14 Header Field Definitions

This section defines the syntax and semantics of all standard HTTP/1.1 header fields. For entity-header fields, both sender and recipient refer to either the client or the server, depending on who sends and who receives the entity.

14.1 Accept

The Accept request-header field can be used to specify certain media types which are acceptable for the response. Accept headers can be used to indicate that the request is specifically limited to a small set of desired types, as in the case of a request for an in-line image.

  Accept         = "Accept" ":"
                   #( media-range [ accept-params ] )

  media-range    = ( "*/*"
                    | ( type "/" "*" )
                    | ( type "/" subtype )
                    ) *( ";" parameter )
  accept-params  = ";" "q" "=" qvalue *( accept-extension )
accept-extension = ";" token [ "=" ( token | quoted-string ) ]

The asterisk "*" character is used to group media types into ranges, with "*/*" indicating all media types and "type/*" indicating all subtypes of that type. The media-range MAY include media type parameters that are applicable to that range.

Each media-range MAY be followed by one or more accept-params, beginning with the "q" parameter for indicating a relative quality factor. The first "q" parameter (if any) separates the media-range parameter(s) from the accept-params. Quality factors allow the user or user agent to indicate the relative degree of preference for that media-range, using the qvalue scale from 0 to 1 (section 3.9). The default value is q=1.

Note: Use of the "q" parameter name to separate media type parameters from Accept extension parameters is due to historical practice. Although this prevents any media type parameter named "q" from being used with a media range, such an event is believed to be unlikely given the lack of any "q" parameters in the IANA media type registry and the rare usage of any media type parameters in Accept. Future media types are discouraged from registering any parameter named "q".

The example

Accept: audio/*; q=0.2, audio/basic

SHOULD be interpreted as "I prefer audio/basic, but send me any audio type if it is the best available after an 80% mark-down in quality."

If no Accept header field is present, then it is assumed that the client accepts all media types. If an Accept header field is present, and if the server cannot send a response which is acceptable according to the combined Accept field value, then the server SHOULD send a 406 (not acceptable) response.

A more elaborate example is

Accept: text/plain; q=0.5, text/html,
        text/x-dvi; q=0.8, text/x-c

Verbally, this would be interpreted as "text/html and text/x-c are the preferred media types, but if they do not exist, then send the text/x-dvi entity, and if that does not exist, send the text/plain entity."

Media ranges can be overridden by more specific media ranges or specific media types. If more than one media range applies to a given type, the most specific reference has precedence. For example,

Accept: text/*, text/html, text/html;level=1, */*

have the following precedence:

  1. text/html;level=1
  2. text/html
  3. text/*
  4. */*

The media type quality factor associated with a given type is determined by finding the media range with the highest precedence which matches that type. For example,

Accept: text/*;q=0.3, text/html;q=0.7, text/html;level=1,
        text/html;level=2;q=0.4, */*;q=0.5

would cause the following values to be associated:

text/html;level=1         = 1
text/html                 = 0.7
text/plain                = 0.3
image/jpeg                = 0.5
text/html;level=2         = 0.4
text/html;level=3         = 0.7

Note: A user agent might be provided with a default set of quality values for certain media ranges. However, unless the user agent is a closed system which cannot interact with other rendering agents, this default set ought to be configurable by the user.

14.2 Accept-Charset

The Accept-Charset request-header field can be used to indicate what character sets are acceptable for the response. This field allows clients capable of understanding more comprehensive or special- purpose character sets to signal that capability to a server which is capable of representing documents in those character sets.

Accept-Charset = "Accept-Charset" ":"
       1#( ( charset | "*" )[ ";" "q" "=" qvalue ] )

Character set values are described in section 3.4. Each charset MAY be given an associated quality value which represents the user's preference for that charset. The default value is q=1. An example is

Accept-Charset: iso-8859-5, unicode-1-1;q=0.8

The special value "*", if present in the Accept-Charset field, matches every character set (including ISO-8859-1) which is not mentioned elsewhere in the Accept-Charset field. If no "*" is present in an Accept-Charset field, then all character sets not explicitly mentioned get a quality value of 0, except for ISO-8859-1, which gets a quality value of 1 if not explicitly mentioned.

If no Accept-Charset header is present, the default is that any character set is acceptable. If an Accept-Charset header is present, and if the server cannot send a response which is acceptable according to the Accept-Charset header, then the server SHOULD send an error response with the 406 (not acceptable) status code, though the sending of an unacceptable response is also allowed.

14.3 Accept-Encoding

The Accept-Encoding request-header field is similar to Accept, but restricts the content-codings (section 3.5) that are acceptable in the response.

Accept-Encoding  = "Accept-Encoding" ":"
                   1#( codings [ ";" "q" "=" qvalue ] )
codings          = ( content-coding | "*" )

Examples of its use are:

Accept-Encoding: compress, gzip
Accept-Encoding: *
Accept-Encoding: compress;q=0.5, gzip;q=1.0
Accept-Encoding: gzip;q=1.0, identity; q=0.5, *;q=0

A server tests whether a content-coding is acceptable, according to an Accept-Encoding field, using these rules:

  1. If the content-coding is one of the content-codings listed in the Accept-Encoding field, then it is acceptable, unless it is accompanied by a qvalue of 0. (As defined in section 3.9, a qvalue of 0 means "not acceptable.")
  2. The special "*" symbol in an Accept-Encoding field matches any available content-coding not explicitly listed in the header field.
  3. If multiple content-codings are acceptable, then the acceptable content-coding with the highest non-zero qvalue is preferred.
  4. The "identity" content-coding is always acceptable, unless specifically refused because the Accept-Encoding field includes "identity;q=0", or because the field includes "*;q=0" and does not explicitly include the "identity" content-coding. If the Accept-Encoding field-value is empty, then only the "identity" encoding is acceptable.

