12.2 Agent-driven Negotiation

With agent-driven negotiation, selection of the best representation for a response is performed by the user agent after receiving an initial response from the origin server. Selection is based on a list of the available representations of the response included within the header fields or entity-body of the initial response, with each representation identified by its own URI. Selection from among the representations may be performed automatically (if the user agent is capable of doing so) or manually by the user selecting from a generated (possibly hypertext) menu.

Agent-driven negotiation is advantageous when the response would vary over commonly-used dimensions (such as type, language, or encoding), when the origin server is unable to determine a user agent's capabilities from examining the request, and generally when public caches are used to distribute server load and reduce network usage.

Agent-driven negotiation suffers from the disadvantage of needing a second request to obtain the best alternate representation. This second request is only efficient when caching is used. In addition, this specification does not define any mechanism for supporting automatic selection, though it also does not prevent any such mechanism from being developed as an extension and used within HTTP/1.1.

HTTP/1.1 defines the 300 (Multiple Choices) and 406 (Not Acceptable) status codes for enabling agent-driven negotiation when the server is unwilling or unable to provide a varying response using server-driven negotiation.