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WebDAV Working Group                            J. Stracke, Jim Amsden
INTERNET DRAFT                                           Netscape, IBM
draft-ietf-webdav-version-goals-00                   February 24, 1999
Expires August, 1999

Goals for Web Versioning

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
documents at any time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts
as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in

The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at

The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at

Distribution of this document is unlimited. Please send comments to
the Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV) working group at
ietf-dav-versioning@w3.org, which may be joined by sending a
message with subject "subscribe" to
ietf-dav-versioning-request@w3.org. The main WebDAV mailing list at
w3c-dist-auth@w3.org may also be used for comments. To join the
mailing list, send a message with subject "subscribe" to
w3c-dist-auth-request@w3c.org.  Discussions of the WebDAV versioning
working group are archived at
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/ietf-dav-versioning/. Discussions
of the WebDAV working group are archived at


Versioning and configuration management are important features for
controlling the evolution of remotely authored Web content. Parallel
development leverages versioning capability to allow multiple authors
to simultaneously author Web content. These functions form a basis for
flexible, scaleable distributed authoring. This document describes a
set of scenarios, functional, and non-functional requirements for
web versioning extensions to the WebDAV protocol. It supersedes the
versioning-related goals of [WEBDAV-GOALS].


Status of this Memo              1
Abstract                         2
Contents                         2
Introduction                     2
Definitions                      4
Scenarios                        7
Goals                           17
Rationale                       29
Non-goals                       30
Security Considerations         31
References                      31


Versioning, parallel development, and configuration management are
important features for remote authoring of Web content.  Version
management is concerned with tracking and accessing the history of
important states of a single Web resource, such as a standalone Web
page.  Parallel development provides additional resource availability
in multi-user, distributed environments and lets authors make changes
on the same resource at the same time, and merge those changes at some
later date. Configuration management addresses the problems of
tracking and accessing multiple interrelated resources over time as
sets of resources, not simply individual resources.  Traditionally,
artifacts of software development, including code, design, test cases,
requirements, help files, and more have been a focus of configuration
management.  Web sites, comprised of multiple inter-linked resources
(HTML, graphics, sound, CGI, and others), are another class of complex
information artifacts that benefit from the application of
configuration management.

The WebDAV working group originally focused exclusively on defining
version management capabilities for remote authoring applications and
group consensus on these features is reflected in [WEBDAV-GOALS].
However, as the WebDAV working group has constructed protocols for
versioning functionality, it has become clear that while versioning
functionality alone is useful for a range of content authoring
scenarios involving one, or a small set of resources, versioning alone
is insufficient for managing larger sets of content. Protocol support
for parallel development and simple remote configuration management of
Web resources provides functionality for managing larger sets of
interrelated content developed by multiple users at different
locations.  This document contains a set of scenarios and a list of
the functional and non-functional goals for versioning, parallel
development, and configuration management of Web resources. It
replaces the existing functional goals for versioning capability
described in [WEBDAV-GOALS], section 5.9. These scenarios and goals
are used to develop a model of WebDAV versioning, which in turn is
used to develop the protocol that implements it.

Version management is always a tradeoff between the goals for maximum
data integrity, maximum data availability, and ease of use. It is
relatively easy to specify a design that satisfies any two of these
goals, but this is often at the expense of the third. For example,
data availability and ease of use are easy to accomplish using
authoring servers that compromise data integrity by following a last
writer wins policy. In contrast, high data integrity and availability
are possible using branch and merge systems, but at the cost of ease
of use due to difficult merges. The requirements for WebDAV versioning
are based on compromises between these conflicting goals. WebDAV
versioning specifies a set of mechanisms that can be exploited to
support a variety of policies allowing client applications and users
to find a balance appropriate to their needs.


1. A basic resource is a resource that is not a collection or
   reference, i.e., an HTTP/1.1 resource.

2. A versioned resource is an abstraction for a resource which is
   subject to version control, a resource having a set of revisions,
   relationships between those revisions, revision names, and
   named branches that track the evolution of the resource.

3. A revision is a particular version of a versioned resource. An
   immutable revision is a revision that once created, can never be
   changed without creating a new revision. A mutable revision is
   a revision that can change without creating a new version.

4. A working resource is an editable resource derived from a revision
   of a versioned resource by checking out the revision. A working
   resource can become a new revision, or overwrite an existing
   mutable revision on check in.

5. A initial revision is the first revision of a versioned resource
   and has no predecessors within the versioned resource.

6. A revision name is a unique name that can be used to refer to a
   revision of a versioned resource. There are two types of revision
   names, revision identifiers or labels as described below.

7. A revision identifier (or revision ID) is a revision name which
   uniquely and permanently identifies a revision of a versioned
   resource. Revision identifiers are assigned by the server when
   the revision is created and cannot be changed later to refer to
   a different revision.

8. A label is a revision name which uniquely, but not necessarily
   permanently identifies a revision of a versioned resource. A label
   may be assigned to a revision, and may be changed to refer to
   a different revision at some later time. The same label may be
   assigned to many different versioned resources.

9. A predecessor of a revision is a revision from which this revision
   is created. A successor of a revision is a revision derived from
   this revision. A revision may have one predecessor and multiple
   successors. The is-derived-from relationships between revisions of
   a versioned resource form a tree.

10. The merge-predecessors of a revision are those revisions that have
    been merged with this revision.

11. A revision history is a concrete representation of the elements of
    a versioned resource including all predecessor and successor
    relationships, revision names, activities, etc.

12. A line-of-descent is a sequence of revisions connected by
    successor/predecessor relationships from the initial revision to
    a specific revision.

13. An activity is a resource referring to a named set of revisions
    that correspond to some unit of work or conceptual change.
    Activities are created by authors and are used to organize related
    changes to resources, and to provide a basis for parallel
    development and merging concurrent changes to the same resource.
    An activity can contain revisions of multiple versioned resources,
    and/or multiple revisions of the same versioned resource along a
    single line-of-descent. In each activity, it is possible to refer
    to the latest revision of a versioned resource in that activity.

14. A workspace is a resource that is used to determine what revision
    of a versioned resource should be accessed when the resource is
    referenced without a particular revision name. When a user agent
    accesses a versioned resource, a workspace may be specified to
    determine the specific revision that is the target of the request.
    A workspace contains a version selection rule that is applied when
    the workspace is used in conjunction with the URI for a versioned
    resource to perform URL mapping and select a specific revision.

15. A revision selection rule specifies what revision of a versioned
    resource should be selected. WebDAV defines selection rules that
    allow a revision to be selected based on its checked out
    status, revision name, activity name, configuration name, or the
    latest revision. Servers may support additional selection rules.

16. A conflict report lists all revisions that must be merged when an
    activity is merged into a workspace. If the merge source activity
    specifies a resource that is a predecessor or successor
    of the revision selected by the current workspace, then there is
    no conflict. The merged workspace will pick the revision already
    in the workspace if the merge source specifies a predecessor,
    otherwise it will pick the successor specified by the merge
    source. Conflicts result when the merge source activity picks a
    revision on a different line-of-descent than that selected
    by workspace. Conflicts are resolved by merging resources together
    into the workspace. This creates a new revision that has multiple
    predecessors and contains the changes from both merge source and
    the current workspace revisions.

17. A configuration is a named set of related resources where each
    member refers to a specific revision of a versioned resource. A
    configuration is a specific instance of a set of versioned
    resources. Configurations are similar to activities, but play a
    different role. A workspace with its current activity and version
    selection rule specifies what a client can see. An activity is
    associated with work in progress and encapsulates a set of
    related changes to multiple versioned resources. Creating
    separate activities allows developers to work in parallel on the
    same resources, and to reconcile conflicts through merging
    activities. Configurations represent a persistent selection of
    revisions of versioned resources for organization and
    distribution. Configurations can be versioned resources,
    activities cannot.


This section provides an example usage scenario that provides a
context for explaining the definitions above, and for exploring and
validating the goals given in the rest of this document. The example
consists of a fictitious company, Acme Web Solutions that is
developing a typical Web e-business application. To provide for the
broadest coverage, the scenarios start with a non-existent resource
typical of web applications, and follow its life cycle through
development and multiple deployments. Other resources would likely
have similar life cycles.

Acme Web Solutions (AWS) has developed a web-grocery store called WGS.
The application consists of a number of HTML pages, some Java applets,
some Java Server Pages (JSP) and a number of Java servlets that access
a DB2 database.  AWS has decided to develop a new generation of its
flagship WGS product to include maintenance of customer profile
information, and active (push) marketing of product specials to
interested customers using Channel Definition Format (CDF). The new
product will be called Active Grocery Store or AGS. Customers who are
interested in receiving information on specials will indicate that
interest by subscribing to various CDF channels targeting pre-defined
or user-specified product groupings. Since AGS represents significant
new revenue potential for grocery stores, AWS has decided to sell it
as a separate product from WGS, and at a relatively high price. WGS
will still be available without AGS as a lower-cost, entry-level
solution for smaller stores, or stores just getting into e-business

AGS is a typical Web application development project that will require
changes to existing resources in AWS as well as adding new resources.
These new resources will also be HTML pages, applets, JSPs, servlets,
etc. WGS is an active project sold to current customers with a
maintenance contract. It has on-going updates that are unrelated to
the new AGS system, but may need to be included in the AGS system.
These include bug fixes or minor new functional improvements. Since
AGS is based on WGS, but both can evolve and be sold separately, it is
necessary to maintain versions of resources used by both. This will
require AWS developers to specify a configuration of versioned
resources corresponding to each product. As the products evolve over
time, these configurations will be versioned resources themselves,
each representing a new release of their associated product, WGS, AGS,
or both.

The AWS development organization consists of a large number of
developers across a variety of disciplines including webmasters, Java
developers, relational database developers, HTML page editors,
graphics artists, etc. All of these developers contribute to the
development of the WGS and AGS products, often working in parallel on
the same resource for different purposes. For example, a WGS
developer may be editing an HTML page to fix a usability problem
while an AGS developer is working on the same page to add the new AGS
functions. This will require coordination of their activities to
provide maximum availability of these shared resources while at the
same time ensuring the integrity of the updates. The AWS development
team has decided to allow parallel development and resolve multiple
concurrent updates through branching and merging of the resource
version graph. This adds complexity to the development project as
well as some risk due to inaccurate merges, but AWS has decided it
cannot be competitive in the Web world if all development must be
serialized on shared resources as this would significantly slow
product development.

The following scenarios trace the life cycle of a typical Web resource
from conception to product deployment and maintenance. Each scenario
exposes some aspect of WebDAV and its use of the versioning, parallel
development and configuration management definitions and goals
specified in this document. In the scenarios below, it is assumed that
all developers have access to a Web WorkBench (WB) application that
provides client access to a WebDAV server called DAVServer. It is
further assumed that both the client and server provide level 2 WebDAV
services plus advanced collections, versioning, parallel development,
and configuration management.

