Network Working Group E. Levinson
Request for Comments: 2392 August 1998
Category: Standards Track
Content-ID and Message-ID Uniform Resource Locators
Status of this Memo
This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998). All Rights Reserved.
The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) schemes, "cid:" and "mid:" allow
references to messages and the body parts of messages. For example,
within a single multipart message, one HTML body part might include
embedded references to other parts of the same message.
Changes from (RFC 2111)
Clarified the example on page 3 on of converting cid URLs to
Content-IDs. The example now uses a cid URL instead of an mid.
Corrected the example messages to have the correct Content-ID form;
they now use the angle brackets. Added a Message-ID header to the
The use of [MIME] within email to convey Web pages and their
associated images requires a URL scheme to permit the HTML to refer
to the images or other data included in the message. The Content-ID
Uniform Resource Locator, "cid:", serves that purpose.
Similarly Net News readers use Message-IDs to link related messages
together. The Message-ID URL provides a scheme, "mid:", to refer to
such messages as a "resource".
The "mid" (Message-ID) and "cid" (Content-ID) URL schemes provide
identifiers for messages and their body parts. The "mid" scheme uses
(a part of) the message-id of an email message to refer to a specific
message. The "cid" scheme refers to a specific body part of a
message; its use is generally limited to references to other body
parts in the same message as the referring body part. The "mid"
scheme may also refer to a specific body part within a designated
message, by including the content-ID's address.
A note on terminology. The terms "body part" and "MIME entity" are
used interchangeably. They refer to the headers and body of a MIME
message, either the message itself or one of the body parts contained
in a Multipart message.
2. The MID and CID URL Schemes
RFC 1738 [URL] reserves the "mid" and "cid" schemes for Message-ID
and Content-ID respectively. This memorandum defines the syntax for
those URLs. Because they use the same syntactic elements they are
The URLs take the form
content-id = url-addr-spec
message-id = url-addr-spec
url-addr-spec = addr-spec ; URL encoding of RFC 822 addr-spec
cid-url = "cid" ":" content-id
mid-url = "mid" ":" message-id [ "/" content-id ]
Notes: In Internet mail messages, the addr-spec in a Content-ID
[MIME] or Message-ID  header is enclosed in angle brackets
(<>). Since addr-spec in a Message-ID or Content-ID might contain
characters not allowed within a URL; any such character (including
"/", which is reserved within the "mid" scheme) must be hex-encoded
using the %hh escape mechanism in [URL].
A "mid" URL with only a "message-id" refers to an entire message.
With the appended "content-id", it refers to a body part within a
message, as does a "cid" URL. The Content-ID of a MIME body part is
required to be globally unique. However, in many systems that store
messages, body parts are not indexed independently their context
(message). The "mid" URL long form was designed to supply the
context needed to support interoperability with such systems.
A implementation conforming to this specification is required to
support the "mid" URL long form (message-id/content-id). Conforming
implementations can choose to, but are not required to, take
advantage of the content-id's uniqueness and interpret a "cid" URL to
refer to any body part within the message store.
In limited circumstances (e.g., within multipart/alternate), a single
message may contain several body parts that have the same Content-ID.
That occurs, for example, when identical data can be accessed through
different methods. In those cases, conforming implementations are
required to use the rules of the containing MIME entity (e.g.,
multipart/alternate) to select the body part to which the Content-ID
A "cid" URL is converted to the corresponding Content-ID message
header [MIME] by removing the "cid:" prefix, converting the % encoded
character to their equivalent US-ASCII characters, and enclosing the
remaining parts with an angle bracket pair, "<" and ">". For
example, "cid:firstname.lastname@example.org" corresponds to
Reversing the process and converting URL special characters to their
% encodings produces the original cid.
A "mid" URL is converted to a Message-ID or Message-ID/Content-ID
pair in a similar fashion.
Both message-id and content-id are required to be globally unique.
That is, no two different messages will ever have the same Message-ID
addr-spec; no different body parts will ever have the same Content-ID
addr-spec. A common technique used by many message systems is to use
a time and date stamp along with the local host's domain name, e.g.,
The following message contains an HTML body part that refers to an
image contained in another body part. Both body parts are contained
in a Multipart/Related MIME entity. The HTML IMG tag contains a
cidurl which points to the image.
Subject: A simple example
Content-Type: multipart/related; boundary="boundary-example-1";
Content-Type: Text/HTML; charset=US-ASCII
to the other body part, for example through a statement such as:
<IMG SRC="cid:email@example.com" ALT="IETF logo">
The following message points to another message (hopefully still in
the recipient's message store).
Subject: Here's how to do it
Content-type: text/html; charset=usascii
<A HREF= "mid:960830.1639@XIson.com/partA.960830.1639@XIson.com">
previous message</A>, shows how the approach you propose can be
used to accomplish ...
3. Security Considerations
The URLs defined here provide an addressing or referencing mechanism.
The values of these URLs disclose no more about the originators
environment than the corresponding Message-ID and Content-ID values.
Where concern exists about such disclosures the originator of a
message using mid and cid URLs must take precautions to insure that
confidential information is not disclosed. Those precautions should
already be in place to handle existing mail use of the Message-ID and
 Crocker, D., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text
Messages", August 1982, STD 11, RFC 822, August 1982.
[MIME] Borenstein, N., and N. Freed, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions (MIME) Part One: Format of Internet Message
Bodies", RFC 2045, November 1996.
[URL] Berners-Lee, T., Masinter, L., and M. McCahill, "Uniform
Resource Locators (URL)", RFC 1738, December 1994.
[MULREL] Levinson, E., "The MIME Multipart/Related Content-type",
RFC 2387, August 1998.
The original concept of "mid" and "cid" URLs were part of the Tim
Berners-Lee's original vision of the World Wide Web. The ideas and
design have benefited greatly by discussions with Harald Alvestrand,
Dan Connolly, Roy Fielding, Larry Masinter, Jacob Palme, and others
in the MHTML working group.
6. Author's Address
47 Clive Street
Metuchen, NJ 08840-1060
Phone: +1 908 549 3716
7. Full Copyright Statement
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998). All Rights Reserved.
This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
included on all such copies and derivative works. However, this
document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than
The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.
This document and the information contained herein is provided on an
"AS IS" basis and THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET ENGINEERING
TASK FORCE DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING
BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE INFORMATION
HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.