The standard MIME type is application/pdf. The assignment is defined in RFC 3778, The application/pdf Media Type, referenced from the MIME Media Types registry.

MIME types are controlled by a standards body, The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). This is the same organization that manages the root name servers and the IP address space.

The use of x-pdf predates the standardization of the MIME type for PDF. MIME types in the x- namespace are considered experimental, just as those in the vnd. namespace are considered vendor-specific. x-pdf might be used for compatibility with old software.