Network Working GroupY. Lafon
Obsoletes: 2616 (if approved)J. Reschke
Intended status: Standards Trackgreenbytes
Expires: April 16, 2007October 13, 2006

Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1

Status of this Memo

By submitting this Internet-Draft, each author represents that any applicable patent or other IPR claims of which he or she is aware have been or will be disclosed, and any of which he or she becomes aware will be disclosed, in accordance with Section 6 of BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups. Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as “work in progress”.

The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

This Internet-Draft will expire on April 16, 2007.

Copyright Notice

Copyright © The Internet Society (2006). All Rights Reserved.


The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. It is a generic, stateless, protocol which can be used for many tasks beyond its use for hypertext, such as name servers and distributed object management systems, through extension of its request methods, error codes and headers [47]. A feature of HTTP is the typing and negotiation of data representation, allowing systems to be built independently of the data being transferred.

HTTP has been in use by the World-Wide Web global information initiative since 1990. This specification defines the protocol referred to as "HTTP/1.1", and is an update to  I RFC 2068 [33]RFC2616.


Editorial Note (To be removed by RFC Editor before publication)

Distribution of this document is unlimited. Please send comments to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) mailing list at, which may be joined by sending a message with subject "subscribe" to Discussions of the HTTP working group are archived at <>. XML versions, latest edits and the issues list for this document are available from <>.

The purpose of this document is to revise RFC2616 ([50]), doing only minimal corrections. For now, it is not planned to advance the standards level of HTTP, thus - if published - the specification will still be a "Proposed Standard" (see [46]).

The current plan is to incorporate known errata, and to update the specification text according to the current IETF publication guidelines. In particular:

This document is based on a variant of the original RFC2616 specification formatted using Marshall T. Rose's "xml2rfc" tool (see <>) and therefore deviates from the original text in word wrapping, page breaks, list formatting, reference formatting, whitespace usage and appendix numbering. Otherwise, it is supposed to contain an accurate copy of the original specification text. See <> for a comparison between both documents, as generated by "rfcdiff" (<>).

 I  rfc2616bis   (type: edit, status: open)
julian.reschke@greenbytes.de2006-10-10 Umbrella issue for changes with respect to the revision process itself.
Associated changes in this document: <#rfc.change.rfc2616bis.1>, <#rfc.change.rfc2616bis.2>, 16, 17.2.
 I  edit   (type: edit, status: open)
julian.reschke@greenbytes.de2006-08-10 Umbrella issue for editorial fixes/enhancements.

1. Introduction

1.1. Purpose

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. HTTP has been in use by the World-Wide Web global information initiative since 1990. The first version of HTTP, referred to as HTTP/0.9, was a simple protocol for raw data transfer across the Internet. HTTP/1.0, as defined by RFC 1945 [6], improved the protocol by allowing messages to be in the format of MIME-like messages, containing metainformation about the data transferred and modifiers on the request/response semantics. However, HTTP/1.0 does not sufficiently take into consideration the effects of hierarchical proxies, caching, the need for persistent connections, or virtual hosts. In addition, the proliferation of incompletely-implemented applications calling themselves "HTTP/1.0" has necessitated a protocol version change in order for two communicating applications to determine each other's true capabilities.

This specification defines the protocol referred to as "HTTP/1.1". This protocol includes more stringent requirements than HTTP/1.0 in order to ensure reliable implementation of its features.

Practical information systems require more functionality than simple retrieval, including search, front-end update, and annotation. HTTP allows an open-ended set of methods and headers that indicate the purpose of a request [47]. It builds on the discipline of reference provided by the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) [3], as a location (URL) [4] or name (URN) [20], for indicating the resource to which a method is to be applied. Messages are passed in a format similar to that used by Internet mail [9] as defined by the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) [7].

HTTP is also used as a generic protocol for communication between user agents and proxies/gateways to other Internet systems, including those supported by the SMTP [16], NNTP [13], FTP [18], Gopher [2], and WAIS [10] protocols. In this way, HTTP allows basic hypermedia access to resources available from diverse applications.

