Relative URI “web-jsptaglib_1_2.dtd”; can not be resolved without a base URI

I noticed the error below in Tomcat logs while looking for some information — application was working normally even with this error. Another instance of Tomcat (same version – 6.0.16) that has the same web application didn’t have this error in the logs.

ERROR [main] ( - Parse Fatal Error at line 2 column -1: Relative URI "web-jsptaglib_1_2.dtd"; can not be resolved without a base URI.
org.xml.sax.SAXParseException: Relative URI "web-jsptaglib_1_2.dtd"; can not be resolved without a base URI.
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.fatal(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.fatal(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.resolveURI(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.maybeExternalID(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.maybeDoctypeDecl(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.parseInternal(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.Parser2.parse(
        at org.apache.crimson.parser.XMLReaderImpl.parse(
        at org.apache.tomcat.util.digester.Digester.parse(
        at org.apache.catalina.startup.TldConfig.tldScanStream(
        at org.apache.catalina.startup.TldConfig.tldScanTld(
        at org.apache.catalina.startup.TldConfig.execute(
        at org.apache.catalina.core.StandardContext.processTlds(
        at org.apache.catalina.core.StandardContext.start(
        at org.apache.catalina.core.ContainerBase.addChildInternal(
        at org.apache.catalina.core.ContainerBase.addChild(

Though the application was working, I wondered if any JSP custom tags were not working as expected; some of the custom tags were non-ui related so it will not be obvious to end users when some tags don’t work the way they should. Below are the findings I made while debugging this issue:

  1. Crimson parser was used to parse the tld
    at org.apache.crimson.parser.XMLReaderImpl.parse(
  2. The web application that I deployed didn’t have any crimson related jars. I verified that crimson related jars are not in TOMCAT_HOME/lib as well. Puzzled, I ran “findjars crimson” in TOMCAT_HOME and found another web app deployed on the same Tomcat has a jar having crimson parser classes and file META-INF/services/javax.xml.parsers.SAXParserFactory with value “org.apache.crimson.jaxp.SAXParserFactoryImpl”.
  3. Javadoc for method SAXParserFactory#newInstance() has details on how a SAXParserFactory implementation is chosen. From javadoc:

    Use the Services API (as detailed in the JAR specification), if available, to determine the classname. The Services API will look for a classname in the file META-INF/services/javax.xml.parsers.SAXParserFactory in jars available to the runtime.

  4. Crimson parser from jar in another web application (say webapp1) was used to parse tld in the webapp (say webapp2) I deployed. Per Tomcat’s class loader documentation jars/classes in one webapp are not visible to another webapps deployed on the same Tomcat. So I suspected this to be a bug in Tomcat.
  5. I looked into Tomcat’s source code to see if I could spot the bug in code. I noticed getParser() method in in tomcat-coyote.jar is checking if the parser is not null.

    Looking at the source code I guessed if Tomcat deploys webapp1 first, xml parser in Digester will be set to crimson parser and when webapp2 is deployed the parser variable will not be null so crimson parser will be used for webapp2 as well. But this didn’t sound right because a jar in one webapp is deciding what parser to use for processing tlds in another (possible all other) webapp.
  6. I found Bug 29936 – XML parser loading problems by container and it seemed like related to the problem I am having. This bug fix was included in Tomcat 6.0.18, so I deployed the web applications in Tomcat 6.0.18 and I didn’t see the error message in log file!
  7. From Comment 8:

    A possible solution is to load the (default) parser into the Digester prior to
    having it being loaded by the WebappClassloader. Since this appears to be
    one-time settable, it will use this parser regardless of what the webapp has.

    I was really interested in seeing the code changes made as part of this bug, but I couldn’t find a link or documentation that details what code changes were made. After trying out a few things I found the changes here. (See this post to know how I found this link.)

So, upgrading to Tomcat 6.0.18 would fix the XML parser issue. I am still not clear if the application should work as expected even with the error we are seeing in log file on 6.0.16 — need to find that out!


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