3.2 Uniform Resource Identifiers

URIs have been known by many names: WWW addresses, Universal Document Identifiers, Universal Resource Identifiers [3], and finally the combination of Uniform Resource Locators (URL) [4] and Names (URN) [20]. As far as HTTP is concerned, Uniform Resource Identifiers are simply formatted strings which identify--via name, location, or any other characteristic--a resource.

3.2.1 General Syntax

URIs in HTTP can be represented in absolute form or relative to some known base URI [11], depending upon the context of their use. The two forms are differentiated by the fact that absolute URIs always begin with a scheme name followed by a colon. For definitive information on URL syntax and semantics, see "Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax and Semantics," RFC 2396 [42] (which replaces RFCs 1738 [4] and RFC 1808 [11]). This specification adopts the definitions of "URI-reference", "absoluteURI", "relativeURI", "port", "host","abs_path", "rel_path", and "authority" from that specification.

The HTTP protocol does not place any a priori limit on the length of a URI. Servers MUST be able to handle the URI of any resource they serve, and SHOULD be able to handle URIs of unbounded length if they provide GET-based forms that could generate such URIs. A server SHOULD return 414 (Request-URI Too Long) status if a URI is longer than the server can handle (see Section 10.4.15).

Note: Servers ought to be cautious about depending on URI lengths above 255 bytes, because some older client or proxy implementations might not properly support these lengths.

3.2.2 http URL

The "http" scheme is used to locate network resources via the HTTP protocol. This section defines the scheme-specific syntax and semantics for http URLs.

http_URL = "http:" "//" host [ ":" port ] [ abs_path [ "?" query ]]

If the port is empty or not given, port 80 is assumed. The semantics are that the identified resource is located at the server listening for TCP connections on that port of that host, and the Request-URI for the resource is abs_path (Section 5.1.2). The use of IP addresses in URLs SHOULD be avoided whenever possible (see RFC 1900 [24]). If the abs_path is not present in the URL, it MUST be given as "/" when used as a Request-URI for a resource (Section 5.1.2). If a proxy receives a host name which is not a fully qualified domain name, it MAY add its domain to the host name it received. If a proxy receives a fully qualified domain name, the proxy MUST NOT change the host name.

3.2.3 URI Comparison

When comparing two URIs to decide if they match or not, a client SHOULD use a case-sensitive octet-by-octet comparison of the entire URIs, with these exceptions:

- A port that is empty or not given is equivalent to the default port for that URI-reference; - Comparisons of host names MUST be case-insensitive;

- Comparisons of scheme names MUST be case-insensitive.

- An empty abs_path is equivalent to an abs_path of "/".

Characters other than those in the "reserved" and "unsafe" sets (seeRFC 2396 [42]) are equivalent to their ""%" HEX HEX" encoding.

For example, the following three URIs are equivalent: