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Network Working Group                                         K. Dunglas
Internet-Draft                                         Les-Tilleuls.coop
Intended status: Informational                           22 October 2018
Expires: 25 April 2019

                          The Mercure Protocol


   Mercure is a protocol allowing to push data updates to web browsers
   and other HTTP clients in a fast, reliable and battery-efficient way.
   It is especially useful to publish real-time updates of resources
   served through web APIs, to reactive web and mobile apps.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/current/.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 25 April 2019.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2018 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (http://trustee.ietf.org/
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Simplified BSD License text
   as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Terminology
   2.  Discovery
   3.  Subscriptions
   4.  Publication
   5.  Authorization
       5.1.  Publishers
       5.2.  Subscribers
   6.  Re-Connection and State Reconciliation
   7.  Encryption
   8.  Security Considerations
   9.  References
       9.1.  Normative References
       9.2.  Informative References
   Author's Address

1.  Terminology

   SHOULD NOT, RECOMMENDED, MAY, and OPTIONAL, when they appear in this
   document, are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

   *  Topic: An HTTP [RFC7230] or HTTPS [RFC2818] topic URL.  The unit
      to which one can subscribe to changes.

   *  Publisher: An owner of a topic.  Notifies the hub when the topic
      feed has been updated.  As in almost all pubsub systems, the
      publisher is unaware of the subscribers, if any.  Other pubsub
      systems might call the publisher the "source".  Typically a
      website or a web API, but can also be a web browser.

   *  Subscriber: A client application that subscribes to real-time
      updates of topics.  Typically a Progressive Web App or a Mobile
      App, but can also be a server.

   *  Target: A subscriber, or a group of subscribers.  A publisher is
      able to securely dispatch updates to specific targets.  Using an
      HTTP [RFC7230] or HTTPS [RFC2818] URL to identify targets is

   *  Hub: A server that handles subscription requests and distributes
      the content to subscribers when the corresponding topics have been
      updated (a Hub implementation is provided in this repository).
      Any hub MAY implement its own policies on who can use it.

2.  Discovery

   If the publisher is a server, it SHOULD advertise the URL of one or
   more hubs to the subscriber, allowing it to receive live updates when
   topics are updated.  If more than one hub URL is specified, it is
   expected that the publisher notifies each hub, so the subscriber MAY
   subscribe to one or more of them.

   The publisher SHOULD include at least one Link Header [RFC5988] with
   "rel=mercure" (a hub link header).  The target URL of these links
   MUST be a hub implementing the Mercure protocol.

   Note: this relation type has not been registered yet [RFC5988].
   During the meantime, the relation type "https://git.io/mercure" can
   be used instead.

   The publisher MAY provide the following target attributes in the Link

   *  "last-event-id": the globally unique identifier of the last event
      dispatched by the publisher at the time of the generation of this
      resource.  If provided, it MUST be passed to the hub through a
      query parameter called "Last-Event-ID" and will be used to ensure
      that possible updates having been made during between the resource
      generation time and the connection to the hub are not lost.  See
      section #Re-Connection-and-State-Reconciliation.  If this
      attribute is provided, the publisher MUST always set the "id"
      parameter when sending updates to the hub.

   *  "content-type": the content type of the updates that will pushed
      by the hub.  If omited, the subscriber MUST assume that the
      content type will be the same than the one of the original
      resource.  Setting the "content-type" attribute is especially
      useful to hint that partial updates will be pushed, using formats
      such as JSON Patch [RFC6902] or JSON Merge Patch [RFC7386].

   *  "key-set=<JWKS>": the key(s) to decrypt updates encoded in the
      JWKS (JSON Web Key Set) format (see the Encryption section).

   All these attributes are optional.

   The publisher MAY also include one Link Header [RFC5988] with
   "rel=self" (the self link header).  It SHOULD contain the canonical
   URL for the topic to which subscribers are expected to use for
   subscriptions.  If the Link with "rel=self" is ommitted, the current
   URL of the resource MUST be used as fallback.

