I have a webpage (https://smartystreets.com/contact) that uses jQuery to load some SVG files from S3 through the CloudFront CDN.

In Chrome I will open an Incognito window as well as the console. Then I will load the page. As the page loads, I will typically get 6 to 8 messages in the console that look similar to this:

XMLHttpRequest cannot load 
No 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' header is present on the requested resource.
Origin 'https://smartystreets.com' is therefore not allowed access.

If I do a standard reload of the page, even multiple time, I continue to get the same errors. If I do Command+Shift+R then most, and sometimes all, of the images will load without the XMLHttpRequest error.

Sometimes even after the images have loaded, I will refresh and one or more of the images will not load and return that XMLHttpRequest error again.

I have checked, changed, and re-checked the settings on S3 and Cloudfront. In S3 my CORS configuration looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<CORSConfiguration xmlns="http://s3.amazonaws.com/doc/2006-03-01/">

(Note: initially had only <AllowedOrigin>*</AllowedOrigin>, same problem.)

In CloudFront the distribution behavior is set to allow the HTTP Methods: GET, HEAD, OPTIONS. Cached methods are the same. Forward Headers is set to "Whitelist" and that whitelist includes, "Access-Control-Request-Headers, Access-Control-Request-Method, Origin".

The fact that it works after a cache-less browser reload seems to indicate that all is well on the S3/CloudFront side, else why would the content be delivered. But then why would the content not be delivered on the initial page-view?

I am working in Google Chrome on macOS. Firefox has no problem getting the files every time. Opera NEVER gets the files. Safari will pick up the images after several refreshes.

Using curl I do not get any problems:

curl -I -H 'Origin: smartystreets.com' https://d79i1fxsrar4t.cloudfront.net/assets/img/phone-icon-outline.dc7e4079.svg

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Content-Type: image/svg+xml
Content-Length: 508
Connection: keep-alive
Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:35:57 GMT
Access-Control-Allow-Origin: *
Access-Control-Allow-Methods: GET
Access-Control-Max-Age: 3000
Last-Modified: Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:02:19 GMT
ETag: "dc7e4079f937e83291f2174853adb564"
Cache-Control: max-age=31536000
Expires: Wed, 01 Jan 2020 23:59:59 GMT
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Server: AmazonS3
Vary: Origin,Access-Control-Request-Headers,Access-Control-Request-Method
Age: 4373
X-Cache: Hit from cloudfront
Via: 1.1 09fc52f58485a5da8e63d1ea27596895.cloudfront.net (CloudFront)
X-Amz-Cf-Id: wxn_m9meR6yPoyyvj1R7x83pBDPJy1nT7kdMv1aMwXVtHCunT9OC9g==

Some have suggested that I delete the CloudFront distribution and recreate it. Seems like a rather harsh and inconvenient fix.

What is causing this problem?


Adding response headers from an image that failed to load.

date:Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:27:17 GMT
last-modified:Tue, 11 Apr 2017 18:17:41 GMT
via:1.1 022c901b294fedd7074704d46fce9819.cloudfront.net (CloudFront)
x-cache:Hit from cloudfront
  • You are right -- delete and recreate is extreme and should simply never be necessary. Can you show us the browser's request and response headers for a failed request? And maybe for a successful request of the exact same object? – Michael - sqlbot Jun 20 '17 at 22:45
  • @Michael-sqlbot, I was kinda hoping you would visit the URL (smartystreets.com/contact) and see if the same thing was happening on your machine. :) The interesting thing about the errors is that aside from the error in the console, the browser reports a status of 200, citing that it is using the image "(from disk cache)", which should not be possible with Incognito, I thought. Even after I clear the local cache. – SunSparc Jun 20 '17 at 23:05
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    Yeah, people so often "make up" domain names (that turn out to be real sites, but not the site in question) that I initially didn't realize you had given the actual, correct link to your site. Thanks for that, you can disregard my request. I can duplicate the problem. This seems like a client side issue. I'm chasing down a theory. – Michael - sqlbot Jun 20 '17 at 23:10
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    That is exactly what I believe to be the case. Chrome and S3 are interacting in a way that breaks a CORS request that follows a non-CORS request for the same object. Arguably, both of them are wrong... but arguably, neither of them is wrong. I don't think you can fix this without storing two copies of the object with different keys... or using two different CloudFront distributions (different hostnames) so that you don't make both a CORS and non-CORS request. I'll write it up with details of how I'm arriving at this conclusion, if you like. – Michael - sqlbot Jun 20 '17 at 23:50
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    When you mess around with headers etc, they are cached, to revert back to current settings just invalidate those in CloudFront – tarikakyol Dec 5 '19 at 9:12

