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Microsoft Feature Support List (V 0.1, ALPHA, 8/26/96)

From: Yaron Goland <yarong@microsoft.com>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996 16:34:12 -0400
Message-Id: <ae4902390d0210043259@[]>
To: w3c-dist-auth@w3.org
Microsoft Feature Support List (V 0.1, ALPHA, 8/26/96)
by Yaron Y. Goland (yarong@microsoft.com)
The following is the list of features which I have found that Microsoft
requires in order to express the full functionality of its products across
HTTP. The "I have found" caveat means that the list will change as I
continue my investigations.  In addition this is an ALPHA version of the
document and is only being released at the behest of Jim Whitehead so that
'something' would get into the HTTP v1.2 working group. Please excuse any
contradictions or omissions, over the coming days I will be working with
Jim to clean up any problems and sync this document with his own work.
This list is a result of the HTTP Versioning and File Control Project,
which currently consists of just me. However I am also the program manager
for WinInet which is the API that will provide support for HTTP
While I have proposed solutions to the needs expressed in this document
these solutions are in a rough form and serve only to clarify the purpose
of the particular feature. I am open to a complete rewrite of the
implementation so long as it maintains the same underlying feature set.
Finally, this document does not represent all of the features I would like
to add, only the features that I am aware Microsoft requires.
1. File Control Features
By its very nature versioning requires strong file support features.
Without them the overhead for even basic versioning tasks quickly grows out
of control.
1.1 Attributes
The list of attributes one would want to associate with a file or directory
is endless. Rather than trying to specify them all I would recommend that
the link facility, as described below, be used. A link would be available
to an attribute entity whose format will be decided later. I do have a list
of attributes, such as if a URL can be multiply checked out or not, but
giving it here would just clutter this paragraph.
1.2 Copy
Currently Copy can only be implemented through a combination of GET and
PUT/POST. In cases were the file is being moved from one computer to
another this is quite appropriate. It is unlikely that servers will be
willing to take upon themselves the difficulties inherent in accepting a
request from one source and then performing an action on another source due
to that request. This opens the door to all sorts of abuses. However in the
case were URLs are being moved around on the same server a COPY verb would
prove extremely useful. Given the need for this command and given the heavy
costs inherent in the current GET->PUT/POST method I believe it is
appropriate to implement a COPY verb. Note that the COPY verb should not be
restricted to only copying within one site and instead should specify which
URL to copy from and which URL to copy to. The previous comments to the
contrary, a site should have the freedom to accept requests to copy to
foreign sites.
While I am fairly agnostic on the issue of a MCopy I think that sticky
headers makes it a bit useless.
1.3 Directories
This is not a request for a command but rather a discussion of the
implications of directories. Directory URLs are unique entities and should
be allowable as arguments to all commands included in this document. Thus a
move or copy should work on the directory URL by moving the URL and all of
its subordinate URLs to a new location with proper URL name translation. A
GET on a directory URL should return a HTML file containing the directory
information. I would recommend we standardize on the SiteMap format which
provides for a HTML file containing hierarchical information. A tag should
also be available to indicate if an action to be performed on recursively
on a directory. Finally some sort of wildcard support is required. This is
not necessarily restricted to just directory URLs and would be useful as a
back door to M* verbs.
1.4 Delete
Delete functionality already exists in HTTP. It is included for
1.5 [Full | Partial] Write [Lock | Unlock]
A lock is defined here as the ability to prevent anyone from doing anything
to a particular URL if it is locked. The owner of the lock however may do
anything to the URL they want, including deleting it. If the URL is deleted
the lock still exists. Meaning no one can create that URL or perform any
commands on that URL until the lock is released. With this in mind we need
the ability to do write locks on multiple files. We also need a way to
explicitly override locks.
This is a major feature issue for Microsoft. The ability to Lock a file
both partially and completely is desperately needed. Furthermore support
for multiple simultaneous file locks is equally needed. We need to begin by
asserting that PUT HTTP requests are atomic. This may seem obvious but
should nevertheless be stated. Thus the locking problem is reduced to the
issue of locking a file over multiple requests. Dependency on time outs is
dangerous as a request may be submitted after the lock has timed out, the
resulting ugliness is self evident. Thus a token based lock system seems to
be the best solution. A set of URLs would be submitted as a lock request.