1.2. Requirements

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [34].

An implementation is not compliant if it fails to satisfy one or more of the MUST or REQUIRED level requirements for the protocols it implements. An implementation that satisfies all the MUST or REQUIRED level and all the SHOULD level requirements for its protocols is said to be "unconditionally compliant"; one that satisfies all the MUST level requirements but not all the SHOULD level requirements for its protocols is said to be "conditionally compliant."

1.3. Terminology

This specification uses a number of terms to refer to the roles played by participants in, and objects of, the HTTP communication.


  • A transport layer virtual circuit established between two programs for the purpose of communication.


  • The basic unit of HTTP communication, consisting of a structured sequence of octets matching the syntax defined in Section 4 and transmitted via the connection.


  • An HTTP request message, as defined in Section 5.


  • An HTTP response message, as defined in Section 6.


  • A network data object or service that can be identified by a URI, as defined in Section 3.2. Resources may be available in multiple representations (e.g. multiple languages, data formats, size, and resolutions) or vary in other ways.


  • The information transferred as the payload of a request or response. An entity consists of metainformation in the form of entity-header fields and content in the form of an entity-body, as described in Section 7.


  • An entity included with a response that is subject to content negotiation, as described in Section 12. There may exist multiple representations associated with a particular response status.

content negotiation

  • The mechanism for selecting the appropriate representation when servicing a request, as described in Section 12. The representation of entities in any response can be negotiated (including error responses).


  • A resource may have one, or more than one, representation(s) associated with it at any given instant. Each of these representations is termed a `varriant'. Use of the term `variant' does not necessarily imply that the resource is subject to content negotiation.


  • A program that establishes connections for the purpose of sending requests.

user agent

  • The client which initiates a request. These are often browsers, editors, spiders (web-traversing robots), or other end user tools.


  • An application program that accepts connections in order to service requests by sending back responses. Any given program may be capable of being both a client and a server; our use of these terms refers only to the role being performed by the program for a particular connection, rather than to the program's capabilities in general. Likewise, any server may act as an origin server, proxy, gateway, or tunnel, switching behavior based on the nature of each request.

origin server

  • The server on which a given resource resides or is to be created.


  • An intermediary program which acts as both a server and a client for the purpose of making requests on behalf of other clients. Requests are serviced internally or by passing them on, with possible translation, to other servers. A proxy MUST implement both the client and server requirements of this specification. A "transparent proxy" is a proxy that does not modify the request or response beyond what is required for proxy authentication and identification. A "non-transparent proxy" is a proxy that modifies the request or response in order to provide some added service to the user agent, such as group annotation services, media type transformation, protocol reduction, or anonymity filtering. Except where either transparent or non-transparent behavior is explicitly stated, the HTTP proxy requirements apply to both types of proxies.


  • A server which acts as an intermediary for some other server. Unlike a proxy, a gateway receives requests as if it were the origin server for the requested resource; the requesting client may not be aware that it is communicating with a gateway.


  • An intermediary program which is acting as a blind relay between two connections. Once active, a tunnel is not considered a party to the HTTP communication, though the tunnel may have been initiated by an HTTP request. The tunnel ceases to exist when both ends of the relayed connections are closed.


  • A program's local store of response messages and the subsystem that controls its message storage, retrieval, and deletion. A cache stores cacheable responses in order to reduce the response time and network bandwidth consumption on future, equivalent requests. Any client or server may include a cache, though a cache cannot be used by a server that is acting as a tunnel.


  • A response is cacheable if a cache is allowed to store a copy of the response message for use in answering subsequent requests. The rules for determining the cacheability of HTTP responses are defined in Section 13. Even if a resource is cacheable, there may be additional constraints on whether a cache can use the cached copy for a particular request.


  • A response is first-hand if it comes directly and without unnecessary delay from the origin server, perhaps via one or more proxies. A response is also first-hand if its validity has just been checked directly with the origin server.

explicit expiration time

  • The time at which the origin server intends that an entity should no longer be returned by a cache without further validation.

heuristic expiration time

  • An expiration time assigned by a cache when no explicit expiration time is available.


