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Versions: 00 01 02 draft-ietf-httpbis-variants

Network Working Group                                      M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                                    Fastly
Updates: 7234 (if approved)                             October 30, 2017
Intended status: Standards Track
Expires: May 3, 2018


                      HTTP Representation Variants
                      draft-nottingham-variants-01

Abstract

   This specification introduces the HTTP "Variants" response header
   field to communicate what representations are available for a given
   resource, and the companion "Variant-Key" response header field to
   indicate which representation was selected.  It is an augmentation of
   the "Vary" mechanism in HTTP caching.

Note to Readers

   _RFC EDITOR: please remove this section before publication_

   The issues list for this draft can be found at
   https://github.com/mnot/I-D/labels/variants [1].

   The most recent (often, unpublished) draft is at
   https://mnot.github.io/I-D/variants/ [2].

   Recent changes are listed at https://github.com/mnot/I-D/commits/gh-
   pages/variants [3].

   See also the draft's current status in the IETF datatracker, at
   https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-nottingham-variants/ [4].

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/current/.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."



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   This Internet-Draft will expire on May 3, 2018.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2017 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (https://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Notational Conventions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   2.  The "Variants" HTTP Header Field  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     2.1.  Relationship to Vary  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   3.  The "Variant-Key" HTTP Header Field . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   4.  Defining Content Negotiation Using Variants . . . . . . . . .   7
   5.  Cache Behaviour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     5.1.  Find Available Keys . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     5.2.  Example of Cache Behaviour  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   6.  Example Headers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     6.1.  Single Variant  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     6.2.  Multiple Variants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     6.3.  Partial Coverage  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   8.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   9.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   10. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     10.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     10.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     10.3.  URIs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   Appendix A.  Variants for Existing Content Negotiation Mechanisms  14
     A.1.  Accept-Encoding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     A.2.  Accept-Language . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15








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1.  Introduction

   HTTP proactive content negotiation ([RFC7231], Section 3.4.1) is
   starting to be used more widely again.  The most widely seen use -
   determining a response's content-coding - is being joined by renewed
   interest in negotiation for language and other, newer attributes (for
   example, see [I-D.ietf-httpbis-client-hints]).

   Successfully reusing negotiated responses that have been stored in a
   HTTP cache requires establishment of a secondary cache key
   ([RFC7234], Section 4.1) using the Vary header ([RFC7231],
   Section 7.1.4), which identifies the request headers that form the
   secondary cache key for a given response.

   HTTP's caching model allows a certain amount of latitude in
   normalising request header fields identified by Vary to match those
   stored in the cache, so as to increase the chances of a cache hit
   while still respecting the semantics of that header.  However, this
   is often inadequate; even with understanding of the headers'
   semantics to facilitate such normalisation, a cache does not know
   enough about the possible alternative representations available on
   the origin server to make an appropriate decision.

   For example, if a cache has stored the following request/response
   pair:

   GET /foo HTTP/1.1
   Host: www.example.com
   Accept-Language: en;q=1.0, fr;q=0.5

   HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: text/html
   Content-Language: fr
   Vary: Accept-Language
   Transfer-Encoding: chunked

   [French content]

   Provided that the cache has full knowledge of the semantics of
   Accept-Language and Content-Language, it will know that a French
   representation is available and might be able to infer that an
   English representation is not available.  But, it does not know (for
   example) whether a Japanese representation is available without
   making another request, thereby incurring possibly unnecessary
   latency.

   This specification introduces the HTTP Variants response header field
   (Section 2) to enumerate the available variant representations on the



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   origin server, to provide clients and caches with enough information
   to properly satisfy requests - either by selecting a response from
   cache or by forwarding the request towards the origin - by following
   an algorithm defined in Section 5.

   Its companion the Variant-Key response header field (Section 3)
   indicates which representation was selected, so that it can be
   reliably reused in the future.

   This mechanism requires that proactive content negotiation mechanisms
   define how they use it; see Section 4.  It is best suited for
   negotiation over request headers that are well-understood.  It also
   works best when content negotiation takes place over a constrained
   set of representations; since each variant needs to be listed in the
   header field, it is ill-suited for open-ended sets of
   representations.

