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content negotiation

Content negotiation is a mechanism defined in the HTTP specification that makes it possible to serve different versions of a document (or more generally, a resource) at the same URI, so that user agents can specify which version fit their capabilities the best. One classical use of this mechanism is to serve an image in GIF or PNG format, so that a browser that cannot display PNG images (e.g. MS Internet Explorer 4) will be served the GIF version. To summarize how this works, when a user agent submits a request to a server, the user agent informs the server what media types it understands with ratings of how well it understands them. More precisely, the user agent provides an Accept HTTP header that lists acceptable media types and associated quality factors. The server is then able to supply the version of the resource that best fits the user agent's needs. (Excerpt from Wikipedia article: Content negotiation)

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