HTTP State Management Mechanism (httpstate)

Last modified: 2011-05-18

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  • Jeff Hodges <>

Applications Area Director

  • Peter Saint-Andre <>

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Description of Working Group:

The HTTP State Management Mechanism (aka Cookies) was originally
created by Netscape Communications in their informal Netscape cookie
specification ("cookie_spec.html"), from which formal specifications
RFC 2109 and RFC 2965 evolved. The formal specifications, however,
were never fully implemented in practice; RFC 2109, in addition to
cookie_spec.html, more closely resemble real-world implementations
than RFC 2965, even though RFC 2965 officially obsoletes the former.
Compounding the problem are undocumented features (such as HTTPOnly),
and varying behaviors among real-world implementations.

The working group will create a new RFC that:
* obsoletes RFC 2109,
* updates RFC 2965 to the extent it overlaps or voids RFC 2109, and
* specifies Cookies as they are actually used in existing
implementations and deployments.

Where commonalities exist in the most widely used implementations, the
working group will specify the common behavior. Where differences exist
among the most widely used implementations, the working group will
document the variations and seek consensus to reduce variation by
selecting among the most widely used variations.

The working group must not introduce any new syntax or new semantics
not already in common use.

The working group's specific deliverables are:
* A standards-track document that is suitable to supersede RFC 2109
(likely based on draft-abarth-cookie)
* An informational document cataloguing the differences between major

In doing so, the working group should consider:

* cookie_spec.html - Netscape Cookie Specification
* RFC 2109 - HTTP State Management Mechanism (Obsoleted by RFC 2965)
* RFC 2964 - Use of HTTP State Management
* RFC 2965 - HTTP State Management Mechanism (Obsoletes RFC 2109)
* I-D - HTTP State Management Mechanism v2
* I-D - Cookie-based HTTP Authentication
* Widely Implemented - HTTPOnly
* Browser Security Handbook - Cookies
* HTTP Cookies: Standards, Privacy, and Politics by David M. Kristol

Goals and Milestones

Mar 2010 Feature-complete Internet-Draft of Cookie specification
May 2010

Feature-complete test suite of Cookie specification

Jun 2010 Feature-complete draft of deviation description
Jul 2010 First fully conforming implementation in a major browser
Sep 2010 Last Call for Cookie specification
Oct 2010 Last Call for deviation description
Dec 2010 Second fully conforming implementation in a major browser
Jan 2011 Submit Cookie specification to IESG for consideration as a Draft Standard
Jan 2011 Submit deviation description to IESG for consideration as Informational
Mar 2011 Close or recharter

Request for Comments

  • RFC 6265 HTTP State Management Mechanism obsoletes RFC 2965

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