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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 05                                             
     WEBDAV Working Group                                   J. Slein, Xerox
     INTERNET DRAFT                                     J. Davis, CourseNet
     <draft-ietf-webdav-collection-reqts-05.txt>                  June 18, 1999
     Expires December 18, 1999

          Requirements for Advanced Collection Functionality in WebDAV

     Status of this Memo

        This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance
        with all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026. Internet-Drafts are
        working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF),
        its areas, and its working groups. Note that other groups may
        also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts.

        Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six
        months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other
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        Distribution of this document is unlimited. Please send comments
        to the Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) working
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        Discussions of the WEBDAV working group are archived at URL:


        The WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol [WebDAV] provides basic
        support for collections, offering the ability to create and list
        unordered collections.  Many applications, however, need more
        powerful collections, especially for resource sharing and
        collection ordering.

        This draft sets out requirements for more advanced, optional
        collection functionality. It extends the base functionality in the
        two directions of resource sharing and collection ordering.  A
        separate WebDAV specification is expected to define protocol
        elements providing the functionality described here.

     1  Terminology

        The terminology used here follows and extends that in the WebDAV
        Distributed Authoring Protocol specification [WebDAV]. Definitions
        of the terms resource, Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), and
        Uniform Resource Locator (URL) are provided in [URI].

           A direct or indirect connection between a resource and a
           namespace element to support resource sharing. Bindings, URI
           mappings, and redirect references are types of associations.

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        URI Mapping
           An association between an absolute URL or URI and a resource.
           Since a resource can represent items that are not network
           retrievable, as well as those that are, it is possible for a
           resource to have zero, one, or many URI mappings to URLs or
           URIs. Mapping a resource to an "http" scheme URL makes it
           possible to submit HTTP protocol requests to the resource using
           the URL.

        Path Segment
           Informally, the characters found between slashes ("/") in a URL
           or URI.  Formally, as defined in section 3.3 of [URI].

           An association between a single path segment (in a collection)
           and a resource. A binding creates one or more URI mappings, and
           hence is a mechanism for resource sharing, allowing a single
           resource to be accessed from multiple locations in a URI

           A resource that contains, as part of its state, a set of
           bindings which identify member resources.

        Internal Member URI
           The URI mapping, created by a binding, that is a member of a
           collection.  While, in general, bindings can create multiple
           URI mappings to a resource, for a given request, only one of
           these URI mappings is referred to as the internal member. The
           URI of the parent collection used in a given request determines
           the base URI for internal member URI calculation.

     2  Introduction and Rationale

        The simple collections that the WebDAV Distributed Authoring
        Protocol specification supports are powerful enough to be widely
        useful.  They provide for the hierarchical organization of
        resources, with mechanisms for creating and deleting collections,
        copying and moving them, locking them, adding resources to them
        and deleting resources from them, and getting listings of their
        members.  Delete, copy, move, list, and lock operations can be
        applied recursively, so that a client can operate on whole
        hierarchies with a single request.

        Many applications, however, need more powerful collections.  There
        are two areas in particular where more powerful functionality is
        often needed: shared resources and ordering.  This draft details
        the additional functionality that is needed in these two areas.

        In both areas, it should be a goal of the protocol specification
        to be compatible with HTTP 1.1 and with the WebDAV Distributed
        Authoring Protocol.  It should be a goal that down-level clients
        be able to take advantage of any new constructs, even if they
        cannot create and manipulate them.  It should be a goal that the

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        new functionality be relatively simple to implement, both for
        clients and for servers.  It should be a goal that the new
        constructs satisfy the infrastructure needs of other WebDAV
        facilities, particularly the current work on versioning and
        configuration management.

     2.1  Shared Resources

        Associations make it possible for many collections, on the
        same or different servers, to share the same resource.  Only one
        physical copy of the resource need exist, and any changes made in
        the resource are visible from all the collections that share it.

        A number of scenarios motivate adding associations to the
        functionality of WebDAV:

        Organizing resources into hierarchies places them into collections,
        which are more easily browsed and manipulated than a flat
        namespace.  However, hierarchies require categorization decisions
        that locate resources at a single location in the hierarchy, a
        drawback when a resource has multiple valid categories. For
        example, in a hierarchy of vehicle descriptions containing
        collections for cars and boats, a description of a combination
        car/boat vehicle could belong in either collection. Ideally, the
        description should be accessible from both.

