Internet Explorer caching problem with Apache mod_gzip module

This article by Jan Wulff describes the problems encountered with Internet Explorer 4/5/6 and the Apache server with mod_gzip activated. It describes how to work around these problems.


If the Apache module mod_gzip is activated on your server, you may encounter the problem that Internet Explorer denies any caching for the whole site, thus stopping the block style and text style selctor lists of htmlArea RTE to work correctly. Besides, it may even slow down some other features of TYPO3, like graphical JavaScript menus. This effect does not depend on the gzip compression itself. Internet Explorer is indeed able to handle compressed files. The problem is IE’s handling of one of the HTTP response headers sent with every served document.


The HTTP Vary response header indicates whether a cache is permitted to use the response to reply to a subsequent request without re- validating the document. This is necessary if a document is not suitable for all clients and is served in multiple different versions according to the HTTP headers the client sends with his request.

For example, with activated mod_gzip, every document is at least available in two versions, compressed and uncompressed. If a browser with gzip support requests such a document, it will receive the compressed version. A proxy between the client and the server may cache this file. Now, another browser without gzip support requests the same document via the same proxy. Without the Vary header the proxy would not know if the compressed document may be delivered to the new client, because it can’t compare the HTTP headers of the second browser with the Vary header. If it would nevertheless serve it, the client would receive a bunch of data, without any idea, how to process it. Therefore mod_gzip sends a Vary header with each response with at least ‘Accept-Encoding’ as content.

The problems arise when the Internet Explorer enters the stage. IE 4, 5 and 6 recognizes only one kind of Vary header: ‘User-agent’, used to distinguish between versions for different browsers. Every other Vary header will be interpreted as it would have a single ‘*’ as content. Because this does not compare with the headers send by any client, it forbids any caching of documents received with this header.


There is more than one approach to handle this problem. The following configuration directives all have to be set in the Apache configuration file or in a .htaccess file which has to be located in your TYPO3 root.

Easy going:

So, you have no need for any gzip support? Fine, just deactivate the module and your problems are gone. Use this directive:

mod_gzip_on No

Complex approach:

You do have a lot of big code or text files, or you have to save as much transfer bandwidth as possible? Anyway, deactivating mod_gzip is no option for you? Then, you should first check what release of mod_gzip your server is using. If you don’t know how, ask your provider, or just use the solution for releases from till

  • mod_gzip release <

Releases before this version didn’t send Vary headers, so there shouldn’t be any problem. But because you’re reading this, you most probably don’t use these versions.

  • mod_gzip release <>

These releases all use Vary headers. However, they send these headers without verifying if the document is really checked for compression. The only recommended way to get around this, is to deactivate mod_gzip. But thanks to Apache, you can deactivate mod_gzip separately for chosen files, and let it do it’s work for the rest. You could use this to deactivate mod_gzip for all css files:

<FilesMatch "\.css$">
mod_gzip_on No

Or going even further, you could also include image files:

<FilesMatch "\.(css|gif|jpe?g|png)$">
mod_gzip_on No

By the way, there is another possibility. You could deactivate Vary headers in mod_gzip with this:

mod_gzip_send_vary Off

But there is a reason why mod_gzip, since, uses Vary headers. As described above, you could badly mess up proxy servers, by serving compressed files without Vary headers. Therefore, I strongly discourage this approach.

  • mod_gzip release >

Since release, mod_gzip is a bit more discriminate. It only sends Vary headers with documents which were checked for compression. So you can tell mod_gzip to exclude some files. This approach is not so much different from the former solution, but it is cleaner because it addresses mod_gzip firsthand. To exclude CSS files from compression, use this directive:

mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.css$

If you would like to add images and Javascript files, you could use this:

mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.css$
mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.png$
mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.gif$
mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.jpg$
mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.jpeg$
mod_gzip_item_exclude file \.js$

This is just a short survey of the caching problems with Internet Explorer and mod_gzip. I wrote it with best intent and hope it may be helpful. If you find any mistakes, please let me know at <>. I’m in no way responsible for any consequences that may come forth by the use of this information.