Tech-invite3GPPspaceIETF RFCsSIP
in Index   Prev   Next

RFC 5051

i;unicode-casemap - Simple Unicode Collation Algorithm

Pages: 7
Proposed Standard

ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 1
Network Working Group                                         M. Crispin
Request for Comments: 5051                      University of Washington
Category: Standards Track                                   October 2007

         i;unicode-casemap - Simple Unicode Collation Algorithm

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.


This document describes "i;unicode-casemap", a simple case- insensitive collation for Unicode strings. It provides equality, substring, and ordering operations.

1. Introduction

The "i;ascii-casemap" collation described in [COMPARATOR] is quite simple to implement and provides case-independent comparisons for the 26 Latin alphabetics. It is specified as the default and/or baseline comparator in some application protocols, e.g., [IMAP-SORT]. However, the "i;ascii-casemap" collation does not produce satisfactory results with non-ASCII characters. It is possible, with a modest extension, to provide a more sophisticated collation with greater multilingual applicability than "i;ascii-casemap". This extension provides case-independent comparisons for a much greater number of characters. It also collates characters with diacriticals with the non-diacritical character forms. This collation, "i;unicode-casemap", is intended to be an alternative to, and preferred over, "i;ascii-casemap". It does not replace the "i;basic" collation described in [BASIC].

2. Unicode Casemap Collation Description

The "i;unicode-casemap" collation is a simple collation which is case-insensitive in its treatment of characters. It provides equality, substring, and ordering operations. The validity test operation returns "valid" for any input.
ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 2
   This collation allows strings in arbitrary (and mixed) character
   sets, as long as the character set for each string is identified and
   it is possible to convert the string to Unicode.  Strings which have
   an unidentified character set and/or cannot be converted to Unicode
   are not rejected, but are treated as binary.

   Each input string is prepared by converting it to a "titlecased
   canonicalized UTF-8" string according to the following steps, using
   UnicodeData.txt ([UNICODE-DATA]):

      (1) A Unicode codepoint is obtained from the input string.

          (a) If the input string is in a known charset that can be
              converted to Unicode, a sequence in the string's charset
              is read and checked for validity according to the rules of
              that charset.  If the sequence is valid, it is converted
              to a Unicode codepoint.  Note that for input strings in
              UTF-8, the UTF-8 sequence must be valid according to the
              rules of [UTF-8]; e.g., overlong UTF-8 sequences are

          (b) If the input string is in an unknown charset, or an
              invalid sequence occurs in step (1)(a), conversion ceases.
              No further preparation is performed, and any partial
              preparation results are discarded.  The original string is
              used unchanged with the i;octet comparator.

      (2) The following steps, using UnicodeData.txt ([UNICODE-DATA]),
          are performed on the resulting codepoint from step (1)(a).

          (a) If the codepoint has a titlecase property in
              UnicodeData.txt (this is normally the same as the
              uppercase property), the codepoint is converted to the
              codepoints in the titlecase property.

          (b) If the resulting codepoint from (2)(a) has a decomposition
              property of any type in UnicodeData.txt, the codepoint is
              converted to the codepoints in the decomposition property.
              This step is recursively applied to each of the resulting
              codepoints until no more decomposition is possible
              (effectively Normalization Form KD).

          Example: codepoint U+01C4 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER DZ WITH CARON)
          has a titlecase property of U+01C5 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER D
          WITH SMALL LETTER Z WITH CARON).  Codepoint U+01C5 has a
          decomposition property of U+0044 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER D)
          U+017E (LATIN SMALL LETTER Z WITH CARON).  U+017E has a
          decomposition property of U+007A (LATIN SMALL LETTER Z) U+030c
ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 3
          (COMBINING CARON).  Neither U+0044, U+007A, nor U+030C have
          any decomposition properties.  Therefore, U+01C4 is converted
          to U+0044 U+007A U+030C by this step.

      (3) The resulting codepoint(s) from step (2) is/are appended, in
          UTF-8 format, to the "titlecased canonicalized UTF-8" string.

      (4) Repeat from step (1) until there is no more data in the input

   Following the above preparation process on each string, the equality,
   ordering, and substring operations are as for i;octet.

   It is permitted to use an alternative implementation of the above
   preparation process if it produces the same results.  For example, it
   may be more convenient for an implementation to convert all input
   strings to a sequence of UTF-16 or UTF-32 values prior to performing
   any of the step (2) actions.  Similarly, if all input strings are (or
   are convertible to) Unicode, it may be possible to use UTF-32 as an
   alternative to UTF-8 in step (3).

      Note: UTF-16 is unsuitable as an alternative to UTF-8 in step (3),
      because UTF-16 surrogates will cause i;octet to collate codepoints
      U+E0000 through U+FFFF after non-BMP codepoints.

   This collation is not locale sensitive.  Consequently, care should be
   taken when using OS-supplied functions to implement this collation.
   Functions such as strcasecmp and toupper are sometimes locale
   sensitive and may inconsistently casemap letters.

