The HTTP WWW-Authenticate response header defines the HTTP authentication methods ("challenges") that might be used to gain access to a specific resource.

Note: This header is part of the General HTTP authentication framework, which can be used with a number of authentication schemes . Each "challenge" lists a scheme supported by the server and additional parameters that are defined for that scheme type.

A server using HTTP authentication will respond with a 401 Unauthorized response to a request for a protected resource. This response must include at least one WWW-Authenticate header and at least one challenge, to indicate what authentication schemes can be used to access the resource (and any additional data that each particular scheme needs).

Multiple challenges are allowed in one WWW-Authenticate header, and multiple WWW-Authenticate headers are allowed in one response. A server may also include the WWW-Authenticate header in other response messages to indicate that supplying credentials might affect the response.

After receiving the WWW-Authenticate header, a client will typically prompt the user for credentials, and then re-request the resource. This request uses the Authorization header to supply the credentials to the server, encoded appropriately for the selected "challenge" authentication method. The client is expected to select the most secure of the challenges it understands (note that in some cases the "most secure" method is debatable).

Header type Response header
Forbidden header name no


At least one challenge must be specified. Multiple challenges may be specified, comma-separated, in a single header, or in individual headers:

// Challenges specified in single header
WWW-Authenticate: challenge1, ..., challengeN

// Challenges specified in multiple headers
WWW-Authenticate: challenge1
WWW-Authenticate: challengeN

A single challenge has the following format. Note that the scheme token (<auth-scheme>) is mandatory. The presence of realm, token68 and any other parameters depends on the definition of the selected scheme.

// Possible challenge formats (scheme dependent)
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme>
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> realm=<realm>
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> token68
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> auth-param1=token1, ..., auth-paramN=auth-paramN-token    
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> realm=<realm> token68
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> realm=<realm> token68 auth-param1=auth-param1-token , ..., auth-paramN=auth-paramN-token 
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> realm=<realm> auth-param1=auth-param1-token, ..., auth-paramN=auth-paramN-token 
WWW-Authenticate: <auth-scheme> token68 auth-param1=auth-param1-token, ..., auth-paramN=auth-paramN-token

For example, Basic authentication allows for optional realm and charset keys, but does not support token68.

WWW-Authenticate: Basic
WWW-Authenticate: Basic realm=<realm>
WWW-Authenticate: Basic realm=<realm>, charset="UTF-8"



The Authentication scheme. Some of the more common types are (case-insensitive): Basic | Digest | Bearer | HOBA | Mutual | Negotiate | OAuth | SCRAM-SHA-1 | SCRAM-SHA-256 | vapid

Note: For more information/options see HTTP Authentication > Authentication schemes

realm=<realm> Optional

A string describing a protected area. A realm allows a server to partition up the areas it protects (if supported by a scheme that allows such partitioning). If no realm is specified, clients often display a formatted hostname instead.

<token68> Optional

A token that may be useful for some schemes. The token allows the 66 unreserved URI characters plus a few others. According to the specification, it can hold a base64, base64url, base32, or base16 (hex) encoding, with or without padding, but excluding whitespace.

Authorization parameter keys that are specific to each authentication scheme. These are listed below for some schemes. For others you may need to check the specifications:


<realm> Optional

As above.

charset="UTF-8" Optional

Tells the client the server's preferred encoding scheme when submitting a username and password. The only allowed value is the case-insensitive string "UTF-8". This does not relate to the encoding of the realm string.


Basic authentication

A server that only supports basic authentication might have a WWW-Authenticate response header which looks like this:

WWW-Authenticate: Basic realm="Access to the staging site", charset="UTF-8"

Both the realm and charset are optional, so it could instead look like this:

WWW-Authenticate: Basic

See also HTTP authentication for examples on how to configure Apache or nginx servers to password protect your site with HTTP basic authentication.


Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Authentication (HTTP/1.1)
# header.www-authenticate

Browser compatibility

BCD tables only load in the browser

See also