HTTP Status Codes – What Are They?

HTTP Status Codes

Today in this blog post, we are going to look at HTTP Status Codes and what they do. Have you ever encountered a cryptic error message while browsing the web, like "404 Not Found" or "500 Internal Server Error"? These messages, though seemingly technical, actually hold valuable information. They are part of a language used between web servers and your browser, known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTP status codes act like signals, conveying the success or failure of a request you make to a website. By understanding these codes, you'll gain valuable insight into what's happening behind the scenes when you browse the web, and even troubleshoot common website issues!

Understanding Status Code Categories

Imagine a conversation between you and a friend at a restaurant. You politely ask the waiter for a specific dish, but depending on the situation, the waiter might give you different responses:

  • "Sure, coming right up!" (Success)

  • "We're currently out of that dish, but I can recommend something similar." (Redirection)

  • "Excuse me, but you haven't specified which size you'd like." (Client Error)

  • "Oh dear, there seems to be a problem in the kitchen. We'll let you know as soon as possible." (Server Error)

Similarly, HTTP status codes act as messages exchanged between web servers and browsers. The first digit of a three-digit status code categorizes the type of response the server is giving. Here's a breakdown of the five main categories:

  • Informational (1xx): These codes indicate the request is received and the server is processing it. You won't typically see these messages directly in your browser.

  • Successful (2xx): The most desired outcome! These codes signify the request was understood and processed successfully. The most common one is 200 OK, which means the webpage loaded as expected.

  • Redirection (3xx): These codes tell the browser to take further action, often by redirecting you to a different location. A common example is 301 Moved Permanently, used when a webpage has been moved to a new address.

  • Client Error (4xx): These codes indicate an issue on the user's end, such as a typo in the URL (404 Not Found) or an attempt to access a forbidden resource (403 Forbidden).

  • Server Error (5xx): These codes signify a problem on the server side, preventing it from fulfilling the request. A common example is 500 Internal Server Error, which indicates a general issue with the server.

In the next section, we'll explore some of the most common HTTP status codes and what they mean for your web browsing experience.

Common Status Codes and their Meanings

Now that we understand the different categories of HTTP status codes, let's delve into some of the most frequently encountered codes and their meanings. This knowledge can be handy for deciphering error messages and troubleshooting website issues.

Here's a table outlining some common status codes:

Status Code Meaning User Experience
200 OK The request was processed successfully, and the requested content is delivered in the response. The webpage loads as expected.
301 Moved Permanently The requested resource has been permanently moved to a new location. Your browser will automatically redirect you to the new URL. You might see a message indicating the webpage has been moved.
302 Found (Temporary Redirect) The requested resource is temporarily located at a different URL. Your browser will be redirected to the temporary location. Similar to 301, but the redirection is temporary.
400 Bad Request The server couldn't understand the request due to invalid syntax or incorrect information. You might see an error message indicating an issue with your request.
401 Unauthorized Access to the requested resource is denied due to missing or invalid authorization credentials. You'll likely encounter a login page or an authorization error message.
403 Forbidden You don't have permission to access the requested resource. This could be due to incorrect permissions, requiring a login, or restricted access for certain user groups. You'll see an error message indicating access is forbidden.
404 Not Found The server couldn't find the requested resource (e.g., webpage, image). You'll likely see a "404 Not Found" error message and a generic webpage.
500 Internal Server Error An unexpected error occurred on the server side preventing it from fulfilling the request. You'll see a generic error message indicating a server issue.
503 Service Unavailable The server is currently unavailable due to overload or maintenance. You might see an "Error" message or a message indicating the server is busy.

This is just a small sampling of the many HTTP status codes in existence. However, understanding these common codes can equip you to better navigate the web and troubleshoot basic website issues. To view a complete range of status codes check them out here – CSSPortal HTTP Status Codes.

Troubleshooting with Status Codes

Understanding HTTP status codes can be a valuable asset when troubleshooting website issues. While they won't pinpoint the exact cause of every problem, they can provide valuable clues about where to start investigating.

Here's how you can leverage status codes for troubleshooting:

  • Identifying Errors: Most web browsers won't display the status code directly on the page. However, you can usually access it through your browser's developer tools (refer to your browser's specific documentation for instructions). By identifying the status code, you can narrow down the potential cause of the issue based on the category (e.g., Client Error vs. Server Error).

  • Basic Checks: For common client-side errors (4xx codes), you can perform some basic checks. For instance, a 404 Not Found might indicate a typo in the URL you entered. Double-check the web address and try navigating again. Similarly, a 401 Unauthorized code might suggest you need to log in to access the resource.

  • Seeking Information: Once you have the status code, you can search online for its specific meaning and troubleshooting tips. Many resources provide detailed explanations for various HTTP status codes, along with solutions or workarounds.

  • Seeking Help: For more complex issues, particularly server-side errors (5xx codes), you might need to contact the website owner or administrator. They can investigate the server logs and diagnose the problem on their end.

By understanding HTTP status codes and using them as a guide, you can become a more self-sufficient web user and effectively troubleshoot many common browsing issues.


The world wide web relies on a complex language of communication between servers and browsers. HTTP status codes play a crucial role in this exchange, conveying the outcome of your requests and ensuring a smooth browsing experience. Understanding these codes empowers you to:

  • Interpret error messages: No more cryptic messages! You'll be able to decipher the meaning behind those seemingly random codes you encounter.

  • Troubleshoot basic website issues: Identify potential problems based on the status code category (client-side vs. server-side errors) and take initial troubleshooting steps.

  • Become a more informed web user: Gain a deeper understanding of how the web functions behind the scenes.

While this blog post explored some of the most common HTTP status codes, many more exist. Fortunately, there are numerous resources available online to delve deeper into this topic. So next time you encounter an error message, remember the power of HTTP status codes! With a little knowledge, you can transform them from confusing roadblocks into stepping stones for a smoother web browsing experience.