WebDAV is an Internet-based open standard that enables editing Web sites over HTTP and HTTPS connections.
The concept behind WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) is to allow Web clients to remotely perform content authoring on Web content. The original desire was to support efficient and scalable remote editing free of overwriting conflicts by extending HTTP with tools that would allow remote loading, editing, and saving (publishing) of various media types. One goal was to support document management and groupware over the Internet by allowing groups of people to edit and publish documents on Web servers. Keep in mind that remote users do not normally have direct access to the operating systems and storage media functionality at server sites. WebDAV provides the publishing functionality.
In the mid-1990s, a number of extensions for authoring Web documents were independently developed by vendors and groups. In 1998, a group of authors got together to develop a requirements document for Web authoring. This turned into RFC 2291 (Requirements for a Distributed Authoring and Versioning Protocol for the World Wide Web, February 1998). Later, RFC 2518 (HTTP Extensions for Distributed Authoring – WEBDAV, February 1999) defined actual extensions to HTTP such as
- Create, remove, and query Web pages information (authors, creation dates, etc.)
- Create collections of documents and retrieve a listing of the documents (much like creating a folder in a file system)
- Lock documents to prevent more than one person from working on it at the same time
- Instruct servers to copy and move Web resources
The following illustrates the requests that WebDAV clients might execute in order to author a document on a WebDAV server. This diagram courtesy of WebDAV Working Group, UC Irvine.
WebDAV information is encoded in either an XML (Extensible Markup Language) request or in an HTTP header. There are many advantages to using XML, not the least of which is the ability to encode characters in ISO 10646 characters sets that provide international support. Another advantage is the ability to add extra XML element to existing structures.
The IETF WWW Distributed Authoring and Versioning (webdav) Working Group has continued to develop WebDAV and has defined a need for other capabilities such as remote management of access permissions on Web resource, the development of a property registry, and other features described at the IETF WebDAV site. The Web address is listed on the related entries page.
The WebDAV Working Group initially had a goal of supporting remote versioning operations, but because of a large scope, a new working group was formed called Web Versioning and Configuration Management (deltav). See the Web address on the related entries page.
Yet another IETF working group called DAV Searching and Locating (dasl) was formed to define and develop an extensible DAV searching and locating protocol as an application of HTTP. The working group will define protocol elements that enable server-executed queries to locate resources based upon their property values and text content as expressed by the DAV data model.