How to Return 503 Service Unavailable or other specific HTTP Status Code

Recently major websites like reddit and wikipedia, decided to go black in protest of SOPA. This is when a Googler joined the conversation and instructed sites to go black the right way. In short Pierre Far instructed sites to return “503 Service Unavailable” Status code, to show bots, that the website in question was taken down, intentionally and temporarily.

So, Here are the various ways to return 503 status code. You can always customize these, to any other HTTP status, as you see fit.


You can set custom headers with PHP. Just include() this piece of code in the top of the pages, you want to blackout.

header("HTTP/1.0 503 Service Unavailable");

Plan HTML Websites

To return specific HTTP Status codes in a Plain HTML Site, You can edit web server config. Include the Following snippet in .htaccess file in apache to achieve the same.

<pre class="wp-code-highlight prettyprint"># Don't forget to turn on the rewrite engine
RewriteEngine on

# Maintenance Redirection
# Replace 555\.555\.555\.555 with your own IP address
# Uncomment first conditional to turn off the redirection
# RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^$a
# RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} !^555\.555\.555\.555$
# RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} !^127\.0\.0\.1$

# Here strike.html is the custom page, thats displayed
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !strike.html
# strike_files/ directory contains supporting files for strike.html
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/strike_files/

# Uncomment the below line, if you want to serve styles/ images/
# RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !(styles|images).+$

RewriteRule (.*) /strike.html [R=503,L]
ErrorDocument 503 /strike.html

For More Explanation about the code, visit css-tricks

Ruby On Rails

If you are Running a Ruby on Rails, Application. You can use the following snippets to set return specific HTML status codes.

For the entire application:

# ApplicationController
before_filter :return_unavailable_status

def return_unavailable_status
render :nothing => true, :status => :service_unavailable

If you wanted a custom error page, you could do:

render 'custom_unavailable_page', :status => :service_unavailable

If you don’t want it for specific controllers:

# SomeController, where you don't want to display
# custom unavailable page
skip_before_filter :return_unavailable_status

Hope this Helps! :)

Thanks for Stack Overflow user, iWasRobbed For providing snippets for Rails Version.


Support with Bitcoin

Found this article interesting or useful? Tip me if you'd like in below address


Written by
Co-Founder Invoice Jet and Work Life