Network Working Group
Request for Comments: 3050
Category: Informational
J. Lennox
H. Schulzrinne
Columbia U.
J. Rosenberg
January 2001

Common Gateway Interface for SIP

Status of this Memo

This memo provides information for the Internet community. It does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

Copyright © The Internet Society (2001). All Rights Reserved.


In Internet telephony, there must be a means by which new services are created and deployed rapidly. In the World Wide Web, the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) has served as popular means towards programming web services. Due to the similarities between the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), CGI is a good candidate for service creation in a SIP environment. This document defines a SIP CGI interface for providing SIP services on a SIP server.


The IESG notes that the mechanism specified here depends on the Common Gateway Interface. Should this interface change or be enhanced changes in this specification may also be necessary or appropriate. According to the W3C, the CGI is presently maintained by the NCSA Software Development Group. See

for additional information on the current state of the CGI interface.

Table of Contents

   1          Introduction .......................................   3
   2          Motivations ........................................   4
   3          Differences from HTTP CGI ..........................   5
   3.1        Basic Model ........................................   6
   3.2        Persistence Model ..................................   8
   3.3        SIP CGI Triggers ...................................   9
   3.4        Naming .............................................   9
   3.5        Environment Variables ..............................   9
   3.6        Timers .............................................  10
   4          Overview of SIP CGI ................................  10
   5          SIP CGI Specification ..............................  12
   5.1        Introduction .......................................  12
   5.1.1      Relationship with HTTP CGI .........................  12
   5.1.2      Conventions of This Document .......................  12
   5.1.3      Specifications .....................................  12
   5.1.4      Terminology ........................................  13
   5.2        Notational Conventions and Generic Grammar .........  13
   5.3        Invoking the Script ................................  14
   5.4        The SIP CGI Script Command Line ....................  14
   5.5        Data Input to the SIP CGI Script ...................  14
   5.5.1      Message Metadata (Metavariables) ...................  14    AUTH_TYPE ..........................................  16    CONTENT_LENGTH .....................................  16    CONTENT_TYPE .......................................  17    GATEWAY_INTERFACE ..................................  17    Protocol-Specific Metavariables ....................  18    REGISTRATIONS ......................................  18    REMOTE_ADDR ........................................  19    REMOTE_HOST ........................................  19    REMOTE_IDENT .......................................  19   REMOTE_USER ........................................  20   REQUEST_METHOD .....................................  20   REQUEST_TOKEN ......................................  21   REQUEST_URI ........................................  21   RESPONSE_STATUS ....................................  21   RESPONSE_REASON ....................................  21   RESPONSE_TOKEN .....................................  21   SCRIPT_COOKIE ......................................  22   SERVER_NAME ........................................  22   SERVER_PORT ........................................  22   SERVER_PROTOCOL ....................................  22   SERVER_SOFTWARE ....................................  23
   5.5.2      Message Bodies .....................................  23
   5.6        Data Output from the SIP CGI Script ................  23
   5.6.1      CGI Action Lines ...................................  25    Status .............................................  25    Proxy Request ......................................  25    Forward Response ...................................  26    Script Cookie ......................................  26    CGI Again ..........................................  27    Default Action .....................................  27
   5.6.2      CGI Header Fields ..................................  28    Request-Token ......................................  28    Remove .............................................  28
   5.7        Local Expiration Handling ..........................  28
   5.8        Locally-Generated Responses ........................  29
   5.9        SIP CGI and REGISTER ...............................  29
   5.10       SIP CGI and CANCEL .................................  29
   5.11       SIP CGI and ACK ....................................  30
   5.11.1     Receiving ACK's ....................................  30
   5.11.2     Sending ACK's ......................................  30
   6          System Specifications ..............................  30
   6.1        Unix ...............................................  30
   6.2        Microsoft Windows ..................................  31
   7          Security Considerations ............................  31
   7.1        Request Initiation .................................  31
   7.2        Authenticated and Encrypted Messages ...............  31
   7.3        SIP Header Fields Containing Sensitive Information..  32
   7.4        Script Interference with the Server ................  32
   7.5        Data Length and Buffering Considerations ...........  32
   8          Acknowledgements ...................................  33
   9          Authors' Addresses .................................  33
   10         Bibliography .......................................  34
   11         Full Copyright Statement ...........................  35

1 Introduction

In Internet telephony, there must be a means by which new services are created and deployed rapidly. In traditional telephony networks, this was accomplished through IN service creation environments, which provided an interface for creating new services, often using GUI- based tools.

The WWW has evolved with its own set of tools for service creation. Originally, web servers simply translated URLs into filenames stored on a local system, and returned the file content. Over time, servers evolved to provide dynamic content, and forms provided a means for soliciting user input. In essence, what evolved was a means for service creation in a web environment. There are now many means for creation of dynamic web content, including server side JavaScript, servlets, and the common gateway interface (CGI) [1].

Multimedia communications, including Internet telephony, will also require a mechanism for creating services. This mechanism is strongly tied to the features provided by the signaling protocols. The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) [2] has been developed for initiation and termination of multimedia sessions. SIP borrows heavily from HTTP, inheriting its client-server interaction and much of its syntax and semantics. For this reason, the web service creation environments, and CGI in particular, seem attractive as starting points for developing SIP based service creation environments.

2 Motivations

CGI has a number of strengths which make it attractive as an environment for creating SIP services:

Language independence: CGI works with perl, C, VisualBasic, tcl,

and many other languages, as long as they support access to environment variables.

Exposes all headers: CGI exposes the content of all the headers

in an HTTP request to the CGI application. An application can make use of these as it sees fit, and ignore those it doesn't care about. This allows all aspects of an HTTP request to be considered for creation of content. In a SIP environment, headers have greater importance than in HTTP. They carry critical information about the transaction, including caller and callee, subject, contact addresses, organizations, extension names, registration parameters and expirations, call status, and call routes, to name a few. It is therefore critical for SIP services to have as much access to these headers as possible. For this reason, CGI is very attractive.