You're making two requests for the same object, one from HTML, one from XHR. The second one fails, because Chrome uses the cached response from the first request, which has no Access-Control-Allow-Origin response header.


Chromium bug 409090 Cross-origin request from cache failing after regular request is cached describes this problem, and it's a "won't fix" -- they believe their behavior is correct. Chrome considers the cached response to be usable, apparently because the response didn't include a Vary: Origin header.

But S3 does not return Vary: Origin when an object is requested without an Origin: request header, even when CORS is configured on the bucket. Vary: Origin is only sent when an Origin header is present in the request.

And CloudFront does not add Vary: Origin even when Origin is whitelisted for forwarding, which should by definition mean that varying the header might modify the response -- that's the reason why you forward and cache against request headers.

CloudFront gets a pass, because its response would be correct if S3's were more correct, since CloudFront does return this when it's provided by S3.

S3, a little fuzzier. It is not wrong to return Vary: Some-Header when there was no Some-Header in the request.

For example, a response that contains

Vary: accept-encoding, accept-language

indicates that the origin server might have used the request's Accept-Encoding and Accept-Language fields (or lack thereof) as determining factors while choosing the content for this response. (emphasis added)


Clearly, Vary: Some-Absent-Header is valid, so S3 would be correct if it added Vary: Origin to its response if CORS is configured, since that indeed could vary the response.

And, apparently, this would make Chrome do the right thing. Or, if it doesn't do the right thing in this case, it would be violating a MUST NOT. From the same section:

An origin server might send Vary with a list of fields for two purposes:

  1. To inform cache recipients that they MUST NOT use this response to satisfy a later request unless the later request has the same values for the listed fields as the original request (Section 4.1 of [RFC7234]). In other words, Vary expands the cache key required to match a new request to the stored cache entry.


So, S3 really SHOULD be returning Vary: Origin when CORS is configured on the bucket, if Origin is absent from the request, but it doesn't.

Still, S3 is not strictly wrong for not returning the header, because it's only a SHOULD, not a MUST. Again, from the same section of RFC-7231:

An origin server SHOULD send a Vary header field when its algorithm for selecting a representation varies based on aspects of the request message other than the method and request target, ...

On the other hand, the argument could be made that Chrome should implicitly know that varying the Origin header should be a cache key because it could change the response in the same way Authorization could change the response.

...unless the variance cannot be crossed or the origin server has been deliberately configured to prevent cache transparency. For example, there is no need to send the Authorization field name in Vary because reuse across users is constrained by the field definition [...]

Similarly, reuse across origins is arguably constrained by the nature of Origin but this argument is not a strong one.

tl;dr: You apparently cannot successfully fetch an object from HTML and then successfully fetch it again with as a CORS request with Chrome and S3 (with or without CloudFront), due to peculiarities in the implementations.


This behavior can be worked-around with CloudFront and Lambda@Edge, using the following code as an Origin Response trigger.

This adds Vary: Access-Control-Request-Headers, Access-Control-Request-Method, Origin to any response from S3 that has no Vary header. Otherwise, the Vary header in the response is not modified.

