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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 RFC 6068

Network Working Group                                          M. Duerst
Internet-Draft                                  Aoyama Gakuin University
Obsoletes: 2368 (if approved)                                L. Masinter
Expires: September 7, 2006                    Adobe Systems Incorporated
                                                              J. Zawinski
                                                               DNA Lounge
                                                            March 6, 2006

                         The 'mailto' URI Scheme

Status of this Memo

    By submitting this Internet-Draft, each author represents that any
    applicable patent or other IPR claims of which he or she is aware
    have been or will be disclosed, and any of which he or she becomes
    aware will be disclosed, in accordance with Section 6 of BCP 79.

    Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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    This Internet-Draft will expire on September 7, 2006.

Copyright Notice

    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).


    This document defines the format of Uniform Resource Identifiers
    (URI) for references to electronic mail addresses.  It updates the
    syntax of 'mailto' URIs from [RFC2368] for better compatibility with
    IRIs ([RFC3987]).

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Table of Contents

    1.  Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
    2.  Syntax of a mailto URI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  3
    3.  Semantics and Operations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  5
    4.  Unsafe Headers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
    5.  Encoding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6
    6.  Deployment of UTF-8-Based Percent-Encoding . . . . . . . . . .  7
    7.  Examples . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
      7.1.  Examples Conforming to RFC2368 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  7
      7.2.  Examples of Complicated Email Addresses  . . . . . . . . .  8
      7.3.  Examples Using UTF-8-Based Percent-Encoding  . . . . . . .  9
    8.  Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
    9.  IANA Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
    10. Change Log . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
      10.1. Changes between draft 01 and draft 02  . . . . . . . . . . 12
      10.2. Changes between draft 00 and draft 01  . . . . . . . . . . 12
      10.3. Changes from RFC 2368  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
    11. Acknowledgments  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
    12. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
      12.1. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
      12.2. Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
    Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
    Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements . . . . . . . . . . 16

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1.  Introduction

    The mailto URI scheme is used to identify resources that are reached
    using Internet mail.  In its simplest form, a mailto URI contains an
    Internet mail address.  For interaction with resources that requires
    message headers or message bodies to be specified, the mailto URI
    scheme also allows setting mail header fields and the message body.

    This specification extends the previous scheme definition to also
    allow character data to be percent-encoded based on UTF-8, which
    offers a better and more consistent way of dealing with non-ASCII

    In this document, the key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED",
    and "OPTIONAL" are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2.  Syntax of a mailto URI

    The syntax of a "mailto" URI is described using the ABNF of
    [RFC4234], and non-terminal definitions from [RFC2822] (domain, dot-
    atom, quoted-string) and [RFC3986] (unreserved, pct-encoded):

       mailtoURI   = "mailto:" [ to ] [ headers ]
       to          = [ addr-spec *("%2C" addr-spec ) ]
       headers     = "?" header *( "&" header )
       header      = hname "=" hvalue
       hname       = *qchar
       hvalue      = *qchar
       addr-spec   = local-part "@" domain
       local-part  = dot-atom / quoted-string
       qchar       = unreserved / pct-encoded / some-delims
       some-delims = "!" / "$" / "'" / "(" / ")" / "*"
                   / "+" / "," / ";" / ":" / "@"

    "addr-spec" is as specified in [RFC2822], i.e. it is a mail address,
    possibly including "phrase" and "comment" components.  However, the
    following changes apply:

    1.  A number of characters that can appear in "addr-spec" have to be
        percent-encoded.  These are the characters that cannot appear in
        an URI according to [RFC3986] as well as "%" (because it is used
        for percent-encoding) and all the characters in gen-delims except
        "@" (i.e. "/", "?", "#", "[" and "]").  Of the characters in sub-
        delims, at least the following also have to be percent-encoded:
        "&", ";", and "=".  Care has to be taken both when encoding as
        well as when decoding to make sure these operations are applied

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        only once.

