Specification: DAG-CBOR

Status: Descriptive - Draft

DAG-CBOR supports the full IPLD Data Model.

DAG-CBOR uses the Concise Binary Object Representation (CBOR) data format, defined by RFC 8949 (formerly RFC 7049), which natively supports all IPLD Data Model Kinds.


The CBOR IPLD format is called DAG-CBOR to disambiguate it from regular CBOR. Most simple CBOR objects are valid DAG-CBOR. The primary differences are:

In DAG-CBOR, Links are the binary form of a CID encoded using the raw-binary identity Multibase. That is, the Multibase identity prefix (0x00) is prepended to the binary form of a CID and this new byte array is encoded into CBOR as a byte-string (major type 2), and associated with CBOR tag 42.

Tag 42 is associated in the CBOR Tags Registry as "IPLD content identifier" and is further defined in IPLD content identifiers (CIDs) in CBOR.

The inclusion of the Multibase prefix exists for historical reasons and the identity prefix must not be omitted.

Map Keys

In DAG-CBOR, map keys must be strings. Other map keys, such as ints, are not supported and should be rejected when encountered.


DAG-CBOR requires that there exist a single, canonical way of encoding any given set of data, and that encoded forms contain no superfluous data that may be ignored or lost in a round-trip decode/encode.

Therefore the DAG-CBOR codec must:

  1. Use no tags other than the CID tag (42). A valid DAG-CBOR encoder must not encode using any additional tags and a valid DAG-CBOR decoder must reject objects containing additional tags as invalid.
    • This includes any of the well defined tag numbers listed section 3.4 of RFC 8949, such as dates, bignums, bigfloats, URIs, regular expressions and other complex, or simple values whether or not they map to the IPLD Data Model.
  2. Use the "Deterministically Encoded CBOR" rule suggestions defined in section 4.2 of RFC 8949 except for map key ordering, which follow the original rules as defined in section 3.9 of RFC 7049. Therefore, a valid DAG-CBOR encoder should produce encoded forms that adhere to the following rules, and a valid DAG-CBOR decoder should reject encoded forms not adhering to the following rules:
    • Integer encoding must be as short as possible.
    • The expression of lengths in major types 2 through 5 must be as short as possible.
    • The expression of tag numbers (specifically only 42) must be as short as possible for major type 6. Therefore, for valid DAG-CBOR, the only tag token that can appear is 0xd82a - where 0xd8 is "major type 6 with 8-bit integer to follow" and 0x2a is the number 42.
    • The keys in every map must be sorted length-first by the byte representation of the string keys, where:
      • If two keys have different lengths, the shorter one sorts earlier;
      • If two keys have the same length, the one with the lower value in (byte-wise) lexical order sorts earlier.
    • Indefinite-length items are not supported, only definite-length items are usable. This includes strings, bytes, lists and maps. The "break" token is also not supported.
  3. The only usable major type 7 minor types are those for encoding Floats (minors 25, 26, 27), False (minor 20), True (minor 21) and Null (minor 22).
    • Simple Values other than False, True and Null are not supported. This includes all registered or unregistered simple values that are encoded with a major type 7 other than False, True and Null.
    • Undefined (minor 23) is not supported as it is not part of the IPLD Data Model.
  4. Floating point values must always encoded in 64-bit, double-precision form, regardless of whether they can be represented as half (16) or single (32) precision.
  5. IEEE 754 special values NaN, Infinity and -Infinity must not be accepted as they do not appear in the IPLD Data Model. Therefore, tokens 0xf97c00 (Infinity), 0xf97e00 (NaN) and 0xf9fc00 (-Infinity), their 16-bit, 32-bit and 64-bit variants, and any other IEEE 754 byte layout that is interpreted as these values, should not appear, or be accepted in DAG-CBOR binary form.
  6. Encode and decode must operate on a single top-level CBOR object. Back-to-back concatenated objects are not allowed or supported, as suggested by section 5.1 of RFC 8949 for streaming applications. All bytes of an encoded DAG-CBOR object must decode to a single object. Extraneous bytes included in an IPLD block, whether valid or invalid CBOR, must not be accepted as valid DAG-CBOR.

Decode strictness

Due to the existence and active use of historical data, and the existence and active use of non-conforming encoders, DAG-CBOR decoders may relax strictness requirements by default. A strictness opt-in may be offered for systems where round-trip determinism is a desirable feature and backward compatibility with old, non-strict data is unnecessary.

In particular, the following rules may be relaxed in order to allow interoperability with historical, and other loosely encoded data:



JavaScript users are encouraged to use @ipld/dag-cbor for DAG-CBOR encoding and decoding.

@ipld/dag-cbor, for use with multiformats adheres to this specification, with the following caveats:

The legacy ipld-dag-cbor implementation adheres to this specification, with the following caveats:

Note that inability to clearly differentiate between integers and floats in JavaScript may cause problems with round-trips of floating point values. See the IPLD Data Model and the discussion on Limitations below for further discussion on JavaScript numbers and recommendations regarding the use of floats.


Go users are encouraged to use go-ipld-prime for DAG-CBOR encoding and decoding.

go-ipld-cbor and go-ipld-prime adhere to this specification, with the following caveats:

cbor-gen adheres to this specification with the following caveats:


Java IPLD from Peergos adheres to this specification, with the following caveats:


JavaScript Numbers

Users of DAG-CBOR that expect their data may be consumed or produced by JavaScript at some point should be aware of limitations that the language imposes on its use of DAG-CBOR, specifically concerning numbers.

All JavaScript numbers, both floating point and integer, (using the Number primitive wrapper) are represented internally as 64-bit IEEE 754 floating-point values (i.e. double-precision). Some implications within JavaScript of this design choice are:

@ipld/dag-cbor supports BigInt for values outside of the safe integer range, while the legacy ipld-dag-cbor uses the third-party bignumber.js library to handle these values.

The implications for DAG-CBOR of these limitations are: