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RE: RFC 5321 VRFY and quoting syntax

2011-05-11 13:16:47

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-ietf-smtp(_at_)mail(_dot_)imc(_dot_)org 
[mailto:owner-ietf-smtp(_at_)mail(_dot_)imc(_dot_)org] On Behalf Of A. Rothman
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2011 8:03 AM
Subject: RFC 5321 VRFY and quoting syntax

1. The syntax definition for commands such as VRFY and EXPN (e.g.
section is

vrfy = "VRFY" SP String CRLF

with the syntax of "String" defined in section 4.1.2 as:

String         = Atom / Quoted-string

however, section 3.5.1 states:

    The character string arguments of the VRFY and EXPN commands cannot
    be further restricted due to the variety of implementations of the
    user name and mailbox list concepts.

What is not entirely clear to me is which is true - is any string of
characters valid (syntax-wise), or must it be a Quoted-string (in double
quotes) if any non-atext characters appear in it. This is especially
confusing having seen various examples online (and some discussions on
this mailing list as well) where pointed brackets are included in the
VRFY argument (using a Path syntax similar to the one defined for the
MAIL FROM and RCPT TO commands), but with no quoting.

I'm missing how your first sentence here is a conflict.  It has to be a 
quoted-string if there are any non-atext characters, otherwise the quoting is 
not needed.

Also, a good point on the angle brackets.  The syntax seems to suggest they're 
not valid (or, indeed, need quoting themselves).  I'm sure it's commonly 
accepted this way since the most commonly used SMTP commands (MAIL and RCPT) 
require them but most implementations also usually tolerate their absence.

2. Section 4.1.2 defines the backslash-escaped character mechanism in
quoted-pairSMTP, which is used only in a Quoted-string (within
double-quotes), and does not mention such escaping outside of a
Quoted-string. The following text section states:

    Note that the backslash, "\", is a quote character, which is used to
    indicate that the next character is to be used literally (instead of
    its normal interpretation).  For example, "Joe\,Smith" indicates a
    single nine-character user name string with the comma being the
    fourth character of that string.

So, it is unclear whether this paragraph applies only to the
Quoted-strings defined above, or to any characters in any argument to
any command, or only to mailboxes (discussed in the preceding paragraph)
or some other definition of when it does and does not apply.

It appears to apply only within quoted strings.  Its main function then would 
be to escape quotation marks within quoted strings, because everything else is 
not a character that separates tokens.

3. Still regarding VRFY (and maybe also EXPN?) section 3.5.1 states:

    If a normal (i.e., 250) response is returned,
    the response MAY include the full name of the user and MUST include
    the mailbox of the user.  It MUST be in either of the following

       User Name<local-part@domain>

Whereas section 3.5.2 claims:

    When normal (2yz or 551) responses are returned from a VRFY or EXPN
    request, the reply MUST include the<Mailbox>  name using a
    "<local-part@domain>" construction

Notably, the second example in the former section does not comply with
the latter section (as it contains no pointed brackets). Which is the
correct form?

I would say the angle-bracket form is what would be expected, but you're right, 
this looks like an ambiguity.  I would recommend opening an errata item for it 
if that hasn't already been done.