Re: Design: Ignored Unknown Frame Types and Intermediaries

James M Snell <> Mon, 13 May 2013 22:37 UTC

Return-Path: <>
Received: from localhost (localhost []) by (Postfix) with ESMTP id 1267821F925A for <>; Mon, 13 May 2013 15:37:21 -0700 (PDT)
X-Virus-Scanned: amavisd-new at
X-Spam-Flag: NO
X-Spam-Score: -9.706
X-Spam-Status: No, score=-9.706 tagged_above=-999 required=5 tests=[AWL=0.893, BAYES_00=-2.599, RCVD_IN_DNSWL_HI=-8]
Received: from ([]) by localhost ( []) (amavisd-new, port 10024) with ESMTP id kaqFfOYCvSwd for <>; Mon, 13 May 2013 15:37:14 -0700 (PDT)
Received: from ( []) by (Postfix) with ESMTP id 8C81621F9234 for <>; Mon, 13 May 2013 15:37:12 -0700 (PDT)
Received: from lists by with local (Exim 4.72) (envelope-from <>) id 1Uc1MH-0007zp-Os for; Mon, 13 May 2013 22:36:41 +0000
Resent-Date: Mon, 13 May 2013 22:36:41 +0000
Resent-Message-Id: <>
Received: from ([]) by with esmtp (Exim 4.72) (envelope-from <>) id 1Uc1M5-0007yw-Nr for; Mon, 13 May 2013 22:36:29 +0000
Received: from ([]) by with esmtps (TLS1.0:RSA_ARCFOUR_SHA1:16) (Exim 4.72) (envelope-from <>) id 1Uc1M4-0000TC-L4 for; Mon, 13 May 2013 22:36:29 +0000
Received: by with SMTP id xk17so5133456obc.11 for <>; Mon, 13 May 2013 15:36:02 -0700 (PDT)
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed;; s=20120113; h=x-received:mime-version:in-reply-to:references:from:date:message-id :subject:to:cc:content-type; bh=wbnZrOZPOxBDOQuEiEfTaFAues47KajBzuFKozd4Srw=; b=qXexoGsLJYERipNnTsVavDrHWzxY+4yy05yJPXp2PwLtWK8OVITMFynRoV5v944muV DAZAOjykymC3Qd4uvZwGDqElVEY00eUKyVUstA3MKmOXNhJ7cHRvkX6EdCDyHnNc8LXw FTteJX6jOf1ynFI/Us/s1s4H0eyDwvSwwYW9xPhWopLHCWoX8v05RUko7FVcsGHwHdbX mQ/5kjCa0nxxGM1Wz3GoZ6cGCGgvR76RKyzmLhNMuUBUkn30J0pKzDiFCVJsHHt+3/bb aSclNZ61ho/06+DU5zDGQKaf3LOfpM11qmiArgLkZgK/hBBpejuvl2Z3Bnmu1F20+UxX lR7w==
X-Received: by with SMTP id cj9mr14338708oeb.31.1368484562454; Mon, 13 May 2013 15:36:02 -0700 (PDT)
MIME-Version: 1.0
Received: by with HTTP; Mon, 13 May 2013 15:35:42 -0700 (PDT)
In-Reply-To: <>
References: <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
From: James M Snell <>
Date: Mon, 13 May 2013 15:35:42 -0700
Message-ID: <>
To: Roberto Peon <>
Cc: Martin Thomson <>, Yoav Nir <>, "" <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
Received-SPF: pass client-ip=;;
X-W3C-Hub-Spam-Status: No, score=-4.4
X-W3C-Hub-Spam-Report: AWL=-1.739, BAYES_00=-1.9, DKIM_SIGNED=0.1, DKIM_VALID=-0.1, DKIM_VALID_AU=-0.1, FREEMAIL_FROM=0.001, RCVD_IN_DNSWL_LOW=-0.7, SPF_PASS=-0.001
X-W3C-Scan-Sig: 1Uc1M4-0000TC-L4 266fd715736d0685f192dee7b54e9cbe
Subject: Re: Design: Ignored Unknown Frame Types and Intermediaries
Archived-At: <>
X-Mailing-List: <> archive/latest/17984
Precedence: list
List-Id: <>
List-Help: <>
List-Post: <>
List-Unsubscribe: <>

On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 3:08 PM, Roberto Peon <> wrote:
> I believe that, if one does remove/ignore such frames the session may not be
> as optimal as it might otherwise be, but the rule, by definition, precludes
> the use of anything which would hinder interop if emitted, but then ignored
> by the receiver.
> The rule is that one MUST NOT send a frame if its removal would cause
> session corruption/termination/problems.
> So, can you provide an example? :)

The challenge with this is that the sender may know what it and the
origin server supports, it will generally have absolutely no clue what
everything in the middle supports... this means the default position
would be: don't ever send anything other than the core frame types,
which kills the whole point of allowing extensibility in the first
place (and yes, I know your position on extensibility ;-) ...).

