Cross-origin resource sharing
How CORS works
The CORS standard works by adding new HTTP headers which provide instructions to the client. Browsers support these headers and respect the restrictions they establish. Additionally, for HTTP request methods that can cause side-effects on user data (in particular, for HTTP methods other than GET, or for POST usage with certain MIME types), the specification mandates that browsers "preflight" the request, soliciting supported methods from the server with an HTTP OPTIONS request header, and then, upon "approval" from the server, sending the actual request with the actual HTTP request method. Servers can also notify clients whether "credentials" (including Cookies and HTTP Authentication data) should be sent with requests.
To initiate a cross-origin request, a browser sends the request with an
Origin HTTP header. The value of this header is the domain that served the page. For example, suppose a page from http://www.foo.com attempts to access a user's data in bar.com. If the user's browser implements CORS, the following request header would be sent to bar.com:
If bar.com allows the request, it sends an
Access-Control-Allow-Origin (ACAO) header in its response. The value of the header indicates what origin sites are allowed. For example, a response to the previous request could contain the following:
If the server does not allow the cross-origin request, the browser will deliver an error to the foo.com page instead of the bar.com response.
To allow access from all domains, a server can send the following response header:
This is generally not appropriate when using the same-origin security policy. The only case where this is appropriate when using the same-origin policy is when a page or API response is considered completely public content and it is intended to be accessible to everyone, including any code on any site. For example, this policy is appropriate for freely-available web fonts on public hosting services like Google Fonts.
On the other hand, this pattern is widely and appropriately used in the object-capability model, where pages have unguessable URLs and are meant to be accessible to anyone who knows the secret.
The value of "*" is special in that it does not allow requests to supply credentials, meaning HTTP authentication, client-side SSL certificates, nor does it allow cookies to be sent.
Note that in the CORS architecture, the ACAO header is being set by the external web service (bar.com), not the original web application server (foo.com). CORS allows the external web service to authorise the web application to use its services and does not control external services accessed by the web application. For the latter, Content Security Policy should be used (
CORS is supported by all browsers based on the following layout engines:
- Gecko 1.9.1 (Firefox 3.5, SeaMonkey 2.0, Camino 2.1) and above.
- WebKit (Initial revision uncertain, Safari 4 and above, Google Chrome 3 and above, possibly earlier)
- MSHTML/Trident 6.0 (Internet Explorer 10) has native support. MSHTML/Trident 4.0 & 5.0 (Internet Explorer 8 & 9) provide partial support via the XDomainRequest object.
- Presto-based browsers (Opera) implement CORS as of Opera 12.00 and Opera Mobile 12, but not Opera Mini.
The following browsers are also noteworthy in their lack of CORS support:
- Camino does not implement CORS in the 2.0.x release series because these versions are based on Gecko 1.9.0.
- As of version 0.10.2, Arora exposes WebKit's CORS-related APIs, but attempted cross-origin requests will fail.
Cross-origin support was originally proposed by Matt Oshry, Brad Porter, and Michael Bodell of Tellme Networks in March 2004 for inclusion in VoiceXML 2.1 to allow safe cross-origin data requests by VoiceXML browsers. The mechanism was deemed general in nature and not specific to VoiceXML and was subsequently separated into an implementation NOTE. The WebApps Working Group of the W3C with participation from the major browser vendors began to formalize the NOTE into a W3C Working Draft on track toward formal W3C Recommendation status.
CORS relationship to JSONP
CORS can be used as a modern alternative to the JSONP pattern. While JSONP supports only the GET request method, CORS also supports other types of HTTP requests. Using CORS enables a web programmer to use regular XMLHttpRequest, which supports better error handling than JSONP. On the other hand, JSONP works on legacy browsers which predate CORS support. CORS is supported by most modern web browsers. Also, while JSONP can cause cross-site scripting (XSS) issues where the external site is compromised, CORS allows websites to manually parse responses to ensure security.
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- W3C Recommendation
- Usage guide
- enable cross-origin resource sharing
- HTML5 Rocks explains how CORS works in detail
- Test CORS support