If the lock is successful the system will respond with an opaque set of
octets. These octets are a token that refers to the lock. All further
requests on those URLs must include the lock token. If they do not then
they are treated as normal requests, with success or failure based upon
normal behavior given the existence of a lock. If the lock is removed, by
expiration or because of override, the request with the lock token will
fail with an appropriate error indication. Facilities should also exist to
add or remove URLs from a particular lock token. Locks should be indefinite
but a non-activity time out should apply. This time out should be generous
and should not be used as a means of removing a lock from an application
that is abusing the lock facility.
Locks should be removed through one of three means: the lock owner asking
to remove the lock, an activity time out, or another user overriding the
lock. It is up to the system to determine who can override a lock however
our needs in this area will be explained in the security section below.
Finally, I generally do not like adding verbs. As such I would use PEP to
put lock and unlock onto a PUT with no body. I would also use byte ranges
to support partial locks on files. In addition one should be able to use
the PUT tags to request a lock during another request. So for example a
lock request tag could be added to a GET. The GET will only succeed if the
lock can be executed. A lock token will then be added to the header of the
response or an error message returned.
1.6 Get
Again, completeness.
1.7 Link
Links are needed for a variety of reasons including associating the
pre-processed and processed versions of files and establishing shadow
directories. The variety of values one would want to associate with a link
are numerous and argue that links should be made into first class objects.
A tag would be added to the HTML header of a file indicating the URLs of
any associated links. The link URL should be equal to the URL of the
requested entity with appropriate tags appended to the end. The client
would then request the links using a normal GET. The bodies of the replies
would contain whatever information was relevant to the link.
In order to ease administration it is also possible that each linked file
will have a URL associated with it that will list all the links attached to
this file.
A PUT with appropriate tags should be used to associate a link body with
one or more URLs. Note that there is no restriction on the number of files
a link URL may be attached to.
Once a link is made into a URL all sorts of powerful mechanisms become
1.8 Move
While arguments can be made for a move verb I would suggest a copy followed
by a delete.
1.9 Partial [Read | Write]
Partial read support is already provided through byte ranges. Partial write
support is problematic because servers that do not support partial writes
would drop the byte range header and execute a write over file. I would
suggest implementing partial write through a PEP extension as a means of
solving this problem.
1.10 Put
The only question here is should there exist a tag which tells the server
that if the file already exists it should not be overwritten and an error
should be returned. The same functionality can be achieved through a head
1.11 Rename
This can be handled through copy as specified above. Our only requirement
is that renames be possible without having to move the file from the server
to the client and back again.
2. Versioning Control Features
Why an action has occurred is just as important as the action itself. Thus
a comment facility is necessary. I would suggest either comment tags, one
for strings and another for URLs, or the Link facility be used. Given the
frequency that comments are used it may be appropriate to implement the
comment tags and then define a method by which the tags are turned into
links. The idea is that we do not want to have every action take two parts,
the action and then the addition of a link in order to add a comment.
2.2 Currently Checked Out Files
A tag should be added to modify a GET request to indicate that check out
information is request for the specified URL. If the URL is a directory
then information will be provided on all the entries in that directory. The
suggested recursive tag should also apply. This could easily be implemented
as a predefined link type.
2.3 Destroy
A deleted object is removed from normal view in histories or directories
but will be visible in a link associated with a directory which specified
deleted but not destroyed items. As such a tag should be added to the
delete command specifying if the delete is meant as a delete or a destroy.
2.4 History
A history for a document or directory is necessary to show the user what
versions have existed and what their comments are. This can be implemented
through the attributes link. Specific formats for the history file can be
decided later. Though said formats must address the difference between
linear and branched histories.