   It can be seen as a simpler version of the Alternates header field
   introduced by [RFC2295]; unlike that mechanism, Variants does not
   require specification of each combination of attributes, and does not
   assume that each combination has a unique URL.

1.1.  Notational Conventions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   This specification uses the Augmented Backus-Naur Form (ABNF)
   notation of [RFC5234] with a list extension, defined in Section 7 of
   [RFC7230], that allows for compact definition of comma-separated
   lists using a '#' operator (similar to how the '*' operator indicates
   repetition).

   Additionally, it uses the "field-name", "OWS" and "token" rules from
   [RFC7230].

2.  The "Variants" HTTP Header Field

   The Variants HTTP response header field indicates what
   representations are available for a given resource at the time that
   the response is produced, by enumerating the request header fields
   that it varies on, along with the values that are available for each.






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   Variants        = 1#variant-item
   variant-item    = field-name *( OWS ";" OWS available-value )
   available-value = token

   Each "variant-item" indicates a request header field that carries a
   value that clients might proactively negotiate for; each parameter on
   it indicates a value for which there is an available representation
   on the origin server.

   So, given this example header field:

   Variants: Accept-Encoding;gzip

   a recipient can infer that the only content-coding available for that
   resource is "gzip" (along with the "identity" non-encoding; see
   Appendix A.1).

   Given:

   Variants: accept-encoding

   a recipient can infer that no content-codings (beyond identity) are
   supported.  Note that as always, field-name is case-insensitive.

   A more complex example:

   Variants: Accept-Encoding;gzip;br, Accept-Language;en ;fr

   Here, recipients can infer that two content-codings in addition to
   "identity" are available, as well as two content languages.  Note
   that, as with all HTTP header fields that use the "#" list rule (see
   [RFC7230], Section 7), they might occur in the same header field or
   separately, like this:

   Variants: Accept-Encoding;gzip;brotli
   Variants: Accept-Language;en ;fr

   The ordering of available-values after the field-name is significant,
   as it might be used by the header's algorithm for selecting a
   response (see Appendix A.1 for an example of this).

   The ordering of the request header fields themselves indicates
   descending application of preferences; for example, in the headers
   above, a cache will serve gzip'd content regardless of language if it
   is available.

   Origin servers SHOULD consistently send Variant header fields on all
   cacheable (as per [RFC7234], Section 3) responses for a resource,



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   since its absence will trigger caches to fall back to Vary
   processing.

   Likewise, servers MUST send the Variant-Key response header field
   when sending Variants.

2.1.  Relationship to Vary

   Caches that fully implement this specification SHOULD ignore request
   header fields in the "Vary" header for the purposes of secondary
   cache key calculation ([RFC7234], Section 4.1) when their semantics
   are implemented as per this specification and their corresponding
   response header field is listed in "Variants".

   If any member of the Vary header does not have a corresponding
   variant that is understood by the implementation, it is still subject
   to the requirements there.

3.  The "Variant-Key" HTTP Header Field

   The Variant-Key HTTP response header field is used to indicate the
   value(s) from the Variants header field that identify the
   representation it occurs within.

   Variant-Key     = 1#available-value

   Each value indicates the selected available-value, in the same order
   as the variants listed in the Variants header field.

   Therefore, Variant-Key MUST be the same length (in comma-separated
   members) as Variants, and each member MUST correspond in position to
   its companion in Variants.

   For example:

   Variants: Content-Encoding;gzip;br, Content-Language;en ;fr
   Variant-Key: gzip, fr

   This header pair indicates that the representation is used for
   responses that have a "gzip" content-coding and "fr" content-
   language.

   Note that the contents of Variant-Key are only used to indicate what
   request attributes are identified with the response containing it;
   this is different from headers like Content-Encoding, which indicate
   attributes of the response.  In the example above, it might be that a
   gzip'd version of the French content is not available, in which case




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   it will not include "Content-Encoding: gzip", but still have "gzip"
   in Variant-Key.