   Minimal example:

   GET /books/foo.jsonld HTTP/1.1
   Host: example.com

   HTTP/1.1 200 Ok
   Content-type: application/ld+json
   Link: <https://example.com/hub>; rel="mercure"

   {"@id": "/books/foo.jsonld", "foo": "bar"}

   Links embedded in HTML or XML documents (as defined in the WebSub
   recommendation) MAY also be supported by subscribers.

   Note: the discovery mechanism described in this section is strongly
   inspired from the one specified in the WebSub recommendation

3.  Subscriptions

   The subscriber subscribes to an URL exposed by a hub to receive
   updates of one or many topics.  To subscribe to updates, the client
   opens an HTTPS connection following the Server-Sent Events
   specification (https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/server-sent-
   events.html) to the hub's subscription URL advertised by the
   Publisher.  The "GET" HTTP method must be used.  The connection
   SHOULD use HTTP/2 to leverage mutliplexing and other advanced
   features of this protocol.

   The subscriber specifies the list of topics to get updates for by
   using one or several query parameters named "topic".  The value of
   these query parameters MUST be URI templates [RFC6570].

   Note: an URL is also a valid URI template.

   The protocol doesn't specify the maximum number of "topic" parameters
   that can be sent, but the hub MAY apply an arbitrary limit.

   The EventSource JavaScript interface
   eventsource-interface) MAY be used to establish the connection.  Any
   other appropriate mechanism including but not limited to readable
   streams (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-
   US/docs/Web/API/Streams_API/Using_readable_streams) and
   XMLHttpRequest (https://developer.mozilla.org/en-
   US/docs/Web/API/XMLHttpRequest/Using_XMLHttpRequest) (used by popular
   polyfills) MAY also be used.

   The hub sends updates concerning all subscribed resources matching
   the provided URI templates and the provided targets (see section
   #Authorization).  If no targets are specied, the update is dispatched
   to all subscribers.  The hub MUST send these updates as text/event-
   stream compliant events (https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/

   The "data" property MUST contain the new version of the topic.  It
   can be the full resource, or a partial update by using formats such
   as JSON Patch "@RFC6902" or JSON Merge Patch "@RFC7386".

   All other properties defined in the Server-Sent Events specification
   MAY be used and SHOULD be supported by hubs.

   The resource SHOULD be represented in a format with hypermedia
   capabilities such as JSON-LD [W3C.REC-json-ld-20140116], Atom
   [RFC4287], XML [W3C.REC-xml-20081126] or HTML [W3C.REC-

   Web Linking [RFC5988] SHOULD be used to indicate the IRI of the
   resource sent in the event.  When using Atom, XML or HTML as
   serialization format for the resource, the document SHOULD contain a
   "link" element with a "self" relation containing the IRI of the
   resource.  When using JSON-LD, the document SHOULD contain an "@id"
   property containing the IRI of the resource.


   // The subscriber subscribes to updates for the https://example.com/foo topic
   // and to any topic matching https://example.com/books/{name}
   const url = new URL('https://example.com/hub');
   url.searchParams.append('topic', 'https://example.com/foo');
   url.searchParams.append('topic', 'https://example.com/bar/{id}');

   const eventSource = new EventSource(url);

   // The callback will be called every time an update is published
   eventSource.onmessage = function ({data}) {

   The hub MAY require that the subscribers are authorized to receive
   any update.

4.  Publication

   The publisher send updates by issuing "POST" HTTPS requests on the
   hub URL.  When it receives an update, the hub dispatches it to
   subsribers using the established server-sent events connections.

   An application CAN send events directly to the subscribers, without
   using an external hub server, if it is able to do so.  In this case,
   it *MAY NOT* implement the endpoint to publish updates.