Creation of responses: CGI is advantageous in that it can create

all parts of a response, including headers, status codes and reason phrases, in addition to message bodies. This is not the case for other mechanisms, such as Java servlets, which are focused primarily on the body. In a SIP environment, it is critical to be able to generate all aspects of a response (and, all aspects of new or proxied requests), since the body is usually not of central importance in SIP service creation.

Component reuse: Many of the CGI utilities allow for easy

reading of environment variables, parsing of form data, and often parsing and generation of header fields. Since SIP reuses the basic RFC822 [3] syntax of HTTP, many of these tools are applicable to SIP CGI.

Familiar environment: Many web programmers are familiar with


Ease of extensibility: Since CGI is an interface and not a

language, it becomes easy to extend and reapply to other protocols, such as SIP.

The generality, extensibility, and detailed control and access to information provided by CGI, coupled with the range of tools that exist for it, which can be immediately applied to SIP, make it a good mechanism for SIP service creation.

3 Differences from HTTP CGI

While SIP and HTTP share a basic syntax and a request-response model, there are important differences. Proxies play a critical role in services for SIP, while they are less important for HTTP. SIP servers can fork requests (proxying multiple requests when a single request is received), an important capability absent from HTTP. SIP supports additional features, such as registrations, which are absent from HTTP. These differences are reflected in the differences between SIP CGI and HTTP CGI. SIP CGI runs primarily on proxy, redirect, and registrar servers, rather than user agent servers (which are the equivalent of origin servers in HTTP). SIP CGI allows the script to perform specific messaging functions not supported in HTTP CGI (such as proxying requests), and SIP CGI introduces a persistence model that allow a script to maintain control through multiple message exchanges. HTTP CGI has no persistence for scripts.

3.1 Basic Model

The basic model for HTTP CGI is depicted in figure 1.

                -----    ------------
     ~~~~~~~~  |req  |  |  --------  |
    |        |----------| |  http  | |
    | client | |resp |  | | server | |
    |        |----------| |        | |w
     ~~~~~~~~  |     |  |  --------  |e
                -----   |  s|  /\s   |b
               net      |  t|   |t   |
                        |e d| C |d   |s
                        |n i| G |o   |e
                        |v n| I |u   |r
                        |   |   |t   |v
                        |  \/   |    |e
                        |  -------   |r
                        | |       |  |
                        | |  CGI  |  |
                        | | prog. |  |
                        | |       |  |
                        |  -------   |

Figure 1: HTTP CGI Model

A client issues an HTTP request, which is passed either directly to the origin server (as shown), or is forwarded through a proxy server. The origin server executes a CGI script, and the CGI script returns a response, which is passed back to the client. The main job of the script is to generate the body for the response. Only origin servers execute CGI scripts, not proxy servers.

In a SIP server, the model is different, and is depicted in Figure 2.

     ~~~~~~~~   req  -------   req   -------     req   ~~~~~~~~
    |        |------|       |-------|       |---------|        |
    | client | resp | server| resp  | server| resp    | client |
    |        |------|       |-------|       |---------|        |
     ~~~~~~~~        -------         -------           --------
                      |   | CGI
                      |   |
                    |       |
                    |  CGI  |
                    | prog. |
                    |       |

Figure 2: SIP CGI Model

The client generates a request, which is forwarded to a server. The server may generate a response (such as an error or redirect response). Or, if the server is a proxy server, the request is proxied to another server, and eventually to a user agent, and the response is passed back upstream, through the server, and back towards the client. A SIP proxy server may additionally fork requests, generating multiple requests in response to a received request. Generally, a proxy server will not generate the content in responses. These contain session descriptions created by user agents. Services, such as call forward and mobility services, are based on the decisions the server makes about (1) when, to where, and how many requests to proxy downstream, and (2) when to send a response back upstream. Creation of services such as ad-hoc bridging (where the server acts as a media mixer in a multiparty call, without being asked to do so by the end users) will require the server to generate new requests of its own, and for it to modify and generate the body in responses.

An HTTP server is mainly concerned about generation of responses. A SIP server is generally concerned about performing four basic operations:

Proxying of Requests: Receiving a request, adding or modifying

any of the headers, deciding on a set of servers to forward the request to, and forwarding it to them.

Returning Responses: Receiving a response, adding or modifying

any of the headers, and passing the response towards the client.

Generating Requests: Creating a new request, originating at the

server, placing headers and a body into the message, and sending it to a server.

Generation of Responses: Receiving a request, generating a

response to it, and sending it back to the client.

When a request is received, one or more of the above operations may occur at once. For example, a SIP server may generate a provisional response, generate a new request, and proxy the original request to two servers. This implies that SIP CGI must encompass a greater set of functions than HTTP CGI. These functions are a super-set of the simple end-server request/response model.

3.2 Persistence Model

In HTTP CGI, a script is executed once for each request. It generates the response, and then terminates. There is no state maintained across requests from the same user, as a general rule (although this can be done -- and is -- for more complex services such as database accesses, which essentially encapsulate state in client-side cookies or dynamically-generated URLs). A transaction is just a single request, and a response.

In SIP CGI, since a request can generate many new and proxied requests, these themselves will generate responses. A service will often require these responses to be processed, and additional requests or responses to be generated. As a result, whereas an HTTP CGI script executes once per transaction, a SIP CGI script must maintain control somehow over numerous events.

In order to enable this, and to stay with the original CGI model, we mandate that a SIP CGI script executes when a message arrives, and after generating output (in the form of additional messages), terminate. State is maintained by allowing the CGI to return an opaque token to the server. When the CGI script is called again for the same transaction, this token is passed back to the CGI script. When called for a new transaction, no token is passed.

For example, consider a request which arrives at a SIP server. The server calls a CGI script, which generates a provisional response and a proxied request. It also returns a token to the server, and then terminates. The response is returned upstream towards the client, and the request is proxied. When the response to the proxied request arrives, the script is executed again. The environment variables are set based on the content of the new response. The script is also passed back the token. Using the token as its state, the script decides to proxy the request to a different location. It therefore returns a proxied request, and another token. The server forwards this new request, and when the response comes, calls the CGI script once more, and passes back the token. This time, the script generates a final response, and passes this back to the server. The server sends the response to the client, destroys the token, and the transaction is complete.

