Sunday, 15 February 2015

Post 28: Content Type Negotiation on the Internet

HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) describes a flexible, generic protocol for moving high-fidelity information on the internet. In order to do this all participants (clients/browser and servers) have to know how to interpret the information correctly. The media type that is passed around is not fixed but can be negotiated by the participants. Meaning a resource identified by one and the same URL can have multiple representations.

For example: One webpage can be displayed in different languages dependent on which country the user is surfing. Or the same content can also be displayed in PDF, HTML, or plain text depending on the media type the browser is willing to accept or prefer.

When the browser sends an HTTP request of an URL to a host,  it specifies what media type it is willing to accept. It's up to the server to satisfy the browser's request. For example if the browser asks for a PDF file but the server only has got a plain text file, then the server will send the plain text file even though the browser asked for another filetype simply because the server has got only this file type. However if the server has got a PDF file and a plain text file and the browser happens to accept PDF files above all other files, then the server will send the PDF file instead of the plain text file.

Source(s):
HTTP Succinctly by Scott Allen Syncfusion
Wikipedia
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