WebDAV and DeltaV: The Writeable, Collaborative, Versionable Web

Jim Whitehead


At present, the Web is primarily a read-only medium, providing excellent support for browsing content, and limited support for authoring new content. WebDAV is a standard developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for extending the Web with collaborative authoring capability, and is supported by such industry-leading tools as Office 2000/XP, Photoshop 6, Illustrator 10, GoLive 5/6, Internet Explorer 5, Mac OS X, Apache, Internet Information Services 5/6, Oracle iFS, and Jigsaw, along with Web storage sites such as My Docs Online, and Sharemation. Building on this strong base of support, the DeltaV protocol adds versioning and configuration management capabilities to WebDAV servers. With DeltaV, it is possible to record the revision history of Web resources, work on collections of resources in isolation from other collaborators (workspaces), and create consistent configurations of these resources.

This tutorial gives an overview of the WebDAV Distributed Authoring protocol (RFC 2518), and the DeltaV protocol for Web Versioning and Configuration Management protocol (RFC 3253). This is a novice-to-intermediate level tutorial, which assumes some knowledge about the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), although a brief overview of this protocol will be given during the course.

Using the WebDAV and DeltaV protocols, existing HTML authoring applications, as well as more traditional word processing, spreadsheet, and image manipulation applications can support remote collaborative authoring and versioning. WebDAV-enabled applications can save directly to the web, and allow seamless transitions from individual to collaborative work. So, using a WebDAV-enabled word processor, you can begin work on a document, then later realize you need to add several co-authors. After saving your document to the web, and emailing the URL to your collaborators, you can all begin to collaboratively work on the document in-place on the web.

Building upon its current strong base of supporting tools, in the next 1-2 years WebDAV is expected to be broadly adopted by content authoring tools. This will bring the benefits of the writeable Web to millions of users, opening significant opportunities for Internet Service Providers, Web storage sites, document management, content authoring tools, protocol developers, and researchers. Furthermore, Web write-enabling existing applications is just the first phase of WebDAV adoption. DeltaV will allow the Web to be used as the core infrastructure for remote software development, especially Open Source, replacing the remote CVS protocol. With its automatic versioning capabilities, DeltaV also allows existing WebDAV authoring tools to take advantage of versioning-capable servers.

WebDAV/DeltaV is one of the most substantial, yet under-hyped changes to the core architecture of the Web. By attending this tutorial, you will develop a deep understanding of the capabilities and potential of this increasingly important standard.

Presenter biography

Jim Whitehead is the Chair and Founder of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) working group on Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WebDAV), and is a co-author on all major specifications produced by this working group. Jim additionally spearheaded the formation of the DeltaV working group for Web versioning and configuration management, and is an author on the DeltaV protocol specification. Jim has led several student teams developing prototype WebDAV implementations, including the WebDAV Explorer client, and a database-backed repository for Apache mod_dav.

Jim is also an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research interests include hypertext versioning, collaborative authoring, web protocols, open hypermedia (the Chimera system), and configuration management.. Jim has a Ph.D and MS in Information and Computer Science from U.C. Irvine (Ph.D. dissertation: "An Analysis of the Hypertext Versioning Domain"), and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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