IETF Versioning Meetings
Thu, 4 Mar 1999 11:03:41 -0500

Message-ID: <>
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 1999 11:03:41 -0500
Subject: IETF Versioning Meetings

As agreed on the teleconference today, we will have a WebDAV versioning
working group meeting on Wed and Thu, March 17 and 18 at IETF 44. We'll
break on Wed afternoon for the versioning BOF at 1:00 and the WebDAV
working group meeting at 3:30 where Chris is presenting an overview of
WebDAV versioning.

There has been a lot of versioning discussions the last few weeks, and to
ensure we are all on the same page as much as possible, I would like to
correct the WebDAV versioning summary below to reflect our current
thinking. In addition, I think it would be useful for the versioning group
to review Chris's and my (for the WebDAV BOF) presentation materials so
that we can be aware of any controversial content. I'm not saying we should
avoid controversial content, that's what the working group meetings are
for. Just that none of us should be surprised by any new issues, or issues
we thought were understood and resolved. A lot has been happening pretty
fast, and it would be very easy for simple misunderstandings to occur. It
would be great to avoid these where possible. So please review this summary
to ensure it captures our current thinking, identify any errors, and call
out what you think are remaining open issues. I haven't said anything below
about leveling or non-versioning aware clients, but I anticipate there are
number of opportunities for optional functions and defaults described that
could be exploited. Let me know if you think there's something missing.

Let's set aside some time in next week's call to review presentation
material outlines. Chris, is this OK with you?

WebDAV Versioning Summary

The following is a brief summary of the WebDAV semantics for supporting
versioning, parallel development, and configuration management. This
summary does not describe the details of the protocol, only the high level
semantics the protocol is intended to support.

Creating Versioned Resources

A resource or collection can be put under version control. Putting a
resource under version control creates a versioned resource and sets its
initial revision to the resource. A checked in revision cannot be modified
by anyone at any time.

Naming Revisions: revision ids and labels

A revision of a versioned resource is given a system assigned revision id
when it is checked in. This revision id acts as an immutable identifier
distinguishing this revision from all others of the same versioned
resource. A revision id can be assigned to only one revision of a versioned
resource, and can never be reused on that versioned resource.

A user may assign other revision names called revision labels to a revision
in order to distinguish it from other revisions using more meaningful
names. These revision labels must be unique for any given versioned
resource, but may be reassigned to any revision of the versioned resource
at any time. Revisions of different versioned resources may have the same
label. There is a distinguished, floating label called "latest" which
always refers to the latest revision in a given activity.

Modifying a Versioned Resource

A versioned resource may be modified by checking out a revision to create a
working resource. A working resource can be updated (PUT, PROPPATCH, etc.)
any number of times. When updates are complete, the working resource is
checked back in. Users can use checkout/checkin to register intent to
modify a versioned resource similar to the way lock and unlock are used in
DAV level 2. The sense is reversed though. A checked in revision cannot be
changed without checking it out first.

A revision may be checked in as mutable or immutable. If the revision is
mutable, a subsequent checkin of a working resource may be done in place
allowing the mutable revision to be updated in place without creating a new
revision. Any previous contents of the revision are lost. A working
resource created by a checkout of a mutable revision can also be checked
back in creating a new revision if the user wants to retain the previous
revision. If the revision is immutable, any checkin of a working resource
derived from this revision must create a new revision. The mutability of a
revision cannot be changed once it has been established on an initial

Servers may choose to not allow revisions to be checked in as mutable, or
they may not allow a revision to be checked in without creating a new
revision. These constraints are typical of current configuration management
systems. Document management systems typically allow revisions to be
mutable and don't have these restrictions.

A revision of a collection is modified by adding or removing members.
Changing the contents of a member of a revision of a versioned collection
does not imply a change to the parent collection.

Parallel Development with Activities

Resources are checked out in the context of an activity. An activity
abstracts a set of related changes a user is making to versioned resources.
Each activity represents a parallel thread of development. Servers that
don't support parallel development effectively only support one, default
activity. A revision that is already checked out in an activity cannot be
checked out again in the same activity. If parallel development is desired,
a user can checkout the revision in another activity and merge them later.

Selecting Revision through the Workspace

Resources, working resources, and revisions of versioned resources are all
accessed using a URL. Specific revisions of a versioned resource can be
accessed by specifying the resource URL and a version label. However,
versioned resources are usually accessed using a simple URL. The revision
selected when a specific revision name is not specified is resolved through
a workspace. A workspace provides a mapping between URLs for versioned
resources, and specific revisions. This allows versioned resources and
unversioned resources to be accessed the same way supporting relative ULRs
and DAV level-2 clients that are not versioning aware.

A workspace contains a current activity and a revision selection rule.
Revisions are selected using the following rules in order: 1) if there is a
checked out revision, then it is selected. else 2) if there is a revision
that is checked in under the current activity, then the latest revision in
this activity is selected, else 3) the workspace revision selection rule is
applied to select the revision. If there is no matching revision, then a
resource not found status is returned. This rule is applied to collections
to select the revision that determines their member versioned resources,
and to other resource to determine the revision containing their contents.

