Network Working Group                                        J. Peterson
Request for Comments: 3861                                       NeuStar
Category: Standards Track                                    August 2004

         Address Resolution for Instant Messaging and Presence

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).


   Presence and instant messaging are defined in RFC 2778.  The Common
   Profiles for Presence and Instant Messaging define two Universal
   Resource Identifier (URI) schemes: 'im' for INSTANT INBOXes and
   'pres' for PRESENTITIES.  This document provides guidance for
   locating the resources associated with URIs that employ these

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
   3.  Address Resolution. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
   4.  Domain Name Lookup. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   5.  Processing SRV RRs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   6.  Processing Multiple Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   8.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   9.  Contributors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   10. Normative References. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   11. Author's Address. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   12. Full Copyright Statement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

1.  Introduction

   Presence and instant messaging are defined in RFC 2778 [5].  The
   Common Profiles for Presence (CPP) [2] and Instant Messaging (CPIM)
   [1] define two Universal Resource Identifier (URI) schemes: 'im' for
   INSTANT INBOXes and 'pres' for PRESENTITIES.  This document provides
   rules for locating the resources associated with URIs that employ
   these schemes via the Domain Name Service (DNS) [4].  These rules
   could no doubt be applied to the resolution of other URI schemes that
   are unrelated to instant messaging and presence.

   CPIM and CPP both specify operations that have 'source' and
   'destination' attributes.  While only the semantics, not the syntax,
   of these attributes are defined by CPIM and CPP, many instant
   messaging and presence protocols today support the use of URIs to
   reflect the source and destination of their operations.  The 'im' and
   'pres' URI schemes allow such protocols to express the identities of
   the principals associated with a protocol exchange.  When these
   operations pass through a CPIM or CPP gateway, these URIs could be
   relayed without modification, which has a number of desirable
   properties for the purposes of interoperability.

   These URI schemes are also useful in cases where no CPIM/CPP
   gatewaying will occur.  If a particular principal's endpoint supports
   multiple instant messaging applications, for example, then a domain
   that identifies that host might use the sort of DNS records described
   in this document to provide greater compatibility with clients that
   support only one instant messaging protocol.  A client would look up
   the corresponding record to the supported protocol, and learn how to
   contact the endpoint for that protocol.  The principal in this
   instance would use an IM URI as their canonical address.

   In some architectures, these URIs might also be used to locate a CPIM
   or CPP gateway that serves a particular domain.  If a particular IM
   service provider wishes to operate CPIM/CPP gateways in its own
   domain that map standard Internet protocols to an internal
   proprietary protocol, that gateway could be identified by an IM URI.
   In that case, the DNS records used to dereference the IM URI would
   serve a purpose similar to that of Mail Exchange (MX) records.

   The system described in this document relies on the use of DNS
   service (SRV) [7] records and address (A) records.

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

2.  Terminology

   In this document, the key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED",
   RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" are to be interpreted as
   described in BCP 14, RFC 2119 [3] and indicate requirement levels for
   compliant implementations.

   This memo makes use of the vocabulary defined in RFC 2778 [5].  Terms
   the same meaning as defined therein.

3.  Address Resolution

   A client determines the address of an appropriate system running a
   server, on behalf of the system referenced by the domain, by
   resolving the destination domain name that is part of the identifier
   to either an intermediate relay system or a final target system.

   Only resolvable, fully-qualified, domain names (FQDNs) are permitted
   when domain names are used in an Instant Messaging (IM) URI (i.e.,
   domain names that can be resolved to SRV [7] or A Resource Record

   The symbolic name used in the Service field of the SRV record is
   "_im" for instant messaging and "_pres" for presence (matching their
   respective URI schemes).  However, the advertisement of these
   services in the DNS is incomplete if it does not include the protocol
   that will be used to instantiate the instant messaging or presence
   operations.  Thus, the Protocol field of the SRV record contains an
   IANA-registered label corresponding to the underlying instant
   messaging or presence protocol being advertised (see Section 8 for
   more information on valid Protocol fields).

   Taking the IM URI as a concrete example, a lookup is performed for
   SRVs for the target domain, a desired service (using the "_im"
   Service label) and a desired IM transfer protocol.  If the
   destination INSTANT INBOX is "", and the sender
   wishes to use an IM transfer protocol called "BIP" (and supposing
   "_bip" were registered with IANA as a valid Protocol label for the IM
   Service), then a SRV lookup is performed for:

   The same procedure is used for PRES URIs, with the "_pres" Service

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

   Some clients may support multiple instant messaging or presence
   protocols; in these cases they may make several such SRV queries, in
   an application-specific order, until they find one supported in
   common with the target domain.

