Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia Interface Abbreviation Facilities

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User interfaces MAY provide a method for users to enter abbreviations for commonly-used names. Although the definition of such methods is outside of the scope of the DNS specification, certain rules are necessary to insure that these methods allow access to the entire DNS name space and to prevent excessive use of Internet resources.

If an abbreviation method is provided, then:

  1. There MUST be some convention for denoting that a name is already complete, so that the abbreviation method(s) are suppressed. A trailing dot is the usual method.

  2. Abbreviation expansion MUST be done exactly once, and MUST be done in the context in which the name was entered.


For example, if an abbreviation is used in a mail program for a destination, the abbreviation should be expanded into a full domain name and stored in the queued message with an indication that it is already complete. Otherwise, the abbreviation might be expanded with a mail system search list, not the user's, or a name could grow due to repeated canonicalizations attempts interacting with wildcards.

The two most common abbreviation methods are:

  1. Interface-level aliases

    Interface-level aliases are conceptually implemented as a list of alias/domain name pairs. The list can be per-user or per-host, and separate lists can be associated with different functions, e.g. one list for host name-to-address translation, and a different list for mail domains. When the user enters a name, the interface attempts to match the name to the alias component of a list entry, and if a matching entry can be found, the name is replaced by the domain name found in the pair.

    Note that interface-level aliases and CNAMEs are completely separate mechanisms; interface-level aliases are a local matter while CNAMEs are an Internet-wide aliasing mechanism which is a required part of any DNS implementation.

  2. Search Lists

    A search list is conceptually implemented as an ordered list of domain names. When the user enters a name, the domain names in the search list are used as suffixes to the user-supplied name, one by one, until a domain name with the desired associated data is found, or the search list is exhausted. Search lists often contain the name of the local host's parent domain or other ancestor domains. Search lists are often per-user or per-process.

    It SHOULD be possible for an administrator to disable a DNS search-list facility. Administrative denial may be warranted in some cases, to prevent abuse of the DNS.

    There is danger that a search-list mechanism will generate excessive queries to the root servers while testing whether user input is a complete domain name, lacking a final period to mark it as complete. A search-list mechanism MUST have one of, and SHOULD have both of, the following two provisions to prevent this:

    1. The local resolver/name server can implement caching of negative responses (see Section

    2. The search list expander can require two or more interior dots in a generated domain name before it tries using the name in a query to non-local domain servers, such as the root.


    The intent of this requirement is to avoid excessive delay for the user as the search list is tested, and more importantly to prevent excessive traffic to the root and other high-level servers. For example, if the user supplied a name "X" and the search list contained the root as a component, a query would have to consult a root server before the next search list alternative could be tried. The resulting load seen by the root servers and gateways near the root would be multiplied by the number of hosts in the Internet.

    The negative caching alternative limits the effect to the first time a name is used. The interior dot rule is simpler to implement but can prevent easy use of some top-level names.


Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia Interface Abbreviation Facilities