Re: [http-state] http-state charter

Bil Corry <> Fri, 31 July 2009 21:10 UTC

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Date: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 16:10:44 -0500
From: Bil Corry <>
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Subject: Re: [http-state] http-state charter
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Dan Winship wrote on 7/31/2009 11:46 AM: 
> On 07/29/2009 06:53 PM, Bil Corry wrote:
>> Much delayed, but I'm now working on creating our charter.  I've included
>> a first draft below; it borrows heavily from the httpbis charter.
> I'm not sure that really works; httpbis was starting from a good spec
> and trying to make it better. We're starting from either a non-existent
> spec (real-world cookies) or a spec that does not reflect reality in any
> way (RFC 2965), depending on how you look at it, so our tasks are fairly
> different from theirs.

I've rewritten the charter to the one at the end of this message.  Specific changes to improve it are appreciated.

> You said in a follow-up:
>> If this WG can produce an updated Cookie RFC that documents how
>> cookies are actually widely implemented (including HTTPOnly),
>> I think that would be an excellent start.
> As I understand things, we cannot do this as a revision to 2965, because
> 2965 is Standards Track, and this new document would have to be merely
> Informational, since we'd be documenting the existing lousy security
> model and violations of the HTTP spec in real-world cookies, and that
> would not be acceptable in a Standards Track protocol.
> So I think the goal should be to first produce an Informational RFC,
> describing real-world cookies, and then either (a) have 2965
> reclassified as historical, or (b) write a second RFC obsoleting 2965
> and providing a new profile of Cookie/Set-Cookie usage that is both
> acceptable to the IETF and compatible with existing usage. (So it would
> end up being a lot more like 2109 then 2965.)

Do you think we can skip the Informational RFC and jump straight to writing a RFC that obsoletes RFC 2965?

>> I'd really like to eventually build a new type of cookie that
>> incorporates security features that cookies today lack (such as
>> having the Secure flag turned on by default for HTTPS unless
>> explicitly made non-Secure).
> Or more generically, cookies shouldn't bake in the assumption that all
> ports on a given host are part of the same "cookie domain"...
> But this is the sort of thing that would be tricky to add; you need to
> encode the secure-by-default cookie in some way such that older browsers
> would not be able to see it (since if they saw it, they would treat it
> as insecure). But that would mean that either (a) the web site would not
> work with older browsers, or (b) the site would have to also separately
> encode the information in some way that the older browsers could use it
> too, in which case there is no reason to also use the new encoding. So
> this runs the risk of turning into Set-Cookie2 again.

I don't have any answers here, just the end result I'd like to see.

- Bil


Charter: HTTP State Management Mechanism (http-state) WG

Last Modified: 2008-07-31

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Description of Working Group:

The HTTP State Management Mechanism (Cookies) was original created
by Netscape Communications in their Netscape cookie specification,
from which a formal specification followed (RFC 2109, RFC 2965).
However, the formal specification was never implemented in practice;
Cookie implementation evolved ad-hoc, creating a disparity between
the formal specification and real-world usage.

The working group will create a new RFC that obsoletes RFC 2965 and
specifies Cookies as they are used in existing implementations and

In doing so, the working group should consider:
* Implementer experience
* Demonstrated use of HTTP State Management Mechanism
* Impact on existing implementations and deployments
* Ability to achieve broad implementation.
* Ability to address broader use cases than may be
contemplated by the original authors.

The following specifications, RFCs and Internet-Drafts should be
* Netscape Cookie Specification
* RFC 2109 - HTTP State Management Mechanism (Obsoleted by RFC 2965)
* RFC 2964 - Use of HTTP State Management
* RFC 2965 - HTTP State Management Mechanism (Obsoletes RFC 2109)
* I-D - HTTP State Management Mechanism v2
* I-D - Cookie-based HTTP Authentication
* Widely Implemented - HTTPOnly

Goals and Milestones:

No Current Internet-Drafts
No Request For Comments