3.3 SIP CGI Triggers

In many cases, calling the CGI script on the reception of every message is inefficient. CGI scripts come at the cost of significant overhead since they generally require creation of a new process. Therefore, it is important in SIP CGI for a script to indicate, after it is called the first time, under what conditions it will be called for the remainder of the transaction. If the script is not called, the server will take the "default" action, as specified in this document. This allows an application designer to trade off flexibility for computational resources. Making an analogy to the Intelligent Network (IN) - a script is able to define the triggers for its future execution.

So, in summary, whereas an HTTP CGI script executes once during a transaction, a single SIP CGI script may execute many times during a transaction, and may specify at which points it would like to have control for the remainder of the transaction.

3.4 Naming

In HTTP CGI, the CGI script itself is generally the resource named in the request URI of the HTTP request. This is not so in SIP. In general, the request URI names a user to be called. The mapping to a script to be executed may depend on other SIP headers, including To and From fields, the SIP method, status codes, and reason phrases. As such, the mapping of a message to a CGI script is purely a matter of local policy administration at a server. A server may have a single script which always executes, or it may have multiple scripts, and the target is selected by some parts of the header.

3.5 Environment Variables

In HTTP CGI, environment variables are set with the values of the paths and other aspects of the request. As there is no notion of a path in SIP, some of these environment variables do not make sense.

3.6 Timers

In SIP, certain services require that the script gets called not only when a message arrives, but when some timer expires. The classic example of this is "call forward no answer." To be implemented with SIP CGI, the first time the script is executed, it must generate a proxied request, and also indicate a time at which to be called again if no response comes. This kind of feature is not present in HTTP CGI, and some rudimentary support for it is needed in SIP CGI.

4 Overview of SIP CGI

When a request arrives at a SIP server, initiating a new transaction, the server will set a number of environment variables, and call a CGI script. The script is passed the body of the request through stdin.

The script returns, on stdout, a set of SIP action lines, each of which may be modified by CGI and/or SIP headers. This set is delimited through the use of two carriage returns. The action lines allow the script to specify any of the four operations defined above, in addition to the default operation. Generating a response is done by copying the the status line of the response into an action line of the CGI output. For example, the following will create a 200 OK to the original request:

   SIP/2.0 200 OK

The operation of proxying a request is supported by the CGI-PROXY- REQUEST CGI action, which takes the URL to proxy to as an argument. For example, to proxy a request to


In this example, the server will take the original request, and modify any header fields normally changed during the proxy operation (such as decrementing Max-Forwards, and adding a Via field). This message is then "merged" with the output of the CGI script - SIP headers specified below the action line in the CGI output will be added to the outbound request. In the above example, the Contact header will be added. Note that the action line looks like the request line of a SIP request message. This is done in order to simplify parsing.

To delete headers from the outgoing request, the merge process also supports the CGI header CGI-Remove. Like SIP headers, CGI headers are written underneath the action line. They are extracted by the SIP server, and used to provide the server with additional guidance.

CGI headers always begin with CGI to differentiate them from SIP headers. In this case, the supported values for the CGI-Remove header are the names of headers in the original message.

Returning of responses is more complex. A server may receive multiple responses as the result of forking a request. The script should be able to ask the server to return any of the responses it had received previously. To support this, the server will pass an opaque token to the script through environment variables, unique for each response received. To return a response, a CGI script needs to indicate which response is to be returned. For example, to return a response named with the token abcdefghij, the following output is generated:

   CGI-FORWARD-RESPONSE abcdefghij SIP/2.0

Finally, if the script does not output any of the above actions, the server does what it would normally do upon receiving the message that triggered the script.

A SIP CGI script is normally only executed when the original request arrives. If the script also wants to be called for subsequent messages in a transaction -- due to responses to proxied requests, or (in certain circumstances) ACK and CANCEL requests, it can perform the CGI-AGAIN action:

   CGI-AGAIN yes SIP/2.0

This action applies only to the next invocation of the script; it means to invoke the script one more time. Outputting "no" is identical to outputting "yes" on this invocation of the script and outputting nothing the next time the script is called.

When the script is re-executed, it may need access to some state in order to continue processing. A script can generate one piece of state, called a cookie, for any new request or proxied request. It is passed to the server through the CGI-SET-COOKIE action. The action contains a token, which is the cookie itself. The server does not examine or parse the cookie. It is simply stored. When the script is re-executed, the cookie is passed back to the script through an environment variable.

   CGI-SET-COOKIE khsihppii8asdl SIP/2.0

Finally, when the script causes the server to proxy a request, responses to these requests will arrive. To ease matching of responses to requests, the script can place a request token in the CGI CGI-Request-Token header. This header is removed by the server when the request is proxied. Any responses received to this request will have the token passed in an environment variable.

5 SIP CGI Specification

5.1 Introduction

5.1.1 Relationship with HTTP CGI

This SIP CGI specification is based on work-in-progress revision 1.1 of the HTTP CGI specification [1]. That document is a product of the CGI-WG mailing list, which is not an official IETF working group. CGI-WG's homepage is located at the URL http://Web.Golux.Com/coar/cgi/, and the most recent versions of the CGI specification are available there. This specification incorporates a great deal of text from the work-in-progress version of that document as of February 23, 2000. A future version of this specification may be changed to cite parts of that document by reference instead.

5.1.2 Conventions of This Document

In this document, the key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [4] and indicate requirement levels for compliant SIP CGI implementations.

Some paragraphs are indented, like this; they give motivations of design choices, or questions for future discussion in the development of SIP CGI. They are not normative to the specification of the protocol.

5.1.3 Specifications

Not all of the functions and features of SIP CGI are defined in the main part of this specification. The following phrases are used to describe the features which are not specified:

System-defined: The feature may differ between systems, but

must be the same for different implementations using the same system. A system will usually identify a class of operating systems. Some systems are defined in section 6 of this document. New systems may be defined by new specifications without revision of this document.

Implementation-defined: The behavior of the feature may vary

from implementation to implementation, but a particular implementation should be consistent in its behavior.