   The i;unicode-casemap collation is well suited to use with many
   Internet protocols and computer languages.  Use with natural language
   is often inappropriate; even though the collation apparently supports
   languages such as Swahili and English, in real-world use it tends to
   mis-sort a number of types of string:

   o  people and place names containing scripts that are not collated
      according to "alphabetical order".
   o  words with characters that have diacriticals.  However,
      i;unicode-casemap generally does a better job than i;ascii-casemap
      for most (but not all) languages.  For example, German umlaut
      letters will sort correctly, but some Scandinavian letters will
   o  names such as "Lloyd" (which in Welsh sorts after "Lyon", unlike
      in English),
   o  strings containing other non-letter symbols; e.g., euro and pound
      sterling symbols, quotation marks other than '"', dashes/hyphens,
ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 4

3. Unicode Casemap Collation Registration

<?xml version='1.0'?> <!DOCTYPE collation SYSTEM 'collationreg.dtd'> <collation rfc="5051" scope="global" intendedUse="common"> <identifier>i;unicode-casemap</identifier> <title>Unicode Casemap</title> <operations>equality order substring</operations> <specification>RFC 5051</specification> <owner>IETF</owner> <submitter></submitter> </collation>

4. Security Considerations

The security considerations for [UTF-8], [STRINGPREP], and [UNICODE- SECURITY] apply and are normative to this specification. The results from this comparator will vary depending upon the implementation for several reasons. Implementations MUST consider whether these possibilities are a problem for their use case: 1) New characters added in Unicode may have decomposition or titlecase properties that will not be known to an implementation based upon an older revision of Unicode. This impacts step (2). 2) Step (2)(b) defines a subset of Normalization Form KD (NFKD) that does not require normalization of out-of-order diacriticals. However, an implementation MAY use an NFKD library routine that does such normalization. This impacts step (2)(b) and possibly also step (1)(a), and is an issue only with ill-formed UTF-8 input. 3) The set of charsets handled in step (1)(a) is open-ended. UTF-8 (and, by extension, US-ASCII) are the only mandatory-to-implement charsets. This impacts step (1)(a). Implementations SHOULD, as far as feasible, support all the charsets they are likely to encounter in the input data, in order to avoid poor collation caused by the fall through to the (1)(b) rule. 4) Other charsets may have revisions which add new characters that are not known to an implementation based upon an older revision. This impacts step (1)(a) and possibly also step (1)(b).
ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 5
   An attacker may create input that is ill-formed or in an unknown
   charset, with the intention of impacting the results of this
   comparator or exploiting other parts of the system which process this
   input in different ways.  Note, however, that even well-formed data
   in a known charset can impact the result of this comparator in
   unexpected ways.  For example, an attacker can substitute U+0041
   U+0410 (CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER A) in the intention of causing a
   non-match of strings which visually appear the same and/or causing
   the string to appear elsewhere in a sort.

5. IANA Considerations

The i;unicode-casemap collation defined in section 2 has been added to the registry of collations defined in [COMPARATOR].

6. Normative References

[COMPARATOR] Newman, C., Duerst, M., and A. Gulbrandsen, "Internet Application Protocol Collation Registry", RFC 4790, February 2007. [STRINGPREP] Hoffman, P. and M. Blanchet, "Preparation of Internationalized Strings ("stringprep")", RFC 3454, December 2002. [UTF-8] Yergeau, F., "UTF-8, a transformation format of ISO 10646", STD 63, RFC 3629, November 2003. [UNICODE-DATA] < UnicodeData.txt> Although the UnicodeData.txt file referenced here is part of the Unicode standard, it is subject to change as new characters are added to Unicode and errors are corrected in Unicode revisions. As a result, it may be less stable than might otherwise be implied by the standards status of this specification. [UNICODE-SECURITY] Davis, M. and M. Suignard, "Unicode Security Considerations", February 2006, <>.
ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 6

7. Informative References

[BASIC] Newman, C., Duerst, M., and A. Gulbrandsen, "i;basic - the Unicode Collation Algorithm", Work in Progress, March 2007. [IMAP-SORT] Crispin, M. and K. Murchison, "Internet Message Access Protocol - SORT and THREAD Extensions", Work in Progress, September 2007.

Author's Address

Mark R. Crispin Networks and Distributed Computing University of Washington 4545 15th Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98105-4527 Phone: +1 (206) 543-5762 EMail: MRC@CAC.Washington.EDU
ToP   noToC   RFC5051 - Page 7
Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The IETF Trust (2007).

   This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
   contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors
   retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

Intellectual Property

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
   made any independent effort to identify any such rights.  Information
   on the procedures with respect to rights in RFC documents can be
   found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
   assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
   attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
   such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
   specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
   copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary
   rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement
   this standard.  Please address the information to the IETF at