        Sharing between collections on different servers may be desired.
        For example, the mathematics department at one university may wish
        to create a collection of information on fractals that contains
        some local resources, but also provides access to resources at
        several other universities.  For many reasons, it may be
        undesirable to make physical copies of the shared resources on the
        local server - to conserve disk space, to respect copyright
        constraints, or to make any changes in the shared resources visible

        In another scenario, a manufacturing company develops and maintains
        its product maintenance manuals on the Web. There is a separate
        collection for each product manual.  Each manual is divided into
        sections, one section for every product component.  Since many of
        the companyÆs products contain some of the same components, many of
        the product maintenance manuals have sections in common.  Each
        manual may have some unique sections, but for product components
        that are common to multiple products, the manual's collection
        accesses a resource in a shared library.

        These requirements do not address issues of the integrity of
        associations, though integrity will be of great importance to
        some applications.  Some applications cannot tolerate broken links.
        A software development application, for example, must be able to
        rely on the integrity of references to component modules.  Other
        applications may want integrity not to be enforced.  For example,
        a Web site manager might want to be able to create access paths
        before the resources are created for which they will provide
        access, or might want to be able to remove content temporarily

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        without deleting and later recreating the associations to the
        content.  Addressing these concerns is considered too difficult
        for the planned protocol specification, however.  Consequently,
        they are not included in this set of requirements.

     2.2  Ordered Collections

        For many applications, it is useful for clients to be able to
        impose orderings on collections at the server.  When the server
        receives a request for a list of a collection's members, it always
        responds with a list ordered according to the ordering specified
        for that collection.  In the product manual application above, the
        sections of each manual may be ordered so that they can be printed
        together as a book.  A configuration management application might
        use a collection to represent a version series, in which case the
        "derives from" relationship might be represented as an ordering on
        the collection.

        A collection ordering may sometimes be based on property values.
        An example of such an ordering is one that is alphabetical by
        authorÆs last name, or one from most recent to oldest last-
        modified-date.  An ordering need not be based on property values,
        however.  A professor may order a collection of course readings in
        the sequence that makes sense to coordinate them with her lectures,
        where there is no property on the member resources that could be
        used to create this ordering.  This set of requirements is
        primarily concerned with orderings that are not based on property
        values.  The rationale for this emphasis is that property-based
        orderings can be obtained, even if inefficiently, using the planned
        search facility being developed by the DAV Searching and Locating
        working group.  But there is no other planned WebDAV facility that
        could provide orderings that are not based on property values.

        Another useful distinction is between server-maintained and
        client-maintained orderings.  For server-maintained orderings, the
        server enforces the semantics of the ordering by placing each
        collection member at the appropriate position in the ordering;
        clients cannot alter the position of any collection mamber in the
        ordering.  In client-maintained orderings, the client places each
        collection member in the ordering based on its understanding of the
        semantics of the ordering; the server does nothing to validate the
        client's positioning of the member in the ordering.  These
        requirements address both client-maintained and server-maintained

        WebDAV already provides tools that could be used for creating and
        maintaining ordered collections.  For example, using only the base
        WebDAV specification, an application could create a WebDAV property
        called "Order" on a collection resource.  The value of this
        property might be a list of the collection's member URIs.

        What the base WebDAV specification does not do is standardize a
        single way to represent orderings for collections.

        Different applications and services should be able to operate on

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        the same collection without private agreements about how to manage
        and examine its order.  To make this possible, there needs to be a
        standard way to manipulate and retrieve the order of a collection,
        and a standard representation of the ordering.

        In any situation where collaborative management of a collection
        takes place, and different authoring tools or WebDAV servers might
        be used by the collaborators, standardization is important.  It is
        also important where a different tool may be used to view the
        collection from the one that was used to create it.

        So for example, two users from different organizations, using
        different authoring tools, are working together to create a
        collection.  One of the tools uses a property on the collection
        called "Order" to store an ordering of the collection.  The other
        tool uses a property called "SequenceNumber" on the resources
        identified by the collection's member URIs.  If each user adds some
        members to the collection, there will be no reliable ordering.

     3  Requirements

     3.1  Shared Resources

     3.1.1  A single target resource may be accessed through more than
            one association.

        This is the primary benefit that associations bring.  They allow
        resources to be accessed using alternative Request-URIs, and so
        allow them to be shared by multiple collections, on the same or
        different servers.

     3.1.2  It is possible for clients to create additional associations
            that provide access to an existing resource.

        It has always been possible for Web server administrators to create
        alternative paths to the same resource.  However, clients have not
        had the ability to do this.  Giving clients the ability to create
        associations makes it possible for them to create collections that
        share the same resources.  For several scenarios motivating this
        requirement, see Section 2.1 above.

     3.1.3  It is possible to create cross-server associations.

        It is often desirable to share provide access from a collection
        on one server to a resource that resides on another server.  For
        many reasons, it may be undesirable to make a physical copy of the
        shared resource on the local server - to conserve disk space, to
        respect copyright constraints, or to make any changes in the
        shared resources visible automatically.

     3.1.4  It is possible for a client to delete an association.

        It is important to note that this is a different operation from
        deleting the resource to which the association provides access.
        It must be possible to delete one association without affecting

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        the ability to access the same resource through other associations.

     3.1.5  For any resource, it is possible to request a list of
            the associations that provide access to it.

        This allows clients to discover what collections share the
        resource, thus allowing end users to navigate upward from a
        resource through all the collections that provide access to
        it.  They can use this facility to locate other related
        resources and to understand the contexts in which the resource
        is being used.

     3.1.6  A down-level HTTP 1.1 or WebDAV client is
            able to use an association to access its target resource.

        This minimal level of compatibility with older clients is needed
        to make deployment of WebDAV collection functionality feasible.
        Although new clients may be needed to create and manipulate
        associations, older clients should be able to read and
        make use of the collections built using these associations.

     3.1.8  There is no requirement that associations be acyclic.

        It is particularly problematic to require detection of cycles when
        associations cross server boundaries, but even on a single server
        it may be too burdensome to require detection of cycles when
        associations are created.  In addition, there may be
        applications where cyclic references are desirable.

     3.1.9  There may be multiple associations from the same collection
            to a given resource.

        It is often useful to allow the same resource to be used in one
        collection multiple times.  Typically, these are cases where the
        collection is ordered.  Consider a case where a collection
        represents a book, with one internal member URI for each page in
        the book.  A particular graphic needs to appear in several places
        in the book, and so there need to be multiple internal member URIs
        in the collection pointing to that graphic.

     3.2  Ordered Collections

     3.2.1  Ordering is sufficiently standardized that different
            applications and servers can operate on the same ordering
            without private agreements.

        Applications and servers can apply an ordering to a collectionÆs
        members or discover the ordering of a collection's members without
        private agreements.  They can also modify an ordering, at least
        with the help of a human user for semantics (See 3.2.3), without
        private agreements.

        This is the minimum that is needed to support collaborative
        management of an ordered collection, where different authoring
        tools might be used by the collaborators.  It is also what allows

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        a different tool to be used to view the collection from the one
        that was used to create it.  Finally, it is needed in order for
        servers to list collection members in order, as required by 3.2.6.

     3.2.2  A collection is not required to be ordered.

        A WebDAV server may support collections without supporting ordered
        collections.  Even if the server supports ordered collections,
        there is no requirement that every collection on that server be
        ordered.  Clients decide whether any given collection is

        The remaining requirements apply only to collections that are

     3.2.3  The semantics of an ordering are discoverable.

        The semantics of an ordering define the principle or rule according
        to which the collection members are ordered.  This principle must
        be discoverable if someone (or some application) other than the one
        that created a collection is to be able to add a member to it and
        determine where it makes sense to position the new member in the
        collection's ordering.

        In some cases it may be possible for the semantics to be expressed
        in a machine-usable way, so that an application could automatically
        position a new member in the ordering.  In other cases the
        semantics may require a human user to apply them.  In either case
        they should be discoverable.

     3.2.4  Each collection member appears in the ordering exactly once.

        It would be possible to support orderings that contain only a
        subset of the collection members, or orderings that can contain
        a single collection member more than once.  It is not necessary,
        however, since the same result can be achieved by creating a
        new collection with exactly the desired members, and including
        each member of the new collection in its ordering exactly once.

        This requirement implies that the server will check, whenever a
        member is added to an ordering, to make sure that it is not already
        in the ordering.  It also implies that either the protocol itself
        or the server will insure that whenever a new member is added to
        a collection, it is also added to the collection ordering.

     3.2.5  An ordering does not include any resources that are not members
            of the collection.

        The server must insure that when a member is removed from a
        collection, it is also removed from the collection's ordering.

     3.2.6  When a client requests a listing of the members of a
            collection, this listing is returned in the order specified by
            the collection.

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        This requirement frees clients from the burden of applying the
        ordering to the member listing.  It also insures that whatever
        client retrieves the collection listing, the listing will appear
        in the same order.  (An application using the listing can, of
        course, re-order it on the client side for its own purposes.)

     3.2.7  It is possible to order the members of a collection in a
            client-specified way, not necessarily based on property values.

        Orderings that are based on property values can be obtained by a
        search protocol that supports sorted result sets.  This set of
        requirements is not concerned with such orderings.  It is intended
        primarily to support orderings that cannot be obtained by sorting
        on property values.

        A property is not always available that can serve as the basis for
        a desired ordering.  For example, a professor may wish to order a
        collection of course readings in the sequence that coordinates the
        readings with her lectures.  But the properties of resources at the
        Web site are standardized and do not include one that is
        appropriate to use for this purpose.

        Even if the professor in the example could create a
        "sequencenumber" property to use in sorting the collection, this
        strategy would be undesirable unless she knew she would not be
        adding any readings or changing the order of her lectures once the
        values of sequencenumber were set.  Inserting a new reading into
        the sequence would require updating the sequencenumber property of
        each reading that comes after the new one in the sequence.  Ordered
        collections are intended to support this sort of case, where
        sorting based on a property value is impossible or inefficient.

     3.2.8  It is possible for clients to discover available
            server-maintained orderings and to request that one of those
            orderings be used for a collection.

        Servers may wish to make available some set of server-maintained
        orderings, and allow clients to choose which of them is applied
        to a given collection.  These orderings are likely to be based on
        properties of the resources in a collection.  For example, a server
        might allow resources in collections to be ordered alphabetically
        by author, alphabetically by title, or from most recent to earliest
        publication date.  In order for clients to take advantage of these
        orderings, some way must be provided for them to discover what
        server-maintained orderings are available and to select one to be
        applied to a given collection.

     4  Acknowledgements

        This draft has benefited from thoughtful discussion by Jim Amsden,
        Alan Babich, Steve Carter, Geoffrey Clemm, Ken Coar, Ellis Cohen,
        Bruce Cragun, Spencer Dawkins, Rajiv Dulepet, David Durand,
        Chuck Fay, Roy Fielding, Yaron Goland, Fred Hitt, Alex Hopmann,
        Marcus Jager, Chris Kaler, Manoj Karichainula, Rohit Khare,
        Daniel LaLiberte, Steve Martin, Surendra Koduru Reddy, Sam Ruby,

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        Nick Shelness, John Stracke, John Turner, Jim Whitehead, and

     5  References

        [URI] T. Berners-Lee, R. Fielding, L. Masinter, "Uniform Resource
        Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax." RFC 2396. MIT/LCS, U.C. Irvine,
        Xerox. August, 1998.

        [WebDAV] Y. Y. Goland, E. J. Whitehead Jr., A. Faizi,
        S. R. Carter, D. Jensen, "HTTP Extensions for Distributed
        Authoring - WebDAV." RFC 2518. Microsoft, U.C. Irvine, Netscape,
        Novell. February, 1999.

     6  Authors' Addresses

        J. Slein
        Xerox Corporation
        800 Phillips Road
        Webster, NY 14580
        Email: jslein@crt.xerox.com

        J. Davis
        CourseNet Systems
        170 Capp Street
        San Francisco, CA 94110
        Email: jrd3@alum.mit.edu

     Expires December 18, 1999

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