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Friendly HTTP Error Message

Internet Explorer has a feature called Show friendly HTTP error messages, which is enabled by default in Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced.

This feature overrides error pages sent by the web server and displays the default Internet Explorer 404 error page instead, which explains the problem to the user in greater detail, in the user's preferred language.

The rules Internet Explorer uses to decide when to display this page are as follows:

  • the page has been sent with an HTTP error code (eg: 404 for Page Not Found, or 500 for Java Exceptions)
  • the page is less than 513 bytes long, or in some cases, less than 257 bytes (the maximum values are stored in the Windows Registry)

To disable Friendly HTTP Error Messages, and see the real error pages sent from the servers you visit, you can change the setting in Internet Explorer.

Friendly Error Messages can be a problem when trying to design your own custom error pages (as in the article Custom error pages in Tomcat). If your page is less than 513 bytes long, the user may never see it. This can be avoided by adding extra comments or content to the page to ensure it is always at least 513 bytes long, forcing Internet Explorer to display the page properly.

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