4.  Domain Name Lookup

   Once a client lexically identifies a domain to which instant
   messaging or presence operations will be delivered for processing, a
   DNS lookup MUST be performed to resolve the domain.  The names MUST
   be fully-qualified domain names (FQDNs) -- mechanisms for inferring
   FQDNs from partial names or local aliases are a local matter.

   The lookup first attempts to locate SRV RRs associated with the
   domain.  If a canonical name (CNAME) RR is found instead, the
   resulting domain is processed as if it were the initial domain.

   If one or more SRV RRs are found for a given domain, a sender MUST
   NOT utilize any A RRs associated with that domain unless they are
   located using the SRV RRs.  If no SRV RRs are found, but an A RR is
   found, then the A RR is treated as if it was associated with an
   implicit SRV RR, with a preference of 0, pointing to that domain.

5.  Processing SRV RRs

   The returned DNS RRs, if any, specify the next-hop server, which may
   be a protocol gateway or an endpoint.

   Receiving systems that are registered for this DNS-based SRV
   resolution service list the transfer protocols by which they can be
   reached, either directly or through a translating gateway (using
   combinations of Service and Protocol labels as described above).  The
   transfer-time choice of the IM transfer protocol to be used (and,
   therefore, to be resolved) is a local configuration option for each
   sending system.

   Using this mechanism, seamless routing of IM traffic is possible,
   regardless of whether a gateway is necessary for interoperation.  To
   achieve this transparency, a separate RR for a gateway must be
   present for each transfer protocol and domain pair that it serves.

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

6.  Processing Multiple Addresses

   When the lookup succeeds, the mapping can result in a list of
   alternative delivery addresses rather than a single address, because
   of multiple SRV records.  For reliable operations, the client MUST be
   able to try each of the relevant addresses in this list in order,
   until a delivery attempt succeeds.  However, there MAY also be a
   configurable limit on the number of alternate addresses that can be
   tried.  In any case, the client SHOULD try at least two addresses.

   Resolvers must follow the standard procedures in RFC 2782 [7] for
   handling the priority and weight fields of SRV records.

7.  Security Considerations

   The usage of IM and PRES URIs, and the DNS procedures in this
   document, introduce no security considerations beyond those described
   in the requirements for instant messaging and presence ([6]) and the
   SRV specification ([7]).

   Subsequent registrations of Protocol labels for use with the "_im" or
   "_pres" Service labels MUST, however, explain any security
   considerations that arise from the use of the protocol in question
   with SRV.

8.  IANA Considerations

   This document reserves the use of "_im" and "_pres" Service labels.
   Since these relate to a service which may pass messages over a number
   of different message transports, they must be associated with a
   specific instant messaging or presence service.

   In order to ensure that the association between "_im" and "_pres" and
   their respective underlying services are deterministic, the IANA has
   created two independent registries: the Instant Messaging SRV
   Protocol Label registry and the Presence SRV Protocol Label registry.
   For each registry, an entry shall consist of a label name and a
   pointer to a specification describing how the protocol named in the
   label uses SRV.  Specifications should conform to the requirements
   listed in RFC 2434 [8] for "specification required".

   Protocol labels compliant with this specification MUST begin with the
   underscore character "_" and follow all other rules for SRV Protocol
   labels described in [7].

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

9.  Contributors

   Dave Crocker edited earlier versions of this document.

   The following individuals made substantial textual contributions to
   this document:

      Athanassios Diacakis (

      Florencio Mazzoldi (

      Christian Huitema (

      Graham Klyne (

      Jonathan Rosenberg (

      Robert Sparks (

      Hiroyasu Sugano (

10.  Normative References

   [1]  Peterson, J., "Common Profile for Instant Messaging (CPIM)", RFC
        3860, August 2004.

   [2]  Peterson, J., "Common Profile for Presence (CPP)", RFC 3859,
        August 2004.

   [3]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to indicate requirement
        levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

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

   [5]  Day, M., Rosenberg, J., and H. Sugano, "A Model for Presence and
        Instant Messaging", RFC 2778, February 2000.

   [6]  Day, M., Aggarwal, S., and J. Vincent, "Instant Messaging /
        Presence Protocol Requirements", RFC 2779, February 2000.

   [7]  Gulbrandsen, A., Vixie, P., and L. Esibov, "A DNS RR for
        Specifying the Location of Services (SRV)", RFC 2782, February

   [8]  Narten, T. and H. Alvestrand, "Guidelines for Writing an IANA
        Considerations Section in RFCs", RFC 2434, BCP 26, October 1998.

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

11.  Author's Address

   Jon Peterson
   NeuStar, Inc.
   1800 Sutter St
   Suite 570
   Concord, CA  94520

   Phone: +1 925/363-8720

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RFC 3861                        IM&P SRV                     August 2004

12.  Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  This document is subject
   to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78, and
   except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

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