HTTP A. Wright
Internet-Draft May 29, 2019
Intended status: Experimental
Expires: November 30, 2019

Reporting Progress of Long-Running Operations in HTTP


This document defines a mechanism for following the real-time progress of long-running operations over HTTP.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

HTTP is often used for making and observing the progress of long-running operations, including:

This document specifies a way to receive updates from the server on progress of such an operation, by defining a “progress” HTTP preference indicating the client would prefer to receive regular progress updates, a header for describing the current progress, and a 1xx intermediate status response to convey this progress information.

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 document uses ABNF as defined in [RFC5234] and imports grammar rules from [RFC7230] and [RFC8187].

Examples in this document may add whitespace for clarity, or omit some HTTP headers for brevity; requests and responses may require additional Host, Connection, and/or Content-Length headers to be properly received.

2. Status Document Workflow

The Status Document Workflow uses a status document that is related to a single request. This status document is updated with the status of the operation, until the operation completes, and then finalizes, specifying the results of the operation.

The server SHOULD keep the status document available for a period of time after the operation finishes.

2.1. Initial Request

To begin, the client makes the initial request with an unsafe method. For example, POST

If the server responds with the result of the operation, or a representation of the new state of the resource, the Content-Location header identifies where this document can be requested in the future.

Note that clients may make requests with all of the above preferences; they can all be honored at the same time, see below for an example.

2.2. Status Document Request

If the client received an operation status document from the initial unsafe request, it may make a GET request to this document to re-download the result of the request.

The client may do this for any reason, including:

If the client makes this request with the Prefer: processing preference, the server SHOULD send an initial 102 Processing header, and 102 Processing responses for every progress update until the operation completes.

If or when the operation completes, the server SHOULD include Status-URI and, if applicable, Status-Location headers specifying the status code and Location (if any) of the final response to the initial request.

2.3. Closing the Operation

The client MAY acknowledge it has reacted to the completed operation by issuing a DELETE request on the status document. Servers SHOULD limit requests on the status document to the user that issued the initial request.

Servers MAY delete the status document any time after the operation finishes, but SHOULD wait a period of time long enough for clients to check back on the operation on another business day.

2.4. Example

Clients may send any combination of preferences in a request. In this example, the client issues a POST request to capture a photograph of a scenic landscape by issuing a POST request to, and the server generates a status document for this request at

Prefer: processing, respond-async, wait=20

To which the server might reply:

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing
Location: <?request=42>
Progress: 0/3 "Herding cats"

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing
Progress: 1/3 "Knitting sweaters"

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing
Progress: 2/3 "Slaying dragons"

HTTP/1.1 201 Created
Progress: 3/3 "Available"
Location: </photos/42>
Content-Location: <?request=42>
Content-Type: text/plain

The photographer uploaded your image to:

If this same request took significantly longer (more than 20 seconds), then due to the respond-async preference, the response might look like this instead:

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing 
Progress: 0/3 "Herding cats"
Location: </status>

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing
Progress: 1/3 "Knitting sweaters"

HTTP/1.1 202 Accepted
Location: </status>
Content-Location: </status>
Content-Type: text/plain

The photographer is on step 2: Knitting sweaters

The client can re-subscribe to updates by making a GET request to the status document with Prefer: processing:

Prefer: processing, respond-async, wait=20

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing
Progress: 1/3 "Knitting sweaters"

HTTP/1.1 102 Processing
Progress: 2/3 "Slaying dragons"

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Progress: 3/3 "Available"
Status-URI: 201 </capture>
Status-Location: </photos/42>
Content-Type: text/plain

The photographer uploaded your image to:

3. Definitions

3.1. The “102 Processing” status code

The 102 (Processing) status code is an interim response used to inform the client that the server has accepted the request, but has not yet completed it. This status code SHOULD send this status when the request could potentially take long enough to time out connections due to inactivity, or when there is new progress to report via a Progress or Status-URI header.

The 102 Processing status was first described by WebDAV in [RFC2518], but was not included in subsequent revisions of WebDAV for lack of implementations. This document updates the semantics of the “102 Processing” status code first defined there.

3.1.1. Use of the “Location” header in 102 Processing

The meaning of a Location header [RFC7231] is the same as in a 202 Accepted response: It identifies a document that will be updated with the progress, current status, and result of the operation.

A Location header SHOULD be sent in the first 102 Processing response, as well as the 202 Accepted response to the same request.

3.2. The “Progress” header

The “Progress” header is used to indicate the current progress on an operation being run by the origin server. Use of this header implies the server supports 102 Processing responses and the processing preference.