4.  Defining Content Negotiation Using Variants

   To be usable with Variants, proactive content negotiation mechanisms
   need to be specified to take advantage of it.  Specifically, they:

   o  MUST define a request header field that advertises the clients
      preferences or capabilities, whose field-name SHOULD begin with
      "Accept-".

   o  MUST define the syntax of available-values that will occur in
      Variants and Variant-Key.

   o  MUST define an algorithm for selecting a result.  It MUST return a
      list of available-values that are suitable for the request, in
      order of preference, given the value of the request header
      nominated above and an available-values list from the Variants
      header.  If the result is an empty list, it implies that the cache
      cannot satisfy the request.

   Appendix A fulfils these requirements for some existing proactive
   content negotiation mechanisms in HTTP.

5.  Cache Behaviour

   Caches that implement the Variants header field and the relevant
   semantics of the field-name it contains can use that knowledge to
   either select an appropriate stored representation, or forward the
   request if no appropriate representation is stored.

   They do so by running this algorithm (or its functional equivalent)
   upon receiving a request, incoming-request:

   1.  Let selected-responses be a list of the stored responses suitable
       for reuse as defined in [RFC7234] Section 4, excepting the
       requirement to calculate a secondary cache key.

   2.  Order selected-responses by the "Date" header field, most recent
       to least recent.

   3.  If the freshest (as per [RFC7234], Section 4.2) has one or more
       "Variants" header field(s):

       1.  Select one member of selected_responses and let its
           "Variants" header field-value(s) be variants-header.  This




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           SHOULD be the most recent response, but MAY be from an older
           one as long as it is still fresh.

       2.  Let sorted-variants be an empty list.

       3.  For each variant in variants-header:

           1.  If variant's field-name corresponds to the response
               header field identified by a content negotiation
               mechanism that the implementation supports:

               1.  Let request-value be the field-value of the request
                   header field(s) identified by the content negotiation
                   mechanism.

               2.  Let available-values be a list containing all
                   available-value for the variant.

               3.  Let sorted-values be the result of running the
                   algorithm defined by the content negotiation
                   mechanism with request-value and available-values.

               4.  Append sorted-values to sorted-variants.

           At this point, sorted-variants will be a list of lists, each
           member of the top-level list corresponding to a variant-item
           in the Variants header field-value, containing zero or more
           items indicating available-values that are acceptable to the
           client, in order of preference, greatest to least.

       4.  If any member of sorted-variants is an empty list, stop
           processing and forward the request towards the origin, since
           an acceptable response is not stored in the cache.

       5.  Let sorted-keys be the result of running Find Available Keys
           (Section 5.1) on sorted-variants and two empty lists.

   This will result in a list of lists, where each member of the top-
   level list indicates, in preference order, a key for an acceptable
   response to the request.

   A Cache MAY satisfy the request with any response whose Variant-Key
   header corresponds to a member of sorted-keys; when doing so, it
   SHOULD use the most preferred available response.

   See also Section 2.1 regarding handling of Vary.





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5.1.  Find Available Keys

   Given sorted-variants, a list of lists, and key-stub, a list
   representing a partial key, and possible-keys, a list:

   1.  Let sorted-values be the first member of sorted-variants.

   2.  For each sorted-value in sorted-values:

       1.  Let this-key be a copy of key-stub.

       2.  Append sorted-value to this-key.

       3.  Let remaining-variants be a copy of all of the members of
           sorted-variants except the first.

       4.  If remaining-variants is empty, append this-key to possible-
           keys.

       5.  Else, run Find Available Keys on remaining-variants, this-key
           and possible-keys.

       6.  Return possible-keys.

5.2.  Example of Cache Behaviour

   For example, if the selected variants-header was:

   Variants: Accept-Language;en;fr,de, Accept-Encoding;gzip,br

   and the request contained the headers:

   Accept-Language: fr;q=1.0, en;q=0.1
   Accept-Encoding: gzip

   Then the sorted-variants would be:

 [
   ["fr", "en"]           // prefers French, will accept English
   ["gzip", "identity"]   // prefers gzip encoding, will accept identity
 ]

   Which means that the sorted-keys would be:








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   [
     ['fr', 'gzip'],
     ['fr', 'identity'],
     ['en', 'gzip'],
     ['en', 'identity']
   ]

   Representing a first preference of a French, gzip'd response.  Thus,
   if a cache has a response with:

   Variant-Key: fr, gzip

   it could be used to satisfy the first preference.  If not, responses
   corresponding to the other keys could be returned, or the request
   could be forwarded towards the origin.