  • The age of a response is the time since it was sent by, or successfully validated with, the origin server.

freshness lifetime

  • The length of time between the generation of a response and its expiration time.


  • A response is fresh if its age has not yet exceeded its freshness lifetime.


  • A response is stale if its age has passed its freshness lifetime.

semantically transparent

  • A cache behaves in a "semantically transparent" manner, with respect to a particular response, when its use affects neither the requesting client nor the origin server, except to improve performance. When a cache is semantically transparent, the client receives exactly the same response (except for hop-by-hop headers) that it would have received had its request been handled directly by the origin server.


  • A protocol element (e.g., an entity tag or a Last-Modified time) that is used to find out whether a cache entry is an equivalent copy of an entity.


  • Upstream and downstream describe the flow of a message: all messages flow from upstream to downstream.


  • Inbound and outbound refer to the request and response paths for messages: "inbound" means "traveling toward the origin server", and "outbound" means "traveling toward the user agent"

1.4. Overall Operation

The HTTP protocol is a request/response protocol. A client sends a request to the server in the form of a request method, URI, and protocol version, followed by a MIME-like message containing request modifiers, client information, and possible body content over a connection with a server. The server responds with a status line, including the message's protocol version and a success or error code, followed by a MIME-like message containing server information, entity metainformation, and possible entity-body content. The relationship between HTTP and MIME is described in Appendix D.

Most HTTP communication is initiated by a user agent and consists of a request to be applied to a resource on some origin server. In the simplest case, this may be accomplished via a single connection (v) between the user agent (UA) and the origin server (O).

          request chain ------------------------>
       UA -------------------v------------------- O
          <----------------------- response chain

A more complicated situation occurs when one or more intermediaries are present in the request/response chain. There are three common forms of intermediary: proxy, gateway, and tunnel. A proxy is a forwarding agent, receiving requests for a URI in its absolute form, rewriting all or part of the message, and forwarding the reformatted request toward the server identified by the URI. A gateway is a receiving agent, acting as a layer above some other server(s) and, if necessary, translating the requests to the underlying server's protocol. A tunnel acts as a relay point between two connections without changing the messages; tunnels are used when the communication needs to pass through an intermediary (such as a firewall) even when the intermediary cannot understand the contents of the messages.

          request chain -------------------------------------->
       UA -----v----- A -----v----- B -----v----- C -----v----- O
          <------------------------------------- response chain

The figure above shows three intermediaries (A, B, and C) between the user agent and origin server. A request or response message that travels the whole chain will pass through four separate connections. This distinction is important because some HTTP communication options may apply only to the connection with the nearest, non-tunnel neighbor, only to the end-points of the chain, or to all connections along the chain. Although the diagram is linear, each participant may be engaged in multiple, simultaneous communications. For example, B may be receiving requests from many clients other than A, and/or forwarding requests to servers other than C, at the same time that it is handling A's request.

Any party to the communication which is not acting as a tunnel may employ an internal cache for handling requests. The effect of a cache is that the request/response chain is shortened if one of the participants along the chain has a cached response applicable to that request. The following illustrates the resulting chain if B has a cached copy of an earlier response from O (via C) for a request which has not been cached by UA or A.

          request chain ---------->
       UA -----v----- A -----v----- B - - - - - - C - - - - - - O
          <--------- response chain

Not all responses are usefully cacheable, and some requests may contain modifiers which place special requirements on cache behavior. HTTP requirements for cache behavior and cacheable responses are defined in Section 13.

In fact, there are a wide variety of architectures and configurations of caches and proxies currently being experimented with or deployed across the World Wide Web. These systems include national hierarchies of proxy caches to save transoceanic bandwidth, systems that broadcast or multicast cache entries, organizations that distribute subsets of cached data via CD-ROM, and so on. HTTP systems are used in corporate intranets over high-bandwidth links, and for access via PDAs with low-power radio links and intermittent connectivity. The goal of HTTP/1.1 is to support the wide diversity of configurations already deployed while introducing protocol constructs that meet the needs of those who build web applications that require high reliability and, failing that, at least reliable indications of failure.

