XEP-0156: Discovering Alternative XMPP Connection Methods

This document defines a DNS TXT Resource Record format for use in discovering alternative methods of connecting to an XMPP server.

NOTICE: This document is currently within Last Call or under consideration by the XMPP Council for advancement to the next stage in the XSF standards process.

Document Information

Series: XEP
Number: 0156
Publisher: XMPP Standards Foundation
Status: Proposed
Type: Standards Track
Version: 0.7
Last Updated: 2007-04-18
Approving Body: XMPP Council
Dependencies: XMPP Core, RFC 1464
Supersedes: None
Superseded By: None
Short Name: N/A
Wiki Page: <http://wiki.jabber.org/index.php/Discovering Alternative XMPP Connection Methods (XEP-0156)>

Author Information

Joe Hildebrand

Email: jhildebrand@jabber.com
JabberID: hildjj@jabber.org

Peter Saint-Andre

Email: stpeter@jabber.org
JabberID: stpeter@jabber.org

Legal Notice

This XMPP Extension Protocol is copyright 1999 - 2007 by the XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF) and is in full conformance with the XSF's Intellectual Property Rights Policy <http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/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/>).

Discussion Venue

The preferred venue for discussion of this document is the Standards discussion list: <http://mail.jabber.org/mailman/listinfo/standards>.

Given that this XMPP Extension Protocol normatively references IETF technologies, discussion on the XSF-IETF list may also be appropriate (see <http://mail.jabber.org/mailman/listinfo/jsf-ietf> for details).

Relation to XMPP

The Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) is defined in the XMPP Core (RFC 3920) and XMPP IM (RFC 3921) specifications contributed by the XMPP Standards 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 document 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.

Conformance Terms

The following keywords as used in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119: "MUST", "SHALL", "REQUIRED"; "MUST NOT", "SHALL NOT"; "SHOULD", "RECOMMENDED"; "SHOULD NOT", "NOT RECOMMENDED"; "MAY", "OPTIONAL".

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Record Format
3. Business Rules
4. Examples
5. Security Considerations
6. IANA Considerations
7. XMPP Registrar Considerations
    7.1. Alternative Connection Methods Registry
       7.1.1. Process
       7.1.2. Initial Registration
Revision History

1. Introduction

Although RFC 3920 [1] specifies the use of TCP as the method of connecting to an XMPP server, alternative connection methods exist, including the BOSH [2] method for which XMPP Over BOSH [3] is the XMPP profile, the Jabber HTTP Polling [4] method (now deprecated), and less common methods such as Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) [5]. For some of these methods, it is necessary to discover further parameters before connecting, such as the HTTP URL of an alternative connection manager. Currently, if a client application needs to discover alternative connection methods before connecting to an XMPP service, the relevant information must be provided manually by a human user, which is cumbersome and error-prone. Thankfully, there are several potential ways to complete this pre-connection service discovery in an automated fashion:

  1. Define a WSDL [6] definition (or other XML file format) and a canonical URL for that definition at a domain that offers XMPP services. Unfortunately, this approach requires access to the HTTP server for the domain (and quite possibly to the root directory thereof), which may be difficult for XMPP server administrators to arrange. In addition, it requires a client to retrieve the relevant file via HTTP before performing DNS lookups and XMPP connection; it would be more efficient to use recognized DNS methods since DNS lookups are already required by RFC 3920.

  2. Define a way to specify alternative connection methods as part of the existing DNS SRV records (see RFC 2782 [7]) for a domain that offers XMPP services. While this approach sounds promising, it is not feasible since the DNS SRV Target field can be used only to specify domain names and cannot be used to specify full URIs (such as the URL for an HTTP connection manager).

  3. Define a way to specify alternative connection methods using the "straightforward NAPTR" (S-NAPTR) profile of the Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (see RFC 3958 [8] and RFC 3401 [9]). Unfortunately, S-NAPTR also does not allow inclusion of full URIs, and thus does not meet the requirements for discovery of alternative connection methods.

  4. Define a way to specify alternative connection methods using the "URI-enabled NAPTR" (U-NAPTR) profile of the Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (see U-NAPTR [10]). While this is a valid approach that is worth pursuing, the authors are concerned about the deployability of such an approach given the rarity of support for DDDS and U-NAPTR, especially in client-side applications (the main focus of this specification).

  5. Define a way to specify alternative connection methods via properly-formatted DNS TXT records (see RFC 1464 [11]). While this approach requires an update to the DNS records for the server domain, that is usually necessary in order to establish XMPP services in the first place. Furthermore, although there are some perils to be avoided in the use of DNS TXT records (e.g., wildcards), the technology is well understood and widely deployed (e.g., it is used by the Sender Policy Framework and SenderID email server verification technologies).

This document defines a way to encapsulate information about alternative connection methods in DNS TXT resource records. However, the authors will monitor the availability of DDDS-based systems supporting U-NAPTR, and may request deprecation of the DNS TXT methods defined in this document at some point in the future.

