The DNS provides an optional service which allows name servers to distribute, and resolvers to cache, negative results with TTLs. For example, a name server can distribute a TTL along with a name error indication, and a resolver receiving such information is allowed to assume that the name does not exist during the TTL period without consulting authoritative data. Similarly, a resolver can make a query with a QTYPE which matches multiple types, and cache the fact that some of the types are not present.
This feature can be particularly important in a system which implements naming shorthands that use search lists beacuse a popular shorthand, which happens to require a suffix toward the end of the search list, will generate multiple name errors whenever it is used.
The method is that a name server may add an SOA RR to the additional section of a response when that response is authoritative. The SOA must be that of the zone which was the source of the authoritative data in the answer section, or name error if applicable. The MINIMUM field of the SOA controls the length of time that the negative result may be cached.
Note that in some circumstances, the answer section may contain multiple owner names. In this case, the SOA mechanism should only be used for the data which matches QNAME, which is the only authoritative data in this section.
Name servers and resolvers should never attempt to add SOAs to the additional section of a non-authoritative response, or attempt to infer results which are not directly stated in an authoritative response. There are several reasons for this, including: cached information isn't usually enough to match up RRs and their zone names, SOA RRs may be cached due to direct SOA queries, and name servers are not required to output the SOAs in the authority section.
This feature is optional, although a refined version is expected to become part of the standard protocol in the future. Name servers are not required to add the SOA RRs in all authoritative responses, nor are resolvers required to cache negative results. Both are recommended. All resolvers and recursive name servers are required to at least be able to ignore the SOA RR when it is present in a response.
Some experiments have also been proposed which will use this feature. The idea is that if cached data is known to come from a particular zone, and if an authoritative copy of the zone's SOA is obtained, and if the zone's SERIAL has not changed since the data was cached, then the TTL of the cached data can be reset to the zone MINIMUM value if it is smaller. This usage is mentioned for planning purposes only, and is not recommended as yet.