2.5 Merge
Sometime a Check In will result in a conflict between a currently existing
URL and the Checked In URL. If the server has facilities to detect such
conflicts then the server may request that the client resolve the
conflicts. At this point the server should send a PUT with a merge tag to
the client. The body of the PUT will either contain the entity to merge
with or the URL of the entity to be merged with. The reason for the pointer
is that not all clients will be able to merge all types of files and may
return an error message so indicating. By allowing just the URL to be sent
the server is able to save bandwidth in case the client can not support the
2.6 [Multi | Single] Check [In | Out]
The only real difference between check in/out and lock/unlock is that
multiple users may have that ability to check out a single resource while
only a single user may have a lock. There is also the issue of an entity
body but not all check ins even use an entity body. In fact a check in
without an entity body is just an UnCheckOut. The security, override, and
implementation format for lock also apply here.
Another issue is the meaning of checking in a directory. In this case the
body of the message should be a multi-part mime file with HTTP headers
indicating the URLs of each entry. Entries which are not included are
assumed to be unchanged.
2.7 Search
The ability to search a site is crucial. Facilities for grep, wild card
search, and searches on check in/out status are needed. It is tempting to
implement these functions using URL munges as they are now done, with the
recognition of directory structure this would be very powerful. I have no
particular views on the subject.
2.8 Version
A facility to specify the version identifier is needed. This identifier
should be expressed by appending it to the end of the URL for the entity.
The appended format should be defined so that it is always possible to
identify and remove the appended entity.
This however opens the question of what sort of versioning identifiers
should be used. Integer? Decimal? Alphabetic? Opaque Token? All of the
above? Currently we only require integer however all of the above is
probably the best solution. When a URL is checked in the server's
confirmation reply should include the URL assigned to the entity. The reply
should be in the appended format. If information regarding the relationship
of URLs is needed then a history file should be requested. The format of
the history file will clearly indicate the relationship of the URLs.
When a Check In/Out or Lock/UnLock request is made on a URL that is not in
appended format the request should apply to all versions of that URL.
3. Access Control Features
Security is a murky territory I am sure we would all rather avoid but the
reality is that security is absolutely vital to versioning. If a robust
security solution is not provided for then proprietary ones will be
introduced and all of our work will be for not.
The security model that would best meet our needs is a combination of group
and individual based security attributes. Each entity, either group or
individual, can be assigned security rights which apply to one or more URLs
with the option to apply the rights recursively. The actual rights would be
a listing of the verbs and tags in this document. A user would only be able
to use a tag or verb if they have the right to. This combination of rights,
both to users and groups, to URLs both singly, in groups, and recursively
through the URL hierarchy will meet our needs nicely.
In addition facilities to modify these rights are needed. I am not
religious on how they are implemented, only that they exist. I will assume
the existence of SSL or similar protocol to secure the transmission line.
The authorization header is more than sufficient to uniquely identify a
4. Comments on the WWW Versioning Support Draft Proposal v 0.1
4.1 Flags
Flags are not necessary here as values are set via links which point to
arbitrary entity bodies, probably HTML files, whose format can be decided
later. I provide a facility for finding out who has what files checked out
through links and while I have not specified it, a similar facility could
be provided for finding out who has which locks.
4.2 Lock
No time out value is really necessary to meet Microsoft's needs. We
completely rely on the over ride facility. I only put the time out value
into the document for completeness sake. As long as a "NEVER" value is
available for the time out you will hear no complaints from me.
4.3 Unlock
I will count on the security set up to clear up cases of who may and may
not unlock a URL. Obviously the person who locked it may unlock it but we
also rely upon 'authorized' users to be able to unlock a file. In some
cases that means users with the same security level and in others those
with special security levels. This definition is enforced by the server and
the authorization control section provides a definition more than powerful
enough to handle all cases relevant to Microsoft.
4.4 Use
We do not need such a facility currently but it is still a neat idea. I can
see circumstances were we would want it. Though my general dislike of
adding verbs does make me a bit wary.
4.5 Configurations
We provide this functionality through a number of other means. Specifically
using SiteMaps for directory listings. However this is still an interesting
feature and I will look at it further.
4.6 Derivations File
AKA a history file which is provided for.
Received on Tuesday, 27 August 1996 16:48:26 UTC

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