6.  Example Headers

6.1.  Single Variant

   Given a request/response pair:

   GET /foo HTTP/1.1
   Host: www.example.com
   Accept-Language: en;q=1.0, fr;q=0.5

   HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: image/gif
   Content-Language: en
   Cache-Control: max-age=3600
   Variants: Content-Language;en;de
   Variant-Key: en
   Vary: Accept-Language
   Transfer-Encoding: chunked

   Upon receipt of this response, the cache knows that two
   representations of this resource are available, one with a "Content-
   Language" of "en", and another whose "Content-Language" is "de".

   Subsequent requests (while this response is fresh) will cause the
   cache to either reuse this response or forward the request, depending
   on what the selection algorithm determines.

   So, if a request with "en" in "Accept-Language" is received and its
   q-value indicates that it is acceptable, the stored response is used.
   A request that indicates that "de" is acceptable will be forwarded to
   the origin, thereby populating the cache.  A cache receiving a




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   request that indicates both languages are acceptable will use the
   q-value to make a determination of what response to return.

   A cache receiving a request that does not list either language as
   acceptable (or does not contain an Accept-Language at all) will
   return the "en" representation (possibly fetching it from the
   origin), since it is listed first in the "Variants" list.

   Note that "Accept-Language" is listed in Vary, to assure backwards-
   compatibility with caches that do not support "Variants".

6.2.  Multiple Variants

   A more complicated request/response pair:

   GET /bar HTTP/1.1
   Host: www.example.net
   Accept-Language: en;q=1.0, fr;q=0.5
   Accept-Encoding: gzip, br

   HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: image/gif
   Content-Language: en
   Content-Encoding: br
   Variants: Content-Language;en;jp;de
   Variants: Content-Encoding;br;gzip
   Variant-Key: en, br
   Vary: Accept-Language, Accept-Encoding
   Transfer-Encoding: chunked

   Here, the cache knows that there are two axes that the response
   varies upon; "Content-Language" and "Content-Encoding".  Thus, there
   are a total of six possible representations for the resource, and the
   cache needs to consider the selection algorithms for both axes.

   Upon a subsequent request, if both selection algorithms return a
   stored representation, it can be served from cache; otherwise, the
   request will need to be forwarded to origin.

6.3.  Partial Coverage

   Now, consider the previous example, but where only one of the Vary'd
   axes is listed in "Variants":








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   GET /bar HTTP/1.1
   Host: www.example.net
   Accept-Language: en;q=1.0, fr;q=0.5
   Accept-Encoding: gzip, br

   HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: image/gif
   Content-Language: en
   Content-Encoding: br
   Variants: Content-Encoding;br;gzip
   Variant-Key: br
   Vary: Accept-Language, Accept-Encoding
   Transfer-Encoding: chunked

   Here, the cache will need to calculate a secondary cache key as per
   [RFC7234], Section 4.1 - but considering only "Accept-Language" to be
   in its field-value - and then continue processing "Variants" for the
   set of stored responses that the algorithm described there selects.

7.  IANA Considerations

   This specification registers two values in the Permanent Message
   Header Field Names registry established by [RFC3864]:

   o  Header field name: Variants

   o  Applicable protocol: http

   o  Status: standard

   o  Author/Change Controller: IETF

   o  Specification document(s): [this document]

   o  Related information:

   o  Header field name: Variant-Key

   o  Applicable protocol: http

   o  Status: standard

   o  Author/Change Controller: IETF

   o  Specification document(s): [this document]

   o  Related information:




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8.  Security Considerations

   If the number or advertised characteristics of the representations
   available for a resource are considered sensitive, the "Variants"
   header by its nature will leak them.