5.1.4 Terminology

This specification uses many terms defined in the SIP/2.0 specification [2]; however, the following terms are used here in a sense which may not accord with their definitions in that document, or with their common meaning.

metavariable: A named parameter that carries information from

the server to the script. It is not necessarily a variable in the operating system's environment, although that is the most common implementation.

script: The software which is invoked by the server via this

interface. It need not be a standalone program, but could be a dynamically-loaded or shared library, or even a subroutine in the server. It may be a set of statements interpreted at run-time, as the term `script' is frequently understood, but that is not a requirement and within the context of this specification the term has the broader definition stated.

server: The application program which invokes the script in

order to service messages.

message: A SIP request or response, typically either the one

that triggered the invocation of the CGI script, or one that the CGI script caused to be sent.

5.2 Notational Conventions and Generic Grammar

In this specification we use the Augmented Backus-Naur Form notation as described in appendix C of the SIP/2.0 specification, RFC 2543 [2].

The following grammatical constructs are taken from other documents; this table lists the appropriate sources.

        OCTET          SIP/2.0 [2] Appendix C.1
        CHAR           SIP/2.0 [2] Appendix C.1
        digit          SIP/2.0 [2] Appendix C.1
        alphanum       SIP/2.0 [2] Appendix C.1
        token          SIP/2.0 [2] Appendix C.1
        hostname       SIP/2.0 [2] Section 2
        SIP-URL        SIP/2.0 [2] Section 2
        SIP-Version    SIP/2.0 [2] Section 4.3.1
        Status-Code    SIP/2.0 [2] Section 5.1.1
        Reason-Phrase  SIP/2.0 [2] Section 5.1.1
        media-type     HTTP/1.1 [5] Section 3.7
                       (via SIP/2.0 [2] Section 6.16)
        field-name     SIP/2.0 [2] Section 6.6

Other grammatical constructs taken from outside sources are noted in the text.

5.3 Invoking the Script

The script is invoked in a system-defined manner. Unless specified otherwise, the file containing the script will be invoked as an executable program.

Only one CGI script at a time may be outstanding for a SIP transaction. If subsequently arriving responses would cause a CGI script to be invoked, handling of them is deferred, except for ACK, until CGI scripts for previous messages in the transaction terminate. Messages are processed in the order they are received.

5.4 The SIP CGI Script Command Line

The server SHOULD NOT provide any command line arguments to the script.

Command line arguments are used for indexed queries in HTTP

CGI; HTTP indexed queries do not have an equivalent in SIP.

5.5 Data Input to the SIP CGI Script

Information about a message comes from two different sources: the message header, and any associated content-body. Servers MUST make portions of this information available to scripts.

5.5.1 Message Metadata (Metavariables)

Each SIP CGI server implementation MUST define a mechanism to pass data about the message from the server to the script. The metavariables containing these data are accessed by the script in a system-defined manner. The representation of the characters in the metavariables is system-defined.

The representation of metavariables MUST distinguish between undefined values (which are not present) and null values (which are present, but have zero length). Null values are only allowed for those metavariables whose grammar permits this.

For historical reasons, HTTP CGI does not distinguish between null values and undefined values. This specification eliminates this misfeature; null values and undefined values are semantically different.

Case is not significant in the metavariable names, in that there cannot be two different variables whose names differ in case only. Here they are shown using a canonical representation of capitals plus underscore ("_"). The actual representation of the names is system defined; for a particular system the representation MAY be defined differently than this.

Metavariable values MUST be considered case-sensitive except as noted otherwise.

The canonical metavariables defined by this specification are:


Metavariables with names beginning with the protocol name (e.g., "SIP_ACCEPT") are also canonical in their description of message header fields. The number and meaning of these fields may change independently of this specification. (See also section

A server MAY also specify additional non-canonical metavariables. AUTH_TYPE

If the target of the message required access authentication for external access, then the server MUST set the value of this variable from the auth-scheme token in the message's Authorization header field. Otherwise it is not defined.

        AUTH_TYPE    =  "" | auth-scheme
        auth-scheme  =  "Basic" | "Digest" | "PGP" | token

SIP access authentication schemes are described in sections 14 and 15 of the SIP/2.0 specification [2]. The auth-scheme is not case- sensitive.

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts if the message header included an Authorization field that was authenticated.

For the complex authentication schemes, the server SHOULD perform the authentication checking itself. If the authentication failed, this metavariable SHOULD NOT be set.

If several authentication credentials, with multiple schemes, are present in the message, this variable SHOULD be set to correspond to the authenticated credentials with the strongest scheme the server supports. If credentials are present for several domains, the server SHOULD NOT perform any action on credentials from domains external to it.

If both Authorization and Proxy-Authorization headers are present, the server SHOULD perform the authorizations based on the appropriate header for the context in which it is running. For example, a server which is a proxy server and a registrar would use Authorization headers for REGISTER messages aimed at its local domains, and Proxy- Authorization headers for all other messages. CONTENT_LENGTH

This metavariable is set to the size of the message-body entity attached to the message, if any, in decimal number of octets. If no data are attached, then this metavariable is not defined. The syntax is the same as for the SIP Content-Length header field (section 6.15, SIP/2.0 specification [2]).

        CONTENT_LENGTH  =  "" | 1*digit

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts if the message was a accompanied by a content-body entity, even if the message did not include a Content-Length header field. CONTENT_TYPE

If the message includes a message-body, CONTENT_TYPE is set to the Internet Media Type [6] of the attached entity if the type was provided via a Content-type field in the message header, or if the server can determine it in the absence of a supplied Content-type field. The syntax is the same as for the SIP Content-Type header field.

        CONTENT_TYPE  =  "" | media-type

The type, subtype, and parameter attribute names are not case- sensitive. Parameter values MAY be case sensitive. Media types and their use in SIP are described in section 6.16 of the SIP/2.0 specification [2], and by reference in section 3.7 of the HTTP/1.1 specification [5].

