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MIME Types And You

In the early days of the Internet, the World Wide Web didn't exist. The most common medium of information exchange was e-mail. If you wanted to send a picture or a sound file to someone, you had to e-mail it to them as an attachment to a regular e-mail. This got really confusing really fast - e-mail programs of the time treated every non-text file as a simple binary file. When you received a file, neither you nor your e-mail program had any idea if it was a picture, a sound, or an executable program.

To solve this problem, the Multimedia Internet Mail Extension, or MIME, standard was devised. Under the MIME system, a small string of text is sent along with the file. This string of text consists of two parts separated by a slash. The first part gives a general grouping for the file, for example "text", "image", or "audio". The second part gives a specific type of file, for example "html", "gif", or "midi". These identification strings are standardized by the World Wide Web Consortium, so there isn't any confusion as to which string goes with which file.

For obvious reasons, the MIME standard is very important to the World Wide Web. A web browser has to know what type of file it's looking at so it can see what to do with it. Graphic images and text are usually displayed by the browser, while more complex file types like ZIP, PDF, and MIDI are viewed outside of the actual web browser by programs that the browser launches.

The web browser keeps track of what type of file it is based on its MIME type, sent by the web server. If you want to place a certain type of file on your web server, be sure to check that its MIME type is supported by Savant. If it isn't, use the graphical configuration utility to add it.

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