4xx Client errors
Last updated Jul 25, 2023

408 - Request Timeout

Benjamin Bouchet
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The HTTP Status Code 408 means that the server timed out waiting for the request from the client.

What is HTTP Status Code 408?

Before diving into the specifics, it's essential to understand the basics of HTTP status codes. HTTP status codes, part of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), are server responses to an HTTP request made by a client, typically a web browser. HTTP status codes are three-digit numbers, and each number has a specific meaning.

HTTP status code 408, also known as the "Request Timeout" error, falls within the range of HTTP status code errors, specifically the 4xx range. These errors, known as client errors, indicate issues that occur due to the client's request.

Understanding HTTP Status Code 408

HTTP status code 408 is returned when a client's HTTP request isn't completed within the timeframe defined by the server. In essence, the server is ready to establish a connection, but the client fails to send a complete request message promptly. This results in a request timeout error, and the server responds with the HTTP status code 408.

How Does it Differ from Other HTTP Status Codes?

HTTP status codes, including HTTP status code 408, are grouped into categories. While a 408 status code implies a client-side error, other status codes might suggest different issues. For instance, a 500 status code, known as the "Internal Server Error", signals an issue with the web server software, not the client's request.

When and How is HTTP Status Code 408 Used?

HTTP status code 408 is used when the server does not receive a complete request from the client within a set timeframe. This can happen due to various reasons, such as a slow internet connection, issues with the browser extensions, or even a misconfiguration in the server's timeout settings.

Common Causes of HTTP Status Code 408

One frequent cause of a 408 request timeout is a slow or unstable internet connection. This can delay the HTTP request from the client, causing the server to time out before it receives a complete request. This can often be traced back to issues with the internet service provider.

Website server or proxy server configuration can also play a role. If the web server or proxy server has been set with an extremely short timeout period, it could lead to a request timeout error before the client has a chance to send a complete request.

Additionally, issues with the client's browser, such as problematic browser extensions, can interfere with the HTTP request process, leading to the 408 status code.

Potential Solutions to HTTP Status Code 408

If you're a user encountering a 408 error, one of the simplest potential solutions is to reload the page at a later time. If the issue is temporary, such as an overloaded web server or a momentary slow internet connection, this can resolve the problem.

For website owners, a 408 error may require more in-depth investigation. Checking the server configuration files, including the Apache server config file, can be a good start. Adjusting the timeout settings may help if they're set too low.

If the error persists, it may be necessary to dig deeper. You might need to roll back recent upgrades, check for database changes or even examine your content management system. For a more complex client error like this, it's crucial to understand the HTTP response status and the HTTP status code involved, so you can better diagnose the issue.

Remember, HTTP status codes are not just numbers - they're an essential part of the web's Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Understanding the HTTP status code 408 can be a valuable skill, whether you're a web user or a developer troubleshooting a website server.

Example usage of HTTP Status Code 408

A Simple Scenario

Imagine you're reading a lengthy article on your favorite blog and then getting interrupted by a phone call. You leave the page open, intending to come back after the call. However, the call takes longer than expected, and when you get back to your computer, the page has gone blank and displayed an error message saying "408 Request Timeout". This is the server's way of telling you that your connection was idle for too long and it decided to close it to free up resources. In this case, all you need to do is refresh the page to establish a new connection with the server and continue reading.

A Technical Scenario with Code

From a developer's perspective, the HTTP Status Code 408 can be seen in a scenario where a client initiates a connection with a server but doesn't send a request within the expected timeframe. The server, expecting a request and receiving none, will eventually close the idle connection and send a 408 status code to inform the client that the connection was closed due to a timeout.

Here's a simplified example of how a server might handle this situation in Node.js using the Express.js framework:

const express = require('express');
const app = express();

app.use(function(req, res, next) {
    res.setTimeout(10000, function() {
        console.log('Request has timed out.');
        res.status(408).send('Request timed out');

app.get('/', function(req, res) {
    // Some lengthy operation that could cause a timeout...

In this example, the server sets a timeout of 10 seconds for each incoming request. If a request doesn't complete within this time, the server will log "Request has timed out" and send an HTTP Status Code 408 ("Request timed out") to the client.

What is the history of HTTP Status Code 408?

HTTP Status Code 408, like all HTTP status codes, is part of the HTTP standard defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in their Request for Comments (RFC) documents. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) maintains the official registry of HTTP status codes. Over time, these standards have evolved to address new technologies and use cases, and to improve the efficiency and robustness of HTTP communication.

How does HTTP Status Code 408 relate to other status codes?

