A String Representation of Distinguished Names
RFC 1779

Document Type RFC - Historic (March 1995; No errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 3494, RFC 2253
Obsoletes RFC 1485
Last updated 2013-03-02
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This information refers to IESG processing after the RFC was initially published:
IESG IESG state RFC 1779 (Historic)
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Send notices to <ammar@cc.gatech.edu>, <rrt@bellcore.com>
Network Working Group                                           S. Kille
Request for Comments: 1779                              ISODE Consortium
Obsoletes: 1485                                               March 1995
Category: Standards Track

             A String Representation of Distinguished Names

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.

Abstract

   The OSI Directory uses distinguished names as the primary keys to
   entries in the directory.  Distinguished Names are encoded in ASN.1.
   When a distinguished name is communicated between to users not using
   a directory protocol (e.g., in a mail message), there is a need to
   have a user-oriented string representation of distinguished name.
   This specification defines a string format for representing names,
   which is designed to give a clean representation of commonly used
   names, whilst being able to represent any distinguished name.

Table of Contents

   1.   Why a notation is needed ...................................   2
   2.   A notation for Distinguished Name ..........................   2
       2.1    Goals ................................................   2
       2.2    Informal definition ..................................   2
       2.3    Formal definition ....................................   4
   3.   Examples ...................................................   6
   4.   Acknowledgements ...........................................   7
   5.   References .................................................   7
   6.   Security Considerations ....................................   8
   7.   Author's Address ...........................................   8

Kille                                                           [Page 1]
RFC 1779                   DN Representation                  March 1995

1.  Why a notation is needed

   Many OSI Applications make use of Distinguished Names (DN) as defined
   in the OSI Directory, commonly known as X.500 [1].  This
   specification assumes familiarity with X.500, and the concept of
   Distinguished Name.  It is important to have a common format to be
   able to unambiguously represent a distinguished name.  This might be
   done to represent a directory name on a business card or in an email
   message.  There is a need for a format to support human to human
   communication, which must be string based (not ASN.1) and user
   oriented.  This notation is targeted towards a general user oriented
   system, and in particular to represent the names of humans.  Other
   syntaxes may be more appropriate for other uses of the directory.
   For example, the OSF Syntax may be more appropriate for some system
   oriented uses.  (The OSF Syntax uses "/" as a separator, and forms
   names in a manner intended to resemble UNIX filenames).

2.  A notation for Distinguished Name

2.1  Goals

   The following goals are laid out:

    o  To provide an unambiguous representation of a distinguished name

    o  To be an intuitive format for the majority of names

    o  To be fully general, and able to represent any distinguished name

    o  To be amenable to a number of different layouts to achieve an
       attractive representation.

    o  To give a clear representation of the contents of the
       distinguished name

2.2  Informal definition

   This notation is designed to be convenient for common forms of name.
   Some examples are given.  The author's directory distinguished name
   would be written:

   CN=Steve Kille,
   O=ISODE Consortium, C=GB

Kille                                                           [Page 2]
RFC 1779                   DN Representation                  March 1995

   This may be folded, perhaps to display in multi-column format.  For
   example:

   CN=Steve Kille,
   O=ISODE Consortium,
   C=GB

   Another name might be:

   CN=Christian Huitema, O=INRIA, C=FR

   Semicolon (";") may be used as an alternate separator.  The
   separators may be mixed, but this usage is discouraged.

   CN=Christian Huitema; O=INRIA; C=FR

   In running text, this would be written as <CN=Christian Huitema;
   O=INRIA; C=FR>.  Another example, shows how different attribute types
   are handled:

   CN=James Hacker,
   L=Basingstoke,
   O=Widget Inc,
   C=GB

   Here is an example of a multi-valued Relative Distinguished Name,
   where the namespace is flat within an organisation, and department is
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