Do I need a content-type header for HTTP GET requests?

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Top 5 Answer for Do I need a content-type header for HTTP GET requests?

vote vote

97

According to the RFC 7231 section 3.1.5.5:

A sender that generates a message containing a payload body SHOULD generate a Content-Type header field in that message unless the intended media type of the enclosed representation is unknown to the sender. If a Content-Type header field is not present, the recipient MAY either assume a media type of "application/octet-stream" ([RFC2046], Section 4.5.1) or examine the data to determine its type.

It means that the Content-Type HTTP header should be set only for PUT and POST requests.

vote vote

84

Get requests should not have content-type because they do not have request entity (that is, a body)

vote vote

78

GET requests can have "Accept" headers, which say which types of content the client understands. The server can then use that to decide which content type to send back.

They're optional though.

http://www.w3.org/Protocols/rfc2616/rfc2616-sec14.html#sec14.1

vote vote

63

The accepted answer is wrong. The quote is correct, the assertion that PUT and POST must have it is incorrect. There is no requirement that PUT or POST actually have additional content. Nor is there a prohibition against GET actually having content.

The RFCs say exactly what they mean .. IFF your side (client OR origin server) will be sending additional content, beyond the HTTP headers, it SHOULD specify a Content-Type header. But note it is allowable to omit the Content-Type and still include content (say, by using a Content-Length header).

vote vote

50

Short answer: Most likely, no you do not need a content-type header for HTTP GET requests. But the specs does not seem to rule out a content-type header for HTTP GET, either.

Supporting materials:

  1. "Content-Type" is part of the representation (i.e. payload) metadata. Quoted from RFC 7231 section 3.1:

    3.1. Representation Metadata

    Representation header fields provide metadata about the representation. When a message includes a payload body, the representation header fields describe how to interpret the representation data enclosed in the payload body. ...

    The following header fields convey representation metadata:

    +-------------------+-----------------+ | Header Field Name | Defined in...   | +-------------------+-----------------+ | Content-Type      | Section 3.1.1.5 | | ...               | ...             | 

    Quoted from RFC 7231 section 3.1.1.5(by the way, the current chosen answer had a typo in the section number):

    The "Content-Type" header field indicates the media type of the associated representation

  2. In that sense, a Content-Type header is not really about an HTTP GET request (or a POST or PUT request, for that matter). It is about the payload inside such a whatever request. So, if there will be no payload, there needs no Content-Type. In practice, some implementation went ahead and made that understandable assumption. Quoted from Adam's comment:

    "While ... the spec doesn't say you can't have Content-Type on a GET, .Net seems to enforce it in it's HttpClient. See this SO q&a."

  3. However, strictly speaking, the specs itself does not rule out the possibility of HTTP GET contains a payload. Quoted from RFC 7231 section 4.3.1:

    4.3.1 GET

    ...

    A payload within a GET request message has no defined semantics; sending a payload body on a GET request might cause some existing implementations to reject the request.

    So, if your HTTP GET happens to include a payload for whatever reason, a Content-Type header is probably reasonable, too.

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