URL Normalization in Cloudflare – How to configure

URL normalization in Cloudflare is no longer a bother with this handy guide courtesy of our in-house experts. 

At Bobcares, we offer solutions for every query, big and small, as a part of our Server Management Services.

Let’s take a look at how our Support Team is ready to help customers with URL normalization.

What is URL normalization in Cloudflare?

Cloudflare offers a URL normalization feature that comes in handy in modifying URLs of incoming requests in order to adhere to a consistent formatting standard.

In other words, enabling URL normalization ensures that incoming URLs undergo normalization prior to passing on to other Cloudflare edge features that accept URL input.

Furthermore, this ensures that the rule expressions responsible for filtering traffic according to URLs will work smoothly, regardless of the original incoming URL.

In case we do not enable the URL normalization feature, Cloudflare tends to forward the URL in its original form. This may lead to errors.

How does URL normalization in Cloudflare work?

The URL normalization feature modifies encoded elements, separators, as well as literal bytes in incoming URLs to ensure they adhere to a consistent formatting standard.

For instance, suppose we have a Firewall Rule in place to block any request that matches www.example.com/hello. However, this rule is not sufficient to block a request that has an encoded element like www.example.com/%68ello.

Fortunately. Normalizing the incoming URLs simplifies the Cloudflare Firewall Rules expressions that utilize URLs.

As per the RFC-3986, the following characters are percent decoded:

  • Alphabetical characters: a-z, A-Z
  • Digit characters: 0-9
  • hyphen – , period . , underscore _ , and tilde ~
  • These characters are not encoded or decoded: ( ) * + , ; =: / ? # [ ] @ ! $ & ‘
  • Other characters like literal byte values are percent encoded.
  • URL path normalization occurs according to Remove Dot Segment protocol.

Furthermore, Cloudflare can also apply the following extra techniques in addition to RFC-3986:

  • Merge successive forward slashes together.
  • Normalize backslashes to forward slashes.

According to our Support Engineers, the URL normalization depends on the configuration settings.

Configure URL normalization in the dashboard

We can define URL normalization setting via the Rules app in the Cloudflare dashboard as seen below:

  1. First, log in to the dashboard and choose the account and website.
  2. Then, navigate to Settings under Rules.
  3. After that, configure the available URL normalization settings under Configure Normalization.

About URL Normalization Settings

Cloudflare dashboard offers us access to the following settings:

  • Normalization type: Here, we can choose which type of normalization we prefer:
    • RFC-3986:This applies URL normalization as per RFC-3986.
    • Cloudflare: This offers us URL normalization techniques in addition to those in RFC-3986.
  • Normalize incoming URLs: This setting configures the URLs of all incoming traffic. When set to on, it normalizes all incoming URLs before passing them to subsequent Cloudflare features.
  • Normalize URLs to origin: this setting configures URLs to the origin. By default, it is set to off.

url normalization in cloudflare

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In brief, our skilled Support Engineers at Bobcares demonstrated URL normalization.


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