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Re: i69: Clarify "Requested Variant" [was: New "200 OK" status codes, PATCH & PROPFIND]

From: Julian Reschke <julian.reschke@gmx.de>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 18:28:40 +0100
Message-ID: <47B47A48.10108@gmx.de>
To: Brian Smith <brian@briansmith.org>
CC: 'HTTP Working Group' <ietf-http-wg@w3.org>

Brian Smith wrote:
> Julian Reschke wrote:
>> Brian Smith wrote:
>>> Accept-* refer always to the response entity, not to the selected 
>>> representation. (Rather, the Accept-* headers are relevant for 
>>> selecting a representation only when a representation is 
>> returned in 
>>> the response
>> Disagreed.
>>> entity.) If I have a DELETE with an Accept-Encoding,
>>> that means that I want the status message for the request
>>> to be encoded a certain way; it doesn't mean that I want
>>> to delete the representation that has that encoding. In
>>> order to delete a specific representation of a resource,
>> It seems to me that questions like these are the ones we want 
>> to answer in the context of this issue.
>> Does it make a difference in practice? How do you distinguish 
>> between request headers that affect the selected 
>> representation, and those that only affect status messages?
> I base my statement on "The Accept request-header field can be used to
> specify certain media types which are acceptable for the response" and
> many other similar statements in sections 14.1-5. Clearly, the intent is
> that the Accept-* headers always specify the client's preferences
> regarding the response entity. 

Agreed. The question is whether they *also* select a representation, 
before the response entity is generated.

If we do not do that, we'll have to distinguish between headers 
selecting a representation, and those selecting the format of a status 
message. Which seems like a bad idea to me.

> Is this set of proposals intended to define how to edit a specific
> representation of a content-negotiated resource? I think it is pretty
> clear how it works when each separately-editable representation has its
> own URI (see below about Content-Location). Why isn't that good enough? 

I think it is good enough, and we shouldn't try to do more.

> Example: A resource http://example.org/foo has two representations: one
> application/pdf, and one text/html. The client wishes to modify the PDF
> representation. However, it cannot display PDF content in its error
> dialog boxes, so it wants the status message to come back as text/html.
> Under this proposal, the client would have to specify "Accept:
> application/pdf" in order to edit the PDF representation. However, this
> also indicates that it wants a PDF response entity, when really it
> doesn't want that at all. If it has "Accept: text/html" then, under this
> proposal, the server may interpret that as a request to edit only the
> HTML representation. 

...which is why it's good to have separate URIs for the authorable variants.

> It is also confusing what "selected representation" means with POST. Is
> the "selected representation" a representation of the resource at the
> Request-URI, or is the "selected representation" a representation of the
> resource that was created? It seems like you always intend for it to be
> the former, but there are many applications that expect the Accept-*
> headers to refer to the latter when Location=Content-Location.

I'd prefer it to be the former for all methods, which doesn't rule out 
to *also* apply to the status message.

> Also, if I POST with "Accept: image/jpg;q=1.0, image/png;q=0.9" to an
> AtomPub collection, should I expect the AtomPub collection to return a
> "406 Not Acceptable" response, since the collection does not have a JPEG
> or a PNG representation?

That would be consistent with what I propose.

Why would you POST with that Accept header, btw?

>>> That is why having separate Content-Locations for variants
>>> is a SHOULD-level requirement in HTTP.
>> I don't think it is; all I can see is a "SHOULD send 
>> Content-Location when separate URI exists".
> I stand corrected. In practice, however, this is basically a requirement
> for resources with distinctly editable representations, because the only
> defined content negotiation mechanism is for response entities, and the
> client would not be able to determine ahead of time whether the server
> supports this new proposed mechanism.

No disagreement here.

>> OK, so tying the ETag to Location for 201 would fix this. 
>> That may be the right thing to do, but I'd still like to 
>> leave the definition of "selected representation" as simple 
>> as possible.
> ETag and Location are already tied together: "A 201 response MAY contain
> an ETag response header field indicating the current value of the entity
> tag for the requested variant just created." But, if multiple variants
> were created (e.g. compressed and uncompressed), then the client doesn't
> know which variant the ETag refers to. That was why I thought that
> "selected representation" meant something different for POST.


>>> It would be better to say that servers should not return an
>>> ETag in a response unless there is only one variant
>>> ("selectable representation"?) for that resource, or unless 
>>> Content-Location=Location, which means the response entity 
>>> is both the status message and the selected representation.
>>> Otherwise, the client needs to choose which ETag it is
>>> interested in by sending a subsequent GET or HEAD request with 
>>> headers that the server can use to select a representation.
>> Nice in theory. In practice, many resources have at least two 
>> representations (the raw one, and with Content-Encoding: gzip).
> PROPOSAL: When Location=Content-Location, the ETag must be the one for
> the representation returned as the response entity. Otherwise, the
> server may return the ETag for any representation of the resource; the
> client cannot determine which representation that ETag is for, and
> should do a HEAD or GET to retrieve the ETag for the representation it
> is interested in, if it needs a specific one.

Sounds ok.

>>> If I POST an image to an AtomPub collection, the ETag in the "201 
>>> Created" response must the one for the entry just created (in the
>>> Location: header), not the feed document at the Request-URI.
>> Understood. So minimally in this case, the ETag is not for 
>> the selected representation.
>>> My concern is that the "hypothetical GET" that is part of 
>>> the proposal needs to be done against the Location: URI,
>>> not the Request URI. 
>> Hm, why would it need to be done against anything except the 
>> Request-URI? Me confused :-)
> I was thinking "selected representation" referred to the representation
> of the newly-created resource that had the ETag given in response. If
> that is not what "selected representation" refers to, then maybe there
> needs to be another new term coined.

Due to my WebDAV history, I frequently think about PUT, when people are 
creating things with POST. Obviously, with PUT things are more simple.

And yes, it seems that for POST->201 we need terms for two different things.

> ...

BR, Julian
Received on Thursday, 14 February 2008 17:29:04 UTC

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