Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                  奥 一穂 (K. Oku)
Request for Comments: 9218                                        Fastly
Category: Standards Track                                      L. Pardue
ISSN: 2070-1721                                               Cloudflare
                                                               June 2022


               Extensible Prioritization Scheme for HTTP

Abstract

   This document describes a scheme that allows an HTTP client to
   communicate its preferences for how the upstream server prioritizes
   responses to its requests, and also allows a server to hint to a
   downstream intermediary how its responses should be prioritized when
   they are forwarded.  This document defines the Priority header field
   for communicating the initial priority in an HTTP version-independent
   manner, as well as HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 frames for reprioritizing
   responses.  These share a common format structure that is designed to
   provide future extensibility.

Status of This Memo

   This is an Internet Standards Track document.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Further information on
   Internet Standards is available in Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
   https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9218.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2022 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
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   Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as described
   in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
     1.1.  Notational Conventions
   2.  Motivation for Replacing RFC 7540 Stream Priorities
     2.1.  Disabling RFC 7540 Stream Priorities
       2.1.1.  Advice when Using Extensible Priorities as the
               Alternative
   3.  Applicability of the Extensible Priority Scheme
   4.  Priority Parameters
     4.1.  Urgency
     4.2.  Incremental
     4.3.  Defining New Priority Parameters
       4.3.1.  Registration
   5.  The Priority HTTP Header Field
   6.  Reprioritization
   7.  The PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame
     7.1.  HTTP/2 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame
     7.2.  HTTP/3 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame
   8.  Merging Client- and Server-Driven Priority Parameters
   9.  Client Scheduling
   10. Server Scheduling
     10.1.  Intermediaries with Multiple Backend Connections
   11. Scheduling and the CONNECT Method
   12. Retransmission Scheduling
   13. Fairness
     13.1.  Coalescing Intermediaries
     13.2.  HTTP/1.x Back Ends
     13.3.  Intentional Introduction of Unfairness
   14. Why Use an End-to-End Header Field?
   15. Security Considerations
   16. IANA Considerations
   17. References
     17.1.  Normative References
     17.2.  Informative References
   Acknowledgements
   Authors' Addresses

1.  Introduction

   It is common for representations of an HTTP [HTTP] resource to have
   relationships to one or more other resources.  Clients will often
   discover these relationships while processing a retrieved
   representation, which may lead to further retrieval requests.
   Meanwhile, the nature of the relationships determines whether a
   client is blocked from continuing to process locally available
   resources.  An example of this is the visual rendering of an HTML
   document, which could be blocked by the retrieval of a Cascading
   Style Sheets (CSS) file that the document refers to.  In contrast,
   inline images do not block rendering and get drawn incrementally as
   the chunks of the images arrive.

   HTTP/2 [HTTP/2] and HTTP/3 [HTTP/3] support multiplexing of requests
   and responses in a single connection.  An important feature of any
   implementation of a protocol that provides multiplexing is the
   ability to prioritize the sending of information.  For example, to
   provide meaningful presentation of an HTML document at the earliest
   moment, it is important for an HTTP server to prioritize the HTTP
   responses, or the chunks of those HTTP responses, that it sends to a
   client.

   HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 servers can schedule transmission of concurrent
   response data by any means they choose.  Servers can ignore client
   priority signals and still successfully serve HTTP responses.
   However, servers that operate in ignorance of how clients issue
   requests and consume responses can cause suboptimal client
   application performance.  Priority signals allow clients to
   communicate their view of request priority.  Servers have their own
   needs that are independent of client needs, so they often combine
   priority signals with other available information in order to inform
   scheduling of response data.

   RFC 7540 [RFC7540] stream priority allowed a client to send a series
   of priority signals that communicate to the server a "priority tree";
   the structure of this tree represents the client's preferred relative
   ordering and weighted distribution of the bandwidth among HTTP
   responses.  Servers could use these priority signals as input into
   prioritization decisions.

   The design and implementation of RFC 7540 stream priority were
   observed to have shortcomings, as explained in Section 2.  HTTP/2
   [HTTP/2] has consequently deprecated the use of these stream priority
   signals.  The prioritization scheme and priority signals defined
   herein can act as a substitute for RFC 7540 stream priority.

   This document describes an extensible scheme for prioritizing HTTP
   responses that uses absolute values.  Section 4 defines priority
   parameters, which are a standardized and extensible format of
   priority information.  Section 5 defines the Priority HTTP header
   field, which is an end-to-end priority signal that is independent of
   protocol version.  Clients can send this header field to signal their
   view of how responses should be prioritized.  Similarly, servers
   behind an intermediary can use it to signal priority to the
   intermediary.  After sending a request, a client can change their
   view of response priority (see Section 6) by sending HTTP-version-
   specific frames as defined in Sections 7.1 and 7.2.

   Header field and frame priority signals are input to a server's
   response prioritization process.  They are only a suggestion and do
   not guarantee any particular processing or transmission order for one
   response relative to any other response.  Sections 10 and 12 provide
   considerations and guidance about how servers might act upon signals.

1.1.  Notational Conventions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   This document uses the following terminology from Section 3 of
   [STRUCTURED-FIELDS] to specify syntax and parsing: "Boolean",
   "Dictionary", and "Integer".

   Example HTTP requests and responses use the HTTP/2-style formatting
   from [HTTP/2].

   This document uses the variable-length integer encoding from [QUIC].

