Month: June 2011

HTTP status codes

I was reading up on HTTP status codes, and I got a bad idea. There are a small number of official status codes, like the ubiquitous 404 (file not found), an even smaller number of less-official status codes, like 418 (I am a teapot), and a lot of undefined status codes.

So what happens if a browser gets an undefined status code? What if it gets a malformed code? Writing a simple test for this would be easy. It would just be a web app framework that returns whatever you pass it on the URL as the error code, so would get you HTTP OK, while would get you the undefined code 499.

I would hope that the browser runs the code past its short list of defined codes, doesn’t recognize it, and shows an error page to the user saying something like “The server returned an invalid error message. It may be misconfigured. Please try back later.”

However, some browsers may mishandle the message, and hand anything that starts off with, say, 2xx to the page renderer, whereupon things might go horribly awry. I hope modern browsers are immune to this sort of shenanigans, but it may be no one has beaten on them in that particular way.