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From "Dirk.vanGulik" <>
Subject Re: Apache 1.2b8 - invalid "HTML" from ErrorDocument (fwd)
Date Mon, 21 Apr 1997 07:45:06 GMT

> wish I'd never asked now...  ;-)
> Apache sends text/html for ErrorDocuments that are user defined strings..

Currently we do _NOT_ set the charset/language by default; because
we rather omit it than err once in a while.

This applies to ErrorDocuments as well. So I'd say; zap if you do
not know what the contents are.


> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 01:13:44 +0100 (BST)
> From: WWW server manager <>
> To: Rob Hartill <>
> Subject: Re: Apache 1.2b8 - invalid "HTML" from ErrorDocument
> > > Unless Apache is going to make some attempt at sending a complete HTML
> > > document (including encoding of characters in the string which need it)
> > > surely the response should be Content-Type: text/plain ?
> > 
> > Does it matter ?  :-)
> It depends on whether it's going to be processed by a client that accepts
> random junk or something that expects to see text/html when that's what
> the server tells it!
> > Seems completely harmless to me and useful if anyone decides to embed
> > HTML in the error text string.
> Yes, but it ought at least to be wrapped in appropriate HTML (trivial) and
> documented as being sent to the client unmodified so that the text had better
> be valid as HTML (e.g. person writing the config directive responsible for
> any &-escapes, etc.).
> The reason why it particularly irritated me was that the RewriteRule mistake
> I was investigating resulted in a totally unexpected 400 error complaining
> about an invalid request, yet seemed to be sending a 403 with error document
> when I tried it with telnet. (It turned out that a missing "/" combined
> with a buggy rewrite rule caused 400 in the browser cases - I automatically
> included the / without noticing, via telnet.)
> Anyway, the fact that I was being sent plain text mislabelled as text/html
> caused be to waste a substantial amount of time looking for entirely the wrong
> sort of problem - I thought there was some far more fundamental problem
> at work, with a bad interaction between ErrorDocument and the rewriting module.
> The whole point of the test that got sidetracked due to the trivial 
> mistake was to confirm that a rewrite rule returning "forbidden" would trigger 
> an ErrorDocument for status 403, and the fact that something was going 
> bizarrely wrong (status sometimes 400 instead of 403) combined with the wrong 
> Content-Type being sent led to the conclusion that something was *very* 
> seriously wrong. 
> It didn't occur to me that it might be a feature that the error document was
> mislabelled, since Apache is normally extremely good about doing The Right 
> Thing (tm). Though perhaps I should have heard alarm bells after reading 
> several complaints earlier (catching up on reading news) about problems due to 
> fancy indexes ending up with multiple <BODY> tags - but getting the 
> "string"-format ErrorDocument definitions handled right should be much easier 
> unless you want to allow people to put complete HTML documents in the string, 
> with all tags (in which case a filename would be more appropriate than a 
> string). Defining that the text must be appropriate for wrapping in 
> <HTML>
> <HEAD>
> <TITLE>(standard text for error code)</TITLE>
> </HEAD>
> <BODY>                                               
> <!-- maybe H1 heading here repeating the title -->
> <!-- ErrorDocument string here as unmodified text -->
> <ADDRESS><!-- configured contact address as mailto: URL -->
> </BODY>
> </HTML>
> would seem entirely reasonable, and that's roughly how I had always assumed 
> the text would be used.
> It's late & I'm tired, so this probably sounds more annoyed than I intend it to 
> be, but it did waste a fair bit of time (don't know how much, I wasn't watching 
> the clock). Basically, it was unexpected, seems to me to be wrong, and I 
> expected better from Apache. I used the simple string-format ErrorDocument
> as a quick testing aid (I'd normally use a proper document for "real" 
> ErrorDocuments), and it turned out to be a substantial hindrance rather than
> the simple and reliable tool I'd expected.
>                                         John
> -- 
> University of Cambridge WWW manager account (usually John Line)
> Send general WWW-related enquiries to

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