   The term "control stream" is used to describe both the HTTP/2 stream
   with identifier 0x0 and the HTTP/3 control stream; see Section 6.2.1
   of [HTTP/3].

   The term "HTTP/2 priority signal" is used to describe the priority
   information sent from clients to servers in HTTP/2 frames; see
   Section 5.3.2 of [HTTP/2].

2.  Motivation for Replacing RFC 7540 Stream Priorities

   RFC 7540 stream priority (see Section 5.3 of [RFC7540]) is a complex
   system where clients signal stream dependencies and weights to
   describe an unbalanced tree.  It suffered from limited deployment and
   interoperability and has been deprecated in a revision of HTTP/2
   [HTTP/2].  HTTP/2 retains these protocol elements in order to
   maintain wire compatibility (see Section 5.3.2 of [HTTP/2]), which
   means that they might still be used even in the presence of
   alternative signaling, such as the scheme this document describes.

   Many RFC 7540 server implementations do not act on HTTP/2 priority
   signals.

   Prioritization can use information that servers have about resources
   or the order in which requests are generated.  For example, a server,
   with knowledge of an HTML document structure, might want to
   prioritize the delivery of images that are critical to user
   experience above other images.  With RFC 7540, it is difficult for
   servers to interpret signals from clients for prioritization, as the
   same conditions could result in very different signaling from
   different clients.  This document describes signaling that is simpler
   and more constrained, requiring less interpretation and allowing less
   variation.

   RFC 7540 does not define a method that can be used by a server to
   provide a priority signal for intermediaries.

   RFC 7540 stream priority is expressed relative to other requests
   sharing the same connection at the same time.  It is difficult to
   incorporate such a design into applications that generate requests
   without knowledge of how other requests might share a connection, or
   into protocols that do not have strong ordering guarantees across
   streams, like HTTP/3 [HTTP/3].

   Experiments from independent research [MARX] have shown that simpler
   schemes can reach at least equivalent performance characteristics
   compared to the more complex RFC 7540 setups seen in practice, at
   least for the Web use case.

2.1.  Disabling RFC 7540 Stream Priorities

   The problems and insights set out above provided the motivation for
   an alternative to RFC 7540 stream priority (see Section 5.3 of
   [HTTP/2]).

   The SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES HTTP/2 setting is defined by this
   document in order to allow endpoints to omit or ignore HTTP/2
   priority signals (see Section 5.3.2 of [HTTP/2]), as described below.
   The value of SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES MUST be 0 or 1.  Any
   value other than 0 or 1 MUST be treated as a connection error (see
   Section 5.4.1 of [HTTP/2]) of type PROTOCOL_ERROR.  The initial value
   is 0.

   If endpoints use SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES, they MUST send it in
   the first SETTINGS frame.  Senders MUST NOT change the
   SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES value after the first SETTINGS frame.
   Receivers that detect a change MAY treat it as a connection error of
   type PROTOCOL_ERROR.

   Clients can send SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES with a value of 1 to
   indicate that they are not using HTTP/2 priority signals.  The
   SETTINGS frame precedes any HTTP/2 priority signal sent from clients,
   so servers can determine whether they need to allocate any resources
   to signal handling before signals arrive.  A server that receives
   SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES with a value of 1 MUST ignore HTTP/2
   priority signals.

   Servers can send SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES with a value of 1 to
   indicate that they will ignore HTTP/2 priority signals sent by
   clients.

   Endpoints that send SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES are encouraged to
   use alternative priority signals (for example, see Section 5 or
   Section 7.1), but there is no requirement to use a specific signal
   type.

2.1.1.  Advice when Using Extensible Priorities as the Alternative

   Before receiving a SETTINGS frame from a server, a client does not
   know if the server is ignoring HTTP/2 priority signals.  Therefore,
   until the client receives the SETTINGS frame from the server, the
   client SHOULD send both the HTTP/2 priority signals and the signals
   of this prioritization scheme (see Sections 5 and 7.1).

   Once the client receives the first SETTINGS frame that contains the
   SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES parameter with a value of 1, it SHOULD
   stop sending the HTTP/2 priority signals.  This avoids sending
   redundant signals that are known to be ignored.

   Similarly, if the client receives SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES with
   a value of 0 or if the settings parameter was absent, it SHOULD stop
   sending PRIORITY_UPDATE frames (Section 7.1), since those frames are
   likely to be ignored.  However, the client MAY continue sending the
   Priority header field (Section 5), as it is an end-to-end signal that
   might be useful to nodes behind the server that the client is
   directly connected to.

3.  Applicability of the Extensible Priority Scheme

   The priority scheme defined by this document is primarily focused on
   the prioritization of HTTP response messages (see Section 3.4 of
   [HTTP]).  It defines new priority parameters (Section 4) and a means
   of conveying those parameters (Sections 5 and 7), which is intended
   to communicate the priority of responses to a server that is
   responsible for prioritizing them.  Section 10 provides
   considerations for servers about acting on those signals in
   combination with other inputs and factors.

   The CONNECT method (see Section 9.3.6 of [HTTP]) can be used to
   establish tunnels.  Signaling applies similarly to tunnels;
   additional considerations for server prioritization are given in
   Section 11.

   Section 9 describes how clients can optionally apply elements of this
   scheme locally to the request messages that they generate.

   Some forms of HTTP extensions might change HTTP/2 or HTTP/3 stream
   behavior or define new data carriage mechanisms.  Such extensions can
   themselves define how this priority scheme is to be applied.