There is a goal that WebDAV versioning will support perhaps multiple
levels of versioning from none (existing WebDAV specification), simple
linear versioning, support for parallel development, and through to
configuration management. The scenarios below should follow this
progression from simple to complex in order to help expose logical
points for leveling the protocol functionality. However, the intent of
this document is to at least expose the complete goals for full WebDAV
versioning support in order to ensure down-levels are a consistent
subset. The exact contents of down-level servers and the number of
levels will be determined later during protocol development.

Resource Creation

The AGS project team held a design meeting to determine the work
products required to support the AGS project, its integration with
the WGS application, and to assign these work products to developers.
Various analysis and design techniques can be used to discover the
required work products, but this is beyond the scope of WebDAV. At the
end of the meeting, webmaster Joe was assigned to develop the new
welcome page, index.html, for the AGS project. This page will be the
initial page used to navigate the AGS application, and is the first
page seen by users. It is a new page that will not replace the WGS
welcome page, but will contain a reference to it.

Joe uses WB to create a new collection, http://aws/ags/, and the new
index.html page in the collection http://aws/ags/index.html. Neither
the parent collection, nor index.html are versioned resources at this
point. A WebDAV MKCOL is used to create the collection, and a PUT is
used to create the initial, empty resource.

Resource Editing

Joe uses WB to GET the resource and edit it with his favorite HTML
editor. Each save by the HTML editor does a PUT to the DAVServer,
overwriting its current contents. No new versions are created.
Joe may also use WB to get and set properties of index.html using
PROPFIND and PROPPATCH. Joe does not need to lock index.html because
he is the only developer working on it at this time. He could however
lock the resource to ensure no one else could make any changes he is
not aware of.

Creating a Versioned Resource

At some point, Joe decides preliminary editing on index.html is
complete, and he needs to make a stable version available to other
developers who need it for integration testing, etc. Joe however
wants to ensure that no other developers make changes to index.html
that he cannot back out, as he is the webmaster responsible for the
resource. So Joe uses the WB to make  index.html which causes
DAVServer to create a versioned resource, and make the initial
version Joe's index.html. At this point, Joe's index.html is
immutable, it cannot be changed by anyone, including Joe, and remains
in the repository until the versioned resource is deleted.

Labeling a Version

When DAVServer created the versioned resource corresponding to
index.html, it gave the initial version a revision id, "102847565".
This revision name is automatically assigned by the server, and
cannot be changed or assigned to any other version. This revision
name acts as the unique identifier for this version of versioned
resource index.html. The AGS development team has decided that a
revision label "initial" will identify the initial version of all
resources. This ensures they stand out and can be easily accessed
without remembering some opaque revision id. Joe uses WB to set the
label on the initial version to "initial" in order to identify the
version with this more meaningful name.

Accessing Versioned Resources

Fred wants to access Joe's initial version of index.html. So he uses
URL http://aws/ags/index.html to get the contents of the resource and
notices he does get the right version, because it was selected by the
default workspace. That is, when Fred accessed URL
http://aws/ags/index.html, he did so without specifying a workspace.
So the default workspace was used, and the default workspace always
uses "latest" in its version selection rule. But Fred wants to be
more cautions. He wants to be sure that he continues to get version
labeled "initial", even if the latest version changes as the result
of new changes Joe may check in. So Fred creates a workspace called
"initialws", and sets the version selection rule to be the revision
labeled "initial". Then Fred always accesses index.html with its URL
and the initialws workspace to be sure he gets the specific version
he needs. The workspace also ensures he gets the revision named
"initial" of all other versioned resources as well, ensuring a
consistent set of revisions.

Later that week, there have been a number of changes to index.html,
and Fred wants to just take a quick look at an old version to remember
how the page used to look. Fred’s workspace is currently selecting
the latest version, and he doesn’t want to change his workspace just
to look at some other revision. So Fred uses his WebDAV client to
access index.html using label "initial", or revision id 32345
to override the workspace selection and get the initial revision.

Creating a New Revision

A week later, a number of developers have noticed that index.html is
missing both important references to their pages as well as hot
images for navigation. They send email to Joe specifying their new
requirements. Joe now wants to make changes to index.html and create
a new revision. He wants to retain the old revision, just in case the
requirements he was given were incorrect and need to be backed
out, and to allow developers using the old revision to continue their
work. To do this, Joe uses the WB to check out index.html and create
a new working resource. Joe can now access the working resource
because working resources are always visible from the workspace in
which they were checked out.

As before, Joe uses the WB and HTML editor to GET the working
resource and PUT updates. Each PUT replaces the contents of the
working resource with changes made by the HTML editor, no new
revision is created. When Joe is finished making edits to support
the new requirements, he checks the working resource back in, making
a new revision.

Editing a Mutable Revision

John was assigned to write a high level marketing document, ags.html
that provided an overall description of the AGS application. Since
most changes to this document have no effect on the rest of AGS, John
decides to allow revisions of ags.html to be editable in-place. This
is so simple spelling and grammar errors can be fixed without
requiring the creation of a new revision. John still wants to create
revisions whenever some significant new feature is added to AGS so
the old descriptions are available to customers who don't upgrade.

John creates resource ags.html, edits it a number of times, and then
checks it in to create a versioned resource.

