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Versions: 00 RFC 3076

INTERNET-DRAFT                                             Canonical XML
Expires May 2001                                           November 2000

                             Canonical XML
                              Version 1.0


                               John Boyer

                        Status of This Document

   This document is a product of the joint IETF/W3C XMLDSIG working
   group.  It is intended to become an Informational RFC version of the
   W3C Candidate Recommendation of the same name
   <http://www.w3.org/TR/2000/CR-xml-c14n-20001026>.  Distribution of
   this document is unlimited. Comments should be sent to the XMLDSIG WG
   mailing list <w3c-ietf-xmldsig@w3.org> or to the author.

   This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
   all provisions of Section 10 of RFC 2026.  Internet-Drafts are
   working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its
   areas, and its working groups.  Note that other groups may also
   distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

   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."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2000 The Internet Society & W3C (MIT, INRIA, Keio), All
   Rights Reserved. W3C liability, trademark, document use and software
   licensing rules apply.

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   Any XML document is part of a set of XML documents that are logically
   equivalent within an application context, but which vary in physical
   representation based on syntactic changes permitted by XML 1.0 [XML]
   and Namespaces in XML [Names]. This specification describes a method
   for generating a physical representation, the canonical form, of an
   XML document that accounts for the permissible changes. Except for
   limitations regarding a few unusual cases, if two documents have the
   same canonical form, then the two documents are logically equivalent
   within the given application context. Note that two documents may
   have differing canonical forms yet still be equivalent in a given
   context based on application-specific equivalence rules for which no
   generalized XML specification could account.


   The following people provided valuable feedback that improved the
   quality of this specification:

         * Doug Bunting, Ariba
         * John Cowan, Reuters
         * Martin J. Durst, W3C
         * Merlin Hughes, Baltimore
         * Gregor Karlinger, IAIK TU Graz
         * Susan Lesch, W3C
         * Jonathan Marsh, Microsoft
         * Joseph Reagle, W3C
         * Petteri Stenius, Done360
         * Kent TAMURA, IBM

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Table of Contents

      Status of This Document....................................1
      Copyright Notice...........................................1


      Table of Contents..........................................3

      1. Introduction............................................4
      1.1 Terminology............................................4
      1.2 Applications...........................................5
      1.3 Limitations............................................6
      2. XML Canonicalization....................................7
      2.1 Data Model.............................................7
      2.2 Document Order........................................11
      2.3 Processing Model......................................11
      2.4 Document Subsets......................................14
      3 Examples of XML Canonicalization........................15
      3.1 PIs, Comments, and Outside of Document Element........15
      3.2 Whitespace in Document Content........................16
      3.3 Start and End Tags....................................17
      3.4 Character Modifications and Character References......19
      3.5 Entity References.....................................20
      3.6 UTF-8 Encoding........................................21
      3.7 Document Subsets......................................21
      4 Resolutions.............................................22
      4.1 No XML Declaration....................................22
      4.2 No Character Model Normalization......................23
      4.3 Handling of Whitespace Outside Document Element.......23
      4.4 No Namespace Prefix Rewriting.........................23
      4.5 Order of Namespace Declarations and Attributes........24
      4.6 Superfluous Namespace Declarations....................25
      4.7 Propagation of Default Namespace Declaration in Document
      4.8 Sorting Attributes by Namespace URI...................26

      Author's Address..........................................28
      Expiration and File Name..................................28

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1. Introduction

   The XML 1.0 Recommendation [XML] specifies the syntax of a class of
   resources called XML documents. The XML Namespaces Recommendation
   [Names] specifies additional syntax and semantics for XML documents.
   It is possible for XML documents which are equivalent for the
   purposes of many applications to differ in physical representation.
   For example, they may differ in their entity structure, attribute
   ordering, and character encoding. It is the goal of this
   specification to establish a method for determining whether two
   documents are identical, or whether an application has not changed a
   document, except for transformations permitted by XML 1.0 and

1.1 Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [Keywords].

   See [Names] for the definition of QName.

   A document subset is a portion of an XML document indicated by a
   node-set that may not include all of the nodes in the document.

   The canonical form of an XML document is physical representation of
   the document produced by the method described in this specification.
   The changes are summarized in the following list:

      * The document is encoded in UTF-8
      * Line breaks normalized to #xA on input, before parsing
      * Attribute values are normalized, as if by a validating processor
      * Character and parsed entity references are replaced
      * CDATA sections are replaced with their character content
      * The XML declaration and document type declaration (DTD) are
      * Empty elements are converted to start-end tag pairs
      * Whitespace outside of the document element and within start and
        end tags are normalized
      * All whitespace in character content is retained (excluding
        characters removed during linefeed normalization)
      * Attribute value delimiters are set to double quotes
      * Special characters in attribute values and character content are
        replaced by character references
      * Superfluous namespace declarations are removed from each element
      * Default attributes are added to each element
      * Lexicographic order is imposed on the namespace declarations and
        attributes of each element

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   The term canonical XML refers to XML that is in canonical form. The
   XML canonicalization method is the algorithm defined by this
   specification that generates the canonical form of a given XML
   document or document subset.  The term XML canonicalization refers to
   the process of applying the XML canonicalization method to an XML
   document or document subset.