If an Accept-Encoding field is present in a request, and if the server cannot send a response which is acceptable according to the Accept-Encoding header, then the server SHOULD send an error response with the 406 (Not Acceptable) status code.

If no Accept-Encoding field is present in a request, the server MAY assume that the client will accept any content coding. In this case, if "identity" is one of the available content-codings, then the server SHOULD use the "identity" content-coding, unless it has additional information that a different content-coding is meaningful to the client.

Note: If the request does not include an Accept-Encoding field, and if the "identity" content-coding is unavailable, then content-codings commonly understood by HTTP/1.0 clients (i.e., "gzip" and "compress") are preferred; some older clients improperly display messages sent with other content-codings. The server might also make this decision based on information about the particular user-agent or client.

Note: Most HTTP/1.0 applications do not recognize or obey qvalues associated with content-codings. This means that qvalues will not work and are not permitted with x-gzip or x-compress.

14.4 Accept-Language

The Accept-Language request-header field is similar to Accept, but restricts the set of natural languages that are preferred as a response to the request. Language tags are defined in section 3.10.

Accept-Language = "Accept-Language" ":"
                  1#( language-range [ ";" "q" "=" qvalue ] )
language-range  = ( ( 1*8ALPHA *( "-" 1*8ALPHA ) ) | "*" )

Each language-range MAY be given an associated quality value which represents an estimate of the user's preference for the languages specified by that range. The quality value defaults to "q=1". For example,

Accept-Language: da, en-gb;q=0.8, en;q=0.7

would mean: "I prefer Danish, but will accept British English and other types of English." A language-range matches a language-tag if it exactly equals the tag, or if it exactly equals a prefix of the tag such that the first tag character following the prefix is "-". The special range "*", if present in the Accept-Language field, matches every tag not matched by any other range present in the Accept-Language field.

Note: This use of a prefix matching rule does not imply that language tags are assigned to languages in such a way that it is always true that if a user understands a language with a certain tag, then this user will also understand all languages with tags for which this tag is a prefix. The prefix rule simply allows the use of prefix tags if this is the case.

The language quality factor assigned to a language-tag by the Accept-Language field is the quality value of the longest language- range in the field that matches the language-tag. If no language- range in the field matches the tag, the language quality factor assigned is 0. If no Accept-Language header is present in the request, the server

SHOULD assume that all languages are equally acceptable. If an Accept-Language header is present, then all languages which are assigned a quality factor greater than 0 are acceptable.

It might be contrary to the privacy expectations of the user to send an Accept-Language header with the complete linguistic preferences of the user in every request. For a discussion of this issue, see section 15.1.4.

As intelligibility is highly dependent on the individual user, it is recommended that client applications make the choice of linguistic preference available to the user. If the choice is not made available, then the Accept-Language header field MUST NOT be given in the request.

Note: When making the choice of linguistic preference available to the user, we remind implementors of the fact that users are not familiar with the details of language matching as described above, and should provide appropriate guidance. As an example, users might assume that on selecting "en-gb", they will be served any kind of English document if British English is not available. A user agent might suggest in such a case to add "en" to get the best matching behavior.

14.5 Accept-Ranges

The Accept-Ranges response-header field allows the server to indicate its acceptance of range requests for a resource:

Accept-Ranges     = "Accept-Ranges" ":" acceptable-ranges
acceptable-ranges = 1#range-unit | "none"

Origin servers that accept byte-range requests MAY send

Accept-Ranges: bytes

but are not required to do so. Clients MAY generate byte-range requests without having received this header for the resource involved. Range units are defined in section 3.12.

Servers that do not accept any kind of range request for a resource MAY send

Accept-Ranges: none

to advise the client not to attempt a range request.

14.6 Age

The Age response-header field conveys the sender's estimate of the amount of time since the response (or its revalidation) was generated at the origin server. A cached response is "fresh" if its age does not exceed its freshness lifetime. Age values are calculated as specified in section 13.2.3.

Age = "Age" ":" age-value
age-value = delta-seconds

Age values are non-negative decimal integers, representing time in seconds.

If a cache receives a value larger than the largest positive integer it can represent, or if any of its age calculations overflows, it MUST transmit an Age header with a value of 2147483648 (2^31). An HTTP/1.1 server that includes a cache MUST include an Age header field in every response generated from its own cache. Caches SHOULD use an arithmetic type of at least 31 bits of range.

14.7 Allow

The Allow entity-header field lists the set of methods supported by the resource identified by the Request-URI. The purpose of this field is strictly to inform the recipient of valid methods associated with the resource. An Allow header field MUST be present in a 405 (Method Not Allowed) response.

