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Re: Collections and Request-URIs

From: Roy T. Fielding <fielding@apache.org>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 16:22:29 -0700
Cc: Jim Luther <luther.j@apple.com>, w3c-dist-auth@w3c.org
To: Greg Stein <gstein@lyra.org>
Message-Id: <422455F1-8312-11D6-9ED7-000393753936@apache.org>

>> Anyway, trailing slashes issue causes an interoperability problem for
>> our WebDAV file system and Apache 2.0 servers.  Since Mac OS X's WebDAV
>> file system doesn't know if the end path component passed to it is a
>> collection or non-collection resource, it doesn't put a trailing slash
>> on the Request-URI. This works on all servers except for Apache 2 which
>> sends us a "301 Moved Permanently" response. We don't redirect because
>> the HTTP spec (RFC 2616, section 10.3.2) says:
>> "If the 301 status code is received in response to a request other than
>> GET or HEAD, the user agent MUST NOT automatically redirect the request
>> unless it can be confirmed by the user, since this might change the
>> conditions under which the request was issued."
> Roy Fielding has previous stated that RFC 2616's language is incorrect. 
> The
> spec is supposed to allow things like PROPFIND. I forget the exact
> terminology that Roy used (i.e. was it "*all* idempotent methods"? or
> something else), but PROPFIND was among them.

Please see the official errata:


> This topic was extensively discussed on the Apache development list when 
> we
> added that redirection code (actually, we fixed a bug that prevented the
> "proper" behavior of redirecting for all methods). That was when Roy 
> chimed
> in about RFC 2616 being slightly incorrect, that a redirection is legal,
> that Apache 2.0 "should" go ahead and redirect, and that the clients who 
> are
> *not* following the redirect are simply broken.
> And given that the non-following clients are "broken", we went ahead and
> made the default behavior to do the redirection, and called out the broken
> clients in the standard distribution of httpd.conf.

That is correct.  And, BTW, RFC 2518 is in fact incorrect in the paragraph
quoted, something which I stated numerous times when it was a draft.
There are no known examples of HTTP servers for which the URI without a
slash is the SAME RESOURCE as the URI with a slash.  Automatically
providing two different URI for the same resource, particularly when
they cross hierarchical syntax, instantly doubles the application
name space (bad for IR and QA) and creates holes in access control.
That is why ALL general HTTP servