HTTP header and Server Response Codes

Introduction

HTTP is a transfer protocol used by the World Wide Web (WWW) to retrieve information from distributed servers. The HTTP model is extremely simple; the client establishes a connection to the remote server, then issues a request. The server then processes the request, returns a response, and closes the connection. Most HTTP communication is initiated by a user agent and consists of a request to be applied to a resource on some origin server. HTTP communication usually takes place over TCP/IP connections. The default port is TCP 80, but other ports can be used like 21 (FTP), 443 (HTTPS).

Requests:  The request format for HTTP is quite simple. The first line specifies an object, together with the name of an object to apply the method to. The most commonly used method is “GET”, which ask the server to send a copy of the object to the client. The client can also send a series of optional headers. The most common headers are “Accept”, which tells the server which object types the client can handle, and “User-Agent”, which gives the implementation name of the client.

Responses: The response format is also quite simple. Responses start with a status line indicating which version of HTTP the server is running, together with a result code and an optional message. This is followed by a series of optional object headers; the most important of these are “Content-Type”, which describes the type of the object being returned, and “Content-Length”, which indicates the length.The headers are teminated by an empty line.  The server now sends any requested data. After the data have been sent, the server drops the connection.

Headers: Headers are short fragments of text which are generated by servers to hold information pertaining to each transfer as it occurs. There are four kinds of headers:

  1. General-Header: These are few header fields which have general applicability for both request and response messages.  These header fields apply only to the message being transmitted which include Cache-Control, Connection, Date, Pragma, Transfer-Encoding etc.
  2. Request-Header: The request-header fields allow the client to pass additional information about the request, and about the client itself, to the server.  These fields acts as request modifiers, with semantics equivalent to the parameters on a programming language method invocation.  The request-headers are:  Accept-Charset, Authorization, Accept-Encoding, From, Host, If-Match.
  3. Response-Header: The response-header fields allow the server to pass additional information about the response which cannot be placed in the Status-Line.  These header fields give information about the server and about futher access to the resource identified by the Request-URI. The response-header are: Age, ETag, Location, Retry-After, Server, Vary, WWW-Authenticate etc.
  4. Entity-Header: Request and Response message MAY transfer an entity if not otherwise restricted by the request method or response status code.  Entity-Header fields define meta information about the entity-body or, if no body is present, about the resource identified by the request. Some of this meta information is OPTIONAL, some might be REQUIRED.  The entity-header includes: Content-Encoding, Content-Language, Content-Type, Expires, Last-Modified etc.

Status Code and Reason Phrase

The Status-Code element is a 3-digit integer result code of the attempt to understand and satisfy the request. The Reason-Phrase is intended to give a short textual description of the Status-Code. The Status-Code is intended for use by automata and the Reason-Phrase is intended for the human user. The client is not required to examine or display the Reason- Phrase.

The first digit of the Status-Code defines the class of response. The last two digits do not have any categorization role. There are 5 values for the first digit:

  • 1xx: Informational – Request received, continuing process.
  • 2xx: Success – The action was successfully received, understood, and accepted
  • 3xx: Redirection – Further action must be taken in order to complete the request
  • 4xx: Client Error – The request contains bad syntax or cannot be fulfilled
  • 5xx: Server Error – The server failed to fulfill an apparently valid request

 

Informational
100-199 Silent Response Codes that signify that a request has been received and is currently being processed.
100 Continue A status code of 100 indicates that (usually the first) part of a request has been received without any problems, and that the rest of the request should now be sent.
101 Switching Protocols HTTP 1.1 is just one type of protocol for transferring data on the web, and a status code of 101 indicates that the server is changing to the protocol it defines in the “Upgrade” header it returns to the client. For example, when requesting a page, a browser might receive a statis code of 101, followed by an “Upgrade” header showing that the server is changing to a different version of HTTP.
 
Successful Client Requests
200-299 Silent codes that confirm that requests have completed successfully.
200 OK The 200 status code is by far the most common returned. It means, simply, that the request was received and understood and is being processed.
201 Created A 201 status code indicates that a request was successful and as a result, a resource has been created (for example a new page).
202 Accepted The status code 202 indicates that server has received and understood the request, and that it has been accepted for processing, although it may not be processed immediately.
203 Non-Authoritative Information A 203 status code means that the request was received and understood, and that information sent back about the response is from a third party, rather than the original server. This is virtually identical in meaning to a 200 status code.
204 No Content The 204 status code means that the request was received and understood, but that there is no need to send any data back.
205 Reset Content The 205 status code is a request from the server to the client to reset the document from which the original request was sent. For example, if a user fills out a form, and submits it, a status code of 205 means the server is asking the browser to clear the form.
206 Partial Content A status code of 206 is a response to a request for part of a document. This is used by advanced caching tools, when a user agent requests only a small part of a page, and just that section is returned.
 