Later on, a new feature is added and John checks out ags.html to
create a new revision, makes his edits, and checks it back in,
creating a new revision. Three days later, John notices a spelling
mistake in the first revision that he corrected in the new revision,
but users of the old revision would like the correction made for
their users too. So John again checks out the old revision creating a
new working resource, fixes the spelling mistake, and then checks
the working resource back in. However in this case, John selects
check in in-place in order to overwrite the old revision with the
corrected revision. Now all users of the old revision will see the
correction. This revision is now marked as mutable since it
has been changed.

Six months later, there have been a number of complaints about
ags.html presenting misleading product information that has resulted
in unhappy customers. There's even talk of lawsuits. So John hurriedly
updates ags.html and checks in the new version as immutable so that in
case there is a suit, he can prove that customers had access to his
updated version. Now any changes can be made by creating new
immutable revisions without ever worrying about loosing old version.

A year later, things have cooled down, and John decides its OK to
allow mutable revisions again. On his last change he checked ags.html
in as a mutable revision allowing subsequent changes to be done
without creating new versions. At the same time, the revision history
of the immutable revisions is preserved just in case that pesky
customer re-appears.

Parallel Development with Activities

Two weeks later, there is a major redesign of AGS that results in a
lot of changes to index.html. Again, Joe checks out the resource
creating a new working resource. But it is taking Joe a long time to
finish all the edits, and in the meantime, graphics artist Jane wants
to update index.html with references to the new images that resulted
from the AGS redesign. Jane attempts to check out index.html, but WB
informs her that Joe already has it checked out and refuses the
request. She checks with Joe, and since they are both working on
different aspects of index.html, Joe feels it would be fine for Jane
to do her work in parallel with his, and then he will merge her
changes with his to finish the required updates. Jane creates a new
activity called "images_updates", uses it to set the activity of her
workspace, and again attempts the checkout. This time the checkout
succeeds, and a new working resource is created for index.html in
the images_updates activity. Now any changes that Jane makes to
images.html are completely independent of changes Joe makes to the
same resource, but in a different activity. Note that Joe did not
create an activity when he checked out index.html. Instead, the
default activity "mainline" was used. Jane couldn't checkout
index.html without specifying a different activity because a
resource can only be checked out once in a given activity. She also
couldn’t make any changes until the resource is checked out as
checked in revisions are read-only.

After making her edits, she checks index.html back in, which creates a
new revision in the images_updates activity.

Merging Activities

Project management practice dictates that at various times during the
development project, usually every few days or at specific project
milestones, the updates from any parallel activities should be merged
in order to integrate the changes and produce instances of the
products suitable for testing. This avoids the risk of revisions of
shared resources diverging wildly, and thereby decreases the
likelihood of difficult or inaccurate merges. It also encourages
communication within the development organization and avoids
"big-bang" integration points late in the development cycle. This
enhances the stability of the products and helps ensure a
deterministic, controllable development process. It also allows early
product testing and better feedback to developers.

Joe has finally finished his changes to image.html, and is ready to
incorporate the changes from Jane’s images_update activity to get the
new images. Before doing so, Joe checks his updates into revision
"r0.2" so if he does something wrong when doing the merge, he can
recover and try again. Now Joe specifies in his workspace that he
wishes to merge the "image_updates" activity into his workspace. He
then can obtain a conflict report from his workspace that indicates
that the resource index.html requires a merge. He then issues a merge
request for index.html. This checks out the resource in the mainline
activity (the activity in Joe's workspace), and registers a merge
from the latest revision in the image_updates activity to the working
resource. This working resource now has two predecessors, r0.2
and the image_updates revision. Joe then uses the differencing
capability in his HTML editor to find the differences between his
revision and Jane’s, and to apply Jane's changes as appropriate.

The HTML editor Joe uses is WebDAV versioning aware, and does a 3-way
merge by accesses the closest common ancestor in the revision history
in order to help with the merge process. Joe notices that most of
Jane’s changes do not conflict with his as they are in different
places in the resource, but there are a number of places where he
added new functions that do not have images as Jane didn't know they
were there. He notes these and either fixes them himself, or sends
email to Jane so she can fix them in another revision. Once the
changes are complete, Joe checks in the merged revision. Jane is free
to continue making updates in her image_updates activity, and these
changes can be merged in again later.

Creating a Configuration

At some point, enough of the work products of the AGS application are
sufficiently complete and stable that AWS wants to distribute an alpha
release. To do this, Joe uses WB to create a configuration named
"alphaRelease" that will contain a consistent set of compatible work
product revisions. This configuration will contain all revisions
currently selected by Joe's workspace. If any working resources
exist in Joe's workspace, the request to create a configuration fails,
with an error message indicating that the failure is due to the
presence of checked-out resources in Joe's workspace.

When Jane is ready to see the alphaRelease, she modifies the revision
selection rules of her workspace to select this new configuration.
Any conflicts between this new configuration and her current activity
requiring merges would be noted in the "conflicts" report of her
workspace, which Jane could then resolve with the "merge" operation.

Each release of AGS consists of new resources and updated revisions of
existing resources. To simplify creating a new configuration for each
new release, Joe can make the AGS configuration a versioned resource.
For release 1 of AGS, Joe uses a configuration called AGS, and labels
it R1. For release 2, he checks out version R1 of configuration AGS,
and adds, removes, or changes the revisions of versioned resources in
the configuration, then checks in the configuration and labeling it

Getting the Revision History of a Versioned Resource

In order to determine what revision should be included in the
alphaRelease configuration, Joe must examine the revision history of
resource index.html. He does this by requesting the revision history
of index.html and receives an XML document describing all the
revisions including their revision id, labels, descriptions,
successors, predecessor, and merge predecessors. Joe uses an XML
enabled browser and an XSL style sheet to view the revision history.

