WebDAV is an IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) working group whose official name is "WWW Distributed Authoring and Versioning" or WebDAV for short.
WebDAV started life when Jim Whitehead convinced the W3C to host two meetings where people interested in the problem of distributed authoring on the World Wide Web could get together to discuss possible solutions. The original vision of the World Wide Web as expounded by Tim Berners-Lee had called for the Web to be both a readable and writable medium and in fact Tim's first web browser, called WorldWideWeb, had been capable of both viewing and editing remote pages. However as the web grew it turned itself into a read only medium. Jim and other like minded people wanted to fix that limitation.
The group of people meeting at the W3C decided that the best way to proceed was to form an IETF working group. The IETF seemed a natural choice as the HTTP protocol was being standardized there and it was assumed that the output of this effort would consist of extensions to that protocol.
As work began on the protocol it became clear that handling both distributed authoring and versioning was just too much and that the task would have to be separated. The WebDAV working group therefore decided to just focus on distributed authoring and leave versioning for the future. In fact members commonly joked that the group should properly be called WebDA.
WebDAV added the following methods to HTTP:
- PROPFIND - Used to retrieve properties, persisted as XML, from a resource. It is also overloaded to allow one to retrieve the collection structure (a.k.a. directory hierarchy) of a remote system.
- PROPPATCH - Used to change and delete multiple properties on a resource in a single atomic act.
- MKCOL - Used to create collections (a.k.a. directory)
- COPY - Used to copy a resource from one URI to another
- MOVE - Used to move a resource from one URI to another
- LOCK - Used to put a lock on a resource, WebDAV supports both shared and exclusive locks
- UNLOCK - To remove a lock from a resource
The WebDAV working group is still working on a number of extensions to WebDAV including - authentication, redirection control, ordering entries in collections, etc.
The WebDAV working group spawned other IETF working groups including the DAV Searching and Locating (DASL) working group and the Web Versioning and Configuration Management (DELTAV) working group. DASL never produced any official standard although there are a number of implementations of its last draft. DELTAV produced the Versioning Extensions to WebDAV RFC 3253 which put the V back into WebDAV.
The WebDAV Home Page contains up-to-date information about implementations of WebDAV and WebDAV related standards efforts.
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2 See also
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