    2.  "obs-local-part" and "NO-WS-CTL" as defined in [RFC2822] are not

    3.  Whitespace and comments within "local-part" are not allowed.
        They do not have any operational semantics.

    4.  Percent-encoding can be used to denote non-ASCII characters in
        the part of a "mailbox" that denotes a domain name, in order to
        denote an internationalized domain name.  The considerations for
        reg-name in [RFC3986] apply.  In particular, non-ASCII characters
        must first be encoded according to UTF-8 [STD63], and then each
        octet of the corresponding UTF-8 sequence must be percent-encoded
        to be represented as URI characters.  URI producing applications
        must not use percent-encoding in domain names unless it is used
        to represent a UTF-8 character sequence.  When the
        internationalized domain name is used to compose a message, the
        name must be transformed to the IDNA encoding [RFC3490].  URI
        producers should provide these domain names in the IDNA encoding,
        rather than percent-encoded, if they wish to maximize
        interoperability with legacy mailto: URI interpreters.

    5.  Percent-encoding of non-ASCII octets in the LHS of an email
        address is reserved for potential future internationalization.
        Non-ASCII characters must first be encoded according to UTF-8
        [STD63], and then each octet of the corresponding UTF-8 sequence
        must be percent-encoded to be represented as URI characters.  Any
        other percent-encoding of non-ASCII characters is prohibited.
        When a LHS containing non-ASCII characters will be used to
        compose a message, the LHS must be transformed to conform to
        whatever encoding may be defined in a future specification for
        the internationalization of email addresses.

    "hname" and "hvalue" are encodings of an [RFC2822] header field name
    and value, respectively.  Percent-encoding is needed for the same
    characters as listed above for "addr-spec".

    The special hname "body" indicates that the associated hvalue is the
    body of the message.  The "body" hname should contain the content for
    the first text/plain body part of the message.  The "body" hname is
    primarily intended for generation of short text messages for
    automatic processing (such as "subscribe" messages for mailing
    lists), not general MIME bodies.

    Within mailto URIs, the characters "?", "=", and "&" are reserved.

    Because the "&" (ampersand) character is reserved in HTML and XML,

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    any mailto URI which contains an ampersand must be spelled
    differently in HTML and XML than in other contexts.  A mailto URI
    which appears in an HTML or XML document must escape the "&", e.g. as

    Non-ASCII characters can be encoded in hvalue as follows:

    1.  MIME encoded words (as defined in [RFC2047]) are permitted in
        header values, but not in an hvalue of a "body" hname.

    2.  Non-ASCII characters can be encoded according to UTF-8 [STD63],
        and then each octet of the corresponding UTF-8 sequence is
        percent-encoded to be represented as URI characters.  When
        hvalues encoded in this way are used to compose a message, the
        hvalue must be transformed into MIME encoded words, except for an
        hvalue of a "body" hname, which has to be encoded according to
        [RFC2045].  Please note that for MIME encoded words and for
        bodies in composed email messages, encodings other than UTF-8 MAY
        be used as long as the characters are properly transcoded.

    MIME encoded words and UTF-8-based percent-encoding SHOULD NOT both
    be used sequentially in the same hvalue, and MUST NOT be combined.

    Also note that it is legal to specify both "to" and an "hname" whose
    value is "to".  That is,


    is equivalent to


    is equivalent to


    However, the latter form is NOT RECOMMENDED.  Implementations should
    be careful not to produce two "To:" header fields in a message.
    Also, creators of mailto: URIs should be careful to not include
    message header fields multiple times if these header fields can only
    be used once in a message.

3.  Semantics and Operations

    A mailto URI designates an "internet resource", which is the mailbox
    specified in the address.  When additional headers are supplied, the
    resource designated is the same address, but with an additional

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    profile for accessing the resource.  While there are Internet
    resources that can only be accessed via electronic mail, the mailto
    URI is not intended as a way of retrieving such objects

    In current practice, resolving URIs such as those in the "http"
    scheme causes an immediate interaction between client software and a
    host running an interactive server.  The "mailto" URI has unusual
    semantics because resolving such a URI does not cause an immediate
    interaction.  Instead, the client creates a message to the designated
    address with the various header fields set as default.  The user can
    edit the message, send this message unedited, or choose not to send
    the message.  The operation of how any URI scheme is resolved is not
    mandated by the URI specifications.