HTTP communication usually takes place over TCP/IP connections. The default port is TCP 80 [19], but other ports can be used. This does not preclude HTTP from being implemented on top of any other protocol on the Internet, or on other networks. HTTP only presumes a reliable transport; any protocol that provides such guarantees can be used; the mapping of the HTTP/1.1 request and response structures onto the transport data units of the protocol in question is outside the scope of this specification.

In HTTP/1.0, most implementations used a new connection for each request/response exchange. In HTTP/1.1, a connection may be used for one or more request/response exchanges, although connections may be closed for a variety of reasons (see Section 8.1).

2. Notational Conventions and Generic Grammar

2.1. Augmented BNF

All of the mechanisms specified in this document are described in both prose and an augmented Backus-Naur Form (BNF) similar to that used by RFC 822 [9]. Implementors will need to be familiar with the notation in order to understand this specification. The augmented BNF includes the following constructs:

name = definition

  • The name of a rule is simply the name itself (without any enclosing "<" and ">") and is separated from its definition by the equal "=" character. White space is only significant in that indentation of continuation lines is used to indicate a rule definition that spans more than one line. Certain basic rules are in uppercase, such as SP, LWS, HT, CRLF, DIGIT, ALPHA, etc. Angle brackets are used within definitions whenever their presence will facilitate discerning the use of rule names.


  • Quotation marks surround literal text. Unless stated otherwise, the text is case-insensitive.

rule1 | rule2

  • Elements separated by a bar ("|") are alternatives, e.g., "yes | no" will accept yes or no.

(rule1 rule2)

  • Elements enclosed in parentheses are treated as a single element. Thus, "(elem (foo | bar) elem)" allows the token sequences "elem foo elem" and "elem bar elem".


  • The character "*" preceding an element indicates repetition. The full form is "<n>*<m>element" indicating at least <n> and at most <m> occurrences of element. Default values are 0 and infinity so that "*(element)" allows any number, including zero; "1*element" requires at least one; and "1*2element" allows one or two.


  • Square brackets enclose optional elements; "[foo bar]" is equivalent to "*1(foo bar)".

N rule

  • Specific repetition: "<n>(element)" is equivalent to "<n>*<n>(element)"; that is, exactly <n> occurrences of (element). Thus 2DIGIT is a 2-digit number, and 3ALPHA is a string of three alphabetic characters.


  • A construct "#" is defined, similar to "*", for defining lists of elements. The full form is "<n>#<m>element" indicating at least <n> and at most <m> elements, each separated by one or more commas (",") and OPTIONAL linear white space (LWS). This makes the usual form of lists very easy; a rule such as
  • ( *LWS element *( *LWS "," *LWS element ))
  • can be shown as
  • 1#element
  • Wherever this construct is used, null elements are allowed, but do not contribute to the count of elements present. That is, "(element), , (element) " is permitted, but counts as only two elements. Therefore, where at least one element is required, at least one non-null element MUST be present. Default values are 0 and infinity so that "#element" allows any number, including zero; "1#element" requires at least one; and "1#2element" allows one or two.

; comment

  • A semi-colon, set off some distance to the right of rule text, starts a comment that continues to the end of line. This is a simple way of including useful notes in parallel with the specifications.

implied *LWS

  • The grammar described by this specification is word-based. Except where noted otherwise, linear white space (LWS) can be included between any two adjacent words (token or quoted-string), and between adjacent words and separators, without changing the interpretation of a field. At least one delimiter (LWS and/or separators) MUST exist between any two tokens (for the definition of "token" below), since they would otherwise be interpreted as a single token.

2.2. Basic Rules

The following rules are used throughout this specification to describe basic parsing constructs. The US-ASCII coded character set is defined by ANSI X3.4-1986 [21].