Allow   = "Allow" ":" #Method

Example of use:


This field cannot prevent a client from trying other methods. However, the indications given by the Allow header field value SHOULD be followed. The actual set of allowed methods is defined by the origin server at the time of each request.

The Allow header field MAY be provided with a PUT request to recommend the methods to be supported by the new or modified resource. The server is not required to support these methods and SHOULD include an Allow header in the response giving the actual supported methods.

A proxy MUST NOT modify the Allow header field even if it does not understand all the methods specified, since the user agent might have other means of communicating with the origin server.

14.8 Authorization

A user agent that wishes to authenticate itself with a server-- usually, but not necessarily, after receiving a 401 response--does so by including an Authorization request-header field with the request. The Authorization field value consists of credentials containing the authentication information of the user agent for the realm of the resource being requested.

Authorization  = "Authorization" ":" credentials

HTTP access authentication is described in "HTTP Authentication: Basic and Digest Access Authentication" [43]. If a request is authenticated and a realm specified, the same credentials SHOULD be valid for all other requests within this realm (assuming that the authentication scheme itself does not require otherwise, such as credentials that vary according to a challenge value or using synchronized clocks).

When a shared cache (see section 13.7) receives a request containing an Authorization field, it MUST NOT return the corresponding response as a reply to any other request, unless one of the following specific exceptions holds:

  1. If the response includes the "s-maxage" cache-control directive, the cache MAY use that response in replying to a subsequent request. But (if the specified maximum age has passed) a proxy cache MUST first revalidate it with the origin server, using the request-headers from the new request to allow the origin server to authenticate the new request. (This is the defined behavior for s-maxage.) If the response includes "s- maxage=0", the proxy MUST always revalidate it before re-using it.

  2. If the response includes the "must-revalidate" cache-control directive, the cache MAY use that response in replying to a subsequent request. But if the response is stale, all caches MUST first revalidate it with the origin server, using the request-headers from the new request to allow the origin server to authenticate the new request.

  3. If the response includes the "public" cache-control directive, it MAY be returned in reply to any subsequent request.

14.9 Cache-Control

The Cache-Control general-header field is used to specify directives that MUST be obeyed by all caching mechanisms along the request/response chain. The directives specify behavior intended to prevent caches from adversely interfering with the request or response. These directives typically override the default caching algorithms. Cache directives are unidirectional in that the presence of a directive in a request does not imply that the same directive is to be given in the response.

Note: that HTTP/1.0 caches might not implement Cache-Control and might only implement Pragma: no-cache (see section 14.32).

Cache directives MUST be passed through by a proxy or gateway application, regardless of their significance to that application, since the directives might be applicable to all recipients along the request/response chain. It is not possible to specify a cache- directive for a specific cache.

  Cache-Control   = "Cache-Control" ":" 1#cache-directive

  cache-directive = cache-request-directive
| cache-response-directive

  cache-request-directive =
  "no-cache"                          ; Section 14.9.1
| "no-store"                          ; Section 14.9.2
| "max-age" "=" delta-seconds         ; Section 14.9.3, 14.9.4
| "max-stale" [ "=" delta-seconds ]   ; Section 14.9.3
| "min-fresh" "=" delta-seconds       ; Section 14.9.3
| "no-transform"                      ; Section 14.9.5
| "only-if-cached"                    ; Section 14.9.4
| cache-extension                     ; Section 14.9.6

   cache-response-directive =
  "public"                               ; Section 14.9.1
| "private" [ "=" <"> 1#field-name <"> ] ; Section 14.9.1
| "no-cache" [ "=" <"> 1#field-name <"> ]; Section 14.9.1
| "no-store"                             ; Section 14.9.2
| "no-transform"                         ; Section 14.9.5
| "must-revalidate"                      ; Section 14.9.4
| "proxy-revalidate"                     ; Section 14.9.4
| "max-age" "=" delta-seconds            ; Section 14.9.3
| "s-maxage" "=" delta-seconds           ; Section 14.9.3
| cache-extension                        ; Section 14.9.6

  cache-extension = token [ "=" ( token | quoted-string ) ]

When a directive appears without any 1#field-name parameter, the directive applies to the entire request or response. When such a directive appears with a 1#field-name parameter, it applies only to the named field or fields, and not to the rest of the request or response. This mechanism supports extensibility; implementations of future versions of the HTTP protocol might apply these directives to header fields not defined in HTTP/1.1.

The cache-control directives can be broken down into these general categories:

14.9.1 What is Cacheable

By default, a response is cacheable if the requirements of the request method, request header fields, and the response status indicate that it is cacheable. Section 13.4 summarizes these defaults for cacheability. The following Cache-Control response directives allow an origin server to override the default cacheability of a response:

Indicates that the response MAY be cached by any cache, even if it would normally be non-cacheable or cacheable only within a non- shared cache. (See also Authorization, section 14.8, for additional details.)

Indicates that all or part of the response message is intended for a single user and MUST NOT be cached by a shared cache. This allows an origin server to state that the specified parts of the response are intended for only one user and are not a valid response for requests by other users. A private (non-shared) cache MAY cache the response.

Note: This usage of the word private only controls where the response may be cached, and cannot ensure the privacy of the message content.

If the no-cache directive does not specify a field-name, then a cache MUST NOT use the response to satisfy a subsequent request without successful revalidation with the origin server. This allows an origin server to prevent caching even by caches that have been configured to return stale responses to client requests.

If the no-cache directive does specify one or more field-names, then a cache MAY use the response to satisfy a subsequent request, subject to any other restrictions on caching. However, the specified field-name(s) MUST NOT be sent in the response to a subsequent request without successful revalidation with the origin server. This allows an origin server to prevent the re-use of certain header fields in a response, while still allowing caching of the rest of the response.

Note: Most HTTP/1.0 caches will not recognize or obey this directive.

14.9.2 What May be Stored by Caches

The purpose of the no-store directive is to prevent the inadvertent release or retention of sensitive information (for example, on backup tapes). The no-store directive applies to the entire message, and MAY be sent either in a response or in a request. If sent in a request, a cache MUST NOT store any part of either this request or any response to it. If sent in a response, a cache MUST NOT store any part of either this response or the request that elicited it. This directive applies to both non-shared and shared caches. "MUST NOT store" in this context means that the cache MUST NOT intentionally store the information in non-volatile storage, and MUST make a best-effort attempt to remove the information from volatile storage as promptly as possible after forwarding it.

Even when this directive is associated with a response, users might explicitly store such a response outside of the caching system (e.g., with a "Save As" dialog). History buffers MAY store such responses as part of their normal operation.

The purpose of this directive is to meet the stated requirements of certain users and service authors who are concerned about accidental releases of information via unanticipated accesses to cache data structures. While the use of this directive might improve privacy in some cases, we caution that it is NOT in any way a reliable or sufficient mechanism for ensuring privacy. In particular, malicious or compromised caches might not recognize or obey this directive, and communications networks might be vulnerable to eavesdropping.

14.9.3 Modifications of the Basic Expiration Mechanism

The expiration time of an entity MAY be specified by the origin server using the Expires header (see section 14.21). Alternatively, it MAY be specified using the max-age directive in a response. When the max-age cache-control directive is present in a cached response, the response is stale if its current age is greater than the age value given (in seconds) at the time of a new request for that resource. The max-age directive on a response implies that the response is cacheable (i.e., "public") unless some other, more restrictive cache directive is also present.

If a response includes both an Expires header and a max-age directive, the max-age directive overrides the Expires header, even if the Expires header is more restrictive. This rule allows an origin server to provide, for a given response, a longer expiration time to an HTTP/1.1 (or later) cache than to an HTTP/1.0 cache. This might be useful if certain HTTP/1.0 caches improperly calculate ages or expiration times, perhaps due to desynchronized clocks.

Many HTTP/1.0 cache implementations will treat an Expires value that is less than or equal to the response Date value as being equivalent to the Cache-Control response directive "no-cache". If an HTTP/1.1 cache receives such a response, and the response does not include a Cache-Control header field, it SHOULD consider the response to be non-cacheable in order to retain compatibility with HTTP/1.0 servers.

Note: An origin server might wish to use a relatively new HTTP cache control feature, such as the "private" directive, on a network including older caches that do not understand that feature. The origin server will need to combine the new feature with an Expires field whose value is less than or equal to the Date value. This will prevent older caches from improperly caching the response.

If a response includes an s-maxage directive, then for a shared cache (but not for a private cache), the maximum age specified by this directive overrides the maximum age specified by either the max-age directive or the Expires header. The s-maxage directive also implies the semantics of the proxy-revalidate directive (see section 14.9.4), i.e., that the shared cache must not use the entry after it becomes stale to respond to a subsequent request without first revalidating it with the origin server. The s- maxage directive is always ignored by a private cache.

Note that most older caches, not compliant with this specification, do not implement any cache-control directives. An origin server wishing to use a cache-control directive that restricts, but does not prevent, caching by an HTTP/1.1-compliant cache MAY exploit the requirement that the max-age directive overrides the Expires header, and the fact that pre-HTTP/1.1-compliant caches do not observe the max-age directive.

Other directives allow a user agent to modify the basic expiration mechanism. These directives MAY be specified on a request:

Indicates that the client is willing to accept a response whose age is no greater than the specified time in seconds. Unless max- stale directive is also included, the client is not willing to accept a stale response.

Indicates that the client is willing to accept a response whose freshness lifetime is no less than its current age plus the specified time in seconds. That is, the client wants a response that will still be fresh for at least the specified number of seconds.

Indicates that the client is willing to accept a response that has exceeded its expiration time. If max-stale is assigned a value, then the client is willing to accept a response that has exceeded its expiration time by no more than the specified number of seconds. If no value is assigned to max-stale, then the client is willing to accept a stale response of any age.

If a cache returns a stale response, either because of a max-stale directive on a request, or because the cache is configured to override the expiration time of a response, the cache MUST attach a Warning header to the stale response, using Warning 110 (Response is stale).

A cache MAY be configured to return stale responses without validation, but only if this does not conflict with any "MUST"-level requirements concerning cache validation (e.g., a "must-revalidate" cache-control directive).

If both the new request and the cached entry include "max-age" directives, then the lesser of the two values is used for determining the freshness of the cached entry for that request.

14.9.4 Cache Revalidation and Reload Controls

Sometimes a user agent might want or need to insist that a cache revalidate its cache entry with the origin server (and not just with the next cache along the path to the origin server), or to reload its cache entry from the origin server. End-to-end revalidation might be necessary if either the cache or the origin server has overestimated the expiration time of the cached response. End-to-end reload may be necessary if the cache entry has become corrupted for some reason.