Since in SIP the Content-Type header MUST be specified if a body is present, servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts if a body was present in the original message, unless the "body" is actually an encrypted payload. GATEWAY_INTERFACE

This metavariable is set to the dialect of SIP CGI being used by the server to communicate with the script. Syntax:

        GATEWAY_INTERFACE  =  "SIP-CGI" "/" major "." minor
        major              =  1*digit
        minor              =  1*digit

Note that the major and minor numbers are treated as separate integers and hence each may be more than a single digit. Thus SIP- CGI/2.4 is a lower version than SIP-CGI/2.13 which in turn is lower than SIP-CGI/12.3. Leading zeros in either the major or the minor number MUST be ignored by scripts and SHOULD NOT be generated by servers.

This document defines the 1.1 version of the SIP CGI interface ("SIP-CGI/1.1").

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts.

For maximal compatibility with existing HTTP CGI libraries, we want to keep this as similar as possible to the syntax of CGI 1.1. However, we do want it to be clear that this is indeed SIP CGI. Making HTTP CGI's version identifier a substring of the SIP CGI identifier seemed like a reasonable compromise. (The existing CGI libraries we checked do not seem to check the version.) Protocol-Specific Metavariables

These metavariables are specific to the protocol via which the method is sent. Interpretation of these variables depends on the value of the SERVER_PROTOCOL metavariable (see section

Metavariables with names beginning with "SIP_" contain values from the message header, if the protocol used was SIP. Each SIP header field name is converted to upper case, has all occurrences of "-" replaced with "_", and has "SIP_" prepended to form the metavariable name. Similar transformations are applied for other protocols. The header data MAY be presented as sent by the client, or MAY be rewritten in ways which do not change its semantics. If multiple header fields with the same field-name are received then the server MUST rewrite them as though they had been received as a single header field having the same semantics before being represented in a metavariable. Similarly, a header field that is received on more than one line MUST be merged into a single line. The server MUST, if necessary, change the representation of the data (for example, the character set) to be appropriate for a CGI metavariable.

Note: these metavariables' names were changed from HTTP_* to SIP_* since the first draft of this specification. The intention had been to make it easier to use existing CGI libraries unmodified, but this convenience was felt to be outweighed by the confusion this introduced.

Servers are not required to create metavariables for all the message header fields they receive. However, because of the relatively high importance of headers in SIP for messages' semantic content, the server SHOULD provide all headers which do not contain potentially sensitive authorization information, such as Authorization. Servers SHOULD provide protocol-specific metavariables even for information which is available through other SIP CGI metavariables, such as CONTENT_LENGTH and CONTENT_TYPE.

This allows a SIP CGI script to determine, if necessary,

whether the information in the other metavariables was in

the original message, or was synthesized by the server. REGISTRATIONS

This metavariable contains a list the current locations the server has registered for the user in the Request-URI of the initial request of a transaction. It is syntactically identical to the protocol metavariable SIP_CONTACT, and thus is defined by section of this document and by section 6.13 of the SIP/2.0 specification [2]. It contains all the uris, uri parameters, display names, and contact parameters for the addresses registered with the server.

The syntax of REGISTRATIONS is identical to how SIP_CONTACT

would appear in a 302 response from a redirection server.

This allows parsing code to be re-used.

If a user's registrations change in the course of a transaction, the server SHOULD update this metavariable accordingly for subsequent script invocations for the transaction. REMOTE_ADDR

The IP address of the client that sent the message to the server. This is not necessarily that of the originating user agent client or server.

        REMOTE_ADDR  =  hostnumber
        hostnumber   =  IPv4address | IPv6address

The definitions of IPv4address and Ipv6address are provided in Appendix B of RFC 2373 [7].

For locally-generated responses (see section 5.8), this SHOULD be the loopback address (i.e., for IPv4 or ::1 for IPv6).

Servers MUST supply this value to scripts. REMOTE_HOST

This is the fully qualified domain name of the host sending the message to this server, if available, otherwise not defined. (See section Domain names are not case sensitive.

        REMOTE_HOST  =  hostname

Servers SHOULD provide this information to scripts. REMOTE_IDENT

The identity information supported about the connection by a RFC 1413 [8] request, if available.

        REMOTE_IDENT  =  *CHAR

The server MAY choose not to support this feature, and it is anticipated that not many implementations will, as the information is not particularly useful in the presence of complex proxy paths. REMOTE_USER

If the message requested authentication (i.e., the AUTH_TYPE metavariable is set), then the value of the REMOTE_USER metavariable is set to the user-ID supplied for the authentication. For Basic authentication this is the content of the (decoded) "userid" grammar element; for Digest it is content of "username-value." For PGP authentication, it is the URI specified in the "signed-by" parameter of the Authorization header, if present, otherwise the URI part of the From header.

If some other authentication scheme was requested, this metavariable SHOULD be set to an appropriate component of the authorization information identifying the user or entity associated with the credentials. If authentication was not requested, this metavariable is not defined.

        REMOTE_USER  =  *OCTET

Servers SHOULD provide this metavariable to scripts. REQUEST_METHOD

If the message triggering the script was a request, the REQUEST_METHOD metavariable is set to the method with which the request was made, as described in section 4.2 of the SIP/2.0 specification [2]; otherwise not defined.

        REQUEST_METHOD    =  sip-method
        sip-method        =  "INVITE" | "BYE" | "OPTIONS" | "CANCEL"
                             | "REGISTER" | "ACK"
                             | extension-method
        extension-method  =  token

Note that ACK is usually not appropriate for the SIP CGI 1.1 environment; however, see section 5.11. The implications of REGISTER in the CGI context are discussed in section 5.9, and CANCEL is discussed in section 5.10. A SIP CGI 1.1 server MAY choose to process some methods directly rather than passing them to scripts.

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts if the triggering message was a request. REQUEST_TOKEN
        REQUEST_TOKEN  =  token

If the script specified a request token in a proxied request, this token is returned to the server in responses to that request. Note that this token is chosen by the script, not by the server. Each response to a proxied request contains the same value for this token. REQUEST_URI

This metavariable is specific to requests made with SIP.

REQUEST_URI = absoluteURI ; defined in RFC 2396 [9]

If the message triggering the script was a request, this variable indicates the URI specified with the request method. This metavariable is only defined if REQUEST_METHOD is defined; in that case, servers MUST provide it to scripts.

