HTTP headers are a way to send additional information in an HTTP request or response. They are used to provide information about the request or response, such as the type of data being sent, the client's preferred language, and the state of the connection.
Headers are sent as name-value pairs, with the name on the left and the value on the right. They are separated by a colon and a space. For example, the "Content-Type" header might be set to "application/json" to indicate that the data being sent is in JSON format.
There are two types of headers: request headers and response headers. Request headers are sent by the client to the server in an HTTP request and contain information about the client and the request, while response headers are sent by the server to the client in an HTTP response and contain information about the response and the server.
Some of the most common and important headers are:
- Content-Type: Indicates the type of data being sent in the request or response. For example, "application/json" for JSON data or "text/html" for HTML data.
- Accept: Indicates the type of data that the client can accept in the response. For example, "application/json" for JSON data or "text/html" for HTML data.
- Authorization: Indicates that the request requires authentication and provides the credentials for the client.
- Cookie: Indicates that the client is sending cookies to the server. Cookies are small pieces of data that are sent by the server to the client and stored on the client's device. They can be used to maintain state and track user sessions.
- User-Agent: Indicates the type of client making the request, such as a web browser or a specific version of a client application.
- Referer: Indicates the URL of the page that the client was on before making the request.
- Content-Length: Indicates the size of the request or response body in bytes.
- Connection: Indicates the state of the connection between the client and the server.
Headers are an important part of the HTTP protocol and are used to provide additional information and context about the request or response. They play a crucial role in the functioning of web services, APIs and applications, for example, the headers are used to set the authentication token and the content-type as well as to indicate the supported compression formats and caching policies. Understanding how headers work and how to use them correctly is an important part of web development and is crucial for building robust and secure web applications.