Filename: 285-utf-8.txt
Title: Directory documents should be standardized as UTF-8
Author: Nick Mathewson
Created: 13 November 2017
Status: Accepted
Target: arti-dirauth

1. Summary and motivation

   People frequently want to include non-ASCII text in their router
   descriptors.  The Contact line is a favorite place to do this, but in
   principle the platform line would also be pretty logical.

   Unfortunately, there's no specified way to encode non-ASCII in our
   directory documents.

   Fortunately, almost everybody who does it, uses UTF-8 anyway.

   As we move towards Rust support in Tor, we gain another motivation
   for standarding on UTF-8, since Rust's native strings strongly prefer

   So, in this proposal, we describe a migration path to having all
   directory documents be fully UTF-8.

   (See 2.3 below for a discussion of what exactly we mean by "non-UTF-8".)

2. Proposal

   First, we should have Tor relays reject ContactInfo lines (and any
   other lines copied directly into router descriptors) that are not

   At the same time, we should have authorities reject any router
   descriptors or extrainfo documents that are not valid UTF-8.
   Simultaneously, we can have all Tor instances reject all
   non-directory-descriptor directory documents that are not UTF-8,
   since none should exist today.

   Finally, once the authorities have updated, we should have all Tor
   instances reject all directory documents that are not UTF-8.  (We
   should not take this step until the authorities have upgraded, or
   else the behavior of updated and non-updated clients could be

2.1. Hidden service descriptors' encrypted bodies

   For the encrypted bodies of hidden service descriptors, we cannot
   reject them at the authority level, and so we need to take a slightly
   different approach to prevent client fingerprinting attacks.

   First, we should make Tor instances start warning about any hidden
   service descriptors whose bodies, post-decryption, contain non-utf-8
   plaintext.  At the same time, we add a consensus parameter to
   indicate that hidden service descriptors with non-utf-8 plaintexts
   should be rejected entirely: "reject-encrypted-non-utf-8".  If that
   parameter is set to 1, then hidden service clients will not only
   warn, but reject the descriptors.

   Once the vast majority of clients are running versions that support
   the "reject-encrypted-non-utf-8" parameter, that parameter can be set
   to 1.

2.2. Bridge descriptors

   Since clients download bridge descriptors directly from the bridges, they
   also need a two-phase plan as for hidden service descriptors above.  Here
   we take the same approach as in section 2.1 above, except using the
   parameter "reject-bridge-descriptor-non-utf-8".

2.3. Which UTF-8 exactly?

   We define the allowable set of UTF-8 as:
      * Zero or mode Unicode scalar values (as defined by The Unicode
        Standard, Version 3.1 or later), that is:
         * Unicode code points U+00 through U+10FFFF,
         * but excluding the code points U+D800 through U+DFFF,
      * Excluding the scalar value U+00 (for compatibility with NUL-terminated
        C strings),
      * Serialized using the UTF-8 encoding scheme (as defined by The Unicode
        Standard, Version 3.1 or later), in particular:
         * each code point is encoded with the shortest possible encoding,
      * Without a Unicode byte order mark (BOM, U+FEFF) at the start of the
        descriptor. (BOMs are optional and not recommended in UTF-8. Allowing
        a BOM would break backwards compatibility with ASCII-only Tor
        implementations.) Byte-swapped BOMs (U+FFFE) must also be rejected.

   In order to remain compatible with future versions of The Unicode Standard,
   we allow all possible code points, including Reserved code points.

   For languages with a conforming UTF-8 implementation (as defined by The
   Unicode Standard, Version 3.1 or later), this is equivalent to well-formed
   UTF-8, with the following additional rules:
      * reject a BOM (U+FEFF) or byte-swapped BOM (U+FFFE) at the start of the
      * reject U+00 at any point in the descriptor,
      * accept all code point types used in UTF-8, including Control,
        Private-Use, Noncharacter, and Reserved. (The Surrogate code point type
        is not used in UTF-8.)

   For languages without a conforming UTF-8 implementation, we recommend
   checking UTF-8 conformity based on the "Well-Formed UTF-8 Byte Sequences"
   table from The Unicode Standard, Version 11 (or later).

   Note that U+00 is serialized to 0x00, but U+FEFF is serialized to 0xEFBBBF,
   and U+FFFE is serialized to 0xEFBFBE.

3. References

   The Unicode Standard, Version 11, Chapter 3.
   In particular:
      * Unicode scalar values: D76, page 120.
      * UTF-8 encoding form: D92, pages 125-127.
      * Well-Formed UTF-8 Byte Sequences: Table 3-7, page 126.
      * Byte order mark: C11, page 83; D94, page 130.
      * UTF-8 encoding scheme: D96, pages 130.