   The XPath 1.0 Recommendation [XPath] defines the term node-set and
   specifies a data model for representing an input XML document as a
   set of nodes of various types (element, attribute, namespace, text,
   comment, processing instruction, and root). The nodes are included in
   or excluded from a node-set based on the evaluation of an expression.
   Within this specification, a node-set is used to directly indicate
   whether or not each node should be rendered in the canonical form (in
   this sense, it is used as a formal mathematical set). A node that is
   excluded from the set is not rendered in the canonical form being
   generated, even if its parent node is included in the node-set.
   However, an omitted node may still impact the rendering of its
   descendants (e.g. by augmenting the namespace context of the

1.2 Applications

   Since the XML 1.0 Recommendation [XML] and the Namespaces in XML
   Recommendation [Names] define multiple syntactic methods for
   expressing the same information, XML applications tend to take
   liberties with changes that have no impact on the information content
   of the document. XML canonicalization is designed to be useful to
   applications that require the ability to test whether the information
   content of a document or document subset has been changed. This is
   done by comparing the canonical form of the original document before
   application processing with the canonical form of the document result
   of the application processing.

   For example, a digital signature over the canonical form of an XML
   document or document subset would allow the signature digest
   calculations to be oblivious to changes in the original document's
   physical representation, provided that the changes are defined to be
   logically equivalent by the XML 1.0 or Namespaces in XML. During
   signature generation, the digest is computed over the canonical form
   of the document. The document is then transferred to the relying
   party, which validates the signature by reading the document and
   computing a digest of the canonical form of the received document.
   The equivalence of the digests computed by the signing and relying
   parties (and hence the equivalence of the canonical forms over which
   they were computed) ensures that the information content of the
   document has not been altered since it was signed.

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1.3 Limitations

   Two XML documents may have differing information content that is
   nonetheless logically equivalent within a given application context.
   Although two XML documents are equivalent (aside from limitations
   given in this section) if their canonical forms are identical, it is
   not a goal of this work to establish a method such that two XML
   documents are equivalent if and only if their canonical forms are
   identical. Such a method is unachievable, in part due to
   application-specific rules such as those governing unimportant
   whitespace and equivalent data (e.g.  <color>black</color> versus
   <color>rgb(0,0,0)</color>). There are also equivalencies established
   by other W3C Recommendations and Working Drafts.  Accounting for
   these additional equivalence rules is beyond the scope of this work.
   They can be applied by the application or become the subject of
   future specifications.

   The canonical form of an XML document may not be completely
   operational within the application context, though the circumstances
   under which this occurs are unusual. This problem may be of concern
   in certain applications since a canonical form and its canonical form
   are equivalent. For example, in a digital signature application, the
   canonical form can be substituted for the original document without
   changing the digest calculation.  However, the security risk only
   occurs in the unusual circumstances described below, which can all be
   resolved or at least detected prior to digital signature generation.

   The difficulties arise due to the loss of the following information
   not available in the data model:

      1. base URI, especially in content derived from the replacement
         text of external general parsed entity references
      2. notations and external unparsed entity references
      3. attribute types in the document type declaration

   In the first case, note that a document containing a relative URI
   [URI] is only operational when accessed from a specific URI that
   provides the proper base URI. In addition, if the document contains
   external general parsed entity references to content containing
   relative URIs, then the relative URIs will not be operational in the
   canonical form, which replaces the entity reference with internal
   content (thereby implicitly changing the default base URI of that
   content). Both of these problems can typically be solved by adding
   support for the xml:base attribute [XBase] to the application, then
   adding appropriate xml:base attributes to document element and all
   top-level elements in external entities. In addition, applications
   often have an opportunity to resolve relative URIs prior to the need
   for a canonical form. For example, in a digital signature
   application, a document is often retrieved and processed prior to
   signature generation. The processing SHOULD create a new document in

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   which relative URIs have been converted to absolute URIs, thereby
   mitigating any security risk for the new document.

   In the second case, the loss of external unparsed entity references
   and the notations that bind them to applications means that canonical
   forms cannot properly distinguish among XML documents that
   incorporate unparsed data via this mechanism. This is an unusual case
   precisely because most XML processors currently discard the document
   type declaration, which discards the notation, the entity's binding
   to a URI, and the attribute type that binds the attribute value to an
   entity name. For documents that must be subjected to more than one
   XML processor, the XML design typically indicates a reference to
   unparsed data using a URI in the attribute value.

   In the third case, the loss of attribute types can affect the
   canonical form in different ways depending on the type. Attributes of
   type ID cease to be ID attributes. Hence, any XPath expressions that
   refer to the canonical form using the id() function cease to operate.
   The attribute types ENTITY and ENTITIES are not part of this case;
   they are covered in the second case above. Attributes of enumerated
   fail to be appropriately constrained during future attempts to change
   the attribute value if the canonical form replaces the original
   document during application processing. Applications can avoid the
   difficulties of this case by ensuring that an appropriate document
   type declaration is prepended prior to using the canonical form in
   further XML processing. This is likely to be an easy task since
   attribute lists are usually acquired from a standard external DTD
   subset, and any entity and notation declarations not also in the
   external DTD subset are typically constructed from application
   configuration information and added to the internal DTD subset.

   While these limitations are not severe, it would be possible to
   resolve them in a future version of XML canonicalization if, for
   example, a new version of XPath were created based on the XML
   Information Set [InfoSet] currently under development at the W3C.