   Note that the "Variants" header is not a commitment to make
   representations of a certain nature available; the runtime behaviour
   of the server always overrides hints like "Variants".

9.  Acknowledgments

   This protocol is conceptually similar to, but simpler than,
   Transparent Content Negotiation [RFC2295].  Thanks to its authors for
   their inspiration.

   It is also a generalisation of a Fastly VCL feature designed by
   Rogier 'DocWilco' Mulhuijzen.

   Thanks to Hooman Beheshti for his review and input.

10.  References

10.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2119>.

   [RFC4647]  Phillips, A. and M. Davis, "Matching of Language Tags",
              BCP 47, RFC 4647, DOI 10.17487/RFC4647, September 2006,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc4647>.

   [RFC5234]  Crocker, D., Ed. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
              Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5234, January 2008,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc5234>.

   [RFC7230]  Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing",
              RFC 7230, DOI 10.17487/RFC7230, June 2014,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7230>.

   [RFC7231]  Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
              Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Semantics and Content", RFC 7231,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7231, June 2014,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7231>.



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   [RFC7234]  Fielding, R., Ed., Nottingham, M., Ed., and J. Reschke,
              Ed., "Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Caching",
              RFC 7234, DOI 10.17487/RFC7234, June 2014,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7234>.

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8174>.

10.2.  Informative References

   [I-D.ietf-httpbis-client-hints]
              Grigorik, I., "HTTP Client Hints", draft-ietf-httpbis-
              client-hints-04 (work in progress), April 2017.

   [RFC2295]  Holtman, K. and A. Mutz, "Transparent Content Negotiation
              in HTTP", RFC 2295, DOI 10.17487/RFC2295, March 1998,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2295>.

   [RFC3864]  Klyne, G., Nottingham, M., and J. Mogul, "Registration
              Procedures for Message Header Fields", BCP 90, RFC 3864,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3864, September 2004,
              <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc3864>.

10.3.  URIs

   [1] https://github.com/mnot/I-D/labels/variants

   [2] https://mnot.github.io/I-D/variants/

   [3] https://github.com/mnot/I-D/commits/gh-pages/variants

   [4] https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-nottingham-variants/

Appendix A.  Variants for Existing Content Negotiation Mechanisms

   This appendix defines the required information to use existing
   proactive content negotiation mechanisms (as defined in [RFC7231],
   Section 5.3) with the "Variants" header field.

A.1.  Accept-Encoding

   This section defines handling for "Accept-Encoding" variants, as per
   [RFC7231] Section 5.3.4.

   To perform content negotiation for Accept-Encoding given an request-
   value and available-values:




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   1.  Let preferred-codings be a list of the codings in the request-
       value, ordered by their weight, highest to lowest, as per
       [RFC7231] Section 5.3.1 (omitting any coding with a weight of 0).
       If "Accept-Encoding" is not present or empty, preferred-codings
       will be empty.

   2.  If "identity" is not a member of preferred-codings, append
       "identity".

   3.  Append "identity" to available-values.

   4.  Remove any member of available-values not present in preferred-
       codings, comparing in a case-insensitive fashion.

   5.  Return available-values.

A.2.  Accept-Language

   This section defines handling for "Accept-Language" variants, as per
   [RFC7231] Section 5.3.5.

   To perform content negotiation for Accept-Language given an request-
   value and available-values:

   1.  Let preferred-langs be a list of the language-ranges in the
       request-value, ordered by their weight, highest to lowest, as per
       [RFC7231] Section 5.3.1 (omitting any language-range with a
       weight of 0).

   2.  If preferred-langs is empty, append "*".

   3.  Filter available-values using preferred-langs with either the
       Basic Filtering scheme defined in [RFC4647] Section 3.3.1, or the
       Lookup scheme defined in Section 3.4 of that document.  Use the
       first member of available-values as the default.

   4.  Return available-values.

Author's Address

   Mark Nottingham
   Fastly

   Email: mnot@mnot.net
   URI:   https://www.mnot.net/






Nottingham                 Expires May 3, 2018                 [Page 15]


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