End-to-end revalidation may be requested either when the client does not have its own local cached copy, in which case we call it "unspecified end-to-end revalidation", or when the client does have a local cached copy, in which case we call it "specific end-to-end revalidation."

The client can specify these three kinds of action using Cache- Control request directives:

End-to-end reload
The request includes a "no-cache" cache-control directive or, for compatibility with HTTP/1.0 clients, "Pragma: no-cache". Field names MUST NOT be included with the no-cache directive in a request. The server MUST NOT use a cached copy when responding to such a request.

Specific end-to-end revalidation
The request includes a "max-age=0" cache-control directive, which forces each cache along the path to the origin server to revalidate its own entry, if any, with the next cache or server. The initial request includes a cache-validating conditional with the client's current validator.

Unspecified end-to-end revalidation
The request includes "max-age=0" cache-control directive, which forces each cache along the path to the origin server to revalidate its own entry, if any, with the next cache or server. The initial request does not include a cache-validating conditional; the first cache along the path (if any) that holds a cache entry for this resource includes a cache-validating conditional with its current validator.

When an intermediate cache is forced, by means of a max-age=0 directive, to revalidate its own cache entry, and the client has supplied its own validator in the request, the supplied validator might differ from the validator currently stored with the cache entry. In this case, the cache MAY use either validator in making its own request without affecting semantic transparency.

However, the choice of validator might affect performance. The best approach is for the intermediate cache to use its own validator when making its request. If the server replies with 304 (Not Modified), then the cache can return its now validated copy to the client with a 200 (OK) response. If the server replies with a new entity and cache validator, however, the intermediate cache can compare the returned validator with the one provided in the client's request, using the strong comparison function. If the client's validator is equal to the origin server's, then the intermediate cache simply returns 304 (Not Modified). Otherwise, it returns the new entity with a 200 (OK) response.

If a request includes the no-cache directive, it SHOULD NOT include min-fresh, max-stale, or max-age.

In some cases, such as times of extremely poor network connectivity, a client may want a cache to return only those responses that it currently has stored, and not to reload or revalidate with the origin server. To do this, the client may include the only-if-cached directive in a request. If it receives this directive, a cache SHOULD either respond using a cached entry that is consistent with the other constraints of the request, or respond with a 504 (Gateway Timeout) status. However, if a group of caches is being operated as a unified system with good internal connectivity, such a request MAY be forwarded within that group of caches.

Because a cache MAY be configured to ignore a server's specified expiration time, and because a client request MAY include a max-stale directive (which has a similar effect), the protocol also includes a mechanism for the origin server to require revalidation of a cache entry on any subsequent use. When the must-revalidate directive is present in a response received by a cache, that cache MUST NOT use the entry after it becomes stale to respond to a subsequent request without first revalidating it with the origin server. (I.e., the cache MUST do an end-to-end revalidation every time, if, based solely on the origin server's Expires or max-age value, the cached response is stale.)

The must-revalidate directive is necessary to support reliable operation for certain protocol features. In all circumstances an HTTP/1.1 cache MUST obey the must-revalidate directive; in particular, if the cache cannot reach the origin server for any reason, it MUST generate a 504 (Gateway Timeout) response.

Servers SHOULD send the must-revalidate directive if and only if failure to revalidate a request on the entity could result in incorrect operation, such as a silently unexecuted financial transaction. Recipients MUST NOT take any automated action that violates this directive, and MUST NOT automatically provide an unvalidated copy of the entity if revalidation fails.

Although this is not recommended, user agents operating under severe connectivity constraints MAY violate this directive but, if so, MUST explicitly warn the user that an unvalidated response has been provided. The warning MUST be provided on each unvalidated access, and SHOULD require explicit user confirmation.

The proxy-revalidate directive has the same meaning as the must- revalidate directive, except that it does not apply to non-shared user agent caches. It can be used on a response to an authenticated request to permit the user's cache to store and later return the response without needing to revalidate it (since it has already been authenticated once by that user), while still requiring proxies that service many users to revalidate each time (in order to make sure that each user has been authenticated). Note that such authenticated responses also need the public cache control directive in order to allow them to be cached at all.

14.9.5 No-Transform Directive

Implementors of intermediate caches (proxies) have found it useful to convert the media type of certain entity bodies. A non- transparent proxy might, for example, convert between image formats in order to save cache space or to reduce the amount of traffic on a slow link.

Serious operational problems occur, however, when these transformations are applied to entity bodies intended for certain kinds of applications. For example, applications for medical imaging, scientific data analysis and those using end-to-end authentication, all depend on receiving an entity body that is bit for bit identical to the original entity-body.

Therefore, if a message includes the no-transform directive, an intermediate cache or proxy MUST NOT change those headers that are listed in section 13.5.2 as being subject to the no-transform directive. This implies that the cache or proxy MUST NOT change any aspect of the entity-body that is specified by these headers, including the value of the entity-body itself.

