20.20. http.server — HTTP servers

Source code: Lib/http/server.py

This module defines classes for implementing HTTP servers (Web servers).

One class, HTTPServer, is a socketserver.TCPServer subclass. It creates and listens at the HTTP socket, dispatching the requests to a handler. Code to create and run the server looks like this:

def run(server_class=HTTPServer, handler_class=BaseHTTPRequestHandler):
    server_address = ('', 8000)
    httpd = server_class(server_address, handler_class)
class http.server.HTTPServer(server_address, RequestHandlerClass)

This class builds on the TCPServer class by storing the server address as instance variables named server_name and server_port. The server is accessible by the handler, typically through the handler’s server instance variable.

The HTTPServer must be given a RequestHandlerClass on instantiation, of which this module provides three different variants:

class http.server.BaseHTTPRequestHandler(request, client_address, server)

This class is used to handle the HTTP requests that arrive at the server. By itself, it cannot respond to any actual HTTP requests; it must be subclassed to handle each request method (e.g. GET or POST). BaseHTTPRequestHandler provides a number of class and instance variables, and methods for use by subclasses.

The handler will parse the request and the headers, then call a method specific to the request type. The method name is constructed from the request. For example, for the request method SPAM, the do_SPAM() method will be called with no arguments. All of the relevant information is stored in instance variables of the handler. Subclasses should not need to override or extend the __init__() method.

BaseHTTPRequestHandler has the following instance variables:


Contains a tuple of the form (host, port) referring to the client’s address.


Contains the server instance.


Contains the command (request type). For example, 'GET'.


Contains the request path.


Contains the version string from the request. For example, 'HTTP/1.0'.


Holds an instance of the class specified by the MessageClass class variable. This instance parses and manages the headers in the HTTP request.


Contains an input stream, positioned at the start of the optional input data.


Contains the output stream for writing a response back to the client. Proper adherence to the HTTP protocol must be used when writing to this stream.

BaseHTTPRequestHandler has the following class variables:


Specifies the server software version. You may want to override this. The format is multiple whitespace-separated strings, where each string is of the form name[/version]. For example, 'BaseHTTP/0.2'.


Contains the Python system version, in a form usable by the version_string method and the server_version class variable. For example, 'Python/1.4'.


Specifies a format string for building an error response to the client. It uses parenthesized, keyed format specifiers, so the format operand must be a dictionary. The code key should be an integer, specifying the numeric HTTP error code value. message should be a string containing a (detailed) error message of what occurred, and explain should be an explanation of the error code number. Default message and explain values can found in the responses class variable.


Specifies the Content-Type HTTP header of error responses sent to the client. The default value is 'text/html'.


This specifies the HTTP protocol version used in responses. If set to 'HTTP/1.1', the server will permit HTTP persistent connections; however, your server must then include an accurate Content-Length header (using send_header()) in all of its responses to clients. For backwards compatibility, the setting defaults to 'HTTP/1.0'.


Specifies an email.message.Message-like class to parse HTTP headers. Typically, this is not overridden, and it defaults to http.client.HTTPMessage.


This variable contains a mapping of error code integers to two-element tuples containing a short and long message. For example, {code: (shortmessage, longmessage)}. The shortmessage is usually used as the message key in an error response, and longmessage as the explain key (see the error_message_format class variable).

A BaseHTTPRequestHandler instance has the following methods:


Calls handle_one_request() once (or, if persistent connections are enabled, multiple times) to handle incoming HTTP requests. You should never need to override it; instead, implement appropriate do_*() methods.


This method will parse and dispatch the request to the appropriate do_*() method. You should never need to override it.


When a HTTP/1.1 compliant server receives a Expect: 100-continue request header it responds back with a 100 Continue followed by 200 OK headers. This method can be overridden to raise an error if the server does not want the client to continue. For e.g. server can chose to send 417 Expectation Failed as a response header and return False.

New in version 3.2.

send_error(code, message=None)

Sends and logs a complete error reply to the client. The numeric code specifies the HTTP error code, with message as optional, more specific text. A complete set of headers is sent, followed by text composed using the error_message_format class variable.

send_response(code, message=None)

Sends a response header and logs the accepted request. The HTTP response line is sent, followed by Server and Date headers. The values for these two headers are picked up from the version_string() and date_time_string() methods, respectively.

send_header(keyword, value)

Stores the HTTP header to an internal buffer which will be written to the output stream when end_headers() method is invoked. keyword should specify the header keyword, with value specifying its value.

Changed in version 3.2: Storing the headers in an internal buffer

send_response_only(code, message=None)

Sends the reponse header only, used for the purposes when 100 Continue response is sent by the server to the client. The headers not buffered and sent directly the output stream.If the message is not specified, the HTTP message corresponding the response code is sent.