Accessing Resources by Non-versioning Aware Clients

Fred belongs to a different company, and does not have any WebDAV
versioning aware tools. However, he is an excellent graphics artist,
and has been asked to look over a particular image file, logo.gif. So
Fred uses his image editing tool to get a copy of logo.gif. Because
his editing  tool is not versioning aware, he cannot specify a
particular version, either with a revision name or by using a
workspace. However, the WebDAV server provides a default workspace
that selects the latest revision when no label or workspace is
specified on a request.

Updating Resources by Non-versioning Aware Clients

Fred has provided his review to Jane and Joe, and they decide he
should be allowed to update the image in logo.gif. Fred then edits
the image in his image editing tool, and attempts to save it on the
DAVServer. Again, the editing tool does not specify a workspace, or
activity, nor can Fred check out the resource before attempting the
save. Joe realizes Fred must be able to change the resource, so he
enables automatic versioning in logo.gif. Then when Fred attempts to
update the resource, the server automatically checks out the resource,
does the put, and then checks it back in, all in the context of the
default workspace.

If someone else had the resource already checked out, then Fred's
save would have failed because the automatic check out would have

There are some potential problems with using non-versioning aware
clients this way. If Fred got a copy of the resource, and then Jane
checked it out, made changes, and then checked it back in, when Fred
does his save, Jane's changes will be lost. The changes will appear
in a previous revision, but they may have been in the same activity,
and there would be no indication that a merge needs to be done in
order to pick up both changes. To avoid this problem Joe could change
the activity in the default workspace so that all changes done by
non-versioning aware clients are done in a separate activity. This
would allow Joe to control when these changes were merged back into
other activities.

Freezing an Activity

Joe has decided that the imageUpdates activity should no longer be
used once all the changes in that activity have been merged into the
mainline activity. To enforce this, Joe locks the activity. Then when
Jane attempts to edit index.html in her imageUpdates activity, the
checkout fails as the activity is locked.

Preventing Parallel Development

Joe is responsible for another resource, getPreferences.shtml that he
wants complete control over. He does not want to allow anyone else to
ever make changes to this resource in any activity. To enforce this,
Joe indicates getPreferences.shtml does not support multiple
activities, and he checks it out to make sure no-one else can make
any changes. Then when Jane attempts to checkout getPreferences.shtml
in the imageUpdates activity, the checkout fails indicating that
resource does not support parallel development.


This section defines the goals addressed by the protocol to support
versioning, parallel development, and configuration management. These
goals are derived from the desire to support the scenarios above.
Each goal is followed by a short description of its rationale to aid
in understanding the goal, and to provide motivation for why it was

1. Versioning aware and non-versioning aware clients must be able to
   inter-operate. Non-versioning aware clients will not be able to
   perform all versioning operations, but will, at a minimum, be
   capable of authoring resources under version control and be
   capable of creating new revisions while implicitly maintaining
   versioning semantics. Non-versioning aware clients are
   HTTP/1.1 and versioning unaware WebDAV clients.

  Versioning and configuration management adds new capabilities to
  WebDAV servers. These servers should still be responsive to
  non-versioning aware clients in such a way that these clients
  retain their capabilities in a manner that is consistent with the
  versioning rules, and the capabilities those clients would have had
  on a non-versioning server. For example, non-versioning aware
  clients should be able to GET the contents of a versioned resource
  without specifying a revision and get some well-defined default
  revision. A non-versioning aware client should be able to PUT to a
  versioned resource and have a new revision be automatically
  created. The PUT must be done by doing an implicit checkout, PUT,
  and checkin in order to maintain versioning semantics and avoid
  lost updates. A subsequent GET on the same versioned resource by
  this client should return the new revision. The server should be
  able to be configured so that these non-versioning aware client
  updates are placed in a different activity, or perhaps disallowed.

2. It must be possible to version resources of any media or content

   The versioning semantics of the protocol must not depend on the
   media type of the resource or versioning would have limited
   applicability, and client applications would become more

3. Every revision of a versioned resource must itself be a resource,
   with its own URI.

   See section of [WEBDAV-GOALS].  This goal has two
   motivations. First, to permit revisions to be referred to, so that
   (for example) a document comparing two revisions can include a link
   to each. Second, revisions can be treated as resources for the
   purposes of DAV methods such as PROPFIND.

4. It must be possible to prevent lost updates by providing a protocol
   that reserves a revision of a resource while it is being updated
   and preventing other users from updating the same revision at
   the same time in uncontrolled ways.

5. It must be possible to reserve the same revision more than once at
   the same time, and to have multiple revisions of the same versioned
   resource reserved at the same time.

6. It should be possible for a client to specify meaningful labels to
   apply to individual revisions, and to change a label to refer to a
   different revision.

   Although the server assigns unique revision IDs, human-meaningful
   aliases are often useful.  For example, a label called "CustomerX"
   could be assigned to the latest revision of a document which has
   been delivered to customer X. When X calls to inquire about the
   document, the author(s) can simply refer to the label, rather than
   maintaining a separate database of which revisions have been
   shipped to which customers.

7. It must be possible to use the same label for different versioned

   This allows authors to indicate that revisions of different
   resources are somehow related or consistent at some point in time.
   Configurations formalize this relationship.

8. The labels and revision IDs within a revision history are names in
   a common namespace, in which each name must be unique.  The server
   may partition this namespace syntactically, in order to distinguish
   labels from IDs. The server enforces uniqueness for these labels.

