Topics ▾ Version 2.21.0 ▾ protocol-v2 last updated in 2.21.0

This document presents a specification for a version 2 of Git’s wire protocol. Protocol v2 will improve upon v1 in the following ways:

  • Instead of multiple service names, multiple commands will be supported by a single service

  • Easily extendable as capabilities are moved into their own section of the protocol, no longer being hidden behind a NUL byte and limited by the size of a pkt-line

  • Separate out other information hidden behind NUL bytes (e.g. agent string as a capability and symrefs can be requested using ls-refs)

  • Reference advertisement will be omitted unless explicitly requested

  • ls-refs command to explicitly request some refs

  • Designed with http and stateless-rpc in mind. With clear flush semantics the http remote helper can simply act as a proxy

In protocol v2 communication is command oriented. When first contacting a server a list of capabilities will advertised. Some of these capabilities will be commands which a client can request be executed. Once a command has completed, a client can reuse the connection and request that other commands be executed.

Packet-Line Framing

All communication is done using packet-line framing, just as in v1. See Documentation/technical/pack-protocol.txt and Documentation/technical/protocol-common.txt for more information.

In protocol v2 these special packets will have the following semantics:

  • 0000 Flush Packet (flush-pkt) - indicates the end of a message

  • 0001 Delimiter Packet (delim-pkt) - separates sections of a message

    Initial Client Request

In general a client can request to speak protocol v2 by sending version=2 through the respective side-channel for the transport being used which inevitably sets GIT_PROTOCOL. More information can be found in pack-protocol.txt and http-protocol.txt. In all cases the response from the server is the capability advertisement.

Git Transport

When using the git:// transport, you can request to use protocol v2 by sending "version=2" as an extra parameter:

003egit-upload-pack /project.git\\0\0version=2\0

SSH and File Transport

When using either the ssh:// or file:// transport, the GIT_PROTOCOL environment variable must be set explicitly to include "version=2".

HTTP Transport

When using the http:// or https:// transport a client makes a "smart" info/refs request as described in http-protocol.txt and requests that v2 be used by supplying "version=2" in the Git-Protocol header.

C: GET $GIT_URL/info/refs?service=git-upload-pack HTTP/1.0
C: Git-Protocol: version=2

A v2 server would reply:

S: 200 OK
S: <Some headers>
S: ...
S: 000eversion 2\n
S: <capability-advertisement>

Subsequent requests are then made directly to the service $GIT_URL/git-upload-pack. (This works the same for git-receive-pack).

Capability Advertisement

A server which decides to communicate (based on a request from a client) using protocol version 2, notifies the client by sending a version string in its initial response followed by an advertisement of its capabilities. Each capability is a key with an optional value. Clients must ignore all unknown keys. Semantics of unknown values are left to the definition of each key. Some capabilities will describe commands which can be requested to be executed by the client.

capability-advertisement = protocol-version
protocol-version = PKT-LINE("version 2" LF)
capability-list = *capability
capability = PKT-LINE(key[=value] LF)
key = 1*(ALPHA | DIGIT | "-_")
value = 1*(ALPHA | DIGIT | " -_.,?\/{}[]()<>!@#$%^&*+=:;")

Command Request

After receiving the capability advertisement, a client can then issue a request to select the command it wants with any particular capabilities or arguments. There is then an optional section where the client can provide any command specific parameters or queries. Only a single command can be requested at a time.

request = empty-request | command-request
empty-request = flush-pkt
command-request = command
command = PKT-LINE("command=" key LF)
command-args = delim-pkt
command-specific-args are packet line framed arguments defined by
each individual command.

The server will then check to ensure that the client’s request is comprised of a valid command as well as valid capabilities which were advertised. If the request is valid the server will then execute the command. A server MUST wait till it has received the client’s entire request before issuing a response. The format of the response is determined by the command being executed, but in all cases a flush-pkt indicates the end of the response.

When a command has finished, and the client has received the entire response from the server, a client can either request that another command be executed or can terminate the connection. A client may optionally send an empty request consisting of just a flush-pkt to indicate that no more requests will be made.


There are two different types of capabilities: normal capabilities, which can be used to to convey information or alter the behavior of a request, and commands, which are the core actions that a client wants to perform (fetch, push, etc).

Protocol version 2 is stateless by default. This means that all commands must only last a single round and be stateless from the perspective of the server side, unless the client has requested a capability indicating that state should be maintained by the server. Clients MUST NOT require state management on the server side in order to function correctly. This permits simple round-robin load-balancing on the server side, without needing to worry about state management.


