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DNS resolvers and recursive servers MUST support UDP, and SHOULD support TCP, for sending (non-zone-transfer) queries. Specifically, a DNS resolver or server that is sending a non-zone-transfer query MUST send a UDP query first. If the Answer section of the response is truncated and if the requester supports TCP, it SHOULD try the query again using TCP.

DNS servers MUST be able to service UDP queries and SHOULD be able to service TCP queries. A name server MAY limit the resources it devotes to TCP queries, but it SHOULD NOT refuse to service a TCP query just because it would have succeeded with UDP.

Truncated responses MUST NOT be saved (cached) and later used in such a way that the fact that they are truncated is lost.


UDP is preferred over TCP for queries because UDP queries have much lower overhead, both in packet count and in connection state. The use of UDP is essential for heavily-loaded servers, especially the root servers. UDP also offers additional robustness, since a resolver can attempt several UDP queries to different servers for the cost of a single TCP query.

It is possible for a DNS response to be truncated, although this is a very rare occurrence in the present Internet DNS. Practically speaking, truncation cannot be predicted, since it is data-dependent. The dependencies include the number of RRs in the answer, the size of each RR, and the savings in space realized by the name compression algorithm. As a rule of thumb, truncation in NS and MX lists should not occur for answers containing 15 or fewer RRs. Whether it is possible to use a truncated answer depends on the application. A mailer must not use a truncated MX response, since this could lead to mail loops.

Responsible practices can make UDP suffice in the vast majority of cases. Name servers must use compression in responses. Resolvers must differentiate truncation of the Additional section of a response (which only loses extra information) from truncation of the Answer section (which for MX records renders the response unusable by mailers). Database administrators should list only a reasonable number of primary names in lists of name servers, MX alternatives, etc.

However, it is also clear that some new DNS record types defined in the future will contain information exceeding the 512 byte limit that applies to UDP, and hence will require TCP. Thus, resolvers and name servers should implement TCP services as a backup to UDP today, with the knowledge that they will require the TCP service in the future.

By private agreement, name servers and resolvers MAY arrange to use TCP for all traffic between themselves. TCP MUST be used for zone transfers.

A DNS server MUST have sufficient internal concurrency that it can continue to process UDP queries while awaiting a response or performing a zone transfer on an open TCP connection [DNS:2].

A server MAY support a UDP query that is delivered using an IP broadcast or multicast address. However, the Recursion Desired bit MUST NOT be set in a query that is multicast, and MUST be ignored by name servers receiving queries via a broadcast or multicast address. A host that sends broadcast or multicast DNS queries SHOULD send them only as occasional probes, caching the IP address(es) it obtains from the response(s) so it can normally send unicast queries.


Broadcast or (especially) IP multicast can provide a way to locate nearby name servers without knowing their IP addresses in advance. However, general broadcasting of recursive queries can result in excessive and unnecessary load on both network and servers.

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Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia Transport Protocols