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Mastering CORS

··5 mins
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An in depth guide to CORS


In the intricate world of web development, Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) stands as a pivotal concept that often becomes a stumbling block for many developers. At its core, CORS is a protocol that enables secure cross-origin requests and data transfers between browsers and servers. This functionality is crucial in today’s interconnected web environment, where resources are often spread across various domains.

However, the complexity of CORS can lead to a common and frustrating error: being “blocked by CORS policy.” This article aims to demystify CORS, guiding you through its mechanisms, explaining why CORS policies block certain requests, and how to effectively navigate these challenges.

What is CORS?

CORS, or Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, is an HTTP-header-based mechanism designed to allow servers to specify which origins (domain, scheme, or port) are permitted to access resources on a server, different from the request’s origin. This mechanism is critical for maintaining web security standards while allowing the flexibility necessary for modern web applications.

In essence, CORS is a set of rules that define when and how resources can be shared across different origins. Without CORS, a web page would be restricted to accessing resources only from the same origin it was loaded from, severely limiting the web’s interactivity and functionality.

How Does CORS Work?

The CORS process begins when a web application makes a request to a server that resides on a different origin. The browser automatically adds an Origin header to the request, indicating the origin of the requestor. The server then examines this header against its CORS policy.

If the request’s origin is allowed, the server responds with specific CORS headers, like Access-Control-Allow-Origin, which indicate the permissible origins. If the server does not allow the request’s origin or if the CORS headers are missing in the response, the browser blocks the response and displays a “blocked by CORS policy” error.

There are mainly two types of CORS requests:

  1. Simple Requests: These include methods like GET, POST, or HEAD, and they don’t trigger a CORS preflight.
  2. Preflight Requests: For requests using methods like PUT or DELETE, or that include non-simple headers, the browser sends a preflight request using the OPTIONS method to determine if the actual request is permissible.

Key Components and Rules of CORS Policy

Understanding the key components and rules of CORS policy is essential to effectively manage and troubleshoot cross-origin requests. The core of CORS policy is defined by specific HTTP headers that dictate how resources are shared across different origins. Here are the essential components:

  1. Access-Control-Allow-Origin Header: This header is the core of CORS policy, specifying which origins can access resources on the server. It lists allowed origins or uses a wildcard * for all origins, though specificity is recommended for security.
  2. Access-Control-Allow-Methods Header: Indicates the HTTP methods (e.g., GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) accepted by the server from the specified origin, controlling the types of requests permitted.
  3. Access-Control-Allow-Headers Header: Specifies which HTTP headers are allowed in the actual request, particularly important for custom headers.
  4. Access-Control-Allow-Credentials Header: Crucial when a request includes credentials like cookies or HTTP authentication, telling the browser to expose the response only if the header’s value is true.
  5. Access-Control-Max-Age Header: Allows the caching of preflight responses for a specified time, reducing the need for repeated preflight checks.

Handling “Blocked by CORS Policy” Errors

Encountering a “blocked by CORS policy” error can be a common yet challenging issue for web developers. This section aims to provide insights into the reasons behind these errors and how to effectively resolve them.

  1. Understanding the Error: The “blocked by CORS policy” error occurs when a web application makes a request to a server on a different origin, and the request does not comply with the server’s CORS policy. This could be due to various reasons such as disallowed origins, methods, headers, or issues with credentials.
  2. Common Causes of CORS Errors:
    • Mismatched Origins: The most common cause is when the Origin header of the request does not match any of the origins allowed by the server’s Access-Control-Allow-Origin header.
    • Disallowed HTTP Methods: If the request uses an HTTP method not permitted by the server’s Access-Control-Allow-Methods header.
    • Restricted Headers: When the request includes headers not allowed by the server’s Access-Control-Allow-Headers header.
    • Credential Issues: Occurs when the request includes credentials, but the server’s response does not have an Access-Control-Allow-Credentials header set to true.
  3. Troubleshooting and Resolving CORS Errors:
    • Use our CORS debugging tool: Our CORS debugger is a handy resource for troubleshooting CORS errors. It provides detailed insights into the CORS configuration of any website, helping you identify the cause of the error.
    • Check Server’s CORS Configuration: Ensure that the server’s CORS policy correctly lists the allowed origins, methods, and headers. Adjust the server’s CORS settings as needed.
    • Review Request Details: Examine the request to make sure it complies with the server’s CORS policy. Pay special attention to the origin, headers, and HTTP method used.
    • Test with Different Scenarios: Experiment with various request configurations to isolate the cause of the error.
    • Use Browser Developer Tools: Leverage the network tab in browser developer tools to inspect the request and response headers. This can provide insights into why a request is being blocked.
  4. Preventing CORS Errors: Implement correct CORS policies and regularly update and review them. Establish clear and precise CORS policies on the server. Avoid using the wildcard * for Access-Control-Allow-Origin in scenarios involving credentials.


By understanding the common causes and learning how to troubleshoot “blocked by CORS policy” errors, developers can ensure smoother and more secure cross-origin interactions in their web applications. Handling CORS errors effectively is a critical skill in modern web development, enabling applications to leverage resources from various origins without compromising on security.

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