This JEP defines a protocol that enables access to a Jabber server from behind firewalls which do not allow outgoing sockets on port 5222, via HTTP requests.
NOTICE: This Historical JEP provides canonical documentation of a protocol that is in use within the Jabber/XMPP community. This JEP is not a standards-track specification within the Jabber Software Foundation's standards process; however, it may be converted to standards-track in the future or may be obsoleted by a more modern protocol.
Last Updated: 2002-10-11
JIG: Standards JIG
Approving Body: Jabber Council
Dependencies: XMPP Core
Superseded By: None
Short Name: httppoll
Wiki Page: <http://wiki.jabber.org/index.php/Jabber HTTP Polling (JEP-0025)>
This Jabber Enhancement Proposal is copyright 1999 - 2005 by the Jabber Software Foundation (JSF) and is in full conformance with the JSF's Intellectual Property Rights Policy <http://www.jabber.org/jsf/ipr-policy.shtml>. This material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Creative Commons Attribution License (<http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/>).
The preferred venue for discussion of this document is the Standards-JIG discussion list: <http://mail.jabber.org/mailman/listinfo/standards-jig>.
The Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) is defined in the XMPP Core (RFC 3920) and XMPP IM (RFC 3921) specifications contributed by the Jabber Software Foundation to the Internet Standards Process, which is managed by the Internet Engineering Task Force in accordance with RFC 2026. Any protocol defined in this JEP has been developed outside the Internet Standards Process and is to be understood as an extension to XMPP rather than as an evolution, development, or modification of XMPP itself.
The keywords "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 RFC 2119.
This JEP documents a method to allow Jabber clients to access Jabber servers from behind existing firewalls. Although several similar methods have been proposed, this approach should work through all known firewall configurations which allow outbound HTTP access.
In general, a firewall is a box that protects a network from outsiders, by controlling the IP connections that are allowed to pass through the box. Often, a firewall will also allow access outside only by proxy, either explicit proxy support or implicit through Network Address Translation (NAT).
In the interest of security, many firewall administrators do not allow outbound connections to unknown and unused ports. Until Jabber becomes more widely deployed, port 5222/tcp (for Jabber client connections) will often be blocked.
The best solution for sites that are concerned about security is to run their own Jabber server, either inside the firewall, or in a DMZ  network. However, there are network configuration where an external Jabber server must still be used and port 5222/tcp outbound cannot be allowed. In these situations, different methods for connecting to a Jabber server are required. Several methods exist today for doing this traversal. Most rely on the fact that a most firewalls are configured to allow access through port 80/tcp. Although some less-complicated firewalls will allow any protocol to traverse this port, many will proxy, filter, and verify requests on this port as HTTP. Because of this, a normal Jabber connection on port 80/tcp will not suffice.
In addition, many firewalls/proxy servers will also not allow or not honor HTTP Keep-alives (as defined in section 22.214.171.124 of RFC 2068 ) and will consider long-lived socket connections as security issues. Because of this the traditional Jabber connection model, where one socket is one stream is one session, will not work reliably.
In light of all of the ways that default firewall rules can interfere with Jabber connectivity, a lowest-common denominator approach was selected. HTTP is used to send XML as POST requests and receieve pending XML within the responses. Additional information is prepended in the request body to ensure an equivalent level of security to TCP/IP sockets.
The client makes HTTP requests periodically to the server. Whenever the client has something to send, that XML is included in the body of the request. When the server has something to send to the client, it must be contained in the body of the response.
In some browser/platform combinations, sending cookies from the client is not possible due to design choices and limitations in the browser. Therefore, a work-around was needed to support clients based on these application platforms.
All requests to the server are HTTP POST requests, with Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded. Responses from the server have Content-Type: text/xml. Both the request and response bodies are UTF-8 encoded text, even if an HTTP header to the contrary exists. All responses contain a Set-Cookie header with an identifier, which is sent along with future requests as described below. This identifier cookie must have a name of 'ID'. The first request to a server always uses 0 as the identifier. The server must always return a 200 response code, sending any session errors as specially-formatted identifiers.