4.  Priority Parameters

   The priority information is a sequence of key-value pairs, providing
   room for future extensions.  Each key-value pair represents a
   priority parameter.

   The Priority HTTP header field (Section 5) is an end-to-end way to
   transmit this set of priority parameters when a request or a response
   is issued.  After sending a request, a client can change their view
   of response priority (Section 6) by sending HTTP-version-specific
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frames as defined in Sections 7.1 and 7.2.  Frames
   transmit priority parameters on a single hop only.

   Intermediaries can consume and produce priority signals in a
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frame or Priority header field.  An intermediary that
   passes only the Priority request header field to the next hop
   preserves the original end-to-end signal from the client; see
   Section 14.  An intermediary could pass the Priority header field and
   additionally send a PRIORITY_UPDATE frame.  This would have the
   effect of preserving the original client end-to-end signal, while
   instructing the next hop to use a different priority, per the
   guidance in Section 7.  An intermediary that replaces or adds a
   Priority request header field overrides the original client end-to-
   end signal, which can affect prioritization for all subsequent
   recipients of the request.

   For both the Priority header field and the PRIORITY_UPDATE frame, the
   set of priority parameters is encoded as a Dictionary (see
   Section 3.2 of [STRUCTURED-FIELDS]).

   This document defines the urgency (u) and incremental (i) priority
   parameters.  When receiving an HTTP request that does not carry these
   priority parameters, a server SHOULD act as if their default values
   were specified.

   An intermediary can combine signals from requests and responses that
   it forwards.  Note that omission of priority parameters in responses
   is handled differently from omission in requests; see Section 8.

   Receivers parse the Dictionary as described in Section 4.2 of
   [STRUCTURED-FIELDS].  Where the Dictionary is successfully parsed,
   this document places the additional requirement that unknown priority
   parameters, priority parameters with out-of-range values, or values
   of unexpected types MUST be ignored.

4.1.  Urgency

   The urgency (u) parameter value is Integer (see Section 3.3.1 of
   [STRUCTURED-FIELDS]), between 0 and 7 inclusive, in descending order
   of priority.  The default is 3.

   Endpoints use this parameter to communicate their view of the
   precedence of HTTP responses.  The chosen value of urgency can be
   based on the expectation that servers might use this information to
   transmit HTTP responses in the order of their urgency.  The smaller
   the value, the higher the precedence.

   The following example shows a request for a CSS file with the urgency
   set to 0:

   :method = GET
   :scheme = https
   :authority = example.net
   :path = /style.css
   priority = u=0

   A client that fetches a document that likely consists of multiple
   HTTP resources (e.g., HTML) SHOULD assign the default urgency level
   to the main resource.  This convention allows servers to refine the
   urgency using knowledge specific to the website (see Section 8).

   The lowest urgency level (7) is reserved for background tasks such as
   delivery of software updates.  This urgency level SHOULD NOT be used
   for fetching responses that have any impact on user interaction.

4.2.  Incremental

   The incremental (i) parameter value is Boolean (see Section 3.3.6 of
   [STRUCTURED-FIELDS]).  It indicates if an HTTP response can be
   processed incrementally, i.e., provide some meaningful output as
   chunks of the response arrive.

   The default value of the incremental parameter is false (0).

   If a client makes concurrent requests with the incremental parameter
   set to false, there is no benefit in serving responses with the same
   urgency concurrently because the client is not going to process those
   responses incrementally.  Serving non-incremental responses with the
   same urgency one by one, in the order in which those requests were
   generated, is considered to be the best strategy.

   If a client makes concurrent requests with the incremental parameter
   set to true, serving requests with the same urgency concurrently
   might be beneficial.  Doing this distributes the connection
   bandwidth, meaning that responses take longer to complete.
   Incremental delivery is most useful where multiple partial responses
   might provide some value to clients ahead of a complete response
   being available.

   The following example shows a request for a JPEG file with the
   urgency parameter set to 5 and the incremental parameter set to true.

   :method = GET
   :scheme = https
   :authority = example.net
   :path = /image.jpg
   priority = u=5, i

4.3.  Defining New Priority Parameters

   When attempting to define new priority parameters, care must be taken
   so that they do not adversely interfere with prioritization performed
   by existing endpoints or intermediaries that do not understand the
   newly defined priority parameters.  Since unknown priority parameters
   are ignored, new priority parameters should not change the
   interpretation of, or modify, the urgency (see Section 4.1) or
   incremental (see Section 4.2) priority parameters in a way that is
   not backwards compatible or fallback safe.

   For example, if there is a need to provide more granularity than
   eight urgency levels, it would be possible to subdivide the range
   using an additional priority parameter.  Implementations that do not
   recognize the parameter can safely continue to use the less granular
   eight levels.

   Alternatively, the urgency can be augmented.  For example, a
   graphical user agent could send a visible priority parameter to
   indicate if the resource being requested is within the viewport.

   Generic priority parameters are preferred over vendor-specific,
   application-specific, or deployment-specific values.  If a generic
   value cannot be agreed upon in the community, the parameter's name
   should be correspondingly specific (e.g., with a prefix that
   identifies the vendor, application, or deployment).

4.3.1.  Registration

   New priority parameters can be defined by registering them in the
   "HTTP Priority" registry.  This registry governs the keys (short
   textual strings) used in the Dictionary (see Section 3.2 of
   [STRUCTURED-FIELDS]).  Since each HTTP request can have associated
   priority signals, there is value in having short key lengths,
   especially single-character strings.  In order to encourage
   extensions while avoiding unintended conflict among attractive key
   values, the "HTTP Priority" registry operates two registration
   policies, depending on key length.

