LDAP 3 operations can be extended through the use of controls. Controls may be sent to a server or returned to the client with any LDAP message. These controls are referred to as server controls.
The LDAP API also supports a client-side extension mechanism through the use of client controls. These controls affect the behavior of the LDAP API only and are never sent to a server. A common data structure, LDAPControl, is used to represent both types of controls.
Some LDAP API calls allocate an LDAPControl structure or a NULL-terminated array of LDAPControl structures. The following routines can be used to dispose of a single control or an array of controls:
A set of controls that affect the entire session can be set using the ldap_set_option function. A list of controls can also be passed directly to some LDAP API calls such as ldap_search_ext, in which case any controls set for the session by means of ldap_set_option are ignored. Control lists are represented as a NULL-terminated array of pointers to LDAPControl structures.
Server controls are defined by LDAP 3 protocol extension documents. Various LDAP version 3 server implementations are likely to support a different set of extended controls, so if a particular control is critical to an operation, the server can be queried to return a list of supported controls, or the server can be instructed to fail gracefully when using a function with a control not supported by that server.
Each extended control has a Criticality flag, represented by the ldctl_iscritical field of the LDAPControl structure. If this flag is set to TRUE, then the server will return a LDAP_UNAVAILABLE_CRIT_EXTENSION error code if the server does not support the request control when attempting an API call that includes the control. Using extended controls on a LDAP version 2 connection will also fail with this return code.