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§Content negotiation

Content negotiation is a mechanism that makes it possible to serve different representation of a same resource (URI). It is useful e.g. for writing Web Services supporting several output formats (XML, JSON, etc.). Server-driven negotiation is essentially performed using the Accept* requests headers. You can find more information on content negotiation in the HTTP specification.


You can get the list of acceptable languages for a request using the play.api.mvc.RequestHeader#acceptLanguages method that retrieves them from the Accept-Language header and sorts them according to their quality value. Play uses it in the play.api.mvc.Controller#lang method that provides an implicit play.api.i18n.Lang value to your actions, so they automatically use the best possible language (if supported by your application, otherwise your application’s default language is used).


Similarly, the play.api.mvc.RequestHeader#acceptedTypes method gives the list of acceptable result’s MIME types for a request. It retrieves them from the Accept request header and sorts them according to their quality factor.

Actually, the Accept header does not really contain MIME types but media ranges (*e.g.* a request accepting all text results may set the text/* range, and the */* range means that all result types are acceptable). Controllers provide a higher-level render method to help you to handle media ranges. Consider for example the following action definition:

val list = Action { implicit request =>
  val items = Item.findAll
  render {
    case Accepts.Html() => Ok(views.html.list(items))
    case Accepts.Json() => Ok(Json.toJson(items))

Accepts.Html() and Accepts.Json() are extractors testing if a given media range matches text/html and application/json, respectively. The render method takes a partial function from play.api.http.MediaRange to play.api.mvc.Result and tries to apply it to each media range found in the request Accept header, in order of preference. If none of the acceptable media ranges is supported by your function, the NotAcceptable result is returned.

For example, if a client makes a request with the following value for the Accept header: */*;q=0.5,application/json, meaning that it accepts any result type but prefers JSON, the above code will return the JSON representation. If another client makes a request with the following value for the Accept header: application/xml, meaning that it only accepts XML, the above code will return NotAcceptable.

§Request extractors

See the API documentation of the play.api.mvc.AcceptExtractors.Accepts object for the list of the MIME types supported by Play out of the box in the render method. You can easily create your own extractor for a given MIME type using the play.api.mvc.Accepting case class, for example the following code creates an extractor checking that a media range matches the audio/mp3 MIME type:

val AcceptsMp3 = Accepting("audio/mp3")
render {
  case AcceptsMp3() => ...

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