   *  Registration requests for priority parameters with a key length of
      one use the Specification Required policy, per Section 4.6 of
      [RFC8126].

   *  Registration requests for priority parameters with a key length
      greater than one use the Expert Review policy, per Section 4.5 of
      [RFC8126].  A specification document is appreciated but not
      required.

   When reviewing registration requests, the designated expert(s) can
   consider the additional guidance provided in Section 4.3 but cannot
   use it as a basis for rejection.

   Registration requests should use the following template:

   Name:  [a name for the priority parameter that matches the parameter
      key]

   Description:  [a description of the priority parameter semantics and
      value]

   Reference:  [to a specification defining this priority parameter]

   See the registry at <https://www.iana.org/assignments/http-priority>
   for details on where to send registration requests.

5.  The Priority HTTP Header Field

   The Priority HTTP header field is a Dictionary that carries priority
   parameters (see Section 4).  It can appear in requests and responses.
   It is an end-to-end signal that indicates the endpoint's view of how
   HTTP responses should be prioritized.  Section 8 describes how
   intermediaries can combine the priority information sent from clients
   and servers.  Clients cannot interpret the appearance or omission of
   a Priority response header field as acknowledgement that any
   prioritization has occurred.  Guidance for how endpoints can act on
   Priority header values is given in Sections 9 and 10.

   An HTTP request with a Priority header field might be cached and
   reused for subsequent requests; see [CACHING].  When an origin server
   generates the Priority response header field based on properties of
   an HTTP request it receives, the server is expected to control the
   cacheability or the applicability of the cached response by using
   header fields that control the caching behavior (e.g., Cache-Control,
   Vary).

6.  Reprioritization

   After a client sends a request, it may be beneficial to change the
   priority of the response.  As an example, a web browser might issue a
   prefetch request for a JavaScript file with the urgency parameter of
   the Priority request header field set to u=7 (background).  Then,
   when the user navigates to a page that references the new JavaScript
   file, while the prefetch is in progress, the browser would send a
   reprioritization signal with the Priority Field Value set to u=0.
   The PRIORITY_UPDATE frame (Section 7) can be used for such
   reprioritization.

7.  The PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame

   This document specifies a new PRIORITY_UPDATE frame for HTTP/2
   [HTTP/2] and HTTP/3 [HTTP/3].  It carries priority parameters and
   references the target of the prioritization based on a version-
   specific identifier.  In HTTP/2, this identifier is the stream ID; in
   HTTP/3, the identifier is either the stream ID or push ID.  Unlike
   the Priority header field, the PRIORITY_UPDATE frame is a hop-by-hop
   signal.

   PRIORITY_UPDATE frames are sent by clients on the control stream,
   allowing them to be sent independently of the stream that carries the
   response.  This means they can be used to reprioritize a response or
   a push stream, or to signal the initial priority of a response
   instead of the Priority header field.

   A PRIORITY_UPDATE frame communicates a complete set of all priority
   parameters in the Priority Field Value field.  Omitting a priority
   parameter is a signal to use its default value.  Failure to parse the
   Priority Field Value MAY be treated as a connection error.  In
   HTTP/2, the error is of type PROTOCOL_ERROR; in HTTP/3, the error is
   of type H3_GENERAL_PROTOCOL_ERROR.

   A client MAY send a PRIORITY_UPDATE frame before the stream that it
   references is open (except for HTTP/2 push streams; see Section 7.1).
   Furthermore, HTTP/3 offers no guaranteed ordering across streams,
   which could cause the frame to be received earlier than intended.
   Either case leads to a race condition where a server receives a
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frame that references a request stream that is yet to
   be opened.  To solve this condition, for the purposes of scheduling,
   the most recently received PRIORITY_UPDATE frame can be considered as
   the most up-to-date information that overrides any other signal.
   Servers SHOULD buffer the most recently received PRIORITY_UPDATE
   frame and apply it once the referenced stream is opened.  Holding
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frames for each stream requires server resources,
   which can be bounded by local implementation policy.  Although there
   is no limit to the number of PRIORITY_UPDATE frames that can be sent,
   storing only the most recently received frame limits resource
   commitment.

7.1.  HTTP/2 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame

   The HTTP/2 PRIORITY_UPDATE frame (type=0x10) is used by clients to
   signal the initial priority of a response, or to reprioritize a
   response or push stream.  It carries the stream ID of the response
   and the priority in ASCII text, using the same representation as the
   Priority header field value.

   The Stream Identifier field (see Section 5.1.1 of [HTTP/2]) in the
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frame header MUST be zero (0x0).  Receiving a
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frame with a field of any other value MUST be treated
   as a connection error of type PROTOCOL_ERROR.

   HTTP/2 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame {
     Length (24),
     Type (8) = 0x10,

     Unused Flags (8),

     Reserved (1),
     Stream Identifier (31),

     Reserved (1),
     Prioritized Stream ID (31),
     Priority Field Value (..),
   }

               Figure 1: HTTP/2 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame Format

   The Length, Type, Unused Flag(s), Reserved, and Stream Identifier
   fields are described in Section 4 of [HTTP/2].  The PRIORITY_UPDATE
   frame payload contains the following additional fields:

   Prioritized Stream ID:  A 31-bit stream identifier for the stream
      that is the target of the priority update.

