1.1 Purpose

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. HTTP has been in use by the World-Wide Web global information initiative since 1990. The first version of HTTP, referred to as HTTP/0.9, was a simple protocol for raw data transfer across the Internet. HTTP/1.0, as defined by RFC 1945 [6], improved the protocol by allowing messages to be in the format of MIME-like messages, containing metainformation about the data transferred and modifiers on the request/response semantics. However, HTTP/1.0 does not sufficiently take into consideration the effects of hierarchical proxies, caching, the need for persistent connections, or virtual hosts. In addition, the proliferation of incompletely-implemented applications calling themselves "HTTP/1.0" has necessitated a protocol version change in order for two communicating applications to determine each other's true capabilities.

This specification defines the protocol referred to as "HTTP/1.1". This protocol includes more stringent requirements than HTTP/1.0 in order to ensure reliable implementation of its features.

Practical information systems require more functionality than simple retrieval, including search, front-end update, and annotation. HTTP allows an open-ended set of methods and headers that indicate the purpose of a request [47]. It builds on the discipline of reference provided by the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) [3], as a location (URL) [4] or name (URN) [20], for indicating the resource to which a method is to be applied. Messages are passed in a format similar to that used by Internet mail [9] as defined by the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) [7].

HTTP is also used as a generic protocol for communication between user agents and proxies/gateways to other Internet systems, including those supported by the SMTP [16], NNTP [13], FTP [18], Gopher [2], and WAIS [10] protocols. In this way, HTTP allows basic hypermedia access to resources available from diverse applications.