Most HTTP responses include an entity which contains information for interpretation by a human user. Naturally, it is desirable to supply the user with the "best available" entity corresponding to the request. Unfortunately for servers and caches, not all users have the same preferences for what is "best," and not all user agents are equally capable of rendering all entity types. For that reason, HTTP has provisions for several mechanisms for "content negotiation" -- the process of selecting the best representation for a given response when there are multiple representations available.
Any response containing an entity-body MAY be subject to negotiation, including error responses.
There are two kinds of content negotiation which are possible in HTTP: server-driven and agent-driven negotiation. These two kinds of negotiation are orthogonal and thus may be used separately or in combination. One method of combination, referred to as transparent negotiation, occurs when a cache uses the agent-driven negotiation information provided by the origin server in order to provide server-driven negotiation for subsequent requests.