       OCTET          = <any 8-bit sequence of data>
       CHAR           = <any US-ASCII character (octets 0 - 127)>
       UPALPHA        = <any US-ASCII uppercase letter "A".."Z">
       LOALPHA        = <any US-ASCII lowercase letter "a".."z">
       ALPHA          = UPALPHA | LOALPHA
       DIGIT          = <any US-ASCII digit "0".."9">
       CTL            = <any US-ASCII control character
                        (octets 0 - 31) and DEL (127)>
       CR             = <US-ASCII CR, carriage return (13)>
       LF             = <US-ASCII LF, linefeed (10)>
       SP             = <US-ASCII SP, space (32)>
       HT             = <US-ASCII HT, horizontal-tab (9)>
       <">            = <US-ASCII double-quote mark (34)>

HTTP/1.1 defines the sequence CR LF as the end-of-line marker for all protocol elements except the entity-body (see Appendix C for tolerant applications). The end-of-line marker within an entity-body is defined by its associated media type, as described in Section 3.7.

       CRLF           = CR LF

HTTP/1.1 header field values can be folded onto multiple lines if the continuation line begins with a space or horizontal tab. All linear white space, including folding, has the same semantics as SP. A recipient MAY replace any linear white space with a single SP before interpreting the field value or forwarding the message downstream.

       LWS            = [CRLF] 1*( SP | HT )

The TEXT rule is only used for descriptive field contents and values that are not intended to be interpreted by the message parser. Words of *TEXT MAY contain characters from character sets other than ISO-8859-1 [22] only when encoded according to the rules of RFC 2047 [14].

       TEXT           = <any OCTET except CTLs,
                        but including LWS>

A CRLF is allowed in the definition of TEXT only as part of a header field continuation. It is expected that the folding LWS will be replaced with a single SP before interpretation of the TEXT value.

Hexadecimal numeric characters are used in several protocol elements.

       HEX            = "A" | "B" | "C" | "D" | "E" | "F"
                      | "a" | "b" | "c" | "d" | "e" | "f" | DIGIT

Many HTTP/1.1 header field values consist of words separated by LWS or special characters. These special characters MUST be in a quoted string to be used within a parameter value (as defined in Section 3.6).

       token          = 1*<any CHAR except CTLs or separators>
       separators     = "(" | ")" | "<" | ">" | "@"
                      | "," | ";" | ":" | "\" | <">
                      | "/" | "[" | "]" | "?" | "="
                      | "{" | "}" | SP | HT

Comments can be included in some HTTP header fields by surrounding the comment text with parentheses. Comments are only allowed in fields containing "comment" as part of their field value definition. In all other fields, parentheses are considered part of the field value.

       comment        = "(" *( ctext | quoted-pair | comment ) ")"
       ctext          = <any TEXT excluding "(" and ")">

A string of text is parsed as a single word if it is quoted using double-quote marks.

       quoted-string  = ( <"> *(qdtext | quoted-pair ) <"> )
       qdtext         = <any TEXT except <">>

The backslash character ("\") MAY be used as a single-character quoting mechanism only within quoted-string and comment constructs.

3. Protocol Parameters

3.1. HTTP Version

HTTP uses a "<major>.<minor>" numbering scheme to indicate versions of the protocol. The protocol versioning policy is intended to allow the sender to indicate the format of a message and its capacity for understanding further HTTP communication, rather than the features obtained via that communication. No change is made to the version number for the addition of message components which do not affect communication behavior or which only add to extensible field values. The <minor> number is incremented when the changes made to the protocol add features which do not change the general message parsing algorithm, but which may add to the message semantics and imply additional capabilities of the sender. The <major> number is incremented when the format of a message within the protocol is changed. See RFC 2145 [36] for a fuller explanation.

The version of an HTTP message is indicated by an HTTP-Version field in the first line of the message.

       HTTP-Version   = "HTTP" "/" 1*DIGIT "." 1*DIGIT

Note that the major and minor numbers MUST be treated as separate integers and that each MAY be incremented higher than a single digit. Thus, HTTP/2.4 is a lower version than HTTP/2.13, which in turn is lower than HTTP/12.3. Leading zeros MUST be ignored by recipients and MUST NOT be sent.