14.9.6 Cache Control Extensions

The Cache-Control header field can be extended through the use of one or more cache-extension tokens, each with an optional assigned value. Informational extensions (those which do not require a change in cache behavior) MAY be added without changing the semantics of other directives. Behavioral extensions are designed to work by acting as modifiers to the existing base of cache directives. Both the new directive and the standard directive are supplied, such that applications which do not understand the new directive will default to the behavior specified by the standard directive, and those that understand the new directive will recognize it as modifying the requirements associated with the standard directive. In this way, extensions to the cache-control directives can be made without requiring changes to the base protocol.

This extension mechanism depends on an HTTP cache obeying all of the cache-control directives defined for its native HTTP-version, obeying certain extensions, and ignoring all directives that it does not understand.

For example, consider a hypothetical new response directive called community which acts as a modifier to the private directive. We define this new directive to mean that, in addition to any non-shared cache, any cache which is shared only by members of the community named within its value may cache the response. An origin server wishing to allow the UCI community to use an otherwise private response in their shared cache(s) could do so by including

Cache-Control: private, community="UCI"

A cache seeing this header field will act correctly even if the cache does not understand the community cache-extension, since it will also see and understand the private directive and thus default to the safe behavior.

Unrecognized cache-directives MUST be ignored; it is assumed that any cache-directive likely to be unrecognized by an HTTP/1.1 cache will be combined with standard directives (or the response's default cacheability) such that the cache behavior will remain minimally correct even if the cache does not understand the extension(s).

14.10 Connection

The Connection general-header field allows the sender to specify options that are desired for that particular connection and MUST NOT be communicated by proxies over further connections.

The Connection header has the following grammar:

Connection = "Connection" ":" 1#(connection-token)
connection-token  = token

HTTP/1.1 proxies MUST parse the Connection header field before a message is forwarded and, for each connection-token in this field, remove any header field(s) from the message with the same name as the connection-token. Connection options are signaled by the presence of a connection-token in the Connection header field, not by any corresponding additional header field(s), since the additional header field may not be sent if there are no parameters associated with that connection option.

Message headers listed in the Connection header MUST NOT include end-to-end headers, such as Cache-Control.

HTTP/1.1 defines the "close" connection option for the sender to signal that the connection will be closed after completion of the response. For example,

Connection: close

in either the request or the response header fields indicates that the connection SHOULD NOT be considered `persistent' (section 8.1) after the current request/response is complete.

HTTP/1.1 applications that do not support persistent connections MUST include the "close" connection option in every message.

A system receiving an HTTP/1.0 (or lower-version) message that includes a Connection header MUST, for each connection-token in this field, remove and ignore any header field(s) from the message with the same name as the connection-token. This protects against mistaken forwarding of such header fields by pre-HTTP/1.1 proxies. See section 19.6.2.

14.11 Content-Encoding

The Content-Encoding entity-header field is used as a modifier to the media-type. When present, its value indicates what additional content codings have been applied to the entity-body, and thus what decoding mechanisms must be applied in order to obtain the media-type referenced by the Content-Type header field. Content-Encoding is primarily used to allow a document to be compressed without losing the identity of its underlying media type.

Content-Encoding  = "Content-Encoding" ":" 1#content-coding

Content codings are defined in section 3.5. An example of its use is

Content-Encoding: gzip

The content-coding is a characteristic of the entity identified by the Request-URI. Typically, the entity-body is stored with this encoding and is only decoded before rendering or analogous usage. However, a non-transparent proxy MAY modify the content-coding if the new coding is known to be acceptable to the recipient, unless the "no-transform" cache-control directive is present in the message.

If the content-coding of an entity is not "identity", then the response MUST include a Content-Encoding entity-header (section 14.11) that lists the non-identity content-coding(s) used.

If the content-coding of an entity in a request message is not acceptable to the origin server, the server SHOULD respond with a status code of 415 (Unsupported Media Type).

If multiple encodings have been applied to an entity, the content codings MUST be listed in the order in which they were applied. Additional information about the encoding parameters MAY be provided by other entity-header fields not defined by this specification.

14.12 Content-Language

The Content-Language entity-header field describes the natural language(s) of the intended audience for the enclosed entity. Note that this might not be equivalent to all the languages used within the entity-body.

Content-Language  = "Content-Language" ":" 1#language-tag

Language tags are defined in section 3.10. The primary purpose of Content-Language is to allow a user to identify and differentiate entities according to the user's own preferred language. Thus, if the body content is intended only for a Danish-literate audience, the appropriate field is

Content-Language: da

If no Content-Language is specified, the default is that the content is intended for all language audiences. This might mean that the sender does not consider it to be specific to any natural language, or that the sender does not know for which language it is intended.

Multiple languages MAY be listed for content that is intended for multiple audiences. For example, a rendition of the "Treaty of Waitangi," presented simultaneously in the original Maori and English versions, would call for

Content-Language: mi, en

However, just because multiple languages are present within an entity does not mean that it is intended for multiple linguistic audiences. An example would be a beginner's language primer, such as "A First Lesson in Latin," which is clearly intended to be used by an English-literate audience. In this case, the Content-Language would properly only include "en".

Content-Language MAY be applied to any media type -- it is not limited to textual documents.

14.13 Content-Length

The Content-Length entity-header field indicates the size of the entity-body, in decimal number of OCTETs, sent to the recipient or, in the case of the HEAD method, the size of the entity-body that would have been sent had the request been a GET.

