The first octet

Martin Thomson <> Mon, 06 August 2018 05:55 UTC

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From: Martin Thomson <>
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2018 15:55:36 +1000
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Subject: The first octet
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It appears as though we're about to get some information about how
deployable the QUIC invariants are.  Ian tells me that Google are most
of the way to deploying a protocol that uses QUIC invariants and
should be able to confirm that this works by the interim.  Well,
either that or to be able to tell us what doesn't work, which I'm
hoping isn't a problem we have to deal with.

I'd like to spend some time at the interim on what we do with the type
bits in the protocol.  This email is an attempt to thoroughly cover
the constraints that we have here and attempt to describe a process
that I hope should get us to a conclusion shortly after Bangkok.

Looking at open design issues, this cluster is the one that is the
biggest threat to our schedule.

Design Status and Constraints

Long Header

The long header uses the 0b1xxxxxxx pattern (128-255). The 7 bits we
have are currently allocated to the 4 types of long header packet,
using only 252-255.  All other values are currently unused.

With respect to design constraints, there is only one that I'm aware
of and that is a potential collision with RTP (and RTCP) on this octet
(see RFC 7983), which use 0x10xxxxxx (128-191).

The open question here is what we do with unused types.  We might
debate creating a registry for unused values.  We might want to grease
values.  We could even decide to encrypt these values (though the
design of Retry makes that more difficult, because the contents of
that packet aren't encrypted at all).

I'm not aware of any plans to use these bits, except perhaps what
might be done to be consistent with the short header changes, so we
might have some latitude here.

Short Header

The short header uses the 0b0xxxxxxx pattern (0-127).  This is far
more complex and we have a bunch of open questions that will make this

Right now, we use the 0b0K110RRR as the pattern, with K being the key
phase, and RRR being reserved for the spin bit experiment.

Those fixed bits are (largely) temporary, and might be reclaimed once
existing deployments of Google QUIC (pre-44) are phased out, so I
think that we might want to reclaim some or all of them.

There is a chance that the reserved bits will also become available
(if not all, then maybe 2 of them).  That will be decided in Bangkok,
but we might want to have a plan for those bits.

The constraints that I am then aware of are these:

1. RFC 7983 has the lower half of the first octet fairly densely
populated for demux.  Of the protocols there, my understanding of
their relative importance puts STUN (0-4) as fairly critical, if not
mandatory, then TLS (20-63) as optional.  ZRTP (16-19) and TURN
channels (64-79) are both apparently unimportant, though each might be
opportunistically accommodated.

2. Passive RTT measurement (spin bit) will take 0, 1, or 3 bits.  I
suggest that we allow for this, not counting on having any more bits
than N-3, or assuming that only that many bits will be available.

3. Kazuho points out that the key phase is a linkability vector.  We
might want to consider encrypting that.  We could do that by fixing
the packet number key and not updating it after key updates and using
more output from that process to mask the bit (and maybe other bits in
this field).

4. I realize that we don't have to put a key phase in every packet if
we are less concerned about being able to update immediately.  If we
adopt a scheme to what was proposed in DTLS, then a longer encoding
can be used during the preparation and signaling phase.    I'll follow
up with another email on this subject.

One thing that we could use extra bits for is to move the packet
number size back into this octet.  We could even move packet number
bits back, depending on available space.  That might make some
difference to the number of bytes we allocate for packet numbers.


Given that we don't have answers to some questions we might conclude
several ways.  I proposed that we agree on principles, starting with:

0. (This should already be agreed, but I'm repeating it because it's
important.)  The low 7 bits of the first octet are version-specific
and can change in the next version of the protocol.

A. What do we want to do with unused bits?  Do we want to ensure that
they are always used?  Or can they be reserved?  If so, how would they
be reserved (fixed values, random values, greasing, etc...)?

B. Should things in the first octet be encrypted where possible (for
example, using an extension of packet number encoding).

C. Should packet number encodings should be consistent between long
and short header forms?

D. What should we do with key phase?  This was an open issue from the
stream 0 design team, which might alter the outcome here.  I have
another email that covers this in more detail.

E. How should we accommodate multiplexing?  For me, the big questions
here are whether we allow for RTP to collide with the long header and
which of the protocols we privilege by avoiding with the short header.

My hope is that reaching conclusion on those principles should allow
us to to agree on designs that allow for 0, 1, or 3 bits of spin bit.
That way we know what to do with the outcome of the discussions we
plan to have in Bangkok and can implement the changes relatively

For those who read this far, if you have opinions on what principles
should drive this design, please respond here.  If you have a proposed
design (or designs) and can explain the principles that are expressed,
that's OK too.  If this gets enough feedback, I might arrange a call
for interested parties.

I don't expect that we'll reach a conclusion before the interim, but I
don't think that we can let this go unresolved much beyond that point.