A String Representation of Distinguished Names (OSI-DS 23 (v5))
RFC 1485

Document Type RFC - Historic (July 1993; No errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 3494, RFC 1779
Last updated 2013-03-02
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Network Working Group                               S. Hardcastle-Kille
Request for Comments: 1485                             ISODE Consortium
                                                              July 1993

             A String Representation of Distinguished Names
                            (OSI-DS 23 (v5))

Status of this Memo

   This RFC specifies an IAB standards track protocol for the Internet
   community, and requests discussion and suggestions for improvements.
   Please refer to the current edition of the "IAB Official Protocol
   Standards" for the standardization state and status of this protocol.
   Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Abstract

   The OSI Directory uses distinguished names as the primary keys to
   entries in the directory.  Distinguished Names are encoded in ASN.1.
   When a distinguished name is communicated between to users not using a
   directory protocol (e.g., in a mail message), there is a need to have
   a user-oriented string representation of distinguished name.  This
   specification defines a string format for representing names, which is
   designed to give a clean representation of commonly used names, whilst
   being able to represent any distinguished name.  Please send comments
   to the author or to the discussion group <osi-ds@CS.UCL.AC.UK>.

Table of Contents

   1.  Why a notation is needed...................................... 1
   2.  A notation for Distinguished Name............................. 2
   2.1 Goals......................................................... 2
   2.2 Informal definition........................................... 2
   2.3 Formal definition............................................. 3
   3.  Examples...................................................... 6
   4.  References.................................................... 6
   5.  Security Considerations....................................... 6
   6.  Author's Address.............................................. 7

1.  Why a notation is needed

   Many OSI Applications make use of Distinguished Names (DN) as defined
   in the OSI Directory, commonly known as X.500 [CCI88].  This
   specification assumes familiarity with X.500, and the concept of
   Distinguished Name.  It is important to have a common format to be
   able to unambiguously represent a distinguished name.  This might be
   done to represent a directory name on a business card or in an email

Hardcastle-Kille                                                [Page 1]
RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

   message.  There is a need for a format to support human to human
   communication, which must be string based (not ASN.1) and user
   oriented.  This notation is targeted towards a general user oriented
   system, and in particular to represent the names of humans.  Other
   syntaxes may be more appropriate for other uses of the directory.
   For example, the OSF Syntax may be more appropriate for some system
   oriented uses.  (The OSF Syntax uses "/" as a separator, and forms
   names in a manner intended to resemble UNIX filenames).

2.  A notation for Distinguished Name

2.1 Goals

   The following goals are laid out:

      o  To provide an unambiguous representation of a distinguished
         name

      o  To be an intuitive format for the majority of names

      o  To be fully general, and able to represent any distinguished
         name

      o  To be amenable to a number of different layouts to achieve an
          attractive representation.

      o  To give a clear representation of the contents of the
          distinguished name

2.2 Informal definition

   This notation is designed to be convenient for common forms of name.
   Some examples are given.  The author's directory distinguished name
   would be written:

      CN=Steve Hardcastle-Kille, OU=Computer Science, O=University
      College London, C=GB

   This may be folded, perhaps to display in multi-column format.  For
   example:

      CN=Steve Hardcastle-Kille,
      OU=Computer Science,
      O=University College London,
      C=GB

Hardcastle-Kille                                                [Page 2]
RFC 1485                  Distinguished Names                  July 1993

   Another name might be:

      CN=Christian Huitema, O=INRIA, C=FR

   Semicolon (";") may be used as an alternate separator.

      CN=Christian Huitema; O=INRIA; C=FR

   In running text, this would be written as <CN=Christian Huitema;
   O=INRIA; C=FR>.  Another example, shows how different attribute types
   are handled:

      CN=James Hacker,
      L=Basingstoke,
      O=Widget Inc,
      CN=GB

   Here is an example of a multi-valued Relative Distinguished Name,
   where the namespace is flat within an organisation, and department is
   used to disambiguate certain names:

      OU=Sales + CN=J. Smith, O=Widget Inc., C=US

   The final example shows quoting of a comma in an Organisation name:
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