W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-dist-auth@w3.org > January to March 1999

Collections Protocol Review

From: Yaron Goland <yarong@microsoft.com>
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 22:36:18 -0800
Message-ID: <3FF8121C9B6DD111812100805F31FC0D08792F4A@RED-MSG-59>
To: "'ejw@ics.uci.edu'" <ejw@ics.uci.edu>, WEBDAV WG <w3c-dist-auth@w3.org>
The following comments are based on

(Issue #1) Section 2 - Definition of the term Collection - What does the
word "contains" mean in the definition of a collection? Does this mean if I
perform a GET I will get a list of them?

(Issue #2) Section 2- Definition of the term Referential Resource - It
should be explicitly pointed out that this is a new resource type. I think
this would make the definition clearer.
	The term "body" as used in RFC 2068 and 2518 refer exclusively to
messages, not resources. Hence the phrase "body of its own" does not have a
definition in either spec.
	In general I find this definition confusing as it indicates that a
reference is a resource but has some relationship with a target somehow
involving properties. I think the problem is that the authors have cleaved
too tightly to the file system heritage of this feature. First off, I think
we need to cease viewing direct references and redirect references as
children of the same mother. They are two very different creatures with
largely unrelated functionality. It would probably be in everyone's interest
if they were given names which shared no common words.
	A direct reference is really just an HTTP object which practices
inheritances. Its sole purpose being to passthrough any methods it receives
to its target. Thus if a PROPFIND comes the direct reference will simply
pass it through to the target. This behavior can then be stopped by
explicitly marking the request as being addressed to the reference resource
itself. Describing direct references as "passing through" methods lets us
avoid discussions of undefined terms like "body" and discussions involving
vague references to properties.
	A redirect reference is just a 3xx machine. It is a resource which
always returns 3xx to all requests which are not appropriate marked as being
direct at the reference. By describing redirect resources in such concrete
terms we avoid the maddening ambiguities inherent to the current

Section 4.1 - I would like to congratulate the authors for the section on
why referential integrity is not supported. It is a very well written

(Issue #3) Section 4.2 - Problems with the Location header and redirect
reference responses - I never liked the location header very much because it
only allows one to return a single URI. Thus if the target resource has
multiple names by which it is accessible one can only return one of them.
This isn't terribly robust. As such I would propose that this specification
provide an extension header to Location which allows for additional URIs to
be returned.

(Issue #4) Section 4.3.1 - The Ref-Integrity header and its support for the
enforce value - If I send in an "enforce" value for Ref-Integrity, can I
delete a target which still has references? If I don't send in a
Ref-Integrity header, can I be sure if I can delete a target which still has
references? As beautifully explained in the same spec, the answer currently
is "we don't know." This means that creating a reference without a
Ref-Integrity header or with the value "enforce" is a blind act. You have no
idea what the results will be and this very clearly violates the Hardie
	The na´ve solution would be to just rip out the ref-integrity
header, however the current language in the spec says that in this case it
is a gamble as to what one will get. Again, this violates the Hardie Rule.
	As such I propose that the Ref-Integrity header MUST be included in
all requests and that the only defined value be DAV:do-not-enforce. A server
receiving this header with an unrecognized value MUST fail the request. We
do not act in the interests of interoperability by allowing referential
integrity when as this spec so elegantly argues, no one can even define what
this means. As such defining an "enforce" header does not help
interoperability and so should not be in the spec. For now let various
implements put out RFCs defining their particular implementation along with
a URL for the Ref-Integrity header that requires their particular
implementation. Hopefully at some point in the future there will be
convergence and a standardized URL can be specified.

(Issue #5) Section 4.3.1 - Why DAV:reftarget, reftype and refintegrity are
stand alone properties - I do not understand why DAV:reftarget, DAV:reftype
and DAV:refintegrity are all defined as properties. As these values help to
define the nature of the resource type should they not have their values
included inside the DAV:reference element in the DAV:resourcetype property?

(Issue #6) Section 4.3.1 - MKREF and the use of bodies - Why doesn't MKREF
follow the same rules that MKCOL has regarding the possible inclusion of a
body? They provide for the inclusion of a body but specify that if the
content-type of the body is not understood then the request MUST be
rejected. I believe the same rational that merited the inclusion of this
language in MKCOL's definition applies here.

(Issue #7) Section 4.4.1 - Do references to collections have to provide
references for all the members of the collection? - If one creates a
reference to a collection is one also required to create references to all
the members of that collection? I suspect the answer is yes but this is not
clear from the specification. For example, the referential resource in the
example is http://www.svr.com/MyCollection/tuva/ and it points to a
collection which has a member called history.html. Does this mean that a GET
on http://www.svr.com/MyCollection/tuva/history.html MUST succeed? In other
words, that by creating a reference to a collection one is required to
create references to its entire tree? Again, I suspect the answer is yes
(this would explain the PROPFIND response format for direct references as
well as the COPY behavior for direct references) but this requirement is
never explicitly stated in the spec.