   Priority Field Value:  The priority update value in ASCII text,
      encoded using Structured Fields.  This is the same representation
      as the Priority header field value.

   When the PRIORITY_UPDATE frame applies to a request stream, clients
   SHOULD provide a prioritized stream ID that refers to a stream in the
   "open", "half-closed (local)", or "idle" state (i.e., streams where
   data might still be received).  Servers can discard frames where the
   prioritized stream ID refers to a stream in the "half-closed (local)"
   or "closed" state (i.e., streams where no further data will be sent).
   The number of streams that have been prioritized but remain in the
   "idle" state plus the number of active streams (those in the "open"
   state or in either of the "half-closed" states; see Section 5.1.2 of
   [HTTP/2]) MUST NOT exceed the value of the
   SETTINGS_MAX_CONCURRENT_STREAMS parameter.  Servers that receive such
   a PRIORITY_UPDATE MUST respond with a connection error of type
   PROTOCOL_ERROR.

   When the PRIORITY_UPDATE frame applies to a push stream, clients
   SHOULD provide a prioritized stream ID that refers to a stream in the
   "reserved (remote)" or "half-closed (local)" state.  Servers can
   discard frames where the prioritized stream ID refers to a stream in
   the "closed" state.  Clients MUST NOT provide a prioritized stream ID
   that refers to a push stream in the "idle" state.  Servers that
   receive a PRIORITY_UPDATE for a push stream in the "idle" state MUST
   respond with a connection error of type PROTOCOL_ERROR.

   If a PRIORITY_UPDATE frame is received with a prioritized stream ID
   of 0x0, the recipient MUST respond with a connection error of type
   PROTOCOL_ERROR.

   Servers MUST NOT send PRIORITY_UPDATE frames.  If a client receives a
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frame, it MUST respond with a connection error of
   type PROTOCOL_ERROR.

7.2.  HTTP/3 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame

   The HTTP/3 PRIORITY_UPDATE frame (type=0xF0700 or 0xF0701) is used by
   clients to signal the initial priority of a response, or to
   reprioritize a response or push stream.  It carries the identifier of
   the element that is being prioritized and the updated priority in
   ASCII text that uses the same representation as that of the Priority
   header field value.  PRIORITY_UPDATE with a frame type of 0xF0700 is
   used for request streams, while PRIORITY_UPDATE with a frame type of
   0xF0701 is used for push streams.

   The PRIORITY_UPDATE frame MUST be sent on the client control stream
   (see Section 6.2.1 of [HTTP/3]).  Receiving a PRIORITY_UPDATE frame
   on a stream other than the client control stream MUST be treated as a
   connection error of type H3_FRAME_UNEXPECTED.

   HTTP/3 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame {
     Type (i) = 0xF0700..0xF0701,
     Length (i),
     Prioritized Element ID (i),
     Priority Field Value (..),
   }

                   Figure 2: HTTP/3 PRIORITY_UPDATE Frame

   The PRIORITY_UPDATE frame payload has the following fields:

   Prioritized Element ID:  The stream ID or push ID that is the target
      of the priority update.

   Priority Field Value:  The priority update value in ASCII text,
      encoded using Structured Fields.  This is the same representation
      as the Priority header field value.

   The request-stream variant of PRIORITY_UPDATE (type=0xF0700) MUST
   reference a request stream.  If a server receives a PRIORITY_UPDATE
   (type=0xF0700) for a stream ID that is not a request stream, this
   MUST be treated as a connection error of type H3_ID_ERROR.  The
   stream ID MUST be within the client-initiated bidirectional stream
   limit.  If a server receives a PRIORITY_UPDATE (type=0xF0700) with a
   stream ID that is beyond the stream limits, this SHOULD be treated as
   a connection error of type H3_ID_ERROR.  Generating an error is not
   mandatory because HTTP/3 implementations might have practical
   barriers to determining the active stream concurrency limit that is
   applied by the QUIC layer.

   The push-stream variant of PRIORITY_UPDATE (type=0xF0701) MUST
   reference a promised push stream.  If a server receives a
   PRIORITY_UPDATE (type=0xF0701) with a push ID that is greater than
   the maximum push ID or that has not yet been promised, this MUST be
   treated as a connection error of type H3_ID_ERROR.

   Servers MUST NOT send PRIORITY_UPDATE frames of either type.  If a
   client receives a PRIORITY_UPDATE frame, this MUST be treated as a
   connection error of type H3_FRAME_UNEXPECTED.

8.  Merging Client- and Server-Driven Priority Parameters

   It is not always the case that the client has the best understanding
   of how the HTTP responses deserve to be prioritized.  The server
   might have additional information that can be combined with the
   client's indicated priority in order to improve the prioritization of
   the response.  For example, use of an HTML document might depend
   heavily on one of the inline images; the existence of such
   dependencies is typically best known to the server.  Or, a server
   that receives requests for a font [RFC8081] and images with the same
   urgency might give higher precedence to the font, so that a visual
   client can render textual information at an early moment.

   An origin can use the Priority response header field to indicate its
   view on how an HTTP response should be prioritized.  An intermediary
   that forwards an HTTP response can use the priority parameters found
   in the Priority response header field, in combination with the client
   Priority request header field, as input to its prioritization
   process.  No guidance is provided for merging priorities; this is
   left as an implementation decision.

   The absence of a priority parameter in an HTTP response indicates the
   server's disinterest in changing the client-provided value.  This is
   different from the request header field, in which omission of a
   priority parameter implies the use of its default value (see
   Section 4).