The client sends requests with bodies in the following format:
identifier ; key [ ; new_key] , [xml_body]
|identifier||To uniquely identify the session server-side. This field is only used to identify the session, and provides no security.|
|key||To verify this request is from the originator of the session. The client generates a new key in the manner described below for each request, which the server then verifies before processing the request.|
|new_key||The key algorithm can exhaust valid keys in a sequence, which requires a new key sequence to be used in order to continue the session. The new key is sent along with the last used key in the old sequence.|
|xml_body||The body of text to send. Since a POST must be sent in order for the server to respond with recent messages, a client may send a request without an xml_body in order to just retrieve new incoming packets. This is not required to be a full XML document or XML fragment, it does not need to start or end on element boundaries.|
The identifier is everything before the first semicolon, and must consist of the characters [A-Za-z0-9:-]. The identifier returned from the first request is the identifier for the session. Any new identifier that ends in ':0' indicates an error, with the entire identifier indicating the specific error condition. Any new identifier that does not end in ':0' is a server programming error, the client should discontinue the session. For new sessions, the client identifier is considered to be 0.
Any identifier that ends in ':0' indicates an error. Any previous identifier associated with this session is no longer valid.
Server returns ID=0:0. The response body can contain a textual error message.
Server returns ID=-1:0
Server returns ID=-2:0
Server returns ID=-3:0
The key is a client security feature to allow TCP/IP socket equivalent security. It does not protect against intermediary attacks, but does prevent a person who is capable of listening to the HTTP traffic from sending messages and receiving incoming traffic from another machine.
The key algorithm should be familiar with those with knowledge of Jabber zero-knowledge authentication.
K(n, seed) = Base64Encode(SHA1(K(n - 1, seed))), for n > 0 K(0, seed) = seed, which is client-determined
Note: Base64 encoding is defined in RFC 3548 . SHA1 is defined in RFC 3174 .
No framing is implied by a single request or reply. A single request can have no content sent, in which case the body contains only the identifier followed by a comma. A reply may have no content to send, in which case the body is empty. Zero or more XMPP packets may be sent in a single request or reply, including partial XMPP packets.
The absense of a long-lived connection requires the server to consider client traffic as a heartbeat to keep the session alive. If a server-configurable period of time passes without a successful POST request sent by the client, the server must end the client session. Any client requests using the identifier associated with that now dead session must return an error of '0:0'.
The maximum period of time to keep a client session active without an incoming POST request is not defined, but five minutes is the recommended minimum. The maximum period of time recommended for clients between requests is two minutes; if the client has not sent any XML out for two minutes, a request without an XML body should be sent. If a client is disconnecting from the server, a closing <stream:stream> must be sent to end the session. Failure to do this may have the client continue to be represented to other users as available.
If the server disconnects the user do to a session timeout, the server MUST bounce pending IQ requests and either bounce or store offline incoming messages.
The following is the sequence used for client communication
POST /wc12/webclient HTTP/1.1 Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded Host: webim.jabber.com 0,<stream:stream to="jabber.com" xmlns="jabber:client" xmlns:stream="http://etherx.jabber.org/streams">
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 20:30:30 GMT Server: Apache/1.3.20 Set-Cookie: ID=7776:2054; path=/webclient/; expires=-1 Content-Type: text/xml <?xml version='1.0'?> <stream:stream xmlns:stream='http://etherx.jabber.org/streams' id='3C9258BB' xmlns='jabber:client' from='jabber.com'>
POST /wc12/webclient HTTP/1.1 Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded Host: webim.jabber.com 7776:2054,<iq type="get" id="WEBCLIENT3"> <query xmlns="jabber:iq:auth"> <username>hildjj</username> </query> </iq>
K(0, "foo") = "foo" K(1, "foo") = "C+7Hteo/D9vJXQ3UfzxbwnXaijM=" K(2, "foo") = "6UU8CDmH3O4aHFmCqSORCn721+M=" K(3, "foo") = "vFFYSOhGyaGUgLrldtMBX7x91Wc=" K(4, "foo") = "ZaDxCilBVTHS9dJfbBo1NsC2b+8=" K(5, "foo") = "moPFsvHytDGiJQOjp186AMXAeP0=" K(6, "foo") = "VvxEk07IFy6hUmG/PPBlTLE2fiA="
POST /wc12/webclient HTTP/1.1 Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded Host: webim.jabber.com 0;VvxEk07IFy6hUmG/PPBlTLE2fiA=,<stream:stream to="jabber.com" xmlns="jabber:client" xmlns:stream="http://etherx.jabber.org/streams">
POST /wc12/webclient HTTP/1.1 Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded Host: webim.jabber.com 7776:2054;moPFsvHytDGiJQOjp186AMXAeP0=,<iq type="get" id="WEBCLIENT3"> <query xmlns="jabber:iq:auth"> <username>hildjj</username> </query> </iq>
POST /wc12/webclient HTTP/1.1 Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded Host: webim.jabber.com 7776:2054;C+7Hteo/D9vJXQ3UfzxbwnXaijM=;Tr697Eff02+32FZp38Xaq2+3Bv4=,<presence/>