   This means the same label cannot apply to multiple revisions, the
   same revision ID cannot apply to multiple revisions, and no label
   can also be a revision ID or vice versa.  This is required so
   that a label, when applied to a versioned resource, refers to one
   and only one revision, and all revision names for a versioned
   resource are unique. To enforce uniqueness, a server will have to
   reject labels that it might eventually use as revision IDs. The
   simplest way to do this is to partition the namespace.

9. Given a URI to a versioned resource, and a revision name, it must
   be possible for a client to obtain a URI that refers to that
   revision, and to access the revision.

   This allows specific revisions of a resource to be accessed given
   the URI of the versioned resource and a revision name.

10. Given a URI to a versioned resource, and a workspace, it must be
    possible for a client access the revision selected by the

    When a user agent accesses a versioned resource, it is necessary
    to provide additional information to specify which revision of
    the versioned resource should be accessed. One way to do this is
    to specify a revision name with the resource URL to select a
    particular revision as specified in the previous goal. However,
    this requires users to add and remember a label for each revision,
    which is inconvenient and does not scale. In addition, labels
    alone don’t provide a way of accessing revisions modified in an
    activity, or contained in a configuration. It is possible
    to specify a number of different ways of accessing specific
    revisions using different headers for labels, activities,
    configurations, working revisions, etc., but this leads to a lot
    of complexity in the protocol, and for users. Workspaces provide
    a unified means of specifying how URLs are mapped to specific
    revisions. A workspace contains a revision selection rule that
    is applied when the workspace is used in conjunction with the
    URLs for versioned resources to perform URL mapping to select
    a specific revision. This allows specific revisions of a many,
    related revisions to be accessed through URLs without having to
    specify a specific label for each resource. It also provides a
    means to resolve URLs to particular revisions using more complex
    revision selection rules than a single label including revisions
    modified in an activity or contained in a configuration.

11. Relative URLs appearing in versioned documents (e.g., HTML and
    XML) which are being edited and/or browsed by a versioning-aware
    client should work correctly.

    Web resources and client applications often refer to other
    resources with relative URLs, an incompletely specified URL that
    is completed by pre-pending some known context that would
    not contain a revision or workspace name. When used with
    versioned resources, these relative URLs may be relative to a
    versioned resource or a particular revision. In this case, the
    context must include sufficient information for the relative URL
    to be resolved to a specific revision.

12. If the DAV server supports searching, it should be possible to
    narrow the scope of a search to the revisions of a particular
    versioned resource.

    It is often the case that one needs to find, for example, the
    first revision at which a particular phrase was introduced, or
    all the revisions authored by a particular person.  Given search
    capabilities for collections, it would be far more sensible to
    leverage those capabilities than to define a separate search
    protocol for revision histories.  For example, if the server
    supports [DASL], then the revision histories could be searched
    via DASL operations.

13. If the DAV server supports searching, revision IDs and label
    names should be searchable.

    This would allow client applications to search for resources that
    have a particular revision name. This goal does not specify that
    any particular search mechanism is implied or needed. It only
    indicates that labels should be available properties that a
    search mechanism could access.

14. The CM protocol must be an optional extension to the base
    versioning protocol.

    It is expected that servers will want to support versioning
    without supporting configuration management. This goal provides
    the required flexibility.

15. It must be possible to determine what properties of a checked in
    revision may change without creating a new revision. Properties
    of a checked in revision that cannot change are called
    immutable properties.

    It is anticipated that some properties may be calculated in such
    a way that their values may change even on a revision that is
    checked in. Other properties may change without having any
    effect on the resource itself e.g., review status, approved, etc.
    This results from the fact that properties may be meta-data about
    a resource that is actually not describing the state of the
    resource itself. A client must be able to discover which
    properties might change in order to maintain its state properly.

16. Revisions are either mutable or immutable. Once an immutable
    revision has been checked in, its contents and immutable
    properties can never be changed. A mutable revision can be
    checked out, updated, and checked back in without creating a new
    revision. It must be possible to determine if a revision is
    mutable or immutable, but the mutability of a revision cannot be
    changed once it has been checked in.

    The concept of mutable revisions is included to support typical
    document management systems that want to track version histories
    while allowing more flexible, less formal versioning semantics.
    Mutable revisions will have some restrictions due to the fact
    that because the revision may change, certain configuration
    management semantics cannot be maintained. For example, a
    mutable revision cannot be a member of a configuration because
    the configuration would not represent a persistent set of

17. Each revision may have properties whose values may be changed
    without creating a new revision.  The list of these properties
    must be discoverable.

    It is expected that certain live properties whose values are
    calculated by the server may depend on information that is not
    captured in the persistent state of an immutable revision. The
    values of these properties may change from time to time without
    requiring a new revision of the versioned resource. There may
    also be some DAV properties used to support versioning and
    configuration management that may change without requiring a
    new revision.

18. Revisions and versioned resources can be deleted. Generally this
    is a high-privilege operation. Deleting a revision must update
    its predecessors’ successors.

    This goal is included to support generally necessary maintenance
    operations on versioning repositories. It is sometimes the case
    that successors of a revision beyond some point are no longer
    required and can be removed from the repository to reclaim space.
    It may also be the case that a versioned resource is no longer
    used and can be safely deleted. This goal does not intend to
    express any policy for when or under what circumstance revisions
    can be deleted. It only provides a mechanism to support particular
    client or server policies.