   The request MUST be encoded using the "application/x-www-form-
   urlencoded" format and contains the following data:

   *  "topic": IRIs of the updated topic.  If this key is present
      several times, the first occurence is considered to be the
      canonical URL of the topic, and other ones are considered to be
      alternate URLs.  The hub MUST dispatch this update to subscribers
      subscribed to both canonical or alternate URLs.

   *  "data": the content of the new version of this topic.

   *  "target" (optional): target audience of this update.  This key can
      be present several times.  See section #Authorization for further

   *  "id" (optional): the topic's revision identifier, it will be used
      as the SSE's "id" property, if omited the hub MUST generate a
      valid globally unique id.  It "MAY" be an UUID.

   *  "type" (optional): the SSE's "event" property (a specific event

   *  "retry" (optional): the SSE's "retry" property (the reconnection

   In case of success, the HTTP response's body MUST be the "id"
   associated to this update (the one generated by the hub, if it has
   not been provided by the client) and a success HTTP status code MUST
   be returned.  The publisher MUST be authorized to publish updates.
   See section #Authorization.

5.  Authorization

   To ensure that they are authorized, both publishers and subscribers
   must present a valid JWS [RFC7515] in compact serialization to the
   hub.  This JWS SHOULD be short lived, especially if the subscriber is
   a web browser.  A different key MAY be used to sign subscribers' and
   publishers' tokens.

   Two mechanisms are defined to present the JWS to the hub:

   *  using an "Authorization" HTTP header

   *  using a cookie

   If a publisher or the subscriber is not a web browser, it SHOULD use
   an "Authorization" HTTP header.  This "Authorization" header MUST
   contain the string "Bearer" followed by the JWS.  The hub will check
   that the JWS is conform to the rules defined later to ensure that the
   client is authorized to publish or subscribe to updates.

   By the "EventSource" specification, web browsers can not set custom
   HTTP headers for such connections, and they can only be estabilished
   using the "GET" HTTP method.  However, cookies are supported, and can
   be included even in crossdomain requests if the CORS credentials are
   set (https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/server-sent-

   If a publisher or a subscriber is a web browser, it SHOULD send a
   cookie called "mercureAuthorization" containing the JWS when
   connecting to the hub.

   When possible, to improve the overall security, the
   "mercureAuthorization" cookie SHOULD be set during the discovery.
   See section #Discovery.  Consequently, if the cookie is set during
   the discovery, both the publisher and the hub have to share the same
   second level domain.  The "Domain" attribute MAY be used to allow the
   publisher and the hub to use different subdomains.

   The cookie SHOULD have the "Secure", "HttpOnly" and "SameSite"
   attributes set.  Setting the cookie's "Path" attribute SHOULD also be
   set to the hub's URL.  See section #Security-Considerations.

   When using authorization mechanisms, the connection MUST use an
   encryption layer such as HTTPS.

   If both an "Authorization" HTTP header and a cookie named
   "mercureAuthorization" are presented by the client, the cookie MUST
   be ignored.  If a client tries to execute an operation it is not
   allowed to, a 403 HTTP status code SHOULD be returned.

5.1.  Publishers

   Publishers MUST be authorized to dispatch updates to the hub, and
   MUST prove that they are allowed to send updates.

   To be allowed to publish an update, the JWT presented by the
   publisher MUST contain a claim called "mercure", and this claim MUST
   contain a "publish" key.  JWT's "mercure.publish" contains an array
   of targets the publisher is allowed to dispatch updates to.

   If "mercure.publish":

   *  is not defined, then the publisher MUST NOT be authorized to
      dispatch any update

   *  contains an empty array, then the publisher is only allowed to
      dispatch public updates

   *  contains the reserved string "*" as an array value, then the
      publisher is authorized to dispatch updates to all targets

   If a topic is not public, the "POST" request sent by the publisher to
   the hub MUST contain a list of keys named "target".  Theirs values
   MUST be of type "string", and it is RECOMMENDED to use valid IRIs.
   They can be, for instance a user ID, or a list of group IDs.  If an
   update contains at least one target the publisher is not authorized
   for, the hub MUST NOT dispatch the update (even if some targets in
   the list are allowed) and SHOULD return a 403 HTTP status code.