This metavariable fills the roles of HTTP CGI's SCRIPT_NAME, PATH_INFO, and QUERY_STRING. RESPONSE_STATUS
        RESPONSE_STATUS  =  Status-Code

If the message triggering the script was a response, this variable indicates the numeric code specified in the response; otherwise it is not defined. In the former case, servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts. RESPONSE_REASON
        RESPONSE_REASON  =  Reason-Phrase

If the message triggering the script was a response, this variable indicates the textual string specified in the response. RESPONSE_TOKEN
        RESPONSE_TOKEN  =  token

If the message triggering the script was a response, the server MUST specify a token which subsequent invocations of the CGI script can use to identify this response. This string is chosen by the server and is opaque to the CGI script. See the discussion of CGI-FORWARD- RESPONSE in section 5.6.1 below. SCRIPT_COOKIE
        SCRIPT_COOKIE  =  token

This is the value an earlier invocation of this script for this transaction passed to the server in CGI action line CGI-SET-COOKIE. See the description of that action in section below. SERVER_NAME

The SERVER_NAME metavariable is set to the name of the server.

        SERVER_NAME  =  hostname | hostnumber

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts. SERVER_PORT

The SERVER_PORT metavariable is set to the port on which the message was received.

        SERVER_PORT  =  1*digit

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts. SERVER_PROTOCOL

The SERVER_PROTOCOL metavariable is set to the name and revision of the protocol with which the message arrived. This will usually be "SIP/2.0". This is not necessarily the same as the protocol version used by the server in its response to the client.

        SERVER_PROTOCOL    =  SIP-Version | extension-version
                              | extension-token
        extension-version  =  protocol "/" 1*digit "." 1*digit
        protocol           =  1*( alphanum | "+" | "-" | "." )
        extension-token    =  token

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts. SERVER_SOFTWARE

The SERVER_SOFTWARE metavariable is set to the name and version of the information server software handling the message (and running the gateway).

        SERVER_SOFTWARE  =  1*product
        product          =  token [ "/" product-version ]
        product-version  =  token

Servers MUST provide this metavariable to scripts.

5.5.2 Message Bodies

As there may be a data entity attached to the message, there MUST be a system-defined method for the script to read these data. Unless defined otherwise, this will be via the `standard input' file descriptor.

If the metavariable CONTENT_LENGTH (see section is defined, the server MUST supply at least that many bytes to scripts on the standard input stream. Scripts are not obliged to read the data. Servers MAY signal an EOF condition after CONTENT_LENGTH bytes have been read, but are not obligated to do so. Therefore, scripts MUST NOT attempt to read more than CONTENT_LENGTH bytes, even if more data are available.

5.6 Data Output from the SIP CGI Script

There MUST be a system-defined method for the script to send data back to the server or client. Unless defined otherwise, this will be via the `standard output' file descriptor.

Servers MAY implement a timeout period within which data must be received from scripts, a maximum number of requests or responses that a particular CGI script can initiate, a maximum total number of requests or responses that can be sent by scripts over the lifetime of a transaction, or any other resource limitations it desires. If a script exceeds one of these limitations, the server MAY terminate the script process and SHOULD abort the transaction with either a `504 Gateway Timed Out' or a `500 Internal Server Error' response.

A SIP CGI script's output consists of any number of messages, each corresponding to actions which the script is requesting that the server perform. Messages consist of an action line, whose syntax is specific to the type of action, followed by CGI header fields and SIP header fields. Action lines determine the nature of the action performed, and are described in section 5.6.1. CGI header fields pass additional instructions or information to the server, and are described in section 5.6.2.

A message MUST contain exactly one action line, MAY also contain any number of CGI header fields and SIP header fields, and MAY contain a SIP body.

All header fields (both SIP and CGI) occurring in an output message MUST be specified one per line; SIP CGI 1.1 makes no provision for continuation lines.

The generic syntax of CGI header fields is specified in section 5.6.2.

A server MAY choose to honor only some of the requests or responses; in particular, it SHOULD NOT accept any responses following a Status message which sends a definitive non-success response.

The messages sent by a script are delimited as follows:

        1.   A message begins with an action line.

2. If the message does not contain a Content-Type header

field, or if it contains the header field "Content-Length:

0", then it is terminated by a blank line.

        3.   If the message contains both Content-Type and Content-
             Length header fields, the message has a body consisting of
             the Content-Length octets following the blank line below
             the set.  The next message begins after the body (and
             optionally some number of blank lines).  If the script
             closes its output prematurely, the server SHOULD report a
             500-class server error.
        4.   If the message contains Content-Type but not Content-
             Length, the message's body similarly begins with the blank
             line following the set; this body extends until the script
             closes its output.  In this case, this is necessarily the
             last message the script can send.  The server SHOULD insert
             a Content-Length header containing the amount of data read
             before the script closed its output.
        5.   If a message contains a non-zero Content-Length but does
             not contain a Content-Type, it is an error.  The server
             SHOULD report a 500-class server error.

The output of a SIP CGI script is intended to be syntactically identical to that of a UDP packet in which multiple requests or responses are sent, so that the same message parser may be used.

5.6.1 CGI Action Lines Status

Status = SIP-Version 3*digit SP reason-phrase NL

This action line causes the server to generate a SIP response and relay it upstream towards the client. The server MUST copy the To, From, Call-ID, and CSeq headers from the original request into the response if these headers are not specified in the script output. The server SHOULD copy any other headers from the request which would normally be copied in the response if these are not specified in the script output.

For compatibility with HTTP CGI, a server MAY interpret a message containing a Content-Type header field and no action line as though it contained "SIP/2.0 200 OK". This usage is deprecated. Proxy Request

Proxy-Request = "CGI-PROXY-REQUEST" SIP-URL SIP-Version

This action line causes the server to forward a request to the specified SIP URI. It may be sent either by a script triggered by a request, in which case the triggering request is forwarded; or by a script triggered by a response on a server which is running statefully, in which case the initial request of the transaction is sent.

Any SIP header field MAY be specified below the action line. Specified SIP headers replace all those in the original message in their entirety; if a script wants to preserve header elements from the original message as well as adding new ones, it can concatenate them by the usual rules of header concatenation, and place the result in the script output. New header fields are added to the message after any Via headers but before any other headers.

Any headers from the original request which are not generated by the CGI script are copied into the proxied request, after modifications normally performed by a proxy server. In particular, the server MUST append a Via field and decrement Max-Forwards. A server MAY perform additional modifications as it sees fit, such as adding a Record- Route header. A server SHOULD NOT append these headers if they are specified in the script output.

A script MAY specify that a SIP header is to be deleted from the message by using the CGI-Remove CGI header; see section 5.6.2.

If the message does not specify a body, the body from the initial request is used. A message with "Content-Length: 0" is specifying an empty body; this causes the body to be deleted from the message.

If the original request was authenticated by any means other than `basic,' the script SHOULD NOT add, change, or remove any end-to-end headers, as this would break the authentication. Forward Response

Forward-Response = "CGI-FORWARD-RESPONSE" Response-Name


Response-Name = response-token | "this"

This action line causes the server to forward a response on to its appropriate final destination. The same rules apply for accompanying SIP headers and message bodies as for CGI-PROXY-REQUEST.

The specified response name may either be a response token the server previously submitted in a RESPONSE_TOKEN metavariable, or the string "this." The string "this" may only be sent if the message which triggered this CGI script was a response; it indicates that this triggering response should be forwarded. Script Cookie

Script-Cookie = "CGI-SET-COOKIE" token SIP-Version

This action line causes the server to store a script cookie, passed as a token in the action line. Subsequent script invocations for messages within the same transaction carry the token in a meta- header. The script can alter the value of the cookie by subsequent script cookie actions. This alteration will take affect for all subsequent script invocations. CGI Again

CGI-Again = "CGI-AGAIN" ("yes" | "no") SIP-Version

This action line determines whether the script will be invoked for subsequent requests and responses for this transaction. If the parameter "yes" is given to this action, the script will be executed again when the next message arrives. If the parameter is "no," or this action is not specified, the script will not be executed again, and the server will perform its default action for all subsequent messages. Default Action

If none of the actions CGI-PROXY-REQUEST, CGI-FORWARD-RESPONSE, or a new response are performed -- that is to say, the script outputs only CGI-AGAIN, CGI-SET-COOKIE, or nothing -- the script performs its default action. The default action to take depends on the event which triggered the script:

Request received: When the request is first received, the

default action of the server is to check whether the domain of the server matches the domain of the Request- URI. If it does not, the request is proxied to the request in the Request-URI. Otherwise, the server checks its registration database against the request, and either proxies or redirects the request based on the action specified by the user agent in the registration.

Proxied response received: If a response is received to a

proxied request, the server forwards the response towards the caller if the response was a 200 or 600 class response, and sends a CANCEL on all pending branches. If the response was 100 class, the state machinery for that branch is updated, and the response is proxied upstream towards the caller unless the it was a 100 response, not some other 1xx. For 300, 400, and 500 class responses, an ACK is sent, and the response is forwarded upstream towards the caller if all other branches have terminated, and the response is the best received so far. If not all branches have terminated, the server does nothing. If all branches have terminated, but this response is not the best, the best is forwarded upstream. This is the basic algorithm outlined in the SIP specification.

5.6.2 CGI Header Fields

CGI header fields syntactically resemble SIP header fields, but their names all begin with the string "CGI-". The SIP server MUST strip all CGI header fields from any message before sending it, including those it does not recognize.

CGI header fields have the generic syntax specified in section 6.6 of the SIP/2.0 specification [2]. The field-name is not case sensitive; the field value MUST conform to the grammar of that specific field in the specification where it is defined. Request-Token
        Request-Token  =  "CGI-Request-Token" ":" token

To assist in matching responses to proxied requests, the script can place a CGI-Request-Token CGI header in a CGI-PROXY-REQUEST or new request. This header contains a token, opaque to the server. When a response to this request arrives, the token is passed back to the script as a meta-header.

This allows scripts to "fork" a proxy request, and

correlate which response corresponds to which branch of the

request. Remove
        Remove  =  "CGI-Remove" ":" 1#field-name

The CGI-Remove header allows the script to remove SIP headers from the outgoing request or response. The value of this header is a comma-separated list of SIP headers which should be removed before sending out the message.

A script MAY specify headers which are not in the request; the server SHOULD silently ignore these. A script SHOULD NOT both specify a SIP header in its output and also list that header in a CGI-Remove header; the result of doing this is undefined.

5.7 Local Expiration Handling

If a CGI script specifies an Expires header field along with CGI- PROXY-REQUEST, the SIP server SHOULD track the expiration timeout locally as well as sending the message to the remote server. When the timeout expires, the server SHOULD generate a "408 Request

Timeout" response. The timeout response SHOULD be handled as specified in section 5.8. At the time the request is timed out, the server SHOULD also transmit CANCEL messages for the request.

This allows a SIP CGI script in a proxy server to implement services like "Call Forward No Answer" to trigger after a user-determined time, even if the remote user-agent server is not responding or does not properly handle the Expires header field.

5.8 Locally-Generated Responses

In a proxy environment, locally-generated responses such as "408 Request Timeout" SHOULD be sent to the CGI script in the same manner as received messages are. However, messages which merely report a problem with a message, such as "400 Bad Request", SHOULD NOT be.

This is the other half of the requirements for the

implementation of the "Call Forward No Answer" service,

along with the local handling of the Expires header.


The specific semantics of a SIP CGI script which is triggered by a REGISTER request are somewhat different than that of those triggered by call-related requests; however, allowing user control of registration may in some cases be useful. The two specific actions for REGISTER that need to be discussed are the response "200" and the default action. In the former case, the server SHOULD assume that the CGI script is handling the registration internally, and SHOULD NOT add the registration to its internal registration database; in the latter case, the server SHOULD add the registration to its own database. The server also SHOULD NOT add the registration if a 3xx, 4xx, 5xx, or 6xx status was returned, or if the registration request was proxied to another location.