Progress        = 1*DIGIT "/" [ 1*DIGIT ] [ WS progress-remark ]
progress-remark = comment / quoted-string / ext-value
comment         = <comment, see [RFC7230], Section 3.2.6>
quoted-string   = <quoted-string, see [RFC7230], Section 3.2.6>
ext-value       = <ext-value, see [RFC8187]>

The Progress header includes three datum: A numerator, a denominator, and a message.

The numerator specifies the number of sub-operations that have completed. The numerator MUST NOT decrease in value.

The denominator specifies the total expected operations to be completed before a final status code can be delivered. If specified, the denominator MUST NOT be smaller than the numerator. If the length of the operation is unknown, it may be omitted. If additional tasks need to be performed, the denominator MAY increase.

The message is some sort of remark indicating the current task being carried out. If multiple files are being operated on, this might refer to the most recent file to be opened. Three forms are provided:

Example usage:

Progress: 0/1
Progress: 88020/85918489 (bytes)
Progress: 5/16 UTF-8'ja-JP'%e9%a3%9f%e3%81%b9%e3%81%a6
Progress: 3/20 "POST"

3.3. The “Status-URI” header

The Status-URI header reports the status of an operation performed on a resource by another request.

The Status-URI header MAY be used any number of times in a 101 Processing response to report the result of a subordinate operation for the request.

The Status-URI header SHOULD be used to report the final response status that the status document is about.

Status-URI    = #status-pair
status-pair   = status-code OWS "<" URI-Reference ">"
status-code   = <status-code, see [RFC7230], Section 3.1.2>
URI-Reference = <URI-reference, see [RFC7230], Section 2.7>

Example usage:

Status-URI: 507 <>
Status-URI: 200 <>

3.4. The “Status-Location” header

If the response is 200 OK and includes Progress, Status-URI, and Status-Location headers, and the progress numerator is the same as the denominator, then the document is a status document about a completed operation, and the Status-Location header identifies the URI of the resource that would have been identified by the Location header in the initial request. The meaning of the value of this header is dependent on the value of the status code from the Status-URI header.

The purpose of this header is to have a field that is semantically the same as the Location header on the initial response. This is slightly different than the Link header [RFC8288], which conveys a link relationship between documents.

This header is so named as it is the URI from a Location header in the final response to an initial request, that has since been copied to the response headers for the status document.

3.5. The “processing” preference

The “processing” HTTP preference [RFC7240] specifies if the server should emit 102 Processing status responses.

When performing a unsafe action, the server should emit intermediate 102 Processing responses until the action finishes.

In a GET or HEAD request to a status document, it means the client is only interested in the result of the operation that the status document is about, and the server should send 102 Processing updates until then. The respond-async and wait preferences are ignored here as the request is not performing an action.

4. Security Considerations

4.1. Status URIs

The fact that this operation produces a URI for each operation means that third parties can look at the requests being made by a user. Servers SHOULD ensure that only the user who made the request has access to the status document. Servers SHOULD generate URIs with sufficient entropy, although URIs supposed to be considered public knowledge (see HTTP).

4.2. Denial of Service

This may expose information about load, which may allow attackers to better exploit weak points already under stress. Servers with this functionality may make it cheap for server operators to accept work-intensive tasks. Usual precautions about mitigating denial-of-service attacks should be exercised.

5. References

5.1. 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.
[RFC5234] Crocker, D. and P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax Specifications: ABNF", STD 68, RFC 5234, DOI 10.17487/RFC5234, January 2008.
[RFC7230] Fielding, R. and J. Reschke, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing", RFC 7230, DOI 10.17487/RFC7230, June 2014.
[RFC7231] Fielding, R. and J. Reschke, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Semantics and Content", RFC 7231, DOI 10.17487/RFC7231, June 2014.
[RFC7240] Snell, J., "Prefer Header for HTTP", RFC 7240, DOI 10.17487/RFC7240, June 2014.
[RFC8174] Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, May 2017.
[RFC8187] Reschke, J., "Indicating Character Encoding and Language for HTTP Header Field Parameters", RFC 8187, DOI 10.17487/RFC8187, September 2017.

5.2. Informative References

[RFC2518] Goland, Y., Whitehead, E., Faizi, A., Carter, S. and D. Jensen, "HTTP Extensions for Distributed Authoring -- WEBDAV", RFC 2518, DOI 10.17487/RFC2518, February 1999.
[RFC8288] Nottingham, M., "Web Linking", RFC 8288, DOI 10.17487/RFC8288, October 2017.

Author's Address

Austin Wright EMail: