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Network Working Group                                          J. Slein
Request for Comments: 2291                            Xerox Corporation
Category: Informational                                       F. Vitali
                                                  University of Bologna
                                                           E. Whitehead
                                                            U.C. Irvine
                                                              D. Durand
                                                      Boston University
                                                          February 1998


        Requirements for a Distributed Authoring and Versioning
                    Protocol for the World Wide Web

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998).  All Rights Reserved.

Abstract

   Current World Wide Web (WWW or Web) standards provide simple support
   for applications which allow remote editing of typed data. In
   practice, the existing capabilities of the WWW have proven inadequate
   to support efficient, scalable remote editing free of overwriting
   conflicts. This document presents a list of features in the form of
   requirements for a Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning protocol
   which, if implemented, would improve the efficiency of common remote
   editing operations, provide a locking mechanism to prevent overwrite
   conflicts, improve link management support between non-HTML data
   types, provide a simple attribute-value metadata facility, provide
   for the creation and reading of container data types, and integrate
   versioning into the WWW.

1. Introduction

   This document describes functionality which, if incorporated in an
   extension to the existing HTTP proposed standard [HTTP], would allow
   tools for remote loading, editing and saving (publishing) of various
   media types on the WWW to interoperate with any compliant Web server.
   As much as possible, this functionality is described without
   suggesting a proposed implementation, since there are many ways to
   perform the functionality within the WWW framework. It is also




 
RFC 2291          Distributed Authoring and Versioning     February 1998


   possible that a single mechanism could simultaneously satisfy several
   requirements.

   This document reflects the consensus of the WWW Distributed Authoring
   and Versioning working group (WebDAV) as to the functionality that
   should be standardized to support distributed authoring and
   versioning on the Web.  As with any set of requirements, practical
   considerations may make it impossible to satisfy them all.  It is the
   intention of the WebDAV working group to come as close as possible to
   satisfying them in the specifications that make up the WebDAV
   protocol.

2. Rationale

   Current Web standards contain functionality which enables the editing
   of Web content at a remote location, without direct access to the
   storage media via an operating system. This capability is exploited
   by several existing HTML distributed authoring tools, and by a
   growing number of mainstream applications (e.g., word processors)
   which allow users to write (publish) their work to an HTTP server. To
   date, experience from the HTML authoring tools has shown they are
   unable to meet their users' needs using the facilities of Web
   standards. The consequence of this is either postponed introduction
   of distributed authoring capability, or the addition of nonstandard
   extensions to the HTTP protocol or other Web standards.  These
   extensions, developed in isolation, are not interoperable.

   Other authoring applications have wanted to access document
   repositories or version control systems through Web gateways, and
   have been similarly frustrated.  Where this access is available at
   all, it is through nonstandard extensions to HTTP or other standards
   that force clients to use a different interface for each vendor's
   service.

   This document describes requirements for a set of standard extensions
   to HTTP that would allow distributed Web authoring tools to provide
   the functionality their users need by means of the same standard
   syntax across all compliant servers. The broad categories of
   functionality that need to be standardized are:
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