A workspace revision selection rule can specify any number of revision
labels, activities, configurations, or the functor "latest" to specify what
revision to select. The rules are applied in order until the first matching
is found. Any subsequent potential matches are ignored. A label matches a
revision with that label. An activity matches the latest revision in that
activity, and may result in merge conflicts. A configuration matches a
revision contained in that configuration. Latest matches the latest
revision. The first two rules above are just implied components of the
workspace revision selection rule. They are called out separately as they
are fixed by the server.

If a request is made and no workspace is specified, a default workspace
containing activity named "mainline", and "latest" in the version selection
rule is used. Administrators can change the current activity and revision
selection rule of this default workspace to have such down-level client
requests done in some other activity, or to support access to more specific
revisions of versioned resources.

Configuration Management

A workspace represents a volatile set of revisions. Any new checkouts,
changes to the current activity, merging operations, or changes to the
revision selection rule may result in the selection of different revisions.
A configuration is a resource that represents an immutable set of
revisions. A configuration contains a specific revision of each member
versioned resource. A configuration cannot contain a mutable revision
because the semantics of configurations cannot be guaranteed. A workspace
whose version selection rule contains a configuration will always return
the same revisions as long as there are no revisions checked out and
nothing in the current activity.

Versioned Collections

A collection contains a set of members. For versioned collections, the
members are versioned resources, not particular revisions. To add or remove
members from a revision of a versioned collection, it must be checked out
just like any other resource. Creating a new revision of a member, or
modifying a member has no effect on the collection. Deleting a versioned
resource that is an internal member from a collection does not delete the
versioned resource, it only deletes the member from that version of the
collection. The resource may still be a member of a previous or subsequent
revision of this or some other collection. The URL for a collection without
a particular revision name is resolved to a particular revision using the
workspace the same as any other resource. If the collection is part of a
URL for some other resource, then its members are determined from the
selected revision.

Revision History

Each revision has a predecessor relationship with the revision it was
checked out or merged from, and a successor relationship with revisions
that were checked out from it. The revision history of a versioned resource
is the tree made up of all its revisions from the initial revision to all
tip revisions in all activities in which this versioned resource was


Each activity represents a separate parallel thread of development. Users
make their changes in the context of an activity. Changes to the same
revision must be done in separate activities. At some point, a user may
want to merge changes made to the same revision together to create a new
revision containing the combined updates. This is accomplished by merging
an activity into a workspace. In order to do a merge, it is first necessary
to determine what must be merged. A merge conflict report lists the
resources that have been modified in parallel in different activities. The
merge conflict report is generated using the following rules: 1) if the
merge source specifies a predecessor of the revision selected by the
workspace, then the workspace revision is selected, else 2) if the merge
source specifies a successor of the revision selected by the workspace,
then the merge source revision is selected, else 3) the merge source and
the current workspace specify revisions that are on different
lines-of-descent, and a potential merge conflict exists and is included in
the merge conflict report.

A user can request the differences between two revisions of a resource
(servers may provide a differences report, but they must at least indicate
if they are the same or not). A user can request conflicts between an
activity and the current workspace to generate a merge conflict report. A
user can also request the differences between a configuration and the
current workspace which lists at least the activities that are contained in
the configuration but not in the workspace and vice versa. So differences
are detected at different levels: content differences for resources,
revision differences for activities, and activity differences for

Once the merge conflicts are known, a user resolves the conflicts by
merging the source activity with the workspace. This enters the merge
source into the workspace, and sets the current conflicts that must be
resolved. The conflicts are resolved by merging the revisions from the
merge source into the revision selected by the workspace to create a new
working resource. Servers may perform some default auto merging, but at a
minimum, the merge is done by checking out the revision in the current
activity and noting the merge from the merge source. This creates an
additional successor/predecessor relationship between the merge source and
workspace revisions called merged-from. The conflict is now removed because
the working resource is now a successor of both the source and target
revisions. It is the user's responsibility to apply the differences in the
two revisions in an appropriate manner. The merge is complete when all the
conflicts are resolved, all differences have been merged, and the resources
are all checked back in. The merge source can now be removed from the
workspace as all of its changes are now included in the current activity.
Only one activity can be merged at a time.

When merging mutable revisions, the merge conflict report may be inaccurate
as the source revision may change without the system being aware. Users are
responsible for applying any changes to ancestor revisions to their
descendants as appropriate. The system cannot determine if there are any
changes that need to be applied other than by looking a the last-modified
dates of the revisions.

Locking Versioned Resources

Locking a versioned resource prevents any revision from being checked out
in any activity. Locking a revision of a versioned resource prevents just
that revision from being checked out in any activity. Locking an activity
prevents any revisions from being checked out in that activity. Locking a
workspace prevents any checkouts in the current activity of that workspace
(similar to locking the current activity), and prevents changes to the
workspace revision selection rule.