5.2.  Subscribers

   Subscribers MAY need to be authorized to connect to the hub.  To
   receive updates destined to specific targets, they MUST be
   authorized, and MUST prove they belong to at least one of the
   specified targets.  If the subscriber is not authorized it MUST NOT
   receive any update having at least one target.

   To receive updates destined to specific targets, the JWS presented by
   the subscriber MUST have a claim named "mercure" with a key named
   "subscribe" that contains an array of strings: the list of targets
   the user is authorized to receive updates for.  The targets SHOULD be

   If at least one target is specified, the update MUST NOT be sent to
   the subscriber by the hub, unless the "mercure.subscribe" property of
   the JWS presented by the subscriber contains at least one of the
   specified targets.

   If the "mercure.subscribe" array contains the reserved string value
   "*", then the subscriber is authorized to receive updates destined to
   all targets.

6.  Re-Connection and State Reconciliation

   To allow re-establisment in case of connection lost, events
   dispatched by the hub SHOULD include an "id" property.  The value
   contained in this "id" property SHOULD be a globally unique
   identifier.  To do so, UUID [RFC4122] MAY be used.

   According to the server-sent events specification, in case of
   connection lost the subscriber will try to automatically reconnect.
   During the reconnection the subscriber MUST send the last received
   event id in a Last-Event-ID (https://html.spec.whatwg.org/multipage/
   iana.html#last-event-id) HTTP header.

   The server-sent events specification doesn't allow to set this HTTP
   header during the first connection (before a re-connection occurs).
   In order to fetch any update dispatched between the initial resource
   generation by the publisher and the connection to he hub, the
   subscriber MUST send the event id provided during the discovery in
   the "last-event-id" link's attribute in a query parameter named
   "Last-Event-ID" when connecting to the hub.

   If both the "Last-Event-ID" HTTP header and the query parameter are
   present, the HTTP header MUST take precedence.

   If the "Last-Event-ID" header or query parameter exists, the hub
   SHOULD send to the subscriber all events published since the one
   having this identifier.

   The hub MAY discard some messages for operational reasons.  The
   subscriber MUST NOT assume that no update will be lost, and MUST re-
   fetch the original topic to ensure this (for instance, after a long
   deconnection time).

   The hub MAY also specify the reconnection time using the "retry" key,
   as specified in the server-sent events format.

7.  Encryption

   Using HTTPS doesn't prevent the hub to access to the update's
   content.  Depending of the intended privacy of informations contained
   in the updates, it MAY be necessary to prevent eavesdropping by the

   To make sure that the message content can not be read by the hub, the
   publisher MAY encode the message before sending it to the hub.  The
   publisher SHOULD use JSON Web Encryption [RFC7516] to encrypt the
   update content.  The publisher MAY provide the relevant encryption
   key(s) in the "key-set" attribute of the Link HTTP header during the
   discovery.  The "key-set" attribute SHOULD contain a key encoded
   using the JSON Web Key Set [RFC7517] format.  Any other out-of-band
   mechanism MAY be used instead to share the key between the publisher
   and the subscriber.

   Updates encyption is considered a best practice to prevent mass
   surveillance.  This is especially relevant if the hub is managed by
   an external provider.

8.  Security Considerations

   The confidentiality of the secret key(s) used to generate the JWTs is
   a primary concern.  The secret key(s) MUST be stored securely.  They
   MUST be revoked immediatly in case of compromission.

   Possessing a valid JWTs allows any client to subscribe, or to publish
   to the hub.  Their confidentiality MUST therefore be ensured.  To do
   so, JWTs MUST only be transmited over secure connections.

   Also, when the client is a web browser, to be resilient to Cross-site
   Scription (XSS) attacks (https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Cross-
   site_Scripting_(XSS)), the JWT SHOULD not be made accessible to
   JavaScript scripts.  It's main reason why, when the client is a web
   browser, using "HttpOnly" cookies as authorization mechanism SHOULD
   always be prefered.

