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From Dirk-Willem van Gulik <>
Subject Re: Any standard on picking a response status out of several possible?
Date Wed, 10 Nov 2010 15:42:07 GMT

On 10 Nov 2010, at 14:42, Dan Poirier wrote:

> If multiple response statuses would be valid for a request (e.g. 403,
> 413), is there any standard on how to pick one?  I looked through RFC
> 2616 but didn't see anything.  Or is it just an implementation detail?

This was subject of a fair bit of debate at the time; and from what I recall it was tried
to reduce this to a non issue (i.e. letting the implementor make the call) by fairly carefully
having the 2x/3x and 4x meaning right (success, retry with extra info and no-go) - along with
making sure that the higher numbers are increasingly more narrow in their scope - with the
assumption that implementors would only use those if the semantics where truly applicable
and 'actionable' by a client.

Guess that does not answer the question - but in your example 403 (forbidden) vs 413 (too
large) - one probably wants to ask the question - is there anything the client can do (perhaps
change some POST/form parameter to reduce the requested size) - or is it purely forbidden
because if its size. If it is the first I'd do a 413 (so smarter clients can reduce what they
get) and distinguish it form a 403 lost case - while if it is the latter - a 403 will be more
meaningful to a wider range of clients.

Hope that helps,

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