Alternative Services

RFC 7838 defines an HTTP header which lets a server tell a client that there is one or more alternatives for that server at another place with the use of the Alt-Svc: response header.

The alternatives the server suggests can include a server running on another port on the same host, on another completely different hostname and it can even perhaps offer the service over another protocol.


To make curl consider offered alternatives, tell curl to use a specific alt-svc cache file like this:

curl --alt-svc altcache.txt

then curl loads existing alternative service entries from the file at start-up and consider those when doing HTTP requests, and if the servers sends new or updated Alt-Svc: headers, curl stores those in the cache at exit.

The alt-svc cache

The alt-svc cache is similar to a cookie jar. It is a text based file that stores one alternative per line and each entry also has an expiry time for which duration that particular alternative is valid.

HTTPS only

Alt-Svc: is only trusted and parsed from servers when connected to over HTTPS.


The use of Alt-Svc: headers is as of August 2019 the only defined way to bootstrap a client and server into using HTTP/3. The server then hints to the client over HTTP/1 or HTTP/2 that it also is available over HTTP/3 and then curl can connect to it using HTTP/3 in the subsequent request if the alt-svc cache says so.