2. XML Canonicalization

2.1 Data Model

   The data model defined in the XPath 1.0 Recommendation [XPath] is
   used to represent the input XML document or document subset.
   Implementations SHOULD but need not be based on an XPath
   implementation. XML canonicalization is defined in terms of the XPath
   definition of a node-set, and implementations MUST produce equivalent

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   The first parameter of input to the XML canonicalization method is
   either an XPath node-set or an octet stream containing a well-formed
   XML document.  Implementations MUST support the octet stream input
   and SHOULD also support the document subset feature via node-set
   input. For the purpose of describing canonicalization in terms of an
   XPath node-set, this section describes how an octet stream is
   converted to an XPath node-set.

   The second parameter of input to the XML canonicalization method is a
   boolean flag indicating whether or not comments should be included in
   the canonical form output by the XML canonicalization method. If a
   canonical form contains comments corresponding to the comment nodes
   in the input node-set, the result is called canonical XML with
   comments. Note that the XPath data model does not create comment
   nodes for comments appearing within the document type declaration
   (DTD). Implementations are REQUIRED to be capable of producing
   canonical XML excluding all comments that may have appeared in the
   input document or document subset. Support for canonical XML with
   comments is RECOMMENDED.

   If an XML document must be converted to a node-set, XPath REQUIRES
   that an XML processor be used to create the nodes of its data model
   to fully represent the document. The XML processor performs the
   following tasks in order:

      1. normalize linefeeds
      2. normalize attribute values
      3. replace CDATA sections with their character content
      4. resolve character and parsed entity references

   The input octet stream MUST contain a well-formed XML document, but
   the input need not be validated. However, the attribute value
   normalization and entity reference resolution MUST be performed in
   accordance with the behaviors of a validating XML processor. As well,
   nodes for default attributes (declared in the ATTLIST with an
   AttValue but not specified) are created in each element. Thus, the
   declarations in the document type declaration are used to help create
   the canonical form, even though the document type declaration is not
   retained in the canonical form.

   The XPath data model represents data using UCS characters.
   Implementations MUST use XML processors that support UTF-8 and UTF-16
   and translate to the UCS character domain. For UTF-16, the leading
   byte order mark is treated as an artifact of encoding and stripped
   from the UCS character data (subsequent zero width non-breaking
   spaces appearing within the UTF-16 data are not removed) [UTF-16,
   Section 3.2]. Support for ISO-8859-1 encoding is RECOMMENDED, and all
   other character encodings are OPTIONAL.

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   All whitespace within the root document element MUST be preserved
   (except for any #xD characters deleted by line delimiter
   normalization). This includes all whitespace in external entities.
   Whitespace outside of the root document element MUST be discarded.

   In the XPath data model, there exist the following node types: root,
   element, comment, processing instruction, text, attribute and
   namespace.  There exists a single root node whose children are
   processing instruction nodes and comment nodes to represent
   information outside of the document element (and outside of the
   document type declaration). The root node also has a single element
   node representing the top-level document element.  Each element node
   can have child nodes of type element, text, processing instruction,
   and comment. The attributes and namespaces associated with an element
   are not considered to be child nodes of the element, but they are
   associated with the element by inclusion in the element's attribute
   and namespace axes. Note that attribute and namespace axes may not
   directly correspond to the text appearing in the element's start tag
   in the original document.

   Note: An element has attribute nodes to represent the non-namespace
         attribute declarations appearing in its start tag as well as
         nodes to represent the default attributes.

   By virtue of the XPath data model, XML canonicalization is
   namespace-aware [Names]. However, it cannot and therefore does not
   account for namespace equivalencies using namespace prefix rewriting
   (see explanation in Section 4). In the XPath data model, each element
   and attribute has a name returned by the function name() which can,
   at the discretion of the application, be the QName appearing in the
   original document. XML canonicalization REQUIRES that the XML
   processor retain sufficient information such that the QName of the
   element as it appeared in the original document can be provided.

   Note: An element E has namespace nodes that represent its namespace
         declarations as well as any namespace declarations made by its
         ancestors that have not been overridden in E's declarations,
         the default namespace if it is non-empty, and the declaration
         of the prefix xml.

   Note: This specification supports the recent XML plenary decision to
         deprecate relative namespace URIs as follows: implementations
         of XML canonicalization MUST report an operation failure on
         documents containing relative namespace URIs. XML
         canonicalization MUST NOT be implemented with an XML parser
         that converts relative URIs to absolute URIs.

   Character content is represented in the XPath data model with text
   nodes.  All consecutive characters are placed into a single text
   node.  Furthermore, the text node's characters are represented in the

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   UCS character domain.  The XML canonicalization method does not
   perform character model normalization (see explanation in Section 4).
   However, the XML processor used to prepare the XPath data model input
   is REQUIRED to use Normalization Form C [NFC] when converting an XML
   document to the UCS character domain from a non-Unicode encoding.

   Since XML canonicalization converts an XPath node-set into a
   canonical form, the first parameter MUST either be an XPath node-set
   or it must be converted from an octet stream to a node-set by
   performing the XML processing necessary to create the XPath nodes
   described above, then setting an initial XPath evaluation context of:

      * A context node, initialized to the root node of the input XML
      * A context position, initialized to 1.
      * A context size, initialized to 1.
      * Any library of functions conforming to the XPath Recommendation.
      * An empty set of variable bindings.
      * An empty set of namespace declarations.

   and evaluating the following default expression:

     Comment Parameter Value    Default XPath Expression
     -----------------------    ------------------------

     Without (false):
                      (//. | //@* |//namespace::*)[not(self::comment())]

     With (true):
                      (//. | //@* | //namespace::*)

   The expressions in this table generate a node-set containing every
   node of the XML document (except the comments if the comment
   parameter value is false).