HTTP status codes are divided into five classes, each identified by the first digit of the code. They include:

1. 1xx informational response – the request was received, continuing process

2. 2xx successful – the request was successfully received, understood, and accepted

3. 3xx redirection – further action needs to be taken to complete the request

4. 4xx client error – the request contains bad syntax or cannot be fulfilled

5. 5xx server error – the server failed to fulfill a valid request.

The HTTP Status Code 408 falls into the 4xx class, which is designated for client error responses. This means that the problem that led to the 408 status code resides with the client's request or the client's handling of the response. In the specific case of a 408 status code, the issue is with the client not sending a request within the timeframe that the server was prepared to wait.

Note that if you come across a status code that is not within the standardized list, it's likely a non-standard response, possibly custom to the server's software.

Other interesting things to know about HTTP Status Code 408

Varying Presentations of HTTP Status Code 408

HTTP Status Code 408, also known as "Request Timeout," pops up when the request you sent to the website server, for instance, a request to load a web page, takes longer than the website's server is willing to wait. In simple terms, your connection with the website "timed out".

An interesting facet of this error is that it often presents itself in varying forms depending on the website you are visiting. While some websites stick to the standard "408: Request Timeout" or "HTTP Error 408 - Request Timeout," others may opt for more unique error messages. Large websites, in particular, are known for customizing their error messages. You might also encounter situations where websites terminate the connection without displaying the error, so it's worth noting that a timeout might be the underlying cause of the problem even if the server doesn't explicitly indicate that fact.

Steps to Handle HTTP Status Code 408

If you run into a 408 Request Timeout error, there are several steps you can take to rectify the situation. Firstly, try refreshing the page or re-entering the URL in the address bar. This is often a simple and effective solution, especially if the error was caused by a temporary slow connection. If the error occurred during an online checkout process, be cautious not to create multiple orders and charges by repeatedly trying to check out.

Secondly, check if your internet connection is causing page-load delays. Visit another website and see how fast the pages load. If they load quickly, it's likely that the problem prompting the timeout error is with the initial website, not your internet connection. Conversely, if all websites are loading slowly, it might be an issue with your internet service.

HTTP Status Code 408's Impact on SEO

One might wonder if a 408 Request Timeout error could impact the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of a website. If the 408 error is a one-off or very infrequent occurrence, then it’s unlikely to have a negative impact on your site's SEO. Search engine crawlers, like users, can retry later if they encounter a timeout.

However, if these errors are frequent and persistent, they might affect your website's SEO. Search engines aim to provide the best user experience, so a site that often times out would not be considered as such. If a search engine's crawler frequently encounters 408 errors when attempting to access your website, it might conclude that the site is unreliable, which could lead to lower search engine rankings.

Moreover, if a user frequently experiences 408 errors on your site, they're likely to leave and not return, increasing your bounce rate. This user behavior can also negatively impact your SEO.

Mobile and Desktop Differences

While it may seem that HTTP status codes are universal, it's essential to note that mobile and desktop users might experience them differently. Generally, the implication of a 408 error is the same across platforms: the client didn't send a complete request in the time that the server was prepared to wait.

However, mobile networks can often be less reliable than wired networks. Consequently, mobile users may experience more timeouts due to network instability. This underscores the importance of optimizing website performance for mobile users, as a slower site could lead to more timeouts and, thus, more 408 errors.

HTTP Status Code 408 in Internet of Things (IoT)

HTTP status codes, including 408, are also relevant in the context of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IoT devices often communicate with servers to send or receive data, and this communication uses HTTP.

If an IoT device tries to send data to a server but doesn't complete its request within the timeframe the server was prepared to wait, the server might respond with a 408 error. This could occur, for example, in a smart home setting where an IoT device is trying to send sensor data to a home server.

In IoT environments, it's crucial to consider network reliability and data transmission speed. IoT devices often operate on wireless networks, which may be less reliable or slower than wired networks. As a result, these devices might be more prone to experiencing HTTP 408 errors. Designing efficient data transmission processes and considering timeout settings are critical in these contexts.

Misconceptions about HTTP Status Code 408

One common misconception about HTTP Status Code 408 is that it's a server-side error. However, 408 is a client-side error. It doesn't mean that something is wrong with the server but rather that the client failed to send a complete request within the server's wait limit. It's a subtle distinction but an important one to understand.

Another misconception is that HTTP 408 errors indicate a slow server. While a slow server can cause other issues, a 408 error specifically means that the client's request was slow, not the server's response.

Understanding these nuances can help both web users and developers diagnose and address issues more effectively.

The Bigger Picture

However, it's important to note that HTTP 408 is just one of the many status codes used in web development. Each code has a specific meaning and is used to communicate specific types of information between the client and the server. Understanding these codes can be extremely helpful for both web developers and users alike.

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