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[Russian Version]

Some Words about the <META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" ...> Tag
The <META HTTP-EQUIV=...> tag was developed and included in the HTML Standard (at least, it is mentioned in the HTML 3.2 Draft) in order to inform the HTTP server about the kinds of HTTP headers it may provide. As is said in the HTML 3.2 Draft, this is just a wish to the server, nothing more.

The HTML 4.0 Draft is more definite in this sense: it enables the WWW client to make allowance for the <META HTTP-EQUIV> tag when determining the coding, but, if the the HTTP header "Content-Type:... charset=..." is present, the coding must be determined according to this header.

Unfortunately, the authors of WWW browsers (both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer) either do not read the standards or interpret them in some strange way. Maybe they even have good intentions. When such browsers encounter a document tag like

<META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" CONTENT="text/html; charset=koi8-r">
, they fail to consider the correct Content-Type HTTP header (the one corresponding to the actual coding) and show the document according to their own ideas about this charset. That is, Netscape changes the font to the one installed for koi8-r, and MS IE recodes the document from koi8 to cp1251. Moreover, these browsers pay attention to this tag even if it is placed between the <BODY> and </BODY> tags, which is simply nonsense! (I just wonder what they do if a document includes some <META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" ...> tags inconsistent with each other...)

Actually, it is clear why browser developers act like this. They are guided by an understandable wish not only to fulfill the standard but to overcome it and simultaneously help the unfortunate owners of servers with HTTP/0.9 (this protocol has no Content-Type header).

This problem would have remained purely theoretical, but, unfortunately, many popular HTML editors (above all, MS Front Page, MS Internet Word Assistant, and many others) like to include this tag in documents, and convincing them to do otherwise is a hard task. So, the problem is real, and there are several possible approaches to its solution:

  1. To adjust the contents of the <META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" CONTENT="...;charset=..."> tag to the actual coding. At first sight, this solution seems perfect, but there are some drawbacks. Two of them are the most important:
  2. Thus, we arrive at the next evident solution: <META HTTP-EQUIV..> must be simply removed. In this case, all popular browsers will use the Content-Type value from the HTTP header, and all Proxy servers that are true to this name (and to HTTP) will also behave properly. This method is implemented in Russian Apache starting from ver. PL18.
  3. Generally speaking, there is also the third way: as soon as we see <META HTTP-EQUIV...> in a document, we abandon all attempts to recode this document, make the Content-Type HTTP header consistent with the META tag (as is suggested by the HTML standard) and output the document "as is." Although this method conforms to the standards, its actual use in Russian Apache is impossible. For example, we should not send a document in the Windows-1251 coding to a user working under Unix: in all probability, he or she will not have the fonts required for reading this document.

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