An application that sends a request or response message that includes HTTP-Version of "HTTP/1.1" MUST be at least conditionally compliant with this specification. Applications that are at least conditionally compliant with this specification SHOULD use an HTTP-Version of "HTTP/1.1" in their messages, and MUST do so for any message that is not compatible with HTTP/1.0. For more details on when to send specific HTTP-Version values, see RFC 2145 [36].

The HTTP version of an application is the highest HTTP version for which the application is at least conditionally compliant.

Proxy and gateway applications need to be careful when forwarding messages in protocol versions different from that of the application. Since the protocol version indicates the protocol capability of the sender, a proxy/gateway MUST NOT send a message with a version indicator which is greater than its actual version. If a higher version request is received, the proxy/gateway MUST either downgrade the request version, or respond with an error, or switch to tunnel behavior.

Due to interoperability problems with HTTP/1.0 proxies discovered since the publication of RFC 2068 [33], caching proxies MUST, gateways MAY, and tunnels MUST NOT upgrade the request to the highest version they support. The proxy/gateway's response to that request MUST be in the same major version as the request.

  • Note: Converting between versions of HTTP may involve modification of header fields required or forbidden by the versions involved.

3.2. Uniform Resource Identifiers

URIs have been known by many names: WWW addresses, Universal Document Identifiers, Universal Resource Identifiers [3], and finally the combination of Uniform Resource Locators (URL) [4] and Names (URN) [20]. As far as HTTP is concerned, Uniform Resource Identifiers are simply formatted strings which identify--via name, location, or any other characteristic--a resource.

3.2.1. General Syntax

URIs in HTTP can be represented in absolute form or relative to some known base URI [11], depending upon the context of their use. The two forms are differentiated by the fact that absolute URIs always begin with a scheme name followed by a colon. For definitive information on URL syntax and semantics, see "Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax and Semantics," RFC 2396 [42] (which replaces RFCs 1738 [4] and RFC 1808 [11]). This specification adopts the definitions of "URI-reference", "absoluteURI", "relativeURI", "port", "host","abs_path", "rel_path", and "authority" from that specification.

The HTTP protocol does not place any a priori limit on the length of a URI. Servers MUST be able to handle the URI of any resource they serve, and SHOULD be able to handle URIs of unbounded length if they provide GET-based forms that could generate such URIs. A server SHOULD return 414 (Request-URI Too Long) status if a URI is longer than the server can handle (see Section 10.4.15).

  • Note: Servers ought to be cautious about depending on URI lengths above 255 bytes, because some older client or proxy implementations might not properly support these lengths.

3.2.2. http URL

The "http" scheme is used to locate network resources via the HTTP protocol. This section defines the scheme-specific syntax and semantics for http URLs.

   http_URL = "http:" "//" host [ ":" port ] [ abs_path [ "?" query ]]

If the port is empty or not given, port 80 is assumed. The semantics are that the identified resource is located at the server listening for TCP connections on that port of that host, and the Request-URI for the resource is abs_path (section 5.1.2). The use of IP addresses in URLs SHOULD be avoided whenever possible (see RFC 1900 [24]). If the abs_path is not present in the URL, it MUST be given as "/" when used as a Request-URI for a resource (section 5.1.2). If a proxy receives a host name which is not a fully qualified domain name, it MAY add its domain to the host name it received. If a proxy receives a fully qualified domain name, the proxy MUST NOT change the host name.

3.2.3. URI Comparison

When comparing two URIs to decide if they match or not, a client SHOULD use a case-sensitive octet-by-octet comparison of the entire URIs, with these exceptions:

  • A port that is empty or not given is equivalent to the default port for that URI-reference;
  • Comparisons of host names MUST be case-insensitive;
  • Comparisons of scheme names MUST be case-insensitive;
  • An empty abs_path is equivalent to an abs_path of "/".

Characters other than those in the "reserved" and "unsafe" sets (see RFC 2396 [42]) are equivalent to their ""%" HEX HEX" encoding.

For example, the following three URIs are equivalent:

3.3. Date/Time Formats

3.3.1. Full Date

HTTP applications have historically allowed three different formats for the representation of date/time stamps:

      Sun, 06 Nov 1994 08:49:37 GMT  ; RFC 822, updated by RFC 1123
      Sunday, 06-Nov-94 08:49:37 GMT ; RFC 850, obsoleted by RFC 1036
      Sun Nov  6 08:49:37 1994       ; ANSI C's asctime() format

The first format is preferred as an Internet standard and represents a fixed-length subset of that defined by RFC 1123 [8] (an update to RFC 822 [9]). The second format is in common use, but is based on the obsolete RFC 850 [12] date format and lacks a four-digit year. HTTP/1.1 clients and servers that parse the date value MUST accept all three formats (for compatibility with HTTP/1.0), though they MUST only generate the RFC 1123 format for representing HTTP-date values in header fields. See Appendix C for further information.

  • Note: Recipients of date values are encouraged to be robust in accepting date values that may have been sent by non-HTTP applications, as is sometimes the case when retrieving or posting messages via proxies/gateways to SMTP or NNTP.

All HTTP date/time stamps MUST be represented in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), without exception. For the purposes of HTTP, GMT is exactly equal to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). This is indicated in the first two formats by the inclusion of "GMT" as the three-letter abbreviation for time zone, and MUST be assumed when reading the asctime format. HTTP-date is case sensitive and MUST NOT include additional LWS beyond that specifically included as SP in the grammar.

       HTTP-date    = rfc1123-date | rfc850-date | asctime-date
       rfc1123-date = wkday "," SP date1 SP time SP "GMT"
       rfc850-date  = weekday "," SP date2 SP time SP "GMT"
       asctime-date = wkday SP date3 SP time SP 4DIGIT
       date1        = 2DIGIT SP month SP 4DIGIT
                      ; day month year (e.g., 02 Jun 1982)
       date2        = 2DIGIT "-" month "-" 2DIGIT
                      ; day-month-year (e.g., 02-Jun-82)
       date3        = month SP ( 2DIGIT | ( SP 1DIGIT ))
                      ; month day (e.g., Jun  2)
       time         = 2DIGIT ":" 2DIGIT ":" 2DIGIT
                      ; 00:00:00 - 23:59:59
       wkday        = "Mon" | "Tue" | "Wed"
                    | "Thu" | "Fri" | "Sat" | "Sun"
       weekday      = "Monday" | "Tuesday" | "Wednesday"
                    | "Thursday" | "Friday" | "Saturday" | "Sunday"
       month        = "Jan" | "Feb" | "Mar" | "Apr"
                    | "May" | "Jun" | "Jul" | "Aug"
                    | "Sep" | "Oct" | "Nov" | "Dec"

Note: HTTP requirements for the date/time stamp format apply only to their usage within the protocol stream. Clients and servers are not required to use these formats for user presentation, request logging, etc.

3.3.2. Delta Seconds

Some HTTP header fields allow a time value to be specified as an integer number of seconds, represented in decimal, after the time that the message was received.

       delta-seconds  = 1*DIGIT

3.4. Character Sets

HTTP uses the same definition of the term "character set" as that described for MIME:

The term "character set" is used in this document to refer to a method used with one or more tables to convert a sequence of octets into a sequence of characters. Note that unconditional conversion in the other direction is not required, in that not all characters may be available in a given character set and a character set may provide more than one sequence of octets to represent a particular character. This definition is intended to allow various kinds of character encoding, from simple single-table mappings such as US-ASCII to complex table switching methods such as those that use ISO-2022's techniques. However, the definition associated with a MIME character set name MUST fully specify the mapping to be performed from octets to characters. In particular, use of external profiling information to determine the exact mapping is not permitted.

  • Note: This use of the term "character set" is more commonly referred to as a "character encoding." However, since HTTP and MIME share the same registry, it is important that the terminology also be shared.

HTTP character sets are identified by case-insensitive tokens. The complete set of tokens is defined by the IANA Character Set registry [19].