RFC 1485
This document is obsolete. Please refer to RFC 1779 and RFC 3494.

Network Working Group                               S. Hardcastle-Kille
Request for Comments: 1485                             ISODE Consortium
                                                              July 1993

             A String Representation of Distinguished Names
                            (OSI-DS 23 (v5))

Status of this Memo

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


   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.  Please send comments
   to the author or to the discussion group <osi-ds@CS.UCL.AC.UK>.

Table of Contents

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

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 [CCI88].  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

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RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

   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

      o  To be an intuitive format for the majority of names

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

      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 Hardcastle-Kille, OU=Computer Science, O=University
      College London, C=GB

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

      CN=Steve Hardcastle-Kille,
      OU=Computer Science,
      O=University College London,

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RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

   Another name might be:

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

   Semicolon (";") may be used as an alternate separator.

      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,
      O=Widget Inc,

   Here is an example of a multi-valued Relative Distinguished Name,
   where the namespace is flat within an organisation, and department is
   used to disambiguate certain names:

      OU=Sales + CN=J. Smith, O=Widget Inc., C=US

   The final example shows quoting of a comma in an Organisation name:

      CN=L. Eagle, O="Sue, Grabbit and Runn", C=GB

2.3 Formal definition

   A formal definition can now be given.  The structure is specified in
   a BNF grammar in Figure 1.  This BNF uses the grammar defined in RFC
   822, with the terminals enclosed in <> [Cro82].  This definition is
   in an abstract character set, and so may be written in any character
   set supporting the explicitly defined special characters.  The
   quoting mechanism is used for the following cases:

      o  Strings containing ",", "+", "="or """, <CR>, "<",
         ">", "#", or ";".

      o  Strings with leading or trailing spaces

      o  Strings containing consecutive spaces

   There is an escape mechanism from the normal user oriented form, so
   that this syntax may be used to print any valid distinguished name.
   This is ugly.  It is expected to be used only in pathological cases.
   There are two parts to this mechanism:

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RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

      1.  Attributes types are represented in a (big-endian) dotted
          notation.  (e.g., OID.2.6.53).

      2.  Attribute values are represented in hexadecimal
          (e.g.,  #0A56CF).

   The keyword specification is optional in the BNF, but mandatory for
   this specification.  This is so that the same BNF may be used for the
   related specification on User Friendly Naming [HK93].  When this
   specification is followed, the attribute type keywords must always be
   present.  A list of valid keywords for well known attribute types
   used in naming is given in Table 1.  This is a list of keywords which
   must be supported.  These are chosen because they appear in common
   forms of name, and can do so in a place which does not correspond to
   the default schema used.  A register of valid keyworkds is maintained
   by the IANA.

   Only string type attributes are considered, but other attribute
   syntaxes could be supported locally.  It is assumed that the
   interface will translate from the supplied string into
   PrintableString or T.61.

   The "+" notation is used to specify multi-component RDNs.  In this
   case, the types for attributes in the RDN must be explicit.  The name
   is presented/input in a little-endian order (most significant
   component last).

   When an address is written in a context where there is a need to
   delimit the entire address (e.g., in free text), it is recommended
   that the delimiters <> are used.  The terminator > is a special in
   the notation to facilitate this delimitation.

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RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

   <name> ::= <name-component> ( <spaced-separator> )
          | <name-component> <spaced-separator> <name>

   <spaced-separator> ::= <optional-space>

   <separator> ::=  "," | ";"

   <optional-space> ::= ( <CR> ) *( " " )

   <name-component> ::= <attribute>
           | <attribute> <optional-space> "+"
             <optional-space> <name-component>

   <attribute> ::= <string>
           | <key> <optional-space> "=" <optional-space> <string>

   <key> ::= 1*( <keychar> ) | "OID." <oid>
   <keychar> ::= letters, numbers, and space

   <oid> ::= <digitstring> | <digitstring> "." <oid>
   <digitstring> ::= 1*<digit>
   <digit> ::= digits 0-9

   <string> ::= *( <stringchar> | <pair> )
            | '"' *( <stringchar> | <special> | <pair> ) '"'
    | "#" <hex>

   <special> ::= "," | "=" | '"' | <CR> | "+" | "<" |  ">"
            | "#" | ";"

   <pair> ::= "
   <stringchar> ::= any char except <special> or "

   <hex> ::= 2*<hexchar>
   <hexchar> ::= 0-9, a-f, A-F

               Figure 1:  BNF Grammar for Distinguished Name

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RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

                        Key  Attribute (X.520 keys)
                        CN   CommonName
                        L    LocalityName
                        ST   StateOrProvinceName
                        O    OrganizationName
                        OU   OrganizationalUnitName
                        C    CountryName

                      Table 1:  Standardised Keywords

3.  Examples

   This section gives a few examples of distinguished names written
   using this notation:

      CN=Marshall T. Rose, O=Dover Beach Consulting, L=Santa Clara,
      ST=California, C=US

      CN=FTAM Service, CN=Bells, OU=Computer Science, O=University
      College London, C=GB

      CN=Steve Hardcastle-Kille, OU=Computer Science, O=University
      College London, C=GB

      CN=Steve Hardcastle-Kille, OU=Computer Science, O=University
      College London, C=GB

4.  References

   [CCI88] The Directory --- overview of concepts, models and services,
           December 1988. CCITT X.500 Series Recommendations.

   [Cro82] D.H. Crocker. Standard of the format of ARPA internet text
           messages.  STD 11, RFC 822, University of Delaware,
           August 1982.

   [HK93]  S.E. Hardcastle-Kille. Using the OSI directory to achieve
           user friendly naming.  RFC 1484, Department of Computer
           Science, University College London, July 1993.

5.  Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

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RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

6.  Author's Address

   Steve Hardcastle-Kille
   ISODE Consortium
   P.O. Box 505
   SW11 1DX

   EMail:  S.Kille@ISODE.COM

   DN: CN=Steve Hardcastle-Kille,
   O=ISODE Consortium, C=GB

   UFN: S. Hardcastle-Kille,
   ISODE Consortium, GB

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