W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > uri@w3.org > January 2006

RE: URI components question

From: Dave Risney <David.Risney@microsoft.com>
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 16:15:26 -0800
Message-ID: <9882C98B3C3D9B45A9A5F9EDECE014D8154177D8@win-msg-01.wingroup.windeploy.ntdev.microsoft.com>
To: "Jeremy Carroll" <jjc@hpl.hp.com>, "michele vivoda" <michelevivoda@hotmail.com>
Cc: <uri@w3.org>

> Perhaps better said the question is: can we always build an URI from 
> unescaped components ?

	Michele, as you noted in your example and in Jeremy's example we
can't build an equivalent URI from a set of URI components that have had
percent-encoded reserved characters decoded.

> My conclusion is that (at least) query component cannot be unescaped.
> Is this right, does it apply only to query or unescaped components 
> should not exist at all ?

	There is no good way to do this for an arbitrary scheme.  When
writing a general URI parsing API you shouldn't decode every
percent-encoded octet in a URI component.

As stated in RFC 3986 if you percent-encode or decode a reserved
character you get a new URI that is not equivalent to the original.
This is true in the query component as well as anywhere else reserved
characters may appear.  If you decode reserved characters in your stored
URI component you have now lost information as to whether that character
was originally percent-encoded or not.  Jeremy's paths from (2) are
great examples.

	Why do you want to decode the URI components?  If your intent is
to extract the underlying data the URI components represent then this
requires much more than just decoding percent-encoded octets.  To do
this you must know more about the scheme, specifically how the scheme
converts its underlying data to and from URI components.  For something
like mailto where it's clear what the underlying data is (email
addresses, subject, body, etc) and where it's clear what the associated
transformations to and from URI components are then you can decode
appropriately and obtain the underlying information.

For the http scheme this is trickier because except for perhaps the
userinfo and host components it's not clear what the underlying data is.
An HTTP server may convert the URI path component into a Unix file path,
or a database query, or it may base64 decode the path and return the
resulting data.  Without specific knowledge of what the URI components
represent you may only rely on the rules set by the RFC.  You could
split the URI as Jeremy suggested in (6) but you would have to split on
all reserved characters, you wouldn't be able to distinguish which are
"syntactically significant" and which are not.

At that point you'd have to decide if such general parsing of URI
components would be useful.  My guess is that in the 99% of cases you
mentioned, having the path split around every reserved character would
be irritating when you want the path to just represent directories in
your file system.

	I think the better way to go about this is to have APIs that
compose and decompose URIs to and from a set of URI components
(appropriately percent-encoded) and to have a separate set of APIs to
convert between URI components and their underlying data for very
specific scenarios (which would handle percent-encoding and decoding).
For example, to get the name, value pairs out of a query URI component
that is using the application/x-www-form-urlencoded
encoding form, one would first call the hypothetical URI decomposition
API to obtain the query URI component.  Then one would call the
hypothetical getMapFromUrlEncodedQueryComponent function to obtain the
name to value map that is the underlying data.  The second function
would handle decoding the percent-encoded octets since it's the
application/x-www-form-urlencoded encoding that mandated the
percent-encoding in the first place and has the knowledge to
appropriately decode.  Or to convert a file path from your favorite OS
to a path URI component one would first call the
createPathURIComponentFromFilePath function which would among other
things handle percent-encoding characters.  Then one would call the URI
composition API to construct a new URI using the path URI component.


-----Original Message-----
From: uri-request@w3.org [mailto:uri-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of Jeremy
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2006 3:39 AM
To: michele vivoda
Cc: uri@w3.org
Subject: Re: URI components question

I have been thinking about this too in the last week or two, and cannot 
work out a decent API that captures the escaping/unescaping semantics.

My analysis is as follows:

1) The issue resolves around the reserved characters:
  reserved      = gen-delims / sub-delims
    gen-delims    = ":" / "/" / "?" / "#" / "[" / "]" / "@"
    sub-delims    = "!" / "$" / "&" / "'" / "(" / ")"
                  / "*" / "+" / "," / ";" / "="

2) Some of these reserved characters (usually the gen-delims) have 
syntactic significance in the generic syntax. For these it is possible 
to then give the unescaped form of terms from that generic syntax.

3) Under (2) we are mainly talking about components; however, in some 
cases we are talking about subcomponents. For example, if a path 
contains a segment which contains a "/" in unescaped form, then that "/"

must be % encoded in the URL, and it is not possible to provide an API 
that treats the path as an atomic component that can be presented in 
both escaped and unescaped form, because the unescaped form of


are all the same, yet the segments are different in each case.
It is possible to conceive of an API that talks about a path as an array

of strings, each being segments, in which each segment is presented in 
either escaped or unescaped form.

4) the sub-delims are used both for scheme specific and application 
specific semantics. So for instance, the ftp scheme reserve ';' in a 
path. So in this case we would be best served by an API that explicitly 
supported that, and splits the path on ';' and (re)uses a generic path 
API for the part before a syntactically significant ';' and then perhaps

has a name=value API for the part after the ';'.

5) The query string is left as totally generic in the HTTP spec, but is 
often used, as in your example, with a value that follows the HTML form 
behaviour of a sequence of name=value pairs.

6) Perhaps the starting point is to split a URL into a sequence of 
pairs, each pair consisting of a string of syntactically significant 
reserved character, and a string of characters.


==>   ""  "http"
       "://" "example.org"
       "/"   "a"
       "/"   "b/c"
       "/"   "d"

If we %-escape any reserved character from the second column then we 
should be able to construct a correct URI.
However, this representation is not very useful, because it does not 
reflect the semantic grouping into components. Also we will 
unnecessarily %-escape many reserved characters that are not 
syntactically significant in that context.

Another issue here is that within any of these components there may be 
an embedded URL, which may itself have some %-escapes, which should in 
turn be %-escaped!

e.g. modifying your example:


If the query values:
    p1   R&D
    p2   q
have a third value
    p3   http://a/b?p1=R%26D&p2=q

then the correct URL may be


Where the %2526 represents an & doubly encoded.

Perhaps the API design should have methods such as
   String[][] URI.getQuery(String regex)
returning an array of pairs of Strings as above, where the regex maybe 
something like "([^=]*=^&]*&)*([^=]*=[^&]*)" and is used to know which 
terms should be escaped/unescaped. At least in this case, the same regex

and an array of just the names and values could be used to construct the

query part correctly, with the regex being used to insert the syntactic 
& and =.


michele vivoda wrote:
> Hi all,
> I have a question about URIs.
> I was wondering if is correct thinking that an uri can be decomposed
> components
> that can be stored in unescaped form mantaining the uri semantics, so 
> the possibility
> to reconstruct from the components the (same or equivalent) uri they 
> were composing.
> Perhaps better said the question is: can we always build an URI from 
> unescaped components ?
> Many programming apis offer the possibility to build an uri from 
> unescaped components.
> For 99% of the cases, for me, it worked good. But considering the 
> following URI:
> http://a/b?p1=R%26D&p2=q
> the unescaped query component, orignally containing 2 parameters
> p1=R&D&p2=q
> loosing its meaning since now we have 3 parameters.
> My conclusion is that (at least) query component cannot be unescaped.
> Is this right, does it apply only to query or unescaped components 
> should not exist at all ?
> Regards
> Michele Vivoda
Received on Saturday, 28 January 2006 05:45:40 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Tuesday, 6 January 2015 21:25:09 UTC