13.1.6 Client-controlled Behavior

While the origin server (and to a lesser extent, intermediate caches, by their contribution to the age of a response) are the primary source of expiration information, in some cases the client might need to control a cache's decision about whether to return a cached response without validating it. Clients do this using several directives of the Cache-Control header.

A client's request MAY specify the maximum age it is willing to accept of an unvalidated response; specifying a value of zero forces the cache(s) to revalidate all responses. A client MAY also specify the minimum time remaining before a response expires. Both of these options increase constraints on the behavior of caches, and so cannot further relax the cache's approximation of semantic transparency.

A client MAY also specify that it will accept stale responses, up to some maximum amount of staleness. This loosens the constraints on the caches, and so might violate the origin server's specified constraints on semantic transparency, but might be necessary to support disconnected operation, or high availability in the face of poor connectivity.