'use strict';

// If the response lacks a Vary: header, fix it in a CloudFront Origin Response trigger.

exports.handler = (event, context, callback) => {
    const response = event.Records[0].cf.response;
    const headers = response.headers;

    if (!headers['vary'])
        headers['vary'] = [
            { key: 'Vary', value: 'Access-Control-Request-Headers' },
            { key: 'Vary', value: 'Access-Control-Request-Method' },
            { key: 'Vary', value: 'Origin' },
    callback(null, response);

Attribution: I am also the author of the original post on the AWS Support forums where this code was initially shared.

The Lambda@Edge solution above results in fully correct behavior, but here are two alternatives that you may find useful, depending on your specific needs:

Alternative/Hackaround #1: Forge the CORS headers in CloudFront.

CloudFront supports custom headers that are added to each request. If you set Origin: on every request, even those that are not cross-origin, this will enable correct behavior in S3. The configuration option is called Custom Origin Headers, with the word "Origin" meaning something entirely different than it means in CORS. Configuring a custom header like this in CloudFront overwrites what is sent in the request with the value specified, or adds it if absent. If you have exactly one origin accessing your content over XHR, e.g. https://example.com, you can add that. Using * is dubious, but might work for other scenarios. Consider the implications carefully.

Alternative/Hackaround #2: Use a "dummy" query string parameter that differs for HTML and XHR or is absent from one or the other. These parameters are typically named x-* but should not be x-amz-*.

Let's say you make up the name x-request. So <img src="https://dzczcexample.cloudfront.net/image.png?x-request=html">. When accessing the object from JS, don't add the query parameter. CloudFront is already doing the right thing, by caching different versions of the objects using the Origin header or absence of it as part of the cache key, because you forwarded that header in your cache behavior. The problem is, your browser doesn't know this. This convinces the browser that this is actually a separate object that needs to be requested again, in a CORS context.

If you use these alternative suggestions, use one or the other -- not both.

| improve this answer | |
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    Your response is a lifesaver, great answer. You saved me some serious time. – mtyurt Dec 4 '17 at 11:58
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    @Jeffin, alternative #2 above will work for S3 alone, without CloudFront. Adding an arbitrary ?x-some-key=some-value query string parameter will convince the browser that the request is different. – Michael - sqlbot Apr 24 '18 at 14:02
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    @Michael-sqlbot: Yep, worked like a charm – Jeffin Apr 25 '18 at 5:25
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    @Lionel yes, that looks correct. – Michael - sqlbot Oct 3 '18 at 10:24
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    You are a legend! Workaround worked like a charm. Thank you for this answer. Wish I could give it 100 points!!!! – ArcadeRenegade Dec 5 '19 at 3:01

I don't know why you'd be getting such different results from various browsers, but:

X-Amz-Cf-Id: wxn_m9meR6yPoyyvj1R7x83pBDPJy1nT7kdMv1aMwXVtHCunT9OC9g==

That line right there is what (if you can get their attention) a CloudFront or Support engineer will use to follow one of your failed requests. If the request is getting to a CloudFront server, it should have this header in the response. If that header isn't there, then the request is likely failing somewhere before it gets to CloudFront.

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  • Thanks, I will see if I can get any responses over on the AWS forums. – SunSparc Jun 20 '17 at 23:09
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    You may need to pay the $29 for developer support. That's a trivial amount of money for any business, given how much a persons time costs. – Tim Jun 20 '17 at 23:19
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    @Tim, note that developer support is not simply $29. That's the base price. If 3% of your monthly AWS bill is >= $29, you pay 3% instead of the base. – Michael - sqlbot Jul 2 '17 at 13:36
  • Thanks @Michael-sqlbot, I didn't realise that. I know support price can add up quickly when you have things like reserved instances, but I've never looked at developer pricing when you have a lot of resources. – Tim Jul 2 '17 at 20:08

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