Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia
1.3 Terminology

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1.3 Terminology

1.3 Terminology

This specification uses a number of terms to refer to the roles played by participants in, and objects of, the HTTP communication.

A transport layer virtual circuit established between two programs for the purpose of communication.

The basic unit of HTTP communication, consisting of a structured sequence of octets matching the syntax defined in section 4 and transmitted via the connection.

An HTTP request message, as defined in section 5.

An HTTP response message, as defined in section 6.

A network data object or service that can be identified by a URI, as defined in section 3.2. Resources may be available in multiple representations (e.g. multiple languages, data formats, size, resolutions) or vary in other ways.

The information transferred as the payload of a request or response. An entity consists of metainformation in the form of entity-header fields and content in the form of an entity-body, as described in section 7.

An entity included with a response that is subject to content negotiation, as described in section 12. There may exist multiple representations associated with a particular response status.

content negotiation
The mechanism for selecting the appropriate representation when servicing a request, as described in section 12. The representation of entities in any response can be negotiated (including error responses).

A resource may have one, or more than one, representation(s) associated with it at any given instant. Each of these representations is termed a `variant.' Use of the term `variant' does not necessarily imply that the resource is subject to content negotiation.

A program that establishes connections for the purpose of sending requests.

user agent
The client which initiates a request. These are often browsers, editors, spiders (web-traversing robots), or other end user tools.

An application program that accepts connections in order to service requests by sending back responses. Any given program may be capable of being both a client and a server; our use of these terms refers only to the role being performed by the program for a particular connection, rather than to the program's capabilities in general. Likewise, any server may act as an origin server, proxy, gateway, or tunnel, switching behavior based on the nature of each request.

origin server
The server on which a given resource resides or is to be created.

An intermediary program which acts as both a server and a client for the purpose of making requests on behalf of other clients. Requests are serviced internally or by passing them on, with possible translation, to other servers. A proxy must implement both the client and server requirements of this specification.

A server which acts as an intermediary for some other server. Unlike a proxy, a gateway receives requests as if it were the origin server for the requested resource; the requesting client may not be aware that it is communicating with a gateway.

An intermediary program which is acting as a blind relay between two connections. Once active, a tunnel is not considered a party to the HTTP communication, though the tunnel may have been initiated by an HTTP request. The tunnel ceases to exist when both ends of the relayed connections are closed.

A program's local store of response messages and the subsystem that controls its message storage, retrieval, and deletion. A cache stores cachable responses in order to reduce the response time and network bandwidth consumption on future, equivalent requests. Any client or server may include a cache, though a cache cannot be used by a server that is acting as a tunnel.

A response is cachable if a cache is allowed to store a copy of the response message for use in answering subsequent requests. The rules for determining the cachability of HTTP responses are defined in section 13. Even if a resource is cachable, there may be additional constraints on whether a cache can use the cached copy for a particular request.

A response is first-hand if it comes directly and without unnecessary delay from the origin server, perhaps via one or more proxies. A response is also first-hand if its validity has just been checked directly with the origin server.

explicit expiration time
The time at which the origin server intends that an entity should no longer be returned by a cache without further validation.

heuristic expiration time
An expiration time assigned by a cache when no explicit expiration time is available.

The age of a response is the time since it was sent by, or successfully validated with, the origin server.

freshness lifetime
The length of time between the generation of a response and its expiration time.

A response is fresh if its age has not yet exceeded its freshness lifetime.

A response is stale if its age has passed its freshness lifetime.

semantically transparent
A cache behaves in a "semantically transparent" manner, with respect to a particular response, when its use affects neither the requesting client nor the origin server, except to improve performance. When a cache is semantically transparent, the client receives exactly the same response (except for hop-by-hop headers) that it would have received had its request been handled directly by the origin server.

A protocol element (e.g., an entity tag or a Last-Modified time) that is used to find out whether a cache entry is an equivalent copy of an entity.

Next: 1.4 Overall Operation

Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia
1.3 Terminology