   As a non-normative example, when the client sends an HTTP request
   with the urgency parameter set to 5 and the incremental parameter set
   to true

   :method = GET
   :scheme = https
   :authority = example.net
   :path = /menu.png
   priority = u=5, i

   and the origin responds with

   :status = 200
   content-type = image/png
   priority = u=1

   the intermediary might alter its understanding of the urgency from 5
   to 1, because it prefers the server-provided value over the client's.
   The incremental value continues to be true, i.e., the value specified
   by the client, as the server did not specify the incremental (i)
   parameter.

9.  Client Scheduling

   A client MAY use priority values to make local processing or
   scheduling choices about the requests it initiates.

10.  Server Scheduling

   It is generally beneficial for an HTTP server to send all responses
   as early as possible.  However, when serving multiple requests on a
   single connection, there could be competition between the requests
   for resources such as connection bandwidth.  This section describes
   considerations regarding how servers can schedule the order in which
   the competing responses will be sent when such competition exists.

   Server scheduling is a prioritization process based on many inputs,
   with priority signals being only one form of input.  Factors such as
   implementation choices or deployment environment also play a role.
   Any given connection is likely to have many dynamic permutations.
   For these reasons, it is not possible to describe a universal
   scheduling algorithm.  This document provides some basic, non-
   exhaustive recommendations for how servers might act on priority
   parameters.  It does not describe in detail how servers might combine
   priority signals with other factors.  Endpoints cannot depend on
   particular treatment based on priority signals.  Expressing priority
   is only a suggestion.

   It is RECOMMENDED that, when possible, servers respect the urgency
   parameter (Section 4.1), sending higher-urgency responses before
   lower-urgency responses.

   The incremental parameter indicates how a client processes response
   bytes as they arrive.  It is RECOMMENDED that, when possible, servers
   respect the incremental parameter (Section 4.2).

   Non-incremental responses of the same urgency SHOULD be served by
   prioritizing bandwidth allocation in ascending order of the stream
   ID, which corresponds to the order in which clients make requests.
   Doing so ensures that clients can use request ordering to influence
   response order.

   Incremental responses of the same urgency SHOULD be served by sharing
   bandwidth among them.  The message content of incremental responses
   is used as parts, or chunks, are received.  A client might benefit
   more from receiving a portion of all these resources rather than the
   entirety of a single resource.  How large a portion of the resource
   is needed to be useful in improving performance varies.  Some
   resource types place critical elements early; others can use
   information progressively.  This scheme provides no explicit mandate
   about how a server should use size, type, or any other input to
   decide how to prioritize.

   There can be scenarios where a server will need to schedule multiple
   incremental and non-incremental responses at the same urgency level.
   Strictly abiding by the scheduling guidance based on urgency and
   request generation order might lead to suboptimal results at the
   client, as early non-incremental responses might prevent the serving
   of incremental responses issued later.  The following are examples of
   such challenges:

   1.  At the same urgency level, a non-incremental request for a large
       resource followed by an incremental request for a small resource.

   2.  At the same urgency level, an incremental request of
       indeterminate length followed by a non-incremental large
       resource.

   It is RECOMMENDED that servers avoid such starvation where possible.
   The method for doing so is an implementation decision.  For example,
   a server might preemptively send responses of a particular
   incremental type based on other information such as content size.

   Optimal scheduling of server push is difficult, especially when
   pushed resources contend with active concurrent requests.  Servers
   can consider many factors when scheduling, such as the type or size
   of resource being pushed, the priority of the request that triggered
   the push, the count of active concurrent responses, the priority of
   other active concurrent responses, etc.  There is no general guidance
   on the best way to apply these.  A server that is too simple could
   easily push at too high a priority and block client requests, or push
   at too low a priority and delay the response, negating intended goals
   of server push.

   Priority signals are a factor for server push scheduling.  The
   concept of parameter value defaults applies slightly differently
   because there is no explicit client-signaled initial priority.  A
   server can apply priority signals provided in an origin response; see
   the merging guidance given in Section 8.  In the absence of origin
   signals, applying default parameter values could be suboptimal.  By
   whatever means a server decides to schedule a pushed response, it can
   signal the intended priority to the client by including the Priority
   field in a PUSH_PROMISE or HEADERS frame.

10.1.  Intermediaries with Multiple Backend Connections

   An intermediary serving an HTTP connection might split requests over
   multiple backend connections.  When it applies prioritization rules
   strictly, low-priority requests cannot make progress while requests
   with higher priorities are in flight.  This blocking can propagate to
   backend connections, which the peer might interpret as a connection
   stall.  Endpoints often implement protections against stalls, such as
   abruptly closing connections after a certain time period.  To reduce
   the possibility of this occurring, intermediaries can avoid strictly
   following prioritization and instead allocate small amounts of
   bandwidth for all the requests that they are forwarding, so that
   every request can make some progress over time.

   Similarly, servers SHOULD allocate some amount of bandwidths to
   streams acting as tunnels.

11.  Scheduling and the CONNECT Method

   When a stream carries a CONNECT request, the scheduling guidance in
   this document applies to the frames on the stream.  A client that
   issues multiple CONNECT requests can set the incremental parameter to
   true.  Servers that implement the recommendations for handling of the
   incremental parameter (Section 10) are likely to schedule these
   fairly, preventing one CONNECT stream from blocking others.

12.  Retransmission Scheduling

   Transport protocols such as TCP and QUIC provide reliability by
   detecting packet losses and retransmitting lost information.  In
   addition to the considerations in Section 10, scheduling of
   retransmission data could compete with new data.  The remainder of
   this section discusses considerations when using QUIC.

