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From Henrik Nordstrom <>
Subject Re: ETag and Content-Encoding
Date Wed, 03 Oct 2007 14:20:01 GMT
On ons, 2007-10-03 at 14:23 +0100, Nick Kew wrote:
> We have some controversy surrounding this bug, and bugzilla
> has turned into a technical discussion that belongs here.
> Fundamental question:  Does a weak ETag preclude (negotiated) 
> changes to Content-Encoding?

A weak etag means the response is semantically equivalent both at
protocol and content level, and may be exchanged freely.

Two resource variants with different content-encoding is not
semantically equivalent as the recipient may not be able to understand
an variant sent with an incompatible encoding.

Sending a weak ETag do not signal that there is negotiation taking place
(Vary does that), all it signals is that there may be multiple but fully
compatible versions of the entity variant in circulation, or that each
request results in a slightly different object where the difference has
no practical meaning (i.e. embedded non-important timestamp or similar).

> deflates the contents.  Rationale: a weak ETag promises
> equivalent but not byte-by-byte identical contents, and
> that's exactly what you have with mod_deflate.

I disagree. It's two very different entities.

Note: If mod_deflate is deterministic and always returning the exact
same encoded version then using a strong ETag is correct.

What this boils down to in the end is

a) HTTP must be able to tell if an already cached variant is valid for a
new request by using If-None-Match. This means that each negotiated
entity needs to use a different ETag value. Accept-Encoding is no
different in this any of the other inputs to content negotiation.

b) If the object undergo some transformation that is not deterministic
then the ETag must be weak to signify that byte-equivalence can not be

Note regarding a: The weak/strong property of the ETag has no
significance here. If-None-Match uses the weak comparision function
where only the value is compared, not the strength. See 13.3.3 paragraph
"The weak comparison function".


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