Content-Length    = "Content-Length" ":" 1*DIGIT

An example is

Content-Length: 3495

Applications SHOULD use this field to indicate the transfer-length of the message-body, unless this is prohibited by the rules in section 4.4.

Any Content-Length greater than or equal to zero is a valid value. Section 4.4 describes how to determine the length of a message-body if a Content-Length is not given.

Note that the meaning of this field is significantly different from the corresponding definition in MIME, where it is an optional field used within the "message/external-body" content-type. In HTTP, it SHOULD be sent whenever the message's length can be determined prior to being transferred, unless this is prohibited by the rules in section 4.4.

14.14 Content-Location

The Content-Location entity-header field MAY be used to supply the resource location for the entity enclosed in the message when that entity is accessible from a location separate from the requested resource's URI. A server SHOULD provide a Content-Location for the variant corresponding to the response entity; especially in the case where a resource has multiple entities associated with it, and those entities actually have separate locations by which they might be individually accessed, the server SHOULD provide a Content-Location for the particular variant which is returned.

Content-Location = "Content-Location" ":"
                  ( absoluteURI | relativeURI )

The value of Content-Location also defines the base URI for the entity.

The Content-Location value is not a replacement for the original requested URI; it is only a statement of the location of the resource corresponding to this particular entity at the time of the request. Future requests MAY specify the Content-Location URI as the request- URI if the desire is to identify the source of that particular entity.

A cache cannot assume that an entity with a Content-Location different from the URI used to retrieve it can be used to respond to later requests on that Content-Location URI. However, the Content- Location can be used to differentiate between multiple entities retrieved from a single requested resource, as described in section 13.6.

If the Content-Location is a relative URI, the relative URI is interpreted relative to the Request-URI.

The meaning of the Content-Location header in PUT or POST requests is undefined; servers are free to ignore it in those cases.

14.15 Content-MD5

The Content-MD5 entity-header field, as defined in RFC 1864 [23], is an MD5 digest of the entity-body for the purpose of providing an end-to-end message integrity check (MIC) of the entity-body. (Note: a MIC is good for detecting accidental modification of the entity-body in transit, but is not proof against malicious attacks.)

Content-MD5   = "Content-MD5" ":" md5-digest
md5-digest   = <base64 of 128 bit MD5 digest as per RFC 1864>

The Content-MD5 header field MAY be generated by an origin server or client to function as an integrity check of the entity-body. Only origin servers or clients MAY generate the Content-MD5 header field; proxies and gateways MUST NOT generate it, as this would defeat its value as an end-to-end integrity check. Any recipient of the entity- body, including gateways and proxies, MAY check that the digest value in this header field matches that of the entity-body as received.

The MD5 digest is computed based on the content of the entity-body, including any content-coding that has been applied, but not including any transfer-encoding applied to the message-body. If the message is received with a transfer-encoding, that encoding MUST be removed prior to checking the Content-MD5 value against the received entity.

This has the result that the digest is computed on the octets of the entity-body exactly as, and in the order that, they would be sent if no transfer-encoding were being applied.

HTTP extends RFC 1864 to permit the digest to be computed for MIME composite media-types (e.g., multipart/* and message/rfc822), but this does not change how the digest is computed as defined in the preceding paragraph.

There are several consequences of this. The entity-body for composite types MAY contain many body-parts, each with its own MIME and HTTP headers (including Content-MD5, Content-Transfer-Encoding, and Content-Encoding headers). If a body-part has a Content-Transfer- Encoding or Content-Encoding header, it is assumed that the content of the body-part has had the encoding applied, and the body-part is included in the Content-MD5 digest as is -- i.e., after the application. The Transfer-Encoding header field is not allowed within body-parts.

Conversion of all line breaks to CRLF MUST NOT be done before computing or checking the digest: the line break convention used in the text actually transmitted MUST be left unaltered when computing the digest.

Note: while the definition of Content-MD5 is exactly the same for HTTP as in RFC 1864 for MIME entity-bodies, there are several ways in which the application of Content-MD5 to HTTP entity-bodies differs from its application to MIME entity-bodies. One is that HTTP, unlike MIME, does not use Content-Transfer-Encoding, and does use Transfer-Encoding and Content-Encoding. Another is that HTTP more frequently uses binary content types than MIME, so it is worth noting that, in such cases, the byte order used to compute the digest is the transmission byte order defined for the type. Lastly, HTTP allows transmission of text types with any of several line break conventions and not just the canonical form using CRLF.

14.16 Content-Range

The Content-Range entity-header is sent with a partial entity-body to specify where in the full entity-body the partial body should be applied. Range units are defined in section 3.12.

Content-Range = "Content-Range" ":" content-range-spec

content-range-spec      = byte-content-range-spec
byte-content-range-spec = bytes-unit SP
                          byte-range-resp-spec "/"
                          ( instance-length | "*" )

byte-range-resp-spec = (first-byte-pos "-" last-byte-pos)
                               | "*"
instance-length           = 1*DIGIT

The header SHOULD indicate the total length of the full entity-body, unless this length is unknown or difficult to determine. The asterisk "*" character means that the instance-length is unknown at the time when the response was generated.

Unlike byte-ranges-specifier values (see section 14.35.1), a byte-range-resp-spec MUST only specify one range, and MUST contain absolute byte positions for both the first and last byte of the range.

