HTTP Client hints
Client hints are a set of HTTP request header fields that a server can proactively request from a client to get information about the device, network, user, and user-agent-specific preferences. The server can determine which resources to send, based on the information that the client chooses to provide.
The set of "hint" headers are listed in the topic HTTP Headers and summarized below.
A server must announce that it supports client hints, using the
Accept-CH header to specify the hints that it is interested in receiving.
When a client that supports client hints receives the
Accept-CH header it can choose to append some or all of the listed client hint headers in its subsequent requests.
For example, following
Accept-CH in a response below, the client could append
Sec-CH-UA headers to all subsequent requests.
Accept-CH: Width, Downlink, Sec-CH-UA
This approach is efficient in that the server only requests the information that it is able to usefully handle. It is also relatively "privacy-preserving", in that it is up to the client to decide what information it can safely share.
There is a small set of low entropy client hint headers that may be sent by a client even if not requested.
Note: Client hints can also be specified in HTML using the
<meta> element with the
<meta http-equiv="Accept-CH" content="Width, Downlink, Sec-CH-UA" />
Caching and Client Hints
Client hints that determine which resources are sent in responses should generally also be included in the affected response's
This ensures that a different resource is cached for every different value of the hint header.
Vary: Accept, Width, ECT
You may prefer to omit specifying
Vary or use some other strategy for client hint headers where the value changes a lot, as this effectively makes the resource uncacheable. (A new cache entry is created for every unique value.)
This applies in particular to network client hints like
For more information see HTTP Caching > Vary.
A server specifies the client hint headers that it is interested in getting in the
Accept-CH response header.
The user agent appends the requested client hint headers, or at least the subset that it wants to share with that server, to all subsequent requests in the current browsing session.
In other words, the request for a specific set of hints does not expire until the browser is shut down.
A server can replace the set of client hints it is interested in receiving by resending the
Accept-CH response header with a new list.
For example, to stop requesting any hints it would send
Accept-CH with an empty list.
Low entropy hints
Client hints are broadly divided into high and low entropy hints.
The low entropy hints are those that don't give away much information that might be used to create a fingerprinting for a user.
They may be sent by default on every client request, irrespective of the server
Accept-CH response header, depending on the permission policy.
These hints include:
The high entropy hints are those that have the potential to give away more information that can be used for user fingerprinting, and therefore are gated in such a way that the user agent can make a decision whether to provide them. The decision might be based on user preferences, a permission request, or the permission policy. All client hints that are not low entropy hints are considered high entropy hints.
Critical client hints
A critical client hint is one where applying the response may significantly change the rendered page, potentially in a way that is jarring or will affect usability, and therefore which must be applied before the content is rendered.
Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion is commonly treated as a critical hint, because it might markedly affect the behavior of animations, and because a user who chooses this preference needs it to be set.
A server can use the
Critical-CH response header along with
Accept-CH to specify that an accepted client hint is also a critical client hint (a header in
Critical-CH must also appear in
User agents receiving a response with
Critical-CH must check if the indicated critical headers were sent in the original request. If not, then the user agent will retry the request rather than render the page.
This approach ensures that client preferences set using critical client hints are always used, even if not included in the first request, or if the server configuration changes.
For example, in this case, the server tells a client via
Accept-CH that it accepts
Critical-CH is used to specify that
Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion is considered a critical client hint:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Accept-CH: Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion Vary: Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion Critical-CH: Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion
Note: We've also specified
Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion in the
Vary header to indicate to the browser that the served content will differ based on this header value, even if the URL stays the same, so the browser shouldn't just use an existing cached response and instead should cache this response separately. Each header listed in the
Critical-CH header should also be present in the
Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion is a critical hint that was not in the original request, the client automatically retries the request — this time telling the server via
Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion that it has a user preference for reduced-motion animations.
GET / HTTP/1.1 Host: example.com Sec-CH-Prefers-Reduced-Motion: "reduce"
User-agent client hints
User agent (UA) client hint headers allow a server to vary responses based on the user agent (browser), operating system, and device.
Note: Servers currently get most of the same information by parsing the
For historical reasons this header contains a lot of largely irrelevant information, and information that might be used to identify a particular user.
UA client hints provide a more efficient and privacy preserving way of getting the desired information.
They are eventually expected to replace this older approach.
User preference media features client hints
User Preference Media Features Client Hints allow a server to vary responses based on a user agent's preferences for CSS media features such as color scheme or reduced motion.
Device client hints
Device client hints allow a server to vary responses based on device characteristics including available memory and screen properties.