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Issues: Copy/Move

From: Jim Whitehead <ejw@ics.uci.edu>
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 1997 16:06:08 -0800
Message-Id: <af26774a12021004f187@[128.195.21.209]>
To: w3c-dist-auth@w3.org
Cc: ejw@ics.uci.edu

>NAME SPACE MANIPULATION
>
>(Section 7 of WebDAV specification.)
>
>1. Semantics of copy and move.  At the Irvine meeting there was a detailed
>discussion of whether a copy (move) is an octet for octet copy (move), a
>manipulation of the namespace, or both.  One suggestion was to have a copy
>(move) be an octet for octet copy (move) of the source of a resource.
>
>2. Link behavior on copy/move.  At present, a copy/move will attempt to
>keep links with the resource across a copy/move.  However, since predefined
>links may vary across a namespace, the links on a source may vary from
>links on the destination.  What should the specification say/proscribe
>about link properties across a copy/move?

A better approach for defining the semantics of copy and move is to specify
what postconditions must hold after a copy/move operation, rather than
specifying exactly what operation occurs during a copy/move.  The latter,
operational approach is currently used in the specification.  A proposal
for a precondition/postcondition based approach is given below:

First, some definitions:

Let a resource be a set of {  body, metadata }.  In the current DAV and
HTTP specifications, metadata consists of links, and response entity
headers.  Furthermore, metadata can be represented as a set of {
user-metadata , system-metadata} representing the difference between
metadata created by a user-agent, and metadata created by a non-user-agent.

This makes a resource a set of { body, { user-metadata, system-metadata} }

COPY:

Let the interface to the copy operation be:

  copy(source-URI, dest-URI, copy-meta, overwrite)
   source-URI: URI
   dest-URI: URI
   copy-meta: boolean
   overwrite: boolean

The semantics of copy can be defined as:

Copy is an operation which has the following preconditions and postconditions:

Preconditions:

1. The source-URI must map to an existing resource.
2. If overwrite is false, the dest-URI must not map to an existing resource.

Postconditions:

1. Namespace: The body of the resource at the dest-URI must be octet for
octet identical to the body of the resource at the source-URI.

2. Metadata: If copy-meta is true, the user-metadata of the resource at the
dest-URI must be octet for octet identical to the user-metadata of the
resource at the source-URI.  If copy-meta is false, the user-metadata of
the resource at the dest-URI is the null set.

3. Independence: A modification to the resource at the dest-URI must not
imply as a necessary accompaniment an identical modification to the
resource at the source-URI, and vice-versa.


MOVE

Let the interface to the move operation be:

  move(source-URI, dest-URI, move-meta, overwrite)
   source-URI: URI
   dest-URI: URI
   move-meta: boolean
   overwrite: boolean

Move is an operation which has the following preconditions and postconditions:

Preconditions:

1. The source-URI must map to an existing resource.
2. If overwrite is false, the dest-URI must not map to an existing resource.

Postconditions:

1. Namespace: The body of the resource at the dest-URI must be octet for
octet identical to the body of the resource at the source-URI prior to the
move.

2. Metadata: If move-meta is true, the user-metadata of the resource at the
dest-URI must be octet for octet identical to the user-metadata of the
resource at the source-URI prior to the move.  If move-meta is false, the
user-metadata of the resource at the dest-URI is the null set.

3. Removal: The dest-URI does not map to an existing resource.


How do these definitions work on existing Web content classes?

1. Non-server processed resources (e.g. vanilla HTML, bitmaps, etc.).
Since each of these resources typically only holds one location in the URL
namespace, and since there is no distinction between source and processed
output (as holds for server-side includes), the definitions of copy and
move work well.

2. Server-processed resources, one source resource, one or more processed
resources (e.g., server-side includes).  In this case, there is a
distinction between URL_proc, the set of URLs which give the locations
where the processed output may be retrieved, and URL_src, the single URL
where the source resource resides.  While a copy operation could work on
any member of URL_proc (creating a snapshot copy of the results of the
processed resource), it probably makes sense for servers not to allow this
operation.  A move operation on any member of URL_proc would fail, because
it would be impossible to satisfy the removal postcondition.  A copy or
move operation on URL_src would definitely work.

3. CGI processors.  Since a CGI can potentially be passed the copy or move
operation, no guarantees can be made about the correct processing of copy
or move as applied to CGI processor code.  Ideally, a CGI processor should
behave like in case 2 above.

4. Multiple source resources, multiple processed resources.  Similar to
case #2, a copy on a member of URL_proc would work, but should be
discouraged, while a move on a member of URL_proc would fail.  In this
case, URL_src has more than one member, but a copy or move on a member of
URL_src would still work.

Notes:

- These definitions of copy and move place the burden of discovering the
source (i.e., a member of URL_src) on the client.  In most cases, this
should be possible by following a predefined link from a member of URL_proc
to a member(s) of URL_src.

- The examples assume a single stage of processing between source and
processed output, and it assumes this processing is taking place in the
server.  However, the definitions of copy and move appear to be capable of
modeling more complicated cases.

- The definitions assume that the server controls a portion of the metadata
(system-metadata) and the user-agent controls a portion of the metadata
(user-metadata).  The user-agent has no control over the system-metadata
during a move or copy.  It is expected that system-metadata will vary
across a server's namespace.  The user-agent does, however, have complete
control over the user-metadata.

>3. Copyhead/Movehead.  These methods were proposed to give a client the
>means to discover, prior to performing a copy or a move, what is likely to
>happen when the copy/move is performed.  At the Irvine meeting, a counter
>model of "the client requests an operation, then discovers from the
>response and from querying the state of the server what occurred."  While
>this model is currently supported by copy and move, the issue remains
>whether this model is sufficient, or needs to be augmented with copyhead
>and movehead (and if these methods are kept, what should they be called?)

I propose COPYHEAD and MOVEHEAD be stricken from the specification.  Would
anyone like to step up and defend them?  It is my belief that removing
these methods reflects the current sentiment of the group.

- Jim
Received on Wednesday, 12 February 1997 10:15:19 GMT

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