(Issue #8) Section 4.5.5 - Requiring reftype and reftarget in COPY responses
- Why must one return the reftype and reftarget information for COPY
requests? As this information is available from a PROPFIND on the
destination requiring it to be supplied as part of the COPY response seems
redundant. Including this information also would most likely break RFC 2518
clients who would expect an empty body on a fully successful copy.

(Issue #9) Section 4.6 - Banning passthrough behavior on DELETE and MOVE - I
have a direct reference http://foo/bar to http://bar/blaz. I can define a
MOVE on http://foo/bar to http://icky/bik as meaning that http://bar/blaz is
to be moved to http://icky/bik. Following the logic discussed in Issue #7 I
can even properly define how to move any children that http://bar/blaz might
have. With DELETE I can define a DELETE of http://foo/bar as meaning that
http://bar/blaz should be deleted. So there doesn't seem to be any technical
reason to ban passthrough behavior on MOVE and DELETE involving direct
	I suspect the real reason that passthrough behavior is disallowed on
direct references is because of concerns regarding interactions with
existing WebDAV clients. In most file systems that support links if one
deletes or moves a link, only the link is deleted or moved. I suspect the
authors are concerned that allowing passthrough on DELETE and MOVE would
mean that if an existing WebDAV client asks for a DELETE or MOVE then the
resource being pointed at would be deleted/moved as well, which wasn't
something the non-reference enabled client would have intended. As such I
think it is completely reasonable to design the protocol such that if a RFC
2518 client issues a DELETE or MOVE then only the direct reference and not
the target is affected. In fact I would propose the design rule that when
moving/deleting a resource the resource should retain its type unless
explicit instructions to the contrary are given. That is, if you are a
direct reference at the source then you should be a direct reference at the
destination unless explicit instructions to the contrary are provided.
	The way to easily implement this rule is to give no-passthrough a
value and define the default for that value on a method by method basis.
PROPFIND and COPY, for example, would default to no-passthrough: f.
MOVE/DELETE would default to no-passthrough: t.
	The previous all applies to direct references. Redirect references
are obviously a different animal since one can only directly manipulate the
reference and never the target. Thus the only issue is - should a 302 ever
appear in a COPY/MOVE/DELETE response? Following the law of minimum surprise
an RFC 2518 client getting a 302 would be very surprised. They ordered that
all resources be copied, redirect references are resources, therefore they
should be copied. As such I propose that redirect references on
COPY/MOVE/DELETE always behavior as if no-passthrough equals t, regardless
of its actual value.

(Issue #10) Section 4.7.1 - Passthrough locks on direct references - I'm
thoroughly confused regarding why a passthrough lock doesn't lock both the
reference and the target. I read the spec a couple of times and I still
don't get it. For example, imagine an RFC 2518 client issued a lock on
http://foo/bar which is a direct reference to http://bar/blaz. To the RFC
2518 client it appears that they have locked http://foo/bar which will act
exactly as http://bar/blaz. This seems the much more reasonable behavior.
I'm sure there is a scenario here I'm missing but whatever it is, I wasn't
able to discern it from the spec. I apologize if the scenario is staring me
in the face and I am just failing to see it.

Section 4.7.3 - Returning reftype and reftarget on LOCKs of redirect
resources - The text says that a reftype and a reftarget element is returned
in the result but the actual result does not contain them. I'm not marking
this as an issue because I assume it is just a minor editorial glitch.

Section 4.7.4 - While there is a title for this section, there is no
example. I'm not marking this as an issue because I assume it is just a
minor editorial glitch.

(Issue #11) Section 4.7.5 - LOCK on a Collection that contains a direct
reference and a redirect reference - First off, the format is not backwards
compatible with RFC 2518 and thus will break existing RFC 2518 clients. Such
clients are expecting to get back a prop response, not a multistatus. They
will ignore the multistatus (since they won't recognize it in this context)
and thus "see" an empty response body.
	It would seem that returning reftype and reftarget information is
not necessary. A client can retrieve this information from a PROPFIND. This
is a similar argument to Issue #8. The best counter argument is that not
returning this information would cause reference enhanced clients to always
perform a PROPFIND after a LOCK. While this is not necessarily the end of
the world (LOCKs tend to be rare) it could still be bad. However, if we
adopt the behavior proposed in Issue #10 then there won't usually even be a
good reason to perform the PROPFIND. In addition, this behavior is
consistent with what an RFC 2518 client would expect.

I believe I have provided more than a sufficient number of issues to keep
the authors busy for some time and that providing even more would just
overload the authors. I look forward to returning to my review once these
concerns have been appropriately addressed.

Received on Monday, 22 February 1999 01:36:28 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.1 : Wednesday, 7 January 2015 15:01:19 UTC