2. Record Format

The following format for DNS TXT resource records is specified in RFC 1464:

  <owner> <class> <ttl> <TXT> <"attribute name=attribute value">

This document specifies that the following additional rules apply for DNS TXT resource records used to specify alternative connection methods:

  1. It is RECOMMENDED for the owner to be "_xmppconnect".
  2. The class field SHOULD be IN.
  3. The ttl field is OPTIONAL.
  4. The attribute name SHOULD begin with the string "_xmpp-client-" or "_xmpp-server-" and SHOULD be registered as described in the XMPP Registrar Considerations section of this document.
  5. If the txt-data field contains only an attribute name (i.e., no unquoted "=" character followed by additional characters), the receiving application SHOULD interpret it as indicating the presence of the attribute or feature with no defined value.
  6. If the txt-data field contains an unquoted "=" character, it MUST also contain an attribute value.

3. Business Rules

The following business rules apply:

  1. TXT lookups MUST be used only as a fallback after the methods specified in RFC 3920 have been exhausted.
  2. A domain SHOULD NOT present information in DNS TXT records that is available via the DNS SRV records defined in RFC 3920.
  3. The order of DNS TXT records SHOULD NOT be interpreted as significant by the presenting domain or the receiving entity.

4. Examples

The following examples show two DNS TXT resource records: the first indicates support for the httpbind connection method defined in XEP-0124 and the second indicates support for WAP connections (both include appropriate URLs).

Example 1. TXT Resource Records

_xmppconnect IN TXT "_xmpp-client-xbosh=https://web.jabber.org:8080/bind.cgi"
_xmppconnect IN TXT "_xmpp-client-wap=http://wap.jabber.org/connector.cgi"

5. Security Considerations

It is possible that advertisement of alternative connection methods may introduce security vulnerabilities, since a connecting entity (usually a client) might deliberately seek to connect using the method with the weakest security mechanisms (e.g., no channel encryption or relatively weak authentication). Care must be taken in determining which alternative connection methods are appropriate to advertise.

6. IANA Considerations

This document requires no interaction with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) [12].

7. XMPP Registrar Considerations

7.1 Alternative Connection Methods Registry

The XMPP Registrar shall maintain a registry of attributes for use in DNS TXT resource records that advertise alternative connection methods.

7.1.1 Process

In order to submit new values to this registry, the registrant must define an XML fragment of the following form and either include it in the relevant XMPP Extension Protocol or send it to the email address <registrar@xmpp.org>:

  <name>the name of the attribute to be used in DNS TXT records</name>
  <desc>a natural-language description of the alternative connection method</desc>
  <value>the syntax of the DNS TXT record attribute value</value>
  <doc>the document in which the alternative connection method is specified</doc>

The registrant may register more than one attribute at a time, each contained in a separate <method/> element.

7.1.2 Initial Registration

  <desc>the HTTP Polling connection method</desc>
    the http: or https: URL at which to contact the HTTP Polling connection manager or proxy

  <desc>the XMPP Over Bosh connection method</desc>
    the http: or https: URL at which to contact the HTTP Binding connection manager or proxy


1. RFC 3920: Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP): Core <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3920>.

2. XEP-0124: Bidirectional-streams Over Synchronous HTTP <http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0124.html>.

3. XEP-0206: XMPP Over BOSH <http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0206.html>.

4. XEP-0025: Jabber HTTP Polling <http://www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0025.html>.

5. Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) <http://www.wapforum.org/>.

6. WSDL 1.1 Specification <http://www.w3.org/TR/wsdl>.

7. RFC 2782: A DNS RR for specifying the location of services (DNS SRV) <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2782>.

8. RFC 3958: Domain-Based Application Service Location Using SRV RRs and the Dynamic Delegation Discovery Service (DDDS) <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3958>.

9. RFC 3401: Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS) Part One: The Comprehensive DDDS <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc3401>.

10. Domain-based Application Service Location Using URIs and the Dynamic Delegation Discovery Service <http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-daigle-unaptr>. Work in progress.

11. RFC 1464: Using the Domain Name System To Store Arbitrary String Attributes <http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1464>.

12. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is the central coordinator for the assignment of unique parameter values for Internet protocols, such as port numbers and URI schemes. For further information, see <http://www.iana.org/>.

Revision History

Version 0.7 (2007-04-18)

Updated to reflect renaming of HTTP Binding to XMPP Over BOSH.


Version 0.6 (2007-01-30)

Finally and definitively removed _xmpp-client-tcp and _xmpp-server-tcp attributes since clients and servers should use either SRV records or standard XMPP ports (5222 or 5269).


Version 0.5 (2007-01-30)

Removed _xmpp-client-tcpssl attribute since use of the old-style SSL-only port is discouraged.


Version 0.4 (2007-01-29)

Added _xmpp-client-tcpssl for old-style SSL connections; added discussion of IETF U-NAPTR technology.


Version 0.3 (2006-05-16)

Clarified order of lookups; restored _xmpp-client-tcp and added _xmpp-server-tcp as optional records if SRV is not supported or accessible.


Version 0.2 (2005-12-05)

Removed _xmpp-client-tcp from TXT records (belongs in SRV records only).


Version 0.1 (2005-09-08)

Initial version.


Version 0.0.3 (2005-09-07)

More fully specified the rationale for using DNS TXT records.


Version 0.0.2 (2005-08-27)

Added security considerations and registrar considerations.


Version 0.0.1 (2005-08-23)

First draft.