   Section 13.3 of [QUIC] states the following: "Endpoints SHOULD
   prioritize retransmission of data over sending new data, unless
   priorities specified by the application indicate otherwise".  When an
   HTTP/3 application uses the priority scheme defined in this document
   and the QUIC transport implementation supports application-indicated
   stream priority, a transport that considers the relative priority of
   streams when scheduling both new data and retransmission data might
   better match the expectations of the application.  However, there are
   no requirements on how a transport chooses to schedule based on this
   information because the decision depends on several factors and
   trade-offs.  It could prioritize new data for a higher-urgency stream
   over retransmission data for a lower-priority stream, or it could
   prioritize retransmission data over new data irrespective of
   urgencies.

   Section 6.2.4 of [QUIC-RECOVERY] also highlights considerations
   regarding application priorities when sending probe packets after
   Probe Timeout timer expiration.  A QUIC implementation supporting
   application-indicated priorities might use the relative priority of
   streams when choosing probe data.

13.  Fairness

   Typically, HTTP implementations depend on the underlying transport to
   maintain fairness between connections competing for bandwidth.  When
   an intermediary receives HTTP requests on client connections, it
   forwards them to backend connections.  Depending on how the
   intermediary coalesces or splits requests across different backend
   connections, different clients might experience dissimilar
   performance.  This dissimilarity might expand if the intermediary
   also uses priority signals when forwarding requests.  Sections 13.1
   and 13.2 discuss mitigations of this expansion of unfairness.

   Conversely, Section 13.3 discusses how servers might intentionally
   allocate unequal bandwidth to some connections, depending on the
   priority signals.

13.1.  Coalescing Intermediaries

   When an intermediary coalesces HTTP requests coming from multiple
   clients into one HTTP/2 or HTTP/3 connection going to the backend
   server, requests that originate from one client might carry signals
   indicating higher priority than those coming from others.

   It is sometimes beneficial for the server running behind an
   intermediary to obey Priority header field values.  As an example, a
   resource-constrained server might defer the transmission of software
   update files that have the background urgency level (7).  However, in
   the worst case, the asymmetry between the priority declared by
   multiple clients might cause all responses going to one user agent to
   be delayed until all responses going to another user agent have been
   sent.

   In order to mitigate this fairness problem, a server could use
   knowledge about the intermediary as another input in its
   prioritization decisions.  For instance, if a server knows the
   intermediary is coalescing requests, then it could avoid serving the
   responses in their entirety and instead distribute bandwidth (for
   example, in a round-robin manner).  This can work if the constrained
   resource is network capacity between the intermediary and the user
   agent, as the intermediary buffers responses and forwards the chunks
   based on the prioritization scheme it implements.

   A server can determine if a request came from an intermediary through
   configuration or can check to see if the request contains one of the
   following header fields:

   *  Forwarded [FORWARDED], X-Forwarded-For

   *  Via (see Section 7.6.3 of [HTTP])

13.2.  HTTP/1.x Back Ends

   It is common for Content Delivery Network (CDN) infrastructure to
   support different HTTP versions on the front end and back end.  For
   instance, the client-facing edge might support HTTP/2 and HTTP/3
   while communication to backend servers is done using HTTP/1.1.
   Unlike connection coalescing, the CDN will "demux" requests into
   discrete connections to the back end.  Response multiplexing in a
   single connection is not supported by HTTP/1.1 (or older), so there
   is not a fairness problem.  However, backend servers MAY still use
   client headers for request scheduling.  Backend servers SHOULD only
   schedule based on client priority information where that information
   can be scoped to individual end clients.  Authentication and other
   session information might provide this linkability.

13.3.  Intentional Introduction of Unfairness

   It is sometimes beneficial to deprioritize the transmission of one
   connection over others, knowing that doing so introduces a certain
   amount of unfairness between the connections and therefore between
   the requests served on those connections.

   For example, a server might use a scavenging congestion controller on
   connections that only convey background priority responses such as
   software update images.  Doing so improves responsiveness of other
   connections at the cost of delaying the delivery of updates.

14.  Why Use an End-to-End Header Field?

   In contrast to the prioritization scheme of HTTP/2, which uses a hop-
   by-hop frame, the Priority header field is defined as "end-to-end".

   The way that a client processes a response is a property associated
   with the client generating that request, not that of an intermediary.
   Therefore, it is an end-to-end property.  How these end-to-end
   properties carried by the Priority header field affect the
   prioritization between the responses that share a connection is a
   hop-by-hop issue.

   Having the Priority header field defined as end-to-end is important
   for caching intermediaries.  Such intermediaries can cache the value
   of the Priority header field along with the response and utilize the
   value of the cached header field when serving the cached response,
   only because the header field is defined as end-to-end rather than
   hop-by-hop.

15.  Security Considerations

   Section 7 describes considerations for server buffering of
   PRIORITY_UPDATE frames.

   Section 10 presents examples where servers that prioritize responses
   in a certain way might be starved of the ability to transmit
   responses.

   The security considerations from [STRUCTURED-FIELDS] apply to the
   processing of priority parameters defined in Section 4.

