What HTTP status code message means?

Published: Alex Shashenko 2023-10-18 all articles | Glossary | FAQ

Every Internet user and every webmaster have seen an HTTP code status instead of the web page at least once in a lifetime. Those codes are basically messages about the current status of the server and can tell a lot about the situation with the web page or with the server itself. Therefore, if a webmaster understands the meaning of the web request response code, he will be able to precisely diagnose the root of the issue and fix this on the server side without any problems.

It is highly vital for webmasters to also understand how web status code messages affect the users and how to deal with those issues as soon as possible. In particular, it is of high importance for webmasters to understand the meaning of each code displayed and what it means to client side (users) when they encounter such problems no matter where the root of the problem lies.

What is a response code

what is a response code

Web response codes, also known as HTTP codes, status codes and so on, are the basic form of replying to the requests sent by client (usually, by website user) to the server. Those are messages with three-digit numbers designated to convey info about the request result, or, basically, status reports. Those requests status code tell the client or the webmaster who is conducting diagnostics, about the current status of the resource and possible root of the occurring issues, if there are any.

Those service messages are divided into five separate groups representing a category of status code meanings and severity of the web resource state. This way, those codes allow the webmaster to determine the case and find a way to fix it. Therefore, those codes basically enable efficient resolving of various scenarios in the operation and development of web resources like sites, servers and applications.

If you work as a webmaster and know what one or the other web status code describes, you will be able to determine what happened on the server, how the internal structure or code was mishandled, or what situation occurred during the migration or update. It all will depend on the digits that were mentioned in the server error code report, and you will be able to easily resolve the situation.

For instance, the 404 code response or ‘Not Found’ error message shows that the requested object or URL is non-existent inside the server file system. This message usually shows up when something on the server is missing or its place inside the folder structure was changed. Such a situation often happens with a site that just finished a host-to-host migration.

On the other hand, a different code status that frequently shows up is 502 or ‘Bad Gateway’ that describes the situation when there’s something wrong with the network connection. Usually, this server response code tells the client (user) and the webmaster that the server and website are updating, migrating, under maintenance or are experiencing serious network load.

Response status code classes

response status code classes

As there’s a wide range of server-side statuses, there’s as much as the same large number of server status code reports that describe each of those statuses in the list. Those reports are purely diagnostic and it’s vital to understand how they work, what they describe and how they could help with finding the root of various issues. 

The status code list starts from 100 and ends at 599, therefore it could be really hard to differentiate between them all without the systematic approach. That’s why all the codes are grouped in five categories by code status types, containing 100 codes each.

First category, ranging from 100 to 199, refers to normal operation of the server or minor issues that are not affecting the normal operation. Second group, ranging from 200 to 299, refers to minor issues that are affecting the server, usually small errors, slowdowns or delays. 

Third category is already a serious one - reports with numbers from 300 to 399 are about misplaced or missing content or changes in the server internal folder structure. Fourth list with status code errors from 400 to 499 refers to user-side or client-side issues and network problems. And the last, but not the least, group, fifth one, refers to severe server-related problems and ranges from 500 to 599.

1xx status code meanings - informational response

This category is purely informational, just as its name suggests. Messages with numbers in this range usually mean that sending back the response to the user's action is going as it should, but for one reason or another there are delays. Usually there's nothing seriously wrong with the server or the resource itself, but rather almost imperceptible little problems like small slowdowns when loading content and the like.

Often users simply do not see them, as they appear in the background (in the logs), and after some time everything is completed normally. Surprisingly, this range doesn't include the status reports that describe the normal operation of the site - it's only included in the second group.

2xx status code meaning - successful request processing

This is the list that includes successful completion codes. This group appears when the processing of the client (user) action succeeded, but there were errors or delays that affected overall performance. Typically, such report messages appear in logs when the content is oversized, missing, corrupt, or was moved during the processing. To webmasters, such codes are an indication of problematic content that is affecting the resource’s performance and user experience. Ideally, these errors must be monitored to keep the site content in a well-maintained and optimally sized state to not disrupt the smooth user experience provided by the web resource.

3xx status code meaning - server-side redirects

This category includes report messages that notify the user and the webmaster about changes in the internal server structure and the following redirection, successful or not. The appearance of a report with one of the numbers in this area shows that the requested resource has been moved within the server file system, has been completely deleted or otherwise became unavailable to the client (user). Often the user sees such a report when the file structure of the web resource has been updated or completely changed, including host-to-host migration without proper configuration.

4xx status code meaning - user-side errors and mistakes

A group of messages that indicate problems with user actions, incorrect instructions, or network problems. In fact, it is the most common group that users encounter. And the most commonly seen is 400 ‘Bad Request’, which indicates an incorrectly specified url address or file location. This group also includes cases where a user is attempting to gain access to parts of the resource that require additional rights or permissions, including areas that are forbidden to anyone other than webmasters or administrators. This group also includes client-side network problems, including timeout (code 408) caused by problems between the client (user) and the server.

5xx status code meaning - server-side errors and issues

Status messages in this group represent server-side problems and inform users and webmasters that the server is unable to process actions due to internal or external problems. Typically, error reports in this group indicate serious problems with the server hardware or software, as well as problems with the general stability and operation of the server. In addition, these codes inform webmasters about various malicious activities, network problems, web resource code problems and software misconfigurations. As a result, these alerts can help web administrators diagnose and troubleshoot a wide range of issues, from low server memory or overloaded bandwidth to DDoS attacks and unstable network nodes.

How to get response code message

how to get response code message

There are three obvious ways to receive a request status code message. First is to get the report directly from the web resource by trying to access it with a browser or through an application. Sometimes you can get it instead of visiting the web resource. Second method, if you’re a webmaster with full access rights, is to search through the logs in case something happened. But this way is also unreliable if you need a precise method of finding a web response code for diagnostics. Because it won’t show a current website status if you don’t check it manually.

As the first and the second methods are considered unreliable, there is a third way to get an error status code - constant website monitoring with proper tools designated for HTTP response error checking. For instance, you can use the HostTracker platform to get all types of code status messages either manually or automatically. This website monitoring toolkit has checking tools that are processing HTTP requests to the web resource and gets the report in the form of the error code. It is easy-to-use and accessible even for the beginners, but it greatly helps in troubleshooting various issues related to those codes that checks receive from the server.


What is a status code

Basically, web response code or status code is the diagnostic report from the server. It tells the client (user’s device or webmaster’s diagnostic tool) about the status of the web resource, mainly - server. Speaking in technical terms, it’s a code that reports about the response to a client’s actions from the server. It works with HTTP protocol and contains a specific number in range from 100 to 599 that indicates the request processing state. And if there are any issues during processing, this code will point at the root of the issue to help in resolving the problem.

About author

Oleksii Shashenko
Chief Communications and Technology Officer of HostTracker. Alex has been part of the team since the company's early days. His work focuses on business reporting, analysis of database statistics, and system administration. Alex also takes care of communication with the development team and clients.