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

copy and properties

From: Yaron Goland <yarong@microsoft.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Feb 1999 18:25:51 -0800
Message-ID: <3FF8121C9B6DD111812100805F31FC0D08792EB7@RED-MSG-59>
To: "'WebDAV'" <w3c-dist-auth@w3.org>
One particular aspect of COPY that took a lot longer to gel was how to
handle the properties on a resource. If memory serves the very first
definition of COPY didn't even include the properties. Then property support
was added but on the same basis as support for methods - your mileage may
vary. In other words, you couldn't be sure which properties made it across
and in what state.

Where as everyone seemed to accept that defining how the methods were copied
should be left as magic, properties were a different story. It was felt that
properties were "well defined" and therefore we should be able to fully
define their behavior over a COPY.

In typical WebDAV fashion, we went to the other extreme and stated that all
properties had to be copied over or the COPY would fail. Furthermore, if a
property was live on the source then it also had to be live on the

This definition was so overly restrictive that it would have prevented
something as simple as copying a resource (read: file, in this particular
example) from an NTFS drive to a FAT drive because NTFS supports certain
properties as live that FAT doesn't. Everyone understood that this was
clearly not the desired behavior.

There was some flirtation with the idea of having a pre-copy method. The
idea is that you would execute a pre-copy method on the source and it would
tell you which properties would make it across to the destination, if any
and if they would be live or not. The motivation for this feature is that a
destination resource would support only what it supported, you couldn't
negotiate to get it to support more than it did. So it was best to just
discover what would happen to the properties of the source when copied to
destination and decide if that was acceptable. Of course the design was
insane since there was no guarantee that the results of a pre-copy would
match the eventual copy and it meant having to perform at least two round
trips, one for pre-copy and one for copy. The whole thing was really silly.
But it did help the authors focus in on the need for a declarative
mechanism. In other words, clients needed to be able to say "If you can do
the following then the copy should be attempted, otherwise don't bother."

After some discussion four declarative cases where identified for property
behaviors on a COPY:

1) Copy all properties but don't require that live properties stay live.
This was considered the general case where it was expected that the user
would have some clue as to which live properties the destination supported
or didn't care.

2) Copy all properties but require that all live properties stay live. No
one had a good example of why this would be necessary but it was easy to
specify. =)

3) Copy all properties but only require that a sub-set of live properties
stay live. While there were some contrived examples for this case, no one
had a particularly compelling one. However there was a general feeling that
if copy was to be useful outside of the limited scenarios where you knew
something about the destination we would need this feature.

4) Don't fail the copy for any property related reasons. This was a fall
back case meant to cover situations where you were copying to really dumb or
resource constrained WebDAV servers that couldn't handle properties very

There fifth case which, to the best of my recollection, was never discussed:

5) Guarantee that a certain sub-set of properties are copied across as live,
a certain sub-set are copied across as either live or dead and do not fail
if any of the properties not listed in the previous two sub-sets don't make
it across or can only be copied across as dead.

Cases 1 - 3 require that all properties must make it across, the only issue
is if the properties will be live at the destination. Case 4 was a fall back
case. I'm not convinced that supporting case 5 is all that critical, disk
space is cheap, but time will tell.

Defining the language for copying a live property on the source to a live
property on the destination is easy, its magic. Specifically, it is expected
that live properties will fully define how they are to behave when copied.
There really isn't anything useful that the standard could say on this

However a most unfortunate choice of language was made in describing how to
copy a property which was live on the source but would be dead on the
destination, quoting from section 8.8.2:

   If a property cannot be
   copied live, then its value MUST be duplicated, octet-for-octet, in
   an identically named, dead property on the destination resource
   subject to the effects of the propertybehavior XML element.

The phrase at question is "octet-for-octet." The purpose of saying
"octet-for-octet" was to indicate that one should take the value that the
live property would have produced at the time of the copy and just copy that
dead value over. For example, imagine one had a live property called
iso:time-of-day. If you asked for the property's value you would get back
the current time of day. If you copied this property to a server which
didn't support iso:time-of-day as a live property then the value of the dead
property should be the live property's output at the time of the copy. So if
you asked for the property's value on the destination you would always get
back the same time of day, the time when the resource was copied.

However we didn't want to absolutely require this behavior. We could imagine
that a live property may be smart enough to come up with a better value for
its dead counterpart. For example, the source resource may decide to pass
over a property value which says "I'm dead, ignore me." This would be
completely acceptable and in fact, extremely reasonable.

In the end, this section fell through the editing filter. Clearly the
language needs to be cleaned up before we move to draft standard.
Received on Monday, 8 February 1999 21:25:59 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Friday, 17 January 2020 20:01:16 UTC