   If the input is an XPath node-set, then the node-set must explicitly
   contain every node to be rendered to the canonical form. For example,
   the result of the XPath expression id("E") is a node-set containing
   only the node corresponding to the element with an ID attribute value
   of "E".  Since none of its descendant nodes, attribute nodes and
   namespace nodes are in the set, the canonical form would consist
   solely of the element's start and end tags, less the attribute and
   namespace declarations, with no internal content. Section 3.7
   exemplifies how to serialize an identified element along with its
   internal content, attributes and namespace declarations.

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2.2 Document Order

   Although an XPath node-set is defined to be unordered, the XPath 1.0
   Recommendation [XPath] defines the term document order to be the
   order in which the first character of the XML representation of each
   node occurs in the XML representation of the document after expansion
   of general entities, except for namespace and attribute nodes whose
   document order is application-dependent.

   The XML canonicalization method processes a node-set by imposing the
   following additional document order rules on the namespace and
   attribute nodes of each element:

      * An element's namespace and attribute nodes have a document order
        position greater than the element but less than any child node
        of the element.
      * Namespace nodes have a lesser document order position than
        attribute nodes.
      * An element's namespace nodes are sorted lexicographically by
        local name (the default namespace node, if one exists, has no
        local name and is therefore lexicographically least).
      * An element's attribute nodes are sorted lexicographically with
        namespace URI as the primary key and local name as the secondary
        key (an empty namespace URI is lexicographically least).

   Lexicographic comparison, which orders strings from least to greatest
   alphabetically, is based on the UCS codepoint values, which is
   equivalent to lexicographic ordering based on UTF-8.

2.3 Processing Model

   The XPath node-set is converted into an octet stream, the canonical
   form, by generating the representative UCS characters for each node
   in the node-set in ascending document order, then encoding the result
   in UTF-8 (without a leading byte order mark). No node is processed
   more than once.  Note that processing an element node E includes the
   processing of all members of the node-set for which E is an ancestor.
   Therefore, directly after the representative text for E is generated,
   E and all nodes for which E is an ancestor are removed from the
   node-set (or some logically equivalent operation occurs such that the
   node-set's next node in document order has not been processed). Note,
   however, that an element node is not removed from the node-set until
   after its children are processed.

   The result of processing a node depends on its type and on whether or
   not it is in the node-set. If a node is not in the node-set, then no
   text is generated for the node except for the result of processing
   its namespace and attribute axes (elements only) and its children

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   (elements and the root node). If the node is in the node-set, then
   text is generated to represent the node in the canonical form in
   addition to the text generated by processing the node's namespace and
   attribute axes and child nodes.

   Note: The node-set is treated as a set of nodes, not a list of
         subtrees. To canonicalize an element including its namespaces,
         attributes, and content, the node-set must actually contain all
         of the nodes corresponding to these parts of the document, not
         just the element node.

   The text generated for a node is dependent on the node type and given
   in the following list:

      * Root Node- The root node is the parent of the top-level document
        element. The result of processing each of its child nodes that
        is in the node-set in document order. The root node does not
        generate a byte order mark, XML declaration, nor anything from
        within the document type declaration.

      * Element Nodes- If the element is not in the node-set, then the
        result is obtained by processing the namespace axis, then the
        attribute axis, then processing the child nodes of the element
        that are in the node-set (in document order). If the element is
        in the node-set, then the result is an open angle bracket (<),
        the element QName, the result of processing the namespace axis,
        the result of processing the attribute axis, a close angle
        bracket (>), the result of processing the child nodes of the
        element that are in the node-set (in document order), an open
        angle bracket, a forward slash (/), the element QName, and a
        close angle bracket.

         o Namespace Axis- Consider a list L containing only namespace
           nodes in the axis and in the node-set in lexicographic order
           (ascending). To begin processing L, if the first node is not
           the default namespace node (a node with no namespace URI and
           no local name), then generate a space followed by xmlns=3D""
           if and only if the following conditions are met:

            + the element E that owns the axis is in the node-set
            + The nearest ancestor element of E in the node-set has a
              default namespace node in the node-set (default namespace
              nodes always have non-empty values in XPath)

           The latter condition eliminates unnecessary occurrences of
           xmlns="" in the canonical form since an element only receives
           an xmlns="" if its default namespace is empty and if it has
           an immediate parent in the canonical form that has a non-
           empty default namespace. To finish processing L, simply

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           process every namespace node in L, except omit namespace node
           with local name xml, which defines the xml prefix, if its
           string value is http://www.w3.org/XML/1998/namespace.

         o Attribute Axis- In lexicographic order (ascending), process
           each node that is in the element's attribute axis and in the

      * Namespace Nodes- A namespace node N is ignored if the nearest
        ancestor element of the node's parent element that is in the
        node-set has a namespace node in the node-set with the same
        local name and value as N. Otherwise, process the namespace node
        N in the same way as an attribute node, except assign the local
        name xmlns to the default namespace node if it exists (in XPath,
        the default namespace node has an empty URI and local name).

      * Attribute Nodes- a space, the node's QName, an equals sign, an
        open double quote, the modified string value, and a close double
        quote.  The string value of the node is modified by replacing
        all ampersands (&) with &amp;, all open angle brackets (<) with
        &lt;, all double quote characters with &quot;, and the
        whitespace characters #x9, #xA, and #xD, with character
        references. The character references are written in uppercase
        hexadecimal with no leading zeroes (for example, #xD is
        represented by the character reference &#xD;).

      * Text Nodes- the string value, except all ampersands are replaced
        by &amp;, all open angle brackets (<) are replaced by &lt;, all
        closing angle brackets (>) are replaced by &gt;, and all #xD
        characters are replaced by &#xD;.

      * Processing Instruction (PI) Nodes- The opening PI symbol (<?,
        the PI target name of the node, a leading space and the string
        value if it is not empty, and the closing PI symbol (?>). If the
        string value is empty, then the leading space is not added.
        Also, a trailing #xA is rendered after the closing PI symbol for
        PI children of the root node with a lesser document order than
        the document element, and a leading #xA is rendered before the
        opening PI symbol of PI children of the root node with a greater
        document order than the document element.

      * Comment Nodes- Nothing if generating canonical XML without
        comments.  For canonical XML with comments, generate the opening
        comment symbol (<!--), the string value of the node, and the
        closing comment symbol (-->). Also, a trailing #xA is rendered
        after the closing comment symbol for comment children of the
        root node with a lesser document order than the document
        element, and a leading #xA is rendered before the opening
        comment symbol of comment children of the root node with a
        greater document order than the document element. (Comment

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        children of the root node represent comments outside of the
        top-level document element and outside of the document type

   The QName of a node is either the local name if the namespace prefix
   string is empty or the namespace prefix, a colon, then the local name
   of the element. The namespace prefix used in the QName MUST be the
   same one which appeared in the input document.

2.4 Document Subsets

   Some applications require the ability to create a physical
   representation for an XML document subset (other than the one
   generated by default, which can be a proper subset of the document if
   the comments are omitted).  Implementations of XML canonicalization
   that are based on XPath can provide this functionality with little
   additional overhead by accepting a node-set as input rather than an
   octet stream.

   The processing of an element node E MUST be modified slightly when an
   XPath node-set is given as input and the element's parent is omitted
   from the node-set. The method for processing the attribute axis of an
   element E in the node-set is enhanced. All element nodes along E's
   ancestor axis are examined for nearest occurences of attributes in
   the xml namespace, such as xml:lang and xml:space (whether or not
   they are in the node-set). From this list of attributes, remove any
   that are in E's attribute axis (whether or not they are in the node-
   set). Then, lexicographically merge this attribute list with the
   nodes of E's attribute axis that are in the node-set. The result of
   visiting the attribute axis is computed by processing the attribute
   nodes in this merged attribute list.

   Note: XML entities can derive application-specific meaning from
         anywhere in the XML markup as well as by rules not expressed in
         XML 1.0 and the Namespaces Recommendations. Clearly, these
         rules cannot be specified in this document, so the creator of
         the input node-set must be responsible for preserving the
         information necessary to capture the full semantics of the
         members of the resulting node-set.

   The canonical XML generated for an entire XML document is well-
   formed.  The canonical form of an XML document subset may not be
   well-formed XML.  However, since the canonical form may be subjected
   to further XML processing, most XPath node-sets provided for
   canonicalization will be designed to produce a canonical form that is
   a well-formed XML document or external general parsed entity. Whether
   from a full document or a document subset, if the canonical form is
   well-formed XML, then subsequent applications of the same XML

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   canonicalization method to the canonical form make no changes.

3 Examples of XML Canonicalization

   The examples in this section assume a non-validating processor,
   primarily so that a document type declaration can be used to declare
   entities as well as default attributes and attributes of various
   types (such as ID and enumerated) without having to declare all
   attributes for all elements in the document. As well, one example
   contains an element that deliberately violates a validity constraint
   (because it is still well-formed).

3.1 PIs, Comments, and Outside of Document Element

Input Document
<?xml version="1.0"?>

<?xml-stylesheet   href="doc.xsl"
   type="text/xsl"   ?>

<!DOCTYPE doc SYSTEM "doc.dtd">

<doc>Hello, world!<!-- Comment 1 --></doc>

<?pi-without-data     ?>

<!-- Comment 2 -->

<!-- Comment 3 -->

Canonical Form (uncommented)
<?xml-stylesheet href="doc.xsl"
   type="text/xsl"   ?>
<doc>Hello, world!</doc>

Canonical Form (commented)
<?xml-stylesheet href="doc.xsl"
   type="text/xsl"   ?>
<doc>Hello, world!<!-- Comment 1 --></doc>
<!-- Comment 2 -->
<!-- Comment 3 -->

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      * Loss of XML declaration
      * Loss of DTD
      * Normalization of whitespace outside of document element (first
        character of both canonical forms is '<'; single line breaks
        separate PIs and comments outside of document element)
      * Loss of whitespace between PITarget and its data
      * Retention of whitespace inside PI data
      * Comment removal from uncommented canonical form, including
        delimiter for comments outside document element (the last
        character in both canonical forms is '>')

3.2 Whitespace in Document Content

Input Document
   <clean>   </clean>
   <dirty>   A   B   </dirty>
      <clean>   </clean>
      <dirty>   A   B   </dirty>

Canonical Form
   <clean>   </clean>
   <dirty>   A   B   </dirty>
      <clean>   </clean>
      <dirty>   A   B   </dirty>

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      * Retain all whitespace between consecutive start tags, clean or
      * Retain all whitespace between consecutive end tags, clean or
      * Retain all whitespace between end tag/start tag pair, clean or
      * Retain all whitespace in character content, clean or dirty

   Note: In this example, the input document and canonical form are
         identical.  Both end with '>' character.

3.3 Start and End Tags

Input Document
<!DOCTYPE doc [<!ATTLIST e9 attr CDATA "default">]>
   <e1   />
   <e2   ></e2>
   <e3    name = "elem3"   id="elem3"    />
   <e4    name="elem4"   id="elem4"    ></e4>
   <e5 a:attr="out" b:attr="sorted" attr2="all" attr="I'm"
   <e6 xmlns="" xmlns:a="http://www.w3.org">
       <e7 xmlns="http://www.ietf.org">
           <e8 xmlns="" xmlns:a="http://www.w3.org">
               <e9 xmlns="" xmlns:a="http://www.ietf.org"/>

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Canonical Form
   <e3 id="elem3" name="elem3"></e3>
   <e4 id="elem4" name="elem4"></e4>
   <e5 xmlns="http://www.uvic.ca" xmlns:a="http://www.w3.org"
xmlns:b="http://www.ietf.org" attr="I'm" attr2="all" b:attr="sorted"
   <e6 xmlns:a="http://www.w3.org">
       <e7 xmlns="http://www.ietf.org">
           <e8 xmlns="">
               <e9 xmlns:a="http://www.ietf.org" attr="default"></e9>


      * Empty element conversion to start-end tag pair
      * Normalization of whitespace in start and end tags
      * Relative order of namespace and attribute axes
      * Lexicographic ordering of namespace and attribute axes
      * Retention of namespace prefixes from original document
      * Elimination of superfluous namespace declarations
      * Addition of default attribute

   Note: Some start tags in the canonical form are very long, but each
         start tag in this example is entirely on a single line.

   Note: In e5, b:attr precedes a:attr because the primary key is
         namespace URI not namespace prefix, and attr2 precedes b:attr
         because the default namespace is not applied to unqualified
         attributes (so the namespace URI for attr2 is empty).

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3.4 Character Modifications and Character References

Input Document
<!DOCTYPE doc [
   <text>First line&#x0d;&#10;Second line</text>
   <compute><![CDATA[value>"0" && value<"10" ?"valid":"error"]]></compute>
   <compute expr='value>"0" &amp;&amp; value&lt;"10"
   <norm attr=' &apos;   &#x20;&#13;&#xa;&#9;   &apos; '/>
   <normNames attr='   A   &#x20;&#13;&#xa;&#9;   B   '/>
   <normId id=' &apos;   &#x20;&#13;&#xa;&#9;   &apos; '/>

Canonical Form
   <text>First line&#xD;
Second line</text>
   <compute>value&gt;"0" &amp;&amp; value&lt;"10" ?"valid":"error"</compute>
   <compute expr="value>&quot;0&quot; &amp;&amp; value&lt;&quot;10&quot;
   <norm attr=" '    &#xD;&#xA;&#x9;   ' "></norm>
   <normNames attr="A &#xD;&#xA;&#x9; B"></normNames>
   <normId id="' &#xD;&#xA;&#x9; '"></normId>


      * Character reference replacement
      * Attribute value delimiters set to double quotes
      * Attribute value normalization
      * CDATA section replacement
      * Encoding of special characters as character references in
        attribute values (&amp;, &lt;, &quot;, &#xD;, &#xA;, &#x9;)
      * Encoding of special characters as character references in text
        (&amp;, &lt;, &gt;, &#xD;)

   Note: The last element, normId, is well-formed but violates a
         validity constraint for attributes of type ID. For testing
         canonical XML implementations based on validating processors,
         remove the line containing this element from the input and
         canonical form. In general, XML consumers should be discouraged
         from using this feature of XML.

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   Note: Whitespace characters references other than &#x20; are not
         affected by attribute value normalization [XML Errata, E70].

   Note: In the canonical form, the value of the attribute named attr in
         the element norm begins with a space, a single quote, then four
         spaces before the first character reference.

   Note: The expr attribute of the second compute element contains no
         line breaks.

3.5 Entity References

Input Document
<!DOCTYPE doc [
<!ENTITY ent1 "Hello">
<!ENTITY ent2 SYSTEM "world.txt">
<!ENTITY entExt SYSTEM "earth.gif" NDATA gif>
<!NOTATION gif SYSTEM "viewgif.exe">
<doc attrExtEnt="entExt">
   &ent1;, &ent2;!

<!-- Let world.txt contain "world" (excluding the quotes) -->

Canonical Form (uncommented)
<doc attrExtEnt="entExt">
   Hello, world!


      * Internal parsed entity reference replacement
      * External parsed entity reference replacement (including
        whitespace outside elements and PIs)
      * External unparsed entity reference

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3.6 UTF-8 Encoding

Input Document
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1"?>

Canonical Form


      * Effect of transcoding from a sample encoding to UTF-8

   Note: The content of the doc element is NOT the string #xC2#xA9 but
         rather the two octets whose hexadecimal values are C2 and A9,
         which is the UTF-8 encoding of the UCS codepoint for the
         copyright symbol (c).

3.7 Document Subsets

Input Document
<!DOCTYPE doc [
<!ATTLIST e2 xml:space (default|preserve) 'preserve'>
<doc xmlns="http://www.ietf.org" xmlns:w3c="http://www.w3.org">
      <e2 xmlns="">
         <e3 id="E3"/>

Document Subset Expression
(//. | //@* | //namespace::*)
[ <br/>
   self::ietf:e1 or (parent::ietf:e1 and not(self::text() or self::e2))
   count(id("E3")|ancestor-or-self::node()) =

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Canonical Form
<e1 xmlns="http://www.ietf.org" xmlns:w3c="http://www.w3.org"><e3
xmlns="" id="E3" xml:space="preserve"></e3></e1>


      * Empty default namespace propagation from omitted parent element
      * Propagation of attributes in xml namespace in document subsets
      * Persistence of omitted namespace declarations in descendants

   Note: In the document subset expression, the subexpression (//. |
         //@* | //namespace::*) selects all nodes in the input document,
         subjecting each to the predicate expression in square brackets.
         The expression is true for e1 and its implicit namespace nodes,
         and it is true if the element identified by E3 is in the
         ancestor-or-self path of the context node (such that ancestor-
         or-self stays the same size under union with the element
         identified by E3).

   Note: The canonical form contains no line delimiters.

4 Resolutions

   This section discusses a number of key decision points as well as a
   rationale for each decision. Although this specification now defines
   XML canonicalization in terms of the XPath data model rather than XML
   InfoSet, the canonical form described in this document is quite
   similar in most respects to the canonical form described in the
   January 2000 Canonical XML draft [C14N-20000119]. However, some
   differences exist, and a number of the subsections discuss the

4.1 No XML Declaration

   The XML declaration, including version number and character encoding
   is omitted from the canonical form. The encoding is not needed since
   the canonical form is encoded in UTF-8. The version is not needed
   since the absence of a version number unambiguously indicates XML

   Future versions of XML will be required to include an XML declaration
   to indicate the version number. However, canonicalization method
   described in this specification may not be applicable to future
   versions of XML without some modifications. When canonicalization of
   a new version of XML is required, this specification could be updated

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   to include the XML declaration as presumably the absence of the XML
   declaration from the XPath data model can be remedied by that time
   (e.g. by reissuing a new XPath based on the InfoSet data model).

4.2 No Character Model Normalization

   The Unicode standard [Unicode] allows multiple different
   representations of certain "precomposed characters" (a simple example
   documents with content that is equivalent for the purposes of most
   applications may contain differing character sequences. The W3C is
   preparing a normalized representation [CharModel]. The C14N-20000119
   Canonical XML draft used this normalized form. However, many XML 1.0
   processors do not perform this normalization. Furthermore,
   applications that must solve this problem typically enforce character
   model normalization at all times starting when character content is
   created in order to avoid processing failures that could otherwise
   result (e.g.  see example from Cowan). Therefore, character model
   normalization has been moved out of scope for XML canonicalization.
   However, the XML processor used to prepare the XPath data model input
   is required (by the Data Model) to use Normalization Form C [NFC]
   when converting an XML document to the UCS character domain from a
   non-Unicode encoding.

4.3 Handling of Whitespace Outside Document Element

   The C14N-20000119 Canonical XML draft placed a #xA after each PI
   outside of the document element as well as a #xA after the end tag of
   the document element. The method in this specification performs the
   same function except for omitting the final #xA after the last PI (or
   comment or end tag of the document element). This technique ensures
   that PI (and comment) children of the root are separated from markup
   by a linefeed even if root node or the document element are omitted
   from the output node-set.

4.4 No Namespace Prefix Rewriting

   The C14N-20000119 Canonical XML draft described a method for
   rewriting namespace prefixes such that two documents having logically
   equivalent namespace declarations would also have identical namespace
   prefixes.  The goal was to eliminate dependence on the particular
   namespace prefixes in a document when testing for logical
   equivalence. However, there now exist a number of contexts in which
   namespace prefixes can impart information value in an XML document.
   For example, an XPath expression in an attribute value or element

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   content can reference a namespace prefix. Thus, rewriting the
   namespace prefixes would damage such a document by changing its
   meaning (and it cannot be logically equivalent if its meaning has

   More formally, let D1 be a document containing an XPath in an
   attribute value or element content that refers to namespace prefixes
   used in D1.  Further assume that the namespace prefixes in D1 will
   all be rewritten by the canonicalization method. Let D23D D1, then
   modify the namespace prefixes in D2 and modify the XPath expression's
   references to namespace prefixes such that D2 and D1 remain logically
   equivalent. Since namespace rewriting does not include occurences of
   namespace references in attribute values and element content, the
   canonical form of D1 does not equal the canonical form of D2 because
   the XPath will be different. Thus, although namespace rewriting
   normalizes the namespace declarations, the goal eliminating
   dependence on the particular namespace prefixes in the document is
   not achieved.

   Moreover, it is possible to prove that namespace rewriting is
   harmful, rather than simply ineffective. Let D1 be a document
   containing an XPath in an attribute value or element content that
   refers to namespace prefixes used in D1. Further assume that the
   namespace prefixes in D1 will all be rewritten by the
   canonicalization method. Now let D2 be the canonical form of D1.
   Clearly, the canonical forms of D1 and D2 are equivalent (since D2 is
   the canonical form of the canonical form of D1), yet D1 and D2 are
   not logically equivalent because the aforementioned XPath works in D1
   and doesn't work in D2.

   Note that an argument similar to this can be leveled against the XML
   canonicalization method based on any of the cases in the Limitations,
   the problems cannot easily be fixed in those cases, whereas here we
   have an opportunity to avoid purposefully introducing such a

   Applications that must test for logical equivalence must perform more
   sophisticated tests than mere octet stream comparison. However, this
   is quite likely to be necessary in any case in order to test for
   logical equivalencies based on application rules as well as rules
   from other XML-related recommendations, working drafts, and future

4.5 Order of Namespace Declarations and Attributes

   The C14N-20000119 Canonical XML draft alternated between namespace
   declarations and attribute declarations. This is part of the
   namespace prefix rewriting scheme, which this specification

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   eliminates. This specification follows the XPath data model of
   putting all namespace nodes before all attribute nodes.

4.6 Superfluous Namespace Declarations

   Unnecessary namespace declarations are not made in the canonical
   form.  Whether for an empty default namespace, a non-empty default
   namespace, or a namespace prefix binding, the XML canonicalization
   method omits a declaration if it determines that the immediate parent
   element in the canonical form contains an equivalent declaration. The
   root document element is handled specially since it has no parent
   element. All namespace declarations in it are retained, except the
   declaration of an empty default namespace is automatically omitted.

   Relative to the method of simply rendering the entire namespace
   context of each element, implementations are not hindered by more
   than a constant factor in processing time and memory use. The
   advantages include:

      * Eliminates overrun of xmlns="" from canonical forms of
        applications that may not even use namespaces, or support them
        only minimally.
      * Eliminates namespace declarations from elements where they may
        not belong according to the application's content model, thereby
        simplifying the task of reattaching a document type declaration
        to a canonical form.

   Note that in document subsets, an element with omissions from its
   ancestral element chain will be rendered to the canonical form with
   namespace declarations that may have been made in its omitted
   ancestors, thus preserving the meaning of the element.

4.7 Propagation of Default Namespace Declaration in Document Subsets

   The XPath data model represents an empty default namespace with the
   absence of a node, not with the presence of a default namespace node
   having an empty value. Thus, with respect to the fact that element e3
   in the following examples is not namespace qualified, we cannot tell
   the difference between <e1 xmlns="a:b"><e2 xmlns=""><e3/></e2></e1>
   versus <e1 xmlns="a:b"><e2><e3 xmlns=""/></e2></e1>. All we know is
   that e3 was not namespace qualified on input, so we preserve this
   information on output if e2 is omitted so that e3 does not take on
   the default namespace qualification of e1.

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4.8 Sorting Attributes by Namespace URI

   Given the requirement to preserve the namespace prefixes declared in
   a document, sorting attributes with the prefix, rather than the
   namespace URI, as the primary key is viable and easier to implement.

   However, the namespace URI was selected as the primary key because
   this is closer to the intent of the XML Names specification, which is
   to identify namespaces by URI and local name, not by a prefix and
   local name. The effect of the sort is to group together all
   attributes that are in the same namespace.


   [C14N-20000119] Canonical XML Version 1.0, W3C Working Draft. T.
      Bray, J. Clark, J.  Tauber, and J. Cowan. January 19, 2000.

   [CharModel] Character Model for the World Wide Web, W3C Working
      Draft. ed.  Martin J. Durst, Francois Yergeau.

   [Cowan] Example of Harmful Effect of Character Model Normalization,
      Letter in XML Signature Working Group Mail Archive. John Cowan,
      July 7, 2000 http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-ietf-

   [InfoSet] XML Information Set, W3C Working Draft. ed. John Cowan.

   [ISO-8859-1] ISO-8859-1 Latin 1 Character Set.
      http://www.utoronto.ca/webdocs/HTMLdocs/NewHTML/iso_table.html or

   [Keywords] Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels,
      IETF RFC 2119. S. Bradner. March 1997.

   [Namespaces] Namespaces in XML, W3C Recommendation. eds. Tim Bray,
      Dave Hollander, and Andrew Layman. http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml-

   [NFC] TR15, Unicode Normalization Forms. M. Davis, M. Durst. Revision
      18: November 1999.

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   [Unicode] The Unicode Standard, version 3.0. The Unicode Consortium.
      ISBN 0-201-61633-5.

   [UTF-16] UTF-16, an encoding of ISO 10646, IETF RFC 2781. P. Hoffman,
      F.  Yergeau. February 2000. http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2781.txt.

   [UTF-8] UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO 10646, IETF RFC 2279.
      F.  Yergeau. January 1998. http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2279.txt.

   [URI] Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax, IETF RFC
      2396.  T.  Berners-Lee, R. Fielding, L. Masinter. August 1998

   [XBase] XML Base ed. Jonathan Marsh. 07 June 2000.

   [XML] Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0, W3C Recommendation. eds.
      Tim Bray, Jean Paoli, and C. M. Sperberg-McQueen. 10 February
      1998.  http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml.

   [XML DSig] XML-Signature Syntax and Processing, Joint IETF/W3C
      Working Draft.  D.  Eastlake, J. Reagle, D. Solo, M. Bartel, J.
      Boyer, B. Fox, and E.  Simon. July 2000.

   [XML Errata] Errata in REC-xml-19980210, W3C Document. August 2000.

   [XML Plenary Decision] W3C XML Plenary Decision on relative URI
      References In namespace declarations, W3C Document. 11 September
      2000.  http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/xml-

   [XPath] XML Path Language (XPath) Version 1.0, , W3C Recommendation.
      eds.  James Clark and Steven DeRose. 16 November 1999.

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Author's Address

   John Boyer
   PureEdge Solutions Inc.

   tel:   1-888-517-2675
   email: jboyer@PureEdge.com

Expiration and File Name

   This draft expires May 2001.

   Its file name is draft-ietf-xmldsig-canon-00.txt.

J. Boyer                                                       [Page 28]

Html markup produced by rfcmarkup 1.111, available from https://tools.ietf.org/tools/rfcmarkup/