19. Once a revision has been deleted, its ID cannot be reused within
    the same versioned resource.

    In many cases, it is necessary to be able to guarantee (as far as
    possible) that one can retrieve the exact state of a resource at
    a particular point in history, and/or all the states which the
    resource has ever taken on.  For example, if a company is sued
    for violating a warranty that the plaintiff read on the company’s
    Web site, it might be useful to be able to prove that the
    warranty never contained the provision that the plaintiff says it
    did. Conversely, it may be useful for the plaintiff to be able to
    prove that it did.  A revision history where all revisions were
    immutable would provide this sort of ability.

    Of course, DAV cannot preclude the possibility of an out-of-band
    method to change or delete a revision; an implementation may
    provide an administrative interface to do it.  But such access
    would at least be limited to trusted administrators.

    It is possible that a versioned resource contained in a
    configuration is deleted, and a new, unrelated versioned resource
    is created using the same URL, and having the same revision id.
    The configuration may incorrectly include this revision.
    Requiring revision Ids to be UUIDs would resolve this issue.

20. A configuration can only contain immutable revisions.

This requirement is included in order to retain the usual semantics
of configurations, and to ensure that a configuration can always be
recreated. The implication is that unversioned resources, working
revisions, and mutable revisions cannot be members of a configuration.

21. It must be possible to query a revision history to learn the
    predecessors and successors of a particular revision, activity
    names, the initial and latest revisions, etc.

    If a client wishes to present a user interface for browsing the
    revisions of a particular versioned resource, it must be able to
    read the relationships represented within the version history.

22. It should be possible to obtain the entire revision history of a
    versioned resource in one operation.

    A client wishing to display a map of the revision history should
    not have to make queries on each individual revision within the
    revision history. It should be able to obtain all the information
    at once, for efficiency's sake.

23. The protocol support for parallel development through activities
    must be an optional capability.

    Activities support controlled parallel development on the same
    resource, but results in the need to merge multiple changes at
    some later time. This introduces work and the potential for
    errors that some servers may want to avoid by requiring updates
    to be serialized.

24. The protocol must support the following operations:

    1. Creating and accessing revisions:

       - Create a versioned resource from an unversioned resource
         and set its initial revision to the contents of the
         unversioned resource. This does not imply that unversioned
         resources are required. A server could create all resources
         as versioned resources.

       - Obtain the URI of, or access a revision or a versioned
         resource given the URL for the versioned resource and either
         a revision name, or a workspace

       - Check out a revision in an activity and create a working

       - Check in a working resource and create either a new revision
         or update the existing revision in place creating a mutable

       - Cancel a checkout (delete a working resource)

       - Describe a revision with human-readable comments

       - See if a resource is versioned

       - Get the versioning options for a resource

    2. Labels:

       -  Apply a label to a particular revision

       -  Change the revision to which a label refers

       - Get all the revision names on a particular revision

       - Get the revision history of a resource

    3. Activities:

       - Create and name an activity

       - Checkout a revision in an activity

       - Merge an activity into a workspace

       - Generate and maintain the conflict report for a merge

       - Get a list of the resources modified in an activity

       - Apply a label operation to all resources modified in an

    4. Configurations:

       - Create a configuration

       - Add/remove revisions from a configuration

       - Access a revision given a configuration name that contains
         it by using a configuration in a version selection rule for
         a workspace

       - Delete a configuration.

       - Determine the differences between two configurations by
         listing the activities in one and not the other.

       Some of these operations come from [WEBDAV-GOALS], section  Not all of the operations in that section are
       replicated here; some of them (e.g., locking) fall out
       naturally from the fact that a revision is a resource.

       The protocol must find some balance between allowing
       versioning servers to adopt whatever policies they wish with
       regard to these operations and enforcing enough uniformity to
       keep client implementations simple and interoperable.

25. For each operation that the protocol defines, the protocol must
    define that operation's interaction with all existing [WebDAV]
    methods on all existing WebDAV resources.

    This goal applies to all HTTP extensions, not just versioning.
    However, versioning, parallel development, and configuration
    management are sufficiently complex and have a broad enough
    effect on other methods to call out this goal specifically.

26. The protocol should clearly identify the policies that it
    dictates and the policies that are left up to versioning system
    implementers or administrators. A client must be able to discover
    what policies the server supports.

    Many writers have discussed the notion of versioning styles
    (referred to here as versioning policies, to reflect the nature
    of client/server interaction) as one way to think about the
    different policies that versioning systems implement. Versioning
    policies include decisions on the shape of version histories
    (linear or branched), the granularity of change tracking, locking
    requirements made by a server, naming conventions for activities
    and labels, etc.

27. A client must be able to determine whether a resource is a
    versioned resource, or whether a resource is itself revision of a
    versioned resource.

    A resource may be a simple, non-versioned resource, a versioned
    resource, an immutable revision, a mutable revision, or a working
    resource. A client needs to be able to tell which sort of resource
    it is accessing.

28. A client must be able to access a versioned resource with a
    simple URL and get some well-defined default revision.

    The server should return a default revision of a resource for
    where no specific revision information is provided. This is one
    of the simplest ways to guarantee non-versioning client
    compatibility. This does not rule out the possibility of a server
    returning an error when no sensible default exists.

    It may also be desirable to be able to refer to other special
    revisions of a versioned resource. For example, there may be a
    current revision for editing that is different from the default
    revision. For a graph with several branches, it may be useful to
    be able to request the tip revision of any branch.

    The association of a workspace with a particular user agent for
    the purposes of applying version selection rules is the
    responsibility of the client application. The server does not
   necessarily maintain this association.

