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.
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
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".
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
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:
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,
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.
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.
The Accept-Encoding request-header field is similar to Accept, but
restricts the content-codings (section 3.5) that are acceptable in
Accept-Encoding = "Accept-Encoding" ":"
1#( codings [ ";" "q" "=" qvalue ] )
codings = ( content-coding | "*" )
Examples of its use are:
Accept-Encoding: compress, gzip
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
to advise the client not to attempt a range request.
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
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.
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:
Allow: GET, HEAD, PUT
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
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.
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" . 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
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
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.
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
"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
"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
- Restrictions on what are cacheable; these may only be imposed by
the origin server.
- Restrictions on what may be stored by a cache; these may be
imposed by either the origin server or the user agent.
- Modifications of the basic expiration mechanism; these may be
imposed by either the origin server or the user agent.
- Controls over cache revalidation and reload; these may only be
imposed by a user agent.
- Control over transformation of entities.
- Extensions to the caching system.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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"
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
The client can specify these three kinds of action using Cache-
Control request directives:
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
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
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
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).
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
Applications SHOULD use this field to indicate the transfer-length of
the message-body, unless this is prohibited by the rules in section
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
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
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
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
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.
The Content-MD5 entity-header field, as defined in RFC 1864 , 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
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
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
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.
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
( 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
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:
. The second 500 bytes:
. All except for the first 500 bytes:
. The last 500 bytes:
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
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
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.
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.
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 -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 , 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