4.  Unsafe Headers

    The user agent interpreting a mailto URI SHOULD choose not to create
    a message if any of the headers are considered dangerous; it may also
    choose to create a message with only a subset of the headers given in
    the URI.  Only a limited set of headers such as the Subject,
    Keywords, and Body headers are believed to be both safe and useful in
    the general case.  In cases where the source of an URI is well known,
    and/or specific fields are limited to specific well-known values,
    other headers may be considered safe, too.

    The creator of a mailto URI cannot expect the resolver of a URI to
    understand more than the "subject" and "body" headers.  Clients that
    resolve mailto URIs into mail messages should be able to correctly
    create [RFC2822]-compliant mail messages using the "subject" and
    "body" headers.

5.  Encoding

    [RFC3986] requires that many characters in URIs be encoded.  This
    affects the mailto scheme for some common characters that might
    appear in addresses, headers or message contents.  One such character
    is space (" ", ASCII hex 20).  Note the examples below that use "%20"
    for space in the message body.  Also note that line breaks in the
    body of a message MUST be encoded with "%0D%0A".

    People creating mailto URIs must be careful to encode any reserved
    characters that are used in the URIs so that properly-written URI
    interpreters can read them.  Also, client software that reads URIs
    must be careful to decode strings before creating the mail message so
    that the mail messages appear in a form that the recipient will

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    understand.  These strings should be decoded before showing the
    message to the user.

    The mailto URI scheme is limited in that it does not provide for
    substitution of variables.  Thus, a message body that must include a
    user's email address can not be encoded using the mailto URI.  This
    limitation also prevents mailto URIs that are signed with public keys
    and other such variable information.

6.  Deployment of UTF-8-Based Percent-Encoding

    UTF-8-based percent-encoding should only be used in actual mailto
    URIs once it is well deployed in software that interprets mailto URIs
    (such as mail user agents).

7.  Examples

7.1.  Examples Conforming to RFC2368

    URIs for an ordinary individual mailing address:


    A URI for a mail response system that requires the name of the file
    in the subject:


    A mail response system that requires a "send" request in the body:


    A similar URI could have two lines with different "send" requests (in
    this case, "send current-issue" and, on the next line, "send index".)


    An interesting use of mailto URIs is when browsing archives of
    messages.  A link can be provided that allows to reply to a message
    and conserve threading information.  This is done by adding a In-
    Reply-To header containing the Message-ID of the message where the
    link is added, for example:


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    A request to subscribe to a mailing list:


    A URI for a single user which includes a CC of another user:


    Note the use of the "&" reserved character, above.  The following
    example, by using "?" twice, is incorrect:

    <mailto:joe@example.com?cc=bob@example.com?body=hello> ; WRONG!

    According to [RFC2822], the characters "?", "&", and even "%" may
    occur in addr-specs.  The fact that they are reserved characters in
    this URI scheme is not a problem: those characters may appear in
    mailto URIs, they just may not appear in unencoded form.  The
    standard URI encoding mechanisms ("%" followed by a two-digit hex
    number) must be used in these cases.

    To indicate the address "gorby%kremvax@example.com" one would do:


    To indicate the address "unlikely?address@example.com", and include
    another header, one would do:


    As described above, the "&" (ampersand) character is reserved in HTML
    and must be replaced e.g. with "&amp;".  Thus, a URI with an internal
    ampersand might look like:

    Click <a
    mailto:joe@an.example?cc=bob@an.example&amp;body=hello</a> to send a
    greeting message to Joe and Bob.

7.2.  Examples of Complicated Email Addresses

    Following are a few examples of how to treat email addresses that
    contain complicated escaping syntax.