Client Request Redirected
300-399 A redirection is occurring from the original request.
300 Multiple Choices The 300 status code indicates that a resource has moved. The response will also include a list of locations from which the user agent can select the most appropriate.
301 Moved Permanently A status code of 301 tells a client that the resource they asked for has permanently moved to a new location. The response should also include this location. It tells the client to use the new URL the next time it wants to fetch the same resource.
302 Found A status code of 302 tells a client that the resource they asked for has temporarily moved to a new location. The response should also include this location. It tells the client that it should carry on using the same URL to access this resource.
303 See Other A 303 status code indicates that the response to the request can be found at the specified URL, and should be retrieved from there. It does not mean that something has moved – it is simply specifying the address at which the response to the request can be found.
304 Not Modified The 304 status code is sent in response to a request (for a document) that asked for the document only if it was newer than the one the client already had. Normally, when a document is cached, the date it was cached is stored. The next time the document is viewed, the client asks the server if the document has changed. If not, the client just reloads the document from the cache.
305 Use Proxy A 305 status code tells the client that the requested resource has to be reached through a proxy, which will be specified in the response.
307 Temporary Redirect 307 is the status code that is sent when a document is temporarily available at a different URL, which is also returned. There is very little difference between a 302 status code and a 307 status code. 307 was created as another, less ambiguous, version of the 302 status code.
 
Client Request Errors
400-499 Request is incomplete for some reason.
400 Bad Request A status code of 400 indicates that the server did not understand the request due to bad syntax.
401 Unauthorised A 401 status code indicates that before a resource can be accessed, the client must be authorised by the server.
402 Payment Required The 402 status code is not currently in use, being listed as “reserved for future use”.
403 Forbidden A 403 status code indicates that the client cannot access the requested resource. That might mean that the wrong username and password were sent in the request, or that the permissions on the server do not allow what was being asked.
404 Not Found The best known of them all, the 404 status code indicates that the requested resource was not found at the URL given, and the server has no idea how long for.
405 Method Not Allowed A 405 status code is returned when the client has tried to use a request method that the server does not allow. Request methods that are allowed should be sent with the response (common request methods are POST and GET).
406 Not Acceptable The 406 status code means that, although the server understood and processed the request, the response is of a form the client cannot understand. A client sends, as part of a request, headers indicating what types of data it can use, and a 406 error is returned when the response is of a type not in that list.
407 Proxy Authentication Required The 407 status code is very similar to the 401 status code, and means that the client must be authorised by the proxy before the request can proceed.
408 Request Timeout A 408 status code means that the client did not produce a request quickly enough. A server is set to only wait a certain amount of time for responses from clients, and a 408 status code indicates that time has passed.
409 Conflict A 409 status code indicates that the server was unable to complete the request, often because a file would need to be editted, created or deleted, and that file cannot be editted, created or deleted.
410 Gone A 410 status code is the 404’s lesser known cousin. It indicates that a resource has permanently gone (a 404 status code gives no indication if a resource has gine permanently or temporarily), and no new address is known for it.
411 Length Required The 411 status code occurs when a server refuses to process a request because a content length was not specified.
412 Precondition Failed A 412 status code indicates that one of the conditions the request was made under has failed.
413 Request Entity Too Large The 413 status code indicates that the request was larger than the server is able to handle, either due to physical constraints or to settings. Usually, this occurs when a file is sent using the POST method from a form, and the file is larger than the maximum size allowed in the server settings.
414 Request-URI Too Long The 414 status code indicates the the URL requested by the client was longer than it can process.
415 Unsupported Media Type A 415 status code is returned by a server to indicate that part of the request was in an unsupported format.
416 Requested Range Not Satisfiable A 416 status code indicates that the server was unable to fulfill the request. This may be, for example, because the client asked for the 800th-900th bytes of a document, but the document was only 200 bytes long.
417 Expectation Failed The 417 status code means that the server was unable to properly complete the request. One of the headers sent to the server, the “Expect” header, indicated an expectation the server could not meet.
 
Server Errors
500-599 Errors have occurred in the server itself.
500 Internal Server Error A 500 status code (all too often seen by Perl programmers) indicates that the server encountered something it didn’t expect and was unable to complete the request.
501 Not Implemented The 501 status code indicates that the server does not support all that is needed for the request to be completed.
502 Bad Gateway A 502 status code indicates that a server, while acting as a proxy, received a response from a server further upstream that it judged invalid.
503 Service Unavailable A 503 status code is most often seen on extremely busy servers, and it indicates that the server was unable to complete the request due to a server overload.
504 Gateway Timeout A 504 status code is returned when a server acting as a proxy has waited too long for a response from a server further upstream.
505 HTTP Version Not Supported A 505 status code is returned when the HTTP version indicated in the request is no supported. The response should indicate which HTTP versions are supported.

 To check the headers visit: HTTP / HTTPS Header Check

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