Title:Holepunch extension
Version: a8991ad10dbea0301ddef1b4cb7dd741ee6a10f6
Last-Modified:Thu Feb 28 23:14:22 2019 +0100
Author: Mihael Peklar <>
Status: Accepted
Type:Standards Track
Post-History:25-Feb-2019: initial version

The holepunch extension provides a way to connect to peers that cannot receive inbound connections, whether they are behind a filtering NAT or a firewall that blocks incoming connections.

Protocol Extension

The holepunch extension introduces a new message ut_holepunch via the extension protocol [1].

  m: {
    ut_holepunch: <implementation-dependent local message ID (positive integer)>,

The extension message itself consists of the bittorrent extended message header and the following binary payload:

msg_type (1 byte): <type of holepunch message>
addr_type (1 byte): <0x00 for ipv4, 0x01 for ipv6>
addr (either 4 or 16 bytes): <big-endian ipv4 or ipv6 address, as determined by addr_type>
port (2 bytes): <big-endian port number>
err_code (4 bytes): <error code as a big-endian 4-byte integer; 0 in non-error messages>

Message types are defined as follows:

msg_type name description
0x00 rendezvous Send connect messages to both the initiating peer and target peer
0x01 connect Initiate a uTP connection to designated endpoint
0x02 error Rendezvous operation cannot be completed

The initiating peer sends a rendezvous message to the relaying peer, containing the endpoint (IP address and port) of the target peer. If the relaying peer is connected to the target peer, and the target peer supports this extension, the relaying peer sends a connect message to both the initiating peer and the target peer, each containing the endpoint of the other. Upon receiving the connect message, each peer initiates a uTP [2] connection to the other peer.

If the rendezvous message cannot be acted upon, the relaying peer SHOULD reply to the initiating peer with an appropriate error message. The addr_type, addr and port fields in the error message MUST be the same as in the rendezvous message.

The error codes are as follows:

err_code name description
0x01 NoSuchPeer The target endpoint is invalid.
0x02 NotConnected The relaying peer is not connected to the target peer.
0x03 NoSupport The target peer does not support the holepunch extension.
0x04 NoSelf The target endpoint belongs to the relaying peer.

Implementation notes

If the target peer does not wish to connect to the initiating peer, it SHOULD ignore the connect message silently, and MUST NOT respond to the relaying peer with an error message.

If the initiating peer does not indicate support for the ut_holepunch extension in the extension protocol handshake, the relaying peer MUST ignore any incoming ut_holepunch messages silently.

If the target peer is already connected to the initiating peer, both of them MUST ignore the connect message silently.

In all cases where the NoSuchPeer error code would be appropriate, the NotConnected error code MAY be sent instead.

It is possible that both uTP connection attempts succeed simultaneously.



BEP 10, "Extension Protocol"


BEP 29, "uTorrent transport protocol"


Special thanks to GGist for reverse-engineering the holepunch protocol from libtorrent source code.