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The HTTP protocol contains 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 user's needs using the facilities of the HTTP protocol. The consequence of this is either postponed introduction of distributed authoring capability, or the addition of nonstandard extensions to the HTTP protocol. These extensions, developed in isolation, are not interoperable.
An ad-hoc group has analyzed the functional needs of several organizations, and has developed requirements for distributed authoring and versioning. These requirements encompass the following capabilities, which shall be considered by this working group:
Further information on these requirements can be found in the document, "Requirements for Distributed Authoring and Versioning on the World Wide Web".
While the scope of activity of this working group may seem rather broad, in fact much of the functionality under consideration is well understood, and has been previously considered. This working group will leverage off of previous work when it is applicable. Discussion of the security issues concerning distributed authoring and versioning are essential to the creation of a protocol which implements this functionality.
Though the feature set described above bears a resemblance to the capabilities provided by a network file system, the intent of this working group is not to create a replacement distributed file system (e.g. NFS, CIFS). The WEBDAV emphasis on collaborative authoring of resources which are not necessarily stored in a file system, and which have associated metadata in the form of links and attributes, differentiate WEBDAV from a distributed file system.
Many decisions have been made to reduce the scope of effort of this working group. It is the intent of this working group to avoid the inclusion of the following functionality, unless it proves impossible to create a useful set of distributed authoring capabilities without it:
NOT IN SCOPE:
Eventually, it is desirable to provide access to WEBDAV capability by disconnected clients, or by clients whose only connectivity is via email. However, given the scope of developing requirements and specifications for disconnected operation, the initial target user group of fully connected clients, and the desire to work swiftly, the working group will address this issue by ensuring the protocol specification does not preclude a future body from developing an interoperability specification for disconnected operation via email.
The final output of this working group is expected to be three documents:
1. A scenarios document, which gives a series of short descriptions of how distributed authoring and versioning functionality can be used, typically from an end-user perspective. Ora Lassila, Nokia, currently visiting with the World Wide Web Consortium, is editor of this document.
2. A requirements document, which describes the high-level functional requirements for distributed authoring and versioning, including rationale. Judith Slein, Xerox, is editor of this document.
3. A protocol specification, which describes new HTTP methods, headers, request bodies, and response bodies, to implement the distributed authoring and versioning requirements. Del Jensen, Novell, is editor of this document.
The most recent versions of these documents are accessible via links from the WEBDAV Home Page: <http://www.ics.uci.edu/~ejw/authoring/>