SIP CGI servers SHOULD execute scripts when a CANCEL message is received. The script SHOULD clean up any state it has for the transaction as quickly as possible.

When a CANCEL is received at a server for an existing transaction, the server SHOULD send a 200 OK response to the cancel and cancel all currently outstanding branches. The transmission of the script on a CANCEL message is purely advisory, and the script SHOULD NOT perform any actions in response to it.

5.11 SIP CGI and ACK

5.11.1 Receiving ACK's

Under normal circumstances, if the server receives an ACK, the script is not re-executed. If the ACK is destined for the proxy (acknowledging a 300, 400, 500, or 600 response), the ACK causes response retransmissions to cease. If the ACK is for a 200 response forwarded from a downstream server, the ACK is proxied downstream.

However, if the script generated its own 200 response to an INVITE request, the script SHOULD be re-executed with the ACK message. This is necessary in cases where the script is causing the proxy to act as a UAS. ACK messages can contain bodies, and would therefore be useful to the script.

5.11.2 Sending ACK's

When the server receives a non-200 final response to an INVITE request, it SHOULD generate an ACK on its own, and not depend on the script to do so. There is no way in SIP CGI 1.1 to override this behavior. However, since the server will not generate an ACK for 200 responses to INVITE, a script causing the server to act as a UAC MUST generate ACK's for them.

6 System Specifications

6.1 Unix

The implementation of SIP CGI on a Unix operating system platform SHOULD use environment variables as the mechanism of providing request metadata to CGI scripts.

For Unix compatible operating systems, the following are defined:

Environment variables: These are accessed by the C library

routine getenv.

The current working directory: The current working directory for

the script SHOULD be set to the directory containing the script.

Character set: The US-ASCII character set is used for the

definition of environment variable names and header field names; the newline (NL) sequence is LF; servers SHOULD also accept CR LF as a newline.

6.2 Microsoft Windows

The implementation of SIP CGI on 32-bit Microsoft Windows system platforms (Windows 95, 98, NT, and 2000) SHOULD use environment variables as the mechanism of providing request metadata to CGI scripts.

For Microsoft Windows, the following are defined:

Environment variables: These are accessed by the C library

routine getenv.

The current working directory: The current working directory for

the script SHOULD be set to the directory containing the script.

Character set: The US-ASCII character set is used for the

definition of environment variable names and header field names; the newline (NL) sequence is CR LF; servers SHOULD also accept LF as a newline.

7 Security Considerations

7.1 Request Initiation

CGI scripts are able to initiate arbitrary SIP transactions, or to produce spoofed responses of any sort. This protocol does not attempt to restrict the actions CGI scripts can take. Server administrators MUST consider CGI scripts to be as security-sensitive as their SIP server itself, and perform equivalent levels of security review before installing them.

7.2 Authenticated and Encrypted Messages

CGI scripts must be careful not to interfere with authentication. In particular, adding or removing header fields that are below the Authorization header will cause the message to fail authentication at the user agent.

When a SIP request is encrypted, the headers which are in the clear are passed to the server according to this specification. The encrypted portion of the request is passed to the script as a body. Any SIP headers output by the script will be added to the message. However, scripts should be aware that these may be discarded if they also exist within the encrypted portion.

7.3 SIP Header Fields Containing Sensitive Information

Some SIP header fields may carry sensitive information which the server SHOULD NOT pass on to the script unless explicitly configured to do so. For example, if the server protects the script using the Basic authentication scheme, then the client will send an Authorization header field containing a username and password. If the server, rather than the script, validates this information then the password SHOULD NOT be passed on to the script via the HTTP_AUTHORIZATION metavariable.

7.4 Script Interference with the Server

The most common implementation of CGI invokes the script as a child process using the same user and group as the server process. It SHOULD therefore be ensured that the script cannot interfere with the server process, its configuration, or documents.

If the script is executed by calling a function linked in to the server software (either at compile-time or run-time) then precautions SHOULD be taken to protect the core memory of the server, or to ensure that untrusted code cannot be executed.

7.5 Data Length and Buffering Considerations

This specification places no limits on the length of entity bodies presented to the script. Scripts SHOULD NOT assume that statically allocated buffers of any size are sufficient to contain the entire submission at one time. Use of a fixed length buffer without careful overflow checking may result in an attacker exploiting `stack- smashing' or `stack-overflow' vulnerabilities of the operating system. Scripts may spool large submissions to disk or other buffering media, but a rapid succession of large submissions may result in denial of service conditions. If the CONTENT_LENGTH of an entity-body is larger than resource considerations allow, scripts SHOULD respond with `413 Request Entity Too Large.'

8 Acknowledgements

This work draws extremely heavily upon the HTTP CGI specification [1]; approximately half the text of the specification section is taken from that document.

9 Authors' Addresses

Jonathan Lennox
Dept. of Computer Science
Columbia University
1214 Amsterdam Avenue, MC 0401
New York, NY 10027


Jonathan Rosenberg
72 Eagle Rock Ave.
First Floor
East Hanover, NJ 07936


Henning Schulzrinne
Dept. of Computer Science
Columbia University
1214 Amsterdam Avenue, MC 0401
New York, NY 10027


10 Bibliography

   [2]  Handley, M, Schulzrinne, H., Schooler, E. and J. Rosenberg,
        "SIP:  Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 2543, March 1999.
   [3]  Crocker, D., "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text
        Messages", STD 10, RFC 822, August 1982.
   [4]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to indicate requirement
        levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.
   [5]  Fielding, R., Gettys, J., Mogul, J., Frystyk, H., Masinter, L.,
        Leach, P. and T. Berners-Lee, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol --
        HTTP/1.1", RFC 2616, June 1999.
   [6]  Freed, N. and N. Borenstein, "Multipurpose Internet Mail
        Extensions (MIME) Part Two: Media Types", RFC 2046, November
   [7]  Hinden, R. and S. Deering, "IP Version 6 Addressing
        Architecture", RFC 2373, July 1998.
   [8]  St. Johns, M., "Identification Protocol", RFC 1413, January
   [9]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R. and L. Masinter, "Uniform Resource
        Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax", RFC 2396, August 1998.

11 Full Copyright Statement

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