In the worse case, what you'll end up with are implementations that
use DATA frames to tunnel (hack) their extension stuff through..
(because they know those will make it thru). We see that anti-pattern
repeated time and time again with things like X-Post-Method-Override,
DNS TXT records, SOA POST tunneling, Deletes-using-GET or POST
methods, etc. I'd rather not encourage similar abuse here.

> I think the version string is the most robust way to ensure that an
> intermediary does the right thing-- If an intermediary sees a version string
> it doesn't recognize, it simply doesn't allow the negotiation of that
> variant.

Imo, Having a rule that says either forward everything or forward
nothing achieves the same result, without the need for any additional

> This is more simple because the lack of an explicit negotiation for this
> will lead to either:
> 1) implementations which ignore the spec, since their mission is to provide
> security and consistency
> 2) Clients, servers, and proxies all maintaining a heuristic and
> table/history about when and why sessions were terminated when a not
> standardized opcode was
>  I don't want to have to have maintain a table of endpoints which have sent
> me some error-code or terminated my session because I included an unknown
> opcode type (that would be pretty complicated). This would have to be done
> for both sides, for that matter.

Such a table would not be necessary. If my user agent sends a
particular extension frame and a middlebox responds with a
RST_STREAM('UNSUPPORTED_FRAME') then I just move on and either try
something else or give up. Otherwise, if the middlebox forwards those
frames on, things just work. There's no reason to terminate the
session, just cancel the stream within the session. There's also no
reason to keep any kind of table for what frame types work or don't...
you either use it and it doesn't work, or you use it and it does.

- James

> I'd prefer to say that an intermediary MUST NOT touch things in the session
> which it does not recognize if it doesn't know the version, but allowed the
> version to be negotiated, and it MAY remove things it doesn't know from a
> session when the version is one which is fully specified.
> That allows the intermediary to simply not negotiate things it doesn't like
> on a per-connection basis, instead of having to have this complex cache of
> 'this feature doesn't work when X,Y,Z'.
> James has pointed out that a reverse proxy may still have some difficulties
> with this, assuming it wishes to support an unknown extention, but, I think
> that trade (no longer requiring clients and servers to have to worry about
> this, while having the proxy continue to worry about it) is reasonable.
> -=R
> On Mon, May 13, 2013 at 2:13 PM, Martin Thomson <>
> wrote:
>> On 13 May 2013 11:37, Roberto Peon <> wrote:
>> > James:
>> > Can you construct a case where, if you follow the rule spelled out in my
>> > earlier email, you fail to achieve interop (because I can't)?
>> It's trivially possible to construct a scenario where this happens,
>> but only if you don't write down a "MUST ignore" rule.  Once the rule
>> is in place, then you are constraining future extensibility.  A "MUST
>> ignore" rule is the easiest rule to get right, but there are other
>> models you can use.
>> > The rule is, essentially:
>> > If a party to the communication ignores (or removes) something it don't
>> > understand, that must not screw up the session.
>> The ignore/remove distinction is very important.  You can't
>> selectively remove; it's all or nothing.  Either remove everything you
>> don't know about or leave it all in.
>> This consideration, along with James' hop-by-hop question does suggest
>> a relatively simple way out:
>> All unsupported/unknown frames that have a non-zero stream identifier
>> MUST be ignored.  If a stream is forwarded by an intermediary, all
>> unsupported/unknown frames MUST either be forwarded or removed; an
>> intermediary MUST NOT selectively forward unsupported frame types.
>> Unsupported/unknown frames with a zero stream identifier MUST be
>> ignored and MUST NOT be forwarded.
>> > That implies that, when you add anything that must be interpreted, it
>> > then
>> > must be declared in the version string (i.e. new version) and thus
>> > agreed
>> > upon by both parties up front, and if you don't negotiate that other
>> > version, you don't get to add frames whose removal would screw up the
>> > session.
>> Yeah, we addressed that early on.  If you want to guarantee that the
>> other guy is going to support something, either work out how to agree
>> in-session (with those ignored frames) or negotiate a new protocol.