   In case of compromission, revoking a JWT before its expiration is
   often difficult.  So, using short-lived token is strongly

   The publish endpoint of the hub may be targeted by Cross-Site Request
   Forgery (CSRF) attacks (https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Cross-
   Site_Request_Forgery_(CSRF)) when the cookie-based authorization
   mechanism is used.  Therefore, implementations supporting this
   mechanism MUST mitigate such attacks.

   The first prevention method to implement is to set the
   "mercureAuthorization" cookie's "SameSite" attribute.  However, some
   web browsers still not support this attribute
   (https://caniuse.com/#feat=same-site-cookie-attribute), and will stay
   vulnerable.  In addition, hub implementations SHOULD use the "Origin"
   and "Referer" HTTP headers set by web browsers to verify that the
   source origin matches the target origin.  If none of these headers
   are available, the hub SHOULD discard the request.

   CSRF prevention techniques, including the ones previously mentioned,
   are described in depth in OWASP's Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
   Prevention Cheat Sheet (https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Cross-

9.  References

9.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997, <https://www.rfc-

   [RFC2818]  Rescorla, E., "HTTP Over TLS", RFC 2818,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2818, May 2000, <https://www.rfc-

   [RFC4122]  Leach, P., Mealling, M., and R. Salz, "A Universally
              Unique IDentifier (UUID) URN Namespace", RFC 4122,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4122, July 2005, <https://www.rfc-

   [RFC5988]  Nottingham, M., "Web Linking", RFC 5988,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5988, October 2010, <https://www.rfc-

   [RFC6570]  Gregorio, J., Fielding, R., Hadley, M., Nottingham, M.,
              and D. Orchard, "URI Template", RFC 6570,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6570, March 2012, <https://www.rfc-

   [RFC7230]  Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing",
              RFC 7230, DOI 10.17487/RFC7230, June 2014,

   [RFC7515]  Jones, M., Bradley, J., and N. Sakimura, "JSON Web
              Signature (JWS)", RFC 7515, DOI 10.17487/RFC7515, May
              2015, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7515>.

   [RFC7516]  Jones, M. and J. Hildebrand, "JSON Web Encryption (JWE)",
              RFC 7516, DOI 10.17487/RFC7516, May 2015,

   [RFC7517]  Jones, M., "JSON Web Key (JWK)", RFC 7517,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7517, May 2015, <https://www.rfc-

9.2.  Informative References

   [RFC4287]  Nottingham, M., Ed. and R. Sayre, Ed., "The Atom
              Syndication Format", RFC 4287, DOI 10.17487/RFC4287,
              December 2005, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc4287>.

   [RFC6902]  Bryan, P., Ed. and M. Nottingham, Ed., "JavaScript Object
              Notation (JSON) Patch", RFC 6902, DOI 10.17487/RFC6902,
              April 2013, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc6902>.

   [RFC7386]  Hoffman, P. and J. Snell, "JSON Merge Patch", RFC 7386,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7386, October 2014, <https://www.rfc-

              Faulkner, S., Eicholz, A., Leithead, T., Danilo, A., and
              S. Moon, "HTML 5.2", World Wide Web Consortium
              Recommendation REC-html52-20171214, 14 December 2017,

              Sporny, M., Kellogg, G., and M. Lanthaler, "JSON-LD 1.0",
              World Wide Web Consortium Recommendation REC-json-ld-
              20140116, 16 January 2014, <http://www.w3.org/TR/2014/REC-

              Bray, T., Paoli, J., Sperberg-McQueen, M., Maler, E., and
              F. Yergeau, "Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 (Fifth
              Edition)", World Wide Web Consortium Recommendation REC-
              xml-20081126, 26 November 2008,

Author's Address

   Kevin Dunglas
   5 rue Hegel
   Lille  59000

   Email: kevin@les-tilleuls.coop

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