    Email address: "not@me"@example.org; corresponding mailto: URI:

    Email address: "oh\\no"@example.org; corresponding mailto: URI:

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    Email address: "\\\"it's\ ugly\\\""@example.org; corresponding
    mailto: URI:

7.3.  Examples Using UTF-8-Based Percent-Encoding

    Sending a mail with the subject "coffee" in French, i.e. "cafe" where
    the final e is an e-acute, using UTF-8 and percent-encoding:


    The same subject, this time using an encoded-word (escaping the "="
    and "?" characters used in the encoded-word syntax, because they are


    The same subject, this time encoded as iso-8859-1:


    Going back to straight UTF-8 and adding a body with the same value:


    This mailto URI may result in a message looking like this:

       From: sender@example.net
       To: user@example.org
       Subject: =?utf-8?Q?caf=C3=A9?=
       Content-Type: text/plain;charset=utf-8
       Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable


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    The software sending the email is not restricted to UTF-8, but can
    use other encodings.  The following shows the same email using iso-
    8859-1 two times:

       From: sender@example.net
       To: user@example.org
       Subject: =?iso-8859-1?Q?caf=E9?=
       Content-Type: text/plain;charset=iso-8859-1
       Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable


    Different content transfer encodings (i.e. "8bit" or "base64" instead
    of "quoted-printable") and different encodings in encoded words (i.e.
    "B" instead of "Q") can also be used.

    For more examples of encoding the word coffee in different languages,
    see [RFC2324].

    The following example uses the Japanese word "natto" (U+7D0D U+8C46)
    as a domain name label, sending a mail to a user at


    When constructing the email, the domain name label is converted to
    punycode.  The resulting message may look as follows:

       From: sender@example.net
       To: user@xn--99zt52a.example.org
       Subject: Test
       Content-Type: text/plain
       Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit


8.  Security Considerations

    The mailto scheme can be used to send a message from one user to
    another, and thus can introduce many security concerns.  Mail
    messages can be logged at the originating site, the recipient site,
    and intermediary sites along the delivery path.  If the messages are
    not encoded, they can also be read at any of those sites.

    A mailto URI gives a template for a message that can be sent by mail
    client software.  The contents of that template may be opaque or
    difficult to read by the user at the time of specifying the URI.

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    Thus, a mail client should never send a message based on a mailto URI
    without first showing the user the full message that will be sent
    (including all headers that were specified by the mailto URI), fully
    decoded, and asking the user for approval to send the message as
    electronic mail.  The mail client should also make it clear that the
    user is about to send an electronic mail message, since the user may
    not be aware that this is the result of a mailto URI.

    A mail client should never send anything without complete disclosure
    to the user of what will be sent; it should disclose not only the
    message destination, but also any headers.  Unrecognized headers, or
    headers with values inconsistent with those the mail client would
    normally send should be especially suspect.  MIME headers (MIME-
    Version, Content-*) are most likely inappropriate, except when added
    by the MUA to correctly encode the text(s) being sent, as are those
    relating to routing (From, Bcc, Apparently-To, etc.)

    Note that some headers are inherently unsafe to include in a message
    generated from a URI.  For example, headers such as "From:", "Bcc:",
    and so on, should never be interpreted from a URI.  In general, the
    fewer headers interpreted from the URI, the less likely it is that a
    sending agent will create an unsafe message.

    Examples of problems with sending unapproved mail include:

       mail that breaks laws upon delivery, such as making illegal

       mail that identifies the sender as someone interested in breaking

       mail that identifies the sender to an unwanted third party;

       mail that causes a financial charge to be incurred on the sender;

       mail that causes an action on the recipient machine that causes
       damage that might be attributed to the sender.

    Programs that interpret mailto URIs should ensure that the SMTP
    "From" address is set and correct, and that the resulting email is a
    complete, workable message.

    The security considerations of [RFC3986], [RFC3490], [RFC3491], and
    [RFC3987] also apply.  Implementers and users are recommended to
    check them carefully.

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9.  IANA Considerations

    This document changes the definition of the mailto: URI scheme; the
    registry of URI schemes needs to be updated to refer to this document
    rather than its predecessor, [RFC2368].

    TODO: Add registration for "Body" message header field to make sure
    it doesn't get used for something else.

10.  Change Log

10.1.  Changes between draft 01 and draft 02

       Fixed phone/fax for Martin.

