  It is conceivable that in some
   circumstances an attacker would be able to exploit an incautious UTF-
   8 parser by sending it an octet sequence that is not permitted by the
   UTF-8 syntax.
   A particularly subtle form of this attack can be carried out against
   a parser which performs security-critical validity checks against the
   UTF-8 encoded form of its input, but interprets certain illegal octet
   sequences as characters.  For example, a parser might prohibit the
   NUL character when encoded as the single-octet sequence 00, but
   erroneously allow the illegal two-octet sequence C0 80 and interpret
   it as a NUL character.  Another example might be a parser which
   prohibits the octet sequence 2F 2E 2E 2F ("/../"), yet permits the
   illegal octet sequence 2F C0 AE 2E 2F.  This last exploit has
   actually been used in a widespread virus attacking Web servers in
   2001; the security threat is thus very real.

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   [FSS_UTF]      X/Open Company Ltd., "X/Open CAE Specification C501 --
                  File System Safe UCS Transformation Format (FSS_UTF)",
                  ISBN 1-85912-082-2, April 1995.

   [ISO.10646-1]  International Organization for Standardization,
                  "Information Technology - Universal Multiple-octet
                  coded Character Set (UCS) - Part 1: Architecture and
                  Basic Multilingual Plane", ISO Standard 10646-1, 2000.

   [RFC2045]      Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "Multipurpose Internet
                  Mail Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet
                  Message Bodies", RFC 2045, November 1996.

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

   [RFC2234]      Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
                  Specifications: ABNF", RFC 2234, November 1997.

   [RFC2978]      Freed, N. and J. Postel, "IANA Charset Registration
                  Procedures", BCP 19, RFC 2978, October 2000.

   [UNICODE]      The Unicode Consortium, "The Unicode Standard --
                  Version 3.2",  defined by The Unicode Standard,
                  Version 3.0 (Reading, MA, Addison-Wesley, 2000. ISBN
                  0-201-61633-5), as amended by the Unicode Standard
                  Annex #27: Unicode 3.1 (see http://www.unicode.org/
                  reports/tr27) and by the Unicode Standard Annex #28:
                  Unicode 3.2 (see http://www.unicode.org/reports/tr28),
                  March 2002, <http://www.unicode.org/unicode/standard/

   [US-ASCII]     American National Standards Institute, "Coded
                  Character Set - 7-bit American Standard Code for
                  Information Interchange", ANSI X3.4, 1986.

   [1]  <http://www.unicode.org/unicode/standard/policies.html>

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Author's Address

   FranȺois Yergeau
   Alis Technologies
   100, boul. Alexis-Nihon, bureau 600
   MontrȨal, QC  H4M 2P2

   Phone: +1 514 747 2547
   Fax:   +1 514 747 2561
   EMail: fyergeau@alis.com

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Appendix A. Acknowledgements
   The following have participated in the drafting and discussion of
   this memo: James E.  Agenbroad, Harald Alvestrand, Andries Brouwer,
   Mark Davis, Martin J.  DÈ­rst, Patrick FÈñltstrȵm, Ned Freed, David
   Goldsmith, Tony Hansen, Edwin F.  Hart, Paul Hoffman, David Hopwood,
   Kent Karlsson, Markus Kuhn, Michael Kung, Alain LaBontȨ, John
   Gardiner Myers, Dan Oscarsson, Murray Sargent, Markus Scherer, Keld
   Simonsen, Arnold Winkler, Kenneth Whistler and Misha Wolf.

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Appendix B. Changes from RFC 2279
   o  Significantly shortened Introduction.  No more mention of UTF-1 or
      UTF-7, of Transformation Formats.
   o  Straightened out terminology.  UTF-8 now described in terms of an
      encoding form of the character number.  UCS-2 and UCS-4 almost
   o  Note warning against decoding of invalid sequences turned into a
      normative MUST NOT.
   o  New section about the BOM, mostly extracted and slightly adapted
      from RFC 2781.
   o  Updated a couple of references (10646-1:2000, Unicode 3.2, RFC
   o  Added TOC.
   o  Removed suggested UNICODE-1-1-UTF-8 MIME charset registration.
   o  New "Notational conventions" section about RFC 2119 and U+HHHH
   o  Pointer to Unicode Consortium Policies added in "Versions of the
      standards" section.
   o  Added a fourth example with a non-BMP character and a BOM.
   o  Added a paragraph about U+2060 WORD JOINER.
   o  Enumerate more byte values impossible in UTF-8, either as a result
      of forbidding overlong sequences or of restricting to the UTF-16
      accessible range.
   o  Added "IANA Considerations" section to ask that the UTF-8 entry in
      the charset registry point to this memo.

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Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2002).  All Rights Reserved.

   This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
   others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
   or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
   and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
   kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
   included on all such copies and derivative works.  However, this
   document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
   the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
   Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
   developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
   copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
   followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than

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Yergeau                   Expires March 2, 2003                [Page 20]