29. It must be possible, given a reference to a revision of a
    versioned resource, to find out which versioned resource that
    revision belongs to.

    This makes it possible to understand the versioning context of
    the revision. It makes it possible to retrieve a revision history
    for the versioned resource to which it belongs, and to browse
    the revision history. It also supports some comparison operations:
    It makes it possible to determine whether two references designate
    revisions of the same versioned resource.

30. Versioning functionality may be partitioned into levels. The
    lowest level must provide simple versioning of resources and
    support for labels, checkin, and checkout. Other functions should
    be as orthogonal as possible so that servers have additional
    flexibility in choosing features to implement. Functionality at
    lower levels must be a consistent subset of the functionality at
    higher levels and not introduce special cases, incompatible, or
    redundant functions.

    Servers must provide all the functions defined for a given level
    in order to claim and advertise conformance to that level. A
    server may choose to implement additional features from higher
    levels to support particular business and/or client requirements.
    The OPTIONS method indicates exactly what features are supported
    while the DAV header indicates the supported level clients can
    rely on.

31. It must be possible to lock an activity so that no one can make
    further changes in that activity.

32. It must be possible to indicate that a particular resource does
    not allow parallel development. That is, the resource can
    effectively only be checked out in one activity.

33. The protocol should be defined in such a way as to minimize the
    adoption barriers for clients and existing repository managers.
    This includes integration with legacy data in repository
    managers supporting the WebDAV protocol.

34. The server must not require client applications to retain state
    in order to support versioning semantics. That is, a user must be
    able to begin using versioning with one client, and continue
    using versioning on some other client at some other time.

35. It must be possible to discover what resources have changed in a
    workspace from a given point.


Versioning in the context of the worldwide web offers a variety of

1. It provides infrastructure for efficient and controlled management
   of large evolving web sites. Modern configuration management
   systems are built on some form of repository that can track the
   revision history of individual resources, and provide the
   higher-level tools to manage those saved versions. Basic versioning
   capabilities are required to support such systems.

2. It allows parallel development and update of single resources.
   Since versioning systems register change by creating new objects,
   they enable simultaneous write access by allowing the creation of
   variant versions. Many also provide merge support to ease the
   reverse operation.

3. It provides a framework for coordinating changes to resources.
   While specifics vary, most systems provide some method of
   controlling or tracking access to enable collaborative resource

4. It allows browsing through past and alternative versions of a
   resource. Frequently the modification and authorship history of a
   resource is critical information in itself.

5. It provides stable names that can support externally stored links
   for annotation and link-server support. Both annotation and link
   servers frequently need to store stable references to portions of
   resources that are not under their direct control. By providing
   stable states of resources, version control systems allow not only
   stable pointers into those resources, but also well defined
   methods to determine the relationships of those states of a

6. It allows explicit semantic representation of single resources
   with multiple states. A versioning system directly represents the
   fact that a resource has an explicit history and a persistent
   identity across the various states it has had during the course of
   that history.


These non-goals enumerate functionality that the working group has
explicitly agreed to exclude from this document. They are documented
here for explanatory purposes.

1. Revisions in multiple revision histories (see [WEBDAV-GOALS],
   sections and  This capability was felt to be too
   rarely useful.

2. Federated revision histories (that is, revision histories which
   are not stored on a single server).  This capability would
   introduce great difficulties.  A server implementer who needs it
   can use out-of-band server-to-server communication. But, this
   communication is arguably out of the scope of WebDAV, which is a
   client-to-server protocol.

3. Client-proposed version identifiers (see [WEBDAV-GOALS], section  Labels do the job better.

4. Change management or change control operations. It is envisioned
   that policies for change management and the mechanisms to implement
   them will be quite variable for the number and types of users
   authoring content for the web. Therefore it is important to provide
   core capabilities for versioning, parallel development, and
   configuration management without hindering the policies client
   applications may choose to present to their users. It is intended
   that WebDAV versioning will provide these core capabilities, and
   that a variety of change management policies could be implemented
   on these core capabilities by client applications.

5. Server-to-server communication (e.g., replication) is not required.

Security Considerations

To be written.  It is likely that implementing features to meet the
goals described here will present few or no new security risks beyond
those of base DAV.  One possible exception is that it may become more
difficult to hide the contents of a resource when there may exist
other versions with different access control lists.


[WEBDAV]Y.Y. Goland, E.J. Whitehead, Jr., A. Faizi, S.R. Carter,
D. Jensen, "Extensions for Distributed Authoring on the World Wide
Web -- WEBDAV", Internet-Draft draft-ietf-webdav-protocol-10. Nov.,

[WEBDAV-GOALS] J. Slein, F. Vitali, J. Whitehead, D. Durand,
"Requirements for a Distributed Authoring and Versioning Protocol
for the World Wide Web", RFC-2291.  February 1998.

[WEBDAV-ACP] J. Slein, J. Davis, A. Babich, J. Whitehead,
"WebDAV Advanced Collections Protocol", Internet-Draft
draft-ietf-webdav-collection-protocol-02.txt.  Nov., 1998.

[DASL] S. Reddy, D. Jensen, S. Reddy, R. Henderson, J. Davis,
A. Babich, "DAV Searching & Locating",
Internet-Draft draft-reddy-dasl-protocol-04.txt.  Nov., 1998.

[CVS] http://www.cyclic.com/cyclic-pages/books.html

[BONSAI] Mozilla.org, http://www.mozilla.org/bonsai.html

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