       Changed examples to reduce cases with both a 'to' field and a 'to'

       Fixed syntax to not rely on non-terminals from RFC 2396.  Changed
       description of set of characters that needs to be escaped.

       Mollified warning about headers other than Subject, Keywords, and

       Clarified prohibition of mixing different encodings (%-escaping
       and Mime encoded words) for headers.

       Improved some examples.  Fixed some terminology.

10.2.  Changes between draft 00 and draft 01

       Added clarification about permitted syntax and escaping on email
       address LHS, and more complicated examples.

       Added text about more save headers in case origin or mailto URIs
       is known.

       Fixed date of [RFC3986]

       Added a sentence referencing [RFC2119]

       Added Jamie back in as a co-author.  Changed address/affiliation
       for Martin.

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10.3.  Changes from RFC 2368

       For interoperability with IRIs ([RFC3987]), allowed percent-
       encoding, fixed to UTF-8, in the domain name part of an email
       address, in LHS part of an address (currently reserved because not
       operationally usable), and in hvalue parts.

       Changed from 'URL' to 'URI'

       Updated references: ABNF to [RFC4234]; message syntax to
       [RFC2822], URI Generic Syntax to [RFC3986]

       Expanded "#mailbox", because the "#" shortcut is no longer
       available; needs checking

11.  Acknowledgments

    This document was derived from [RFC2368]; the acknowledgments from
    this specification still applies.  In addition, we thank Paul Hoffman
    for his work on [RFC2368].

    Valuable input on this document was received from (in no particular
    order): Paul Hoffman, Charles Lindsey, Tim Kindberg, Frank Ellermann,
    Etan Wexler, and Michael Haardt.

12.  References

12.1.  Normative References

    [RFC2045]  Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
               Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message
               Bodies", November 1996.

    [RFC2047]  Moore, K., "MIME Part Three: Message Header Extensions for
               Non-ASCII Text", RFC 2047, November 1996.

    [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
               Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

    [RFC2822]  Resnik, P., "Internet Message Format", RFC 2822,
               April 2001.

    [RFC3490]  Faltstrom, P., Hoffman, P., and A. Costello,
               "Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications (IDNA)",
               RFC 3490, March 2003.

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    [RFC3491]  Hoffman, P. and M. Blanchet, "Nameprep: A Stringprep
               Profile for Internationalized Domain Names (IDN)",
               RFC 3491, March 2003.

    [RFC3986]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform
               Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66,
               RFC 3986, January 2005.

    [RFC3987]  Duerst, M. and M. Suignard, "Internationalized Resource
               Identifiers (IRIs)", RFC 3987, January 2005.

    [RFC4234]  Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
               Specifications: ABNF", RFC 4234, October 2005.

    [STD63]    Yergeau, F., "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO
               10646", STD 63, RFC 3629, November 2003.

12.2.  Informative References

    [RFC2324]  Masinter, L., "Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol
               (HTCPCP/1.0)", RFC 2324, April 1998.

    [RFC2368]  Hoffman, P., Masinter, L., and J. Zawinski, "The mailto
               URL scheme", RFC 2368, July 1998.

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Authors' Addresses

    Martin Duerst (Note: Please write "Duerst" with u-umlaut wherever
                  possible, for example as "D&#252;rst" in XML and HTML.)
    Aoyama Gakuin University
    5-10-1 Fuchinobe
    Sagamihara, Kanagawa  229-8558

    Phone: +81 42 759 6329
    Fax:   +81 42 759 6495
    Email: mailto:duerst@it.aoyama.ac.jp
    URI:   http://www.sw.it.aoyama.ac.jp/D%C3%BCrst/

    Larry Masinter
    Adobe Systems Incorporated
    345 Park Ave
    San Jose, CA  95110

    Phone: +1-408-536-3024
    Email: LMM@acm.org
    URI:   http://larry.masinter.net/

    Jamie Zawinski
    DNA Lounge
    375 Eleventh Street
    San Francisco, CA  94103

    Email: jwz@jwz.org

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Intellectual Property Statement

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Copyright Statement

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    Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
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