16.  IANA Considerations

   This specification registers the following entry in the "Hypertext
   Transfer Protocol (HTTP) Field Name Registry" defined in [HTTP/2]:

   Field Name:  Priority
   Status:  permanent
   Reference:  This document

   This specification registers the following entry in the "HTTP/2
   Settings" registry defined in [HTTP/2]:

   Code:  0x9
   Name:  SETTINGS_NO_RFC7540_PRIORITIES
   Initial Value:  0
   Reference:  This document

   This specification registers the following entry in the "HTTP/2 Frame
   Type" registry defined in [HTTP/2]:

   Code:  0x10
   Frame Type:  PRIORITY_UPDATE
   Reference:  This document

   This specification registers the following entry in the "HTTP/3 Frame
   Types" registry established by [HTTP/3]:

   Value:  0xF0700-0xF0701
   Frame Type:  PRIORITY_UPDATE
   Status:  permanent
   Reference:  This document
   Change Controller:  IETF
   Contact:  ietf-http-wg@w3.org

   IANA has created the "Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) Priority"
   registry at <https://www.iana.org/assignments/http-priority> and has
   populated it with the entries in Table 1; see Section 4.3.1 for its
   associated procedures.

         +======+==================================+=============+
         | Name |           Description            | Reference   |
         +======+==================================+=============+
         | u    | The urgency of an HTTP response. | Section 4.1 |
         +------+----------------------------------+-------------+
         | i    | Whether an HTTP response can be  | Section 4.2 |
         |      |     processed incrementally.     |             |
         +------+----------------------------------+-------------+

                    Table 1: Initial Priority Parameters

17.  References

17.1.  Normative References

   [HTTP]     Fielding, R., Ed., Nottingham, M., Ed., and J. Reschke,
              Ed., "HTTP Semantics", STD 97, RFC 9110,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9110, June 2022,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9110>.

   [HTTP/2]   Thomson, M., Ed. and C. Benfield, Ed., "HTTP/2", RFC 9113,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9113, June 2022,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9113>.

   [HTTP/3]   Bishop, M., Ed., "HTTP/3", RFC 9114, DOI 10.17487/RFC9114,
              June 2022, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9114>.

   [QUIC]     Iyengar, J., Ed. and M. Thomson, Ed., "QUIC: A UDP-Based
              Multiplexed and Secure Transport", RFC 9000,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9000, May 2021,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9000>.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2119>.

   [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,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8126>.

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8174>.

   [STRUCTURED-FIELDS]
              Nottingham, M. and P-H. Kamp, "Structured Field Values for
              HTTP", RFC 8941, DOI 10.17487/RFC8941, February 2021,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8941>.

17.2.  Informative References

   [CACHING]  Fielding, R., Ed., Nottingham, M., Ed., and J. Reschke,
              Ed., "HTTP Caching", STD 98, RFC 9111,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC9111, June 2022,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9111>.

   [FORWARDED]
              Petersson, A. and M. Nilsson, "Forwarded HTTP Extension",
              RFC 7239, DOI 10.17487/RFC7239, June 2014,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7239>.

   [MARX]     Marx, R., De Decker, T., Quax, P., and W. Lamotte, "Of the
              Utmost Importance: Resource Prioritization in HTTP/3 over
              QUIC", SCITEPRESS Proceedings of the 15th International
              Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies
              (pages 130-143), DOI 10.5220/0008191701300143, September
              2019, <https://www.doi.org/10.5220/0008191701300143>.

   [PRIORITY-SETTING]
              Lassey, B. and L. Pardue, "Declaring Support for HTTP/2
              Priorities", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              lassey-priority-setting-00, 25 July 2019,
              <https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/html/draft-lassey-
              priority-setting-00>.

   [QUIC-RECOVERY]
              Iyengar, J., Ed. and I. Swett, Ed., "QUIC Loss Detection
              and Congestion Control", RFC 9002, DOI 10.17487/RFC9002,
              May 2021, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9002>.

   [RFC7540]  Belshe, M., Peon, R., and M. Thomson, Ed., "Hypertext
              Transfer Protocol Version 2 (HTTP/2)", RFC 7540,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7540, May 2015,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7540>.

   [RFC8081]  Lilley, C., "The "font" Top-Level Media Type", RFC 8081,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8081, February 2017,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8081>.

Acknowledgements

   Roy Fielding presented the idea of using a header field for
   representing priorities in
   <https://www.ietf.org/proceedings/83/slides/slides-83-httpbis-5.pdf>.
   In <https://github.com/pmeenan/http3-prioritization-proposal>,
   Patrick Meenan advocated for representing the priorities using a
   tuple of urgency and concurrency.  The ability to disable HTTP/2
   prioritization is inspired by [PRIORITY-SETTING], authored by Brad
   Lassey and Lucas Pardue, with modifications based on feedback that
   was not incorporated into an update to that document.

   The motivation for defining an alternative to HTTP/2 priorities is
   drawn from discussion within the broad HTTP community.  Special
   thanks to Roberto Peon, Martin Thomson, and Netflix for text that was
   incorporated explicitly in this document.

   In addition to the people above, this document owes a lot to the
   extensive discussion in the HTTP priority design team, consisting of
   Alan Frindell, Andrew Galloni, Craig Taylor, Ian Swett, Matthew Cox,
   Mike Bishop, Roberto Peon, Robin Marx, Roy Fielding, and the authors
   of this document.

   Yang Chi contributed the section on retransmission scheduling.

Authors' Addresses

   Kazuho Oku
   Fastly
   Email: kazuhooku@gmail.com

   Additional contact information:

      奥 一穂
      Fastly


   Lucas Pardue
   Cloudflare
   Email: lucaspardue.24.7@gmail.com