New in version 3.2.


Write the buffered HTTP headers to the output stream and send a blank line, indicating the end of the HTTP headers in the response.

Changed in version 3.2: Writing the buffered headers to the output stream.

log_request(code='-', size='-')

Logs an accepted (successful) request. code should specify the numeric HTTP code associated with the response. If a size of the response is available, then it should be passed as the size parameter.


Logs an error when a request cannot be fulfilled. By default, it passes the message to log_message(), so it takes the same arguments (format and additional values).

log_message(format, ...)

Logs an arbitrary message to sys.stderr. This is typically overridden to create custom error logging mechanisms. The format argument is a standard printf-style format string, where the additional arguments to log_message() are applied as inputs to the formatting. The client ip address and current date and time are prefixed to every message logged.


Returns the server software’s version string. This is a combination of the server_version and sys_version class variables.


Returns the date and time given by timestamp (which must be None or in the format returned by time.time()), formatted for a message header. If timestamp is omitted, it uses the current date and time.

The result looks like 'Sun, 06 Nov 1994 08:49:37 GMT'.


Returns the current date and time, formatted for logging.


Returns the client address, formatted for logging. A name lookup is performed on the client’s IP address.

class http.server.SimpleHTTPRequestHandler(request, client_address, server)

This class serves files from the current directory and below, directly mapping the directory structure to HTTP requests.

A lot of the work, such as parsing the request, is done by the base class BaseHTTPRequestHandler. This class implements the do_GET() and do_HEAD() functions.

The following are defined as class-level attributes of SimpleHTTPRequestHandler:


This will be "SimpleHTTP/" + __version__, where __version__ is defined at the module level.


A dictionary mapping suffixes into MIME types. The default is signified by an empty string, and is considered to be application/octet-stream. The mapping is used case-insensitively, and so should contain only lower-cased keys.

The SimpleHTTPRequestHandler class defines the following methods:


This method serves the 'HEAD' request type: it sends the headers it would send for the equivalent GET request. See the do_GET() method for a more complete explanation of the possible headers.


The request is mapped to a local file by interpreting the request as a path relative to the current working directory.

If the request was mapped to a directory, the directory is checked for a file named index.html or index.htm (in that order). If found, the file’s contents are returned; otherwise a directory listing is generated by calling the list_directory() method. This method uses os.listdir() to scan the directory, and returns a 404 error response if the listdir() fails.

If the request was mapped to a file, it is opened and the contents are returned. Any IOError exception in opening the requested file is mapped to a 404, 'File not found' error. Otherwise, the content type is guessed by calling the guess_type() method, which in turn uses the extensions_map variable.

A 'Content-type:' header with the guessed content type is output, followed by a 'Content-Length:' header with the file’s size and a 'Last-Modified:' header with the file’s modification time.

Then follows a blank line signifying the end of the headers, and then the contents of the file are output. If the file’s MIME type starts with text/ the file is opened in text mode; otherwise binary mode is used.

For example usage, see the implementation of the test() function invocation in the http.server module.

The SimpleHTTPRequestHandler class can be used in the following manner in order to create a very basic webserver serving files relative to the current directory.

import http.server
import socketserver

PORT = 8000

Handler = http.server.SimpleHTTPRequestHandler

httpd = socketserver.TCPServer(("", PORT), Handler)

print("serving at port", PORT)

http.server can also be invoked directly using the -m switch of the interpreter with a port number argument. Similar to the previous example, this serves files relative to the current directory.

python -m http.server 8000
class http.server.CGIHTTPRequestHandler(request, client_address, server)

This class is used to serve either files or output of CGI scripts from the current directory and below. Note that mapping HTTP hierarchic structure to local directory structure is exactly as in SimpleHTTPRequestHandler.


CGI scripts run by the CGIHTTPRequestHandler class cannot execute redirects (HTTP code 302), because code 200 (script output follows) is sent prior to execution of the CGI script. This pre-empts the status code.

The class will however, run the CGI script, instead of serving it as a file, if it guesses it to be a CGI script. Only directory-based CGI are used — the other common server configuration is to treat special extensions as denoting CGI scripts.

The do_GET() and do_HEAD() functions are modified to run CGI scripts and serve the output, instead of serving files, if the request leads to somewhere below the cgi_directories path.

The CGIHTTPRequestHandler defines the following data member:


This defaults to ['/cgi-bin', '/htbin'] and describes directories to treat as containing CGI scripts.

The CGIHTTPRequestHandler defines the following method:


This method serves the 'POST' request type, only allowed for CGI scripts. Error 501, “Can only POST to CGI scripts”, is output when trying to POST to a non-CGI url.

Note that CGI scripts will be run with UID of user nobody, for security reasons. Problems with the CGI script will be translated to error 403.

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