13.6 Caching Negotiated Responses

Use of server-driven content negotiation (Section 12.1), as indicated by the presence of a Vary header field in a response, alters the conditions and procedure by which a cache can use the response for subsequent requests. See Section 14.44 for use of the Vary header field by servers.

A server SHOULD use the Vary header field to inform a cache of what request-header fields were used to select among multiple representations of a cacheable response subject to server-driven negotiation. The set of header fields named by the Vary field value is known as the "selecting" request-headers.

When the cache receives a subsequent request whose Request-URI specifies one or more cache entries including a Vary header field, the cache MUST NOT use such a cache entry to construct a response to the new request unless all of the selecting request-headers present in the new request match the corresponding stored request-headers in the original request.

The selecting request-headers from two requests are defined to match if and only if the selecting request-headers in the first request can be transformed to the selecting request-headers in the second request by adding or removing linear white space (LWS) at places where this is allowed by the corresponding BNF, and/or combining multiple message-header fields with the same field name following the rules about message headers in Section 4.2.

A Vary header field-value of "*" always fails to match and subsequent requests on that resource can only be properly interpreted by the origin server.

If the selecting request header fields for the cached entry do not match the selecting request header fields of the new request, then the cache MUST NOT use a cached entry to satisfy the request unless it first relays the new request to the origin server in a conditional request and the server responds with 304 (Not Modified), including an entity tag or Content-Location that indicates the entity to be used.

If an entity tag was assigned to a cached representation, the forwarded request SHOULD be conditional and include the entity tags in an If-None-Match header field from all its cache entries for the resource. This conveys to the server the set of entities currently held by the cache, so that if any one of these entities matches the requested entity, the server can use the ETag header field in its 304 (Not Modified) response to tell the cache which entry is appropriate. If the entity-tag of the new response matches that of an existing entry, the new response SHOULD be used to update the header fields of the existing entry, and the result MUST be returned to the client.

If any of the existing cache entries contains only partial content for the associated entity, its entity-tag SHOULD NOT be included in the If-None-Match header field unless the request is for a range that would be fully satisfied by that entry.

If a cache receives a successful response whose Content-Location field matches that of an existing cache entry for the same Request- ]URI, whose entity-tag differs from that of the existing entry, and whose Date is more recent than that of the existing entry, the existing entry SHOULD NOT be returned in response to future requests and SHOULD be deleted from the cache.