The server can advertise the agent capability with a value X (in the form agent=X) to notify the client that the server is running version X. The client may optionally send its own agent string by including the agent capability with a value Y (in the form agent=Y) in its request to the server (but it MUST NOT do so if the server did not advertise the agent capability). The X and Y strings may contain any printable ASCII characters except space (i.e., the byte range 32 < x < 127), and are typically of the form "package/version" (e.g., "git/"). The agent strings are purely informative for statistics and debugging purposes, and MUST NOT be used to programmatically assume the presence or absence of particular features.


ls-refs is the command used to request a reference advertisement in v2. Unlike the current reference advertisement, ls-refs takes in arguments which can be used to limit the refs sent from the server.

Additional features not supported in the base command will be advertised as the value of the command in the capability advertisement in the form of a space separated list of features: "<command>=<feature 1> <feature 2>"

ls-refs takes in the following arguments:

In addition to the object pointed by it, show the underlying ref
pointed by it when showing a symbolic ref.
Show peeled tags.
   ref-prefix <prefix>
When specified, only references having a prefix matching one of
the provided prefixes are displayed.

The output of ls-refs is as follows:

output = *ref
ref = PKT-LINE(obj-id SP refname *(SP ref-attribute) LF)
ref-attribute = (symref | peeled)
symref = "symref-target:" symref-target
peeled = "peeled:" obj-id


fetch is the command used to fetch a packfile in v2. It can be looked at as a modified version of the v1 fetch where the ref-advertisement is stripped out (since the ls-refs command fills that role) and the message format is tweaked to eliminate redundancies and permit easy addition of future extensions.

Additional features not supported in the base command will be advertised as the value of the command in the capability advertisement in the form of a space separated list of features: "<command>=<feature 1> <feature 2>"

A fetch request can take the following arguments:

   want <oid>
Indicates to the server an object which the client wants to
retrieve.  Wants can be anything and are not limited to
advertised objects.
   have <oid>
Indicates to the server an object which the client has locally.
This allows the server to make a packfile which only contains
the objects that the client needs. Multiple 'have' lines can be
Indicates to the server that negotiation should terminate (or
not even begin if performing a clone) and that the server should
use the information supplied in the request to construct the
Request that a thin pack be sent, which is a pack with deltas
which reference base objects not contained within the pack (but
are known to exist at the receiving end). This can reduce the
network traffic significantly, but it requires the receiving end
to know how to "thicken" these packs by adding the missing bases
to the pack.
Request that progress information that would normally be sent on
side-band channel 2, during the packfile transfer, should not be
sent.  However, the side-band channel 3 is still used for error
Request that annotated tags should be sent if the objects they
point to are being sent.
Indicate that the client understands PACKv2 with delta referring
to its base by position in pack rather than by an oid.  That is,
they can read OBJ_OFS_DELTA (ake type 6) in a packfile.

If the shallow feature is advertised the following arguments can be included in the clients request as well as the potential addition of the shallow-info section in the server’s response as explained below.

   shallow <oid>
A client must notify the server of all commits for which it only
has shallow copies (meaning that it doesn't have the parents of
a commit) by supplying a 'shallow <oid>' line for each such
object so that the server is aware of the limitations of the
client's history.  This is so that the server is aware that the
client may not have all objects reachable from such commits.
   deepen <depth>
Requests that the fetch/clone should be shallow having a commit
depth of <depth> relative to the remote side.
Requests that the semantics of the "deepen" command be changed
to indicate that the depth requested is relative to the client's
current shallow boundary, instead of relative to the requested
   deepen-since <timestamp>
Requests that the shallow clone/fetch should be cut at a
specific time, instead of depth.  Internally it's equivalent to
doing "git rev-list --max-age=<timestamp>". Cannot be used with
   deepen-not <rev>
Requests that the shallow clone/fetch should be cut at a
specific revision specified by '<rev>', instead of a depth.
Internally it's equivalent of doing "git rev-list --not <rev>".
Cannot be used with "deepen", but can be used with

If the filter feature is advertised, the following argument can be included in the client’s request:

   filter <filter-spec>
Request that various objects from the packfile be omitted
using one of several filtering techniques. These are intended
for use with partial clone and partial fetch operations. See
`rev-list` for possible "filter-spec" values. When communicating
with other processes, senders SHOULD translate scaled integers
(e.g. "1k") into a fully-expanded form (e.g. "1024") to aid
interoperability with older receivers that may not understand
newly-invented scaling suffixes. However, receivers SHOULD
accept the following suffixes: 'k', 'm', and 'g' for 1024,
1048576, and 1073741824, respectively.