A byte-content-range-spec with a byte-range-resp-spec whose last- byte-pos value is less than its first-byte-pos value, or whose instance-length value is less than or equal to its last-byte-pos value, is invalid. The recipient of an invalid byte-content-range- spec MUST ignore it and any content transferred along with it.

A server sending a response with status code 416 (Requested range not satisfiable) SHOULD include a Content-Range field with a byte-range-resp-spec of "*". The instance-length specifies the current length of the selected resource. A response with status code 206 (Partial Content) MUST NOT include a Content-Range field with a byte-range-resp-spec of "*".

Examples of byte-content-range-spec values, assuming that the entity contains a total of 1234 bytes:

      . The first 500 bytes:
bytes 0-499/1234

      . The second 500 bytes:
bytes 500-999/1234

      . All except for the first 500 bytes:
bytes 500-1233/1234

      . The last 500 bytes:
bytes 734-1233/1234

When an HTTP message includes the content of a single range (for example, a response to a request for a single range, or to a request for a set of ranges that overlap without any holes), this content is transmitted with a Content-Range header, and a Content-Length header showing the number of bytes actually transferred. For example,

HTTP/1.1 206 Partial content
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 06:25:24 GMT
Last-Modified: Wed, 15 Nov 1995 04:58:08 GMT
Content-Range: bytes 21010-47021/47022
Content-Length: 26012
Content-Type: image/gif

When an HTTP message includes the content of multiple ranges (for example, a response to a request for multiple non-overlapping ranges), these are transmitted as a multipart message. The multipart media type used for this purpose is "multipart/byteranges" as defined in appendix 19.2. See appendix 19.6.3 for a compatibility issue.

A response to a request for a single range MUST NOT be sent using the multipart/byteranges media type. A response to a request for multiple ranges, whose result is a single range, MAY be sent as a multipart/byteranges media type with one part. A client that cannot decode a multipart/byteranges message MUST NOT ask for multiple byte-ranges in a single request.

When a client requests multiple byte-ranges in one request, the server SHOULD return them in the order that they appeared in the request.

If the server ignores a byte-range-spec because it is syntactically invalid, the server SHOULD treat the request as if the invalid Range header field did not exist. (Normally, this means return a 200 response containing the full entity).

If the server receives a request (other than one including an If-Range request-header field) with an unsatisfiable Range request-header field (that is, all of whose byte-range-spec values have a first-byte-pos value greater than the current length of the selected resource), it SHOULD return a response code of 416 (Requested range not satisfiable) (section 10.4.17).

Note: clients cannot depend on servers to send a 416 (Requested range not satisfiable) response instead of a 200 (OK) response for an unsatisfiable Range request-header, since not all servers implement this request-header.

14.17 Content-Type

The Content-Type entity-header field indicates the media type of the entity-body sent to the recipient or, in the case of the HEAD method, the media type that would have been sent had the request been a GET.

Content-Type   = "Content-Type" ":" media-type

Media types are defined in section 3.7. An example of the field is

Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-4

Further discussion of methods for identifying the media type of an entity is provided in section 7.2.1.

14.18 Date

The Date general-header field represents the date and time at which the message was originated, having the same semantics as orig-date in RFC 822. The field value is an HTTP-date, as described in section 3.3.1; it MUST be sent in RFC 1123 [8]-date format.

Date  = "Date" ":" HTTP-date

An example is

Date: Tue, 15 Nov 1994 08:12:31 GMT

Origin servers MUST include a Date header field in all responses, except in these cases:

  1. If the response status code is 100 (Continue) or 101 (Switching Protocols), the response MAY include a Date header field, at the server's option.

  2. If the response status code conveys a server error, e.g. 500 (Internal Server Error) or 503 (Service Unavailable), and it is inconvenient or impossible to generate a valid Date.

  3. If the server does not have a clock that can provide a reasonable approximation of the current time, its responses MUST NOT include a Date header field. In this case, the rules in section 14.18.1 MUST be followed.

A received message that does not have a Date header field MUST be assigned one by the recipient if the message will be cached by that recipient or gatewayed via a protocol which requires a Date. An HTTP implementation without a clock MUST NOT cache responses without revalidating them on every use. An HTTP cache, especially a shared cache, SHOULD use a mechanism, such as NTP [28], to synchronize its clock with a reliable external standard.

Clients SHOULD only send a Date header field in messages that include an entity-body, as in the case of the PUT and POST requests, and even then it is optional. A client without a clock MUST NOT send a Date header field in a request.

The HTTP-date sent in a Date header SHOULD NOT represent a date and time subsequent to the generation of the message. It SHOULD represent the best available approximation of the date and time of message generation, unless the implementation has no means of generating a reasonably accurate date and time. In theory, the date ought to represent the moment just before the entity is generated. In practice, the date can be generated at any time during the message origination without affecting its semantic value.

14.18.1 Clockless Origin Server Operation

Some origin server implementations might not have a clock available. An origin server without a clock MUST NOT assign Expires or Last-Modified values to a response, unless these values were associated with the resource by a system or user with a reliable clock. It MAY assign an Expires value that is known, at or before server configuration time, to be in the past (this allows "pre-expiration" of responses without storing separate Expires values for each resource).

Page 2 of Section 14

Top of RFC 2616

Formatted by Gray Watson