The "data" URL scheme
RFC 2397

Document Type RFC - Proposed Standard (August 1998; Errata)
Was draft-masinter-url-data (individual)
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                                      L. Masinter
Request for Comments: 2397                           Xerox Corporation
Category: Standards Track                                  August 1998

                         The "data" URL scheme

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 (1998).  All Rights Reserved.

1. Abstract

   A new URL scheme, "data", is defined. It allows inclusion of small
   data items as "immediate" data, as if it had been included

2. Description

   Some applications that use URLs also have a need to embed (small)
   media type data directly inline. This document defines a new URL
   scheme that would work like 'immediate addressing'. The URLs are of
   the form:


   The <mediatype> is an Internet media type specification (with
   optional parameters.) The appearance of ";base64" means that the data
   is encoded as base64. Without ";base64", the data (as a sequence of
   octets) is represented using ASCII encoding for octets inside the
   range of safe URL characters and using the standard %xx hex encoding
   of URLs for octets outside that range.  If <mediatype> is omitted, it
   defaults to text/plain;charset=US-ASCII.  As a shorthand,
   "text/plain" can be omitted but the charset parameter supplied.

   The "data:" URL scheme is only useful for short values. Note that
   some applications that use URLs may impose a length limit; for
   example, URLs embedded within <A> anchors in HTML have a length limit
   determined by the SGML declaration for HTML [RFC1866]. The LITLEN
   (1024) limits the number of characters which can appear in a single

Masinter                    Standards Track                     [Page 1]
RFC 2397                 The "data" URL scheme               August 1998

   attribute value literal, the ATTSPLEN (2100) limits the sum of all
   lengths of all attribute value specifications which appear in a tag,
   and the TAGLEN (2100) limits the overall length of a tag.

   The "data" URL scheme has no relative URL forms.

3. Syntax

       dataurl    := "data:" [ mediatype ] [ ";base64" ] "," data
       mediatype  := [ type "/" subtype ] *( ";" parameter )
       data       := *urlchar
       parameter  := attribute "=" value

   where "urlchar" is imported from [RFC2396], and "type", "subtype",
   "attribute" and "value" are the corresponding tokens from [RFC2045],
   represented using URL escaped encoding of [RFC2396] as necessary.

   Attribute values in [RFC2045] are allowed to be either represented as
   tokens or as quoted strings. However, within a "data" URL, the
   "quoted-string" representation would be awkward, since the quote mark
   is itself not a valid urlchar. For this reason, parameter values
   should use the URL Escaped encoding instead of quoted string if the
   parameter values contain any "tspecial".

   The ";base64" extension is distinguishable from a content-type
   parameter by the fact that it doesn't have a following "=" sign.

4. Examples

   A data URL might be used for arbitrary types of data. The URL


   encodes the text/plain string "A brief note", which might be useful
   in a footnote link.

   The HTML fragment:


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RFC 2397                 The "data" URL scheme               August 1998

   could be used for a small inline image in a HTML document.  (The
   embedded image is probably near the limit of utility. For anything
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