If the ref-in-want feature is advertised, the following argument can be included in the client’s request as well as the potential addition of the wanted-refs section in the server’s response as explained below.

   want-ref <ref>
Indicates to the server that the client wants to retrieve a
particular ref, where <ref> is the full name of a ref on the

If the sideband-all feature is advertised, the following argument can be included in the client’s request:

Instruct the server to send the whole response multiplexed, not just
the packfile section. All non-flush and non-delim PKT-LINE in the
response (not only in the packfile section) will then start with a byte
indicating its sideband (1, 2, or 3), and the server may send "0005\2"
(a PKT-LINE of sideband 2 with no payload) as a keepalive packet.

The response of fetch is broken into a number of sections separated by delimiter packets (0001), with each section beginning with its section header.

output = *section
section = (acknowledgments | shallow-info | wanted-refs | packfile)
   (flush-pkt | delim-pkt)
acknowledgments = PKT-LINE("acknowledgments" LF)
    (nak | *ack)
ready = PKT-LINE("ready" LF)
nak = PKT-LINE("NAK" LF)
ack = PKT-LINE("ACK" SP obj-id LF)
shallow-info = PKT-LINE("shallow-info" LF)
 *PKT-LINE((shallow | unshallow) LF)
shallow = "shallow" SP obj-id
unshallow = "unshallow" SP obj-id
wanted-refs = PKT-LINE("wanted-refs" LF)
*PKT-LINE(wanted-ref LF)
wanted-ref = obj-id SP refname
packfile = PKT-LINE("packfile" LF)
    *PKT-LINE(%x01-03 *%x00-ff)
   acknowledgments section
* If the client determines that it is finished with negotiations
  by sending a "done" line, the acknowledgments sections MUST be
  omitted from the server's response.
  • Always begins with the section header "acknowledgments"

  • The server will respond with "NAK" if none of the object ids sent as have lines were common.

  • The server will respond with "ACK obj-id" for all of the object ids sent as have lines which are common.

  • A response cannot have both "ACK" lines as well as a "NAK" line.

  • The server will respond with a "ready" line indicating that the server has found an acceptable common base and is ready to make and send a packfile (which will be found in the packfile section of the same response)

  • If the server has found a suitable cut point and has decided to send a "ready" line, then the server can decide to (as an optimization) omit any "ACK" lines it would have sent during its response. This is because the server will have already determined the objects it plans to send to the client and no further negotiation is needed.

       shallow-info section
    * If the client has requested a shallow fetch/clone, a shallow
      client requests a fetch or the server is shallow then the
      server's response may include a shallow-info section.  The
      shallow-info section will be included if (due to one of the
      above conditions) the server needs to inform the client of any
      shallow boundaries or adjustments to the clients already
      existing shallow boundaries.
  • Always begins with the section header "shallow-info"

  • If a positive depth is requested, the server will compute the set of commits which are no deeper than the desired depth.

  • The server sends a "shallow obj-id" line for each commit whose parents will not be sent in the following packfile.

  • The server sends an "unshallow obj-id" line for each commit which the client has indicated is shallow, but is no longer shallow as a result of the fetch (due to its parents being sent in the following packfile).

  • The server MUST NOT send any "unshallow" lines for anything which the client has not indicated was shallow as a part of its request.

  • This section is only included if a packfile section is also included in the response.

       wanted-refs section
    * This section is only included if the client has requested a
      ref using a 'want-ref' line and if a packfile section is also
      included in the response.
  • Always begins with the section header "wanted-refs".

  • The server will send a ref listing ("<oid> <refname>") for each reference requested using want-ref lines.

  • The server MUST NOT send any refs which were not requested using want-ref lines.

       packfile section
    * This section is only included if the client has sent 'want'
      lines in its request and either requested that no more
      negotiation be done by sending 'done' or if the server has
      decided it has found a sufficient cut point to produce a
  • Always begins with the section header "packfile"

  • The transmission of the packfile begins immediately after the section header

  • The data transfer of the packfile is always multiplexed, using the same semantics of the side-band-64k capability from protocol version 1. This means that each packet, during the packfile data stream, is made up of a leading 4-byte pkt-line length (typical of the pkt-line format), followed by a 1-byte stream code, followed by the actual data.

     The stream code can be one of:
    1 - pack data
    2 - progress messages
    3 - fatal error message just before stream aborts

If advertised, indicates that any number of server specific options can be included in a request. This is done by sending each option as a "server-option=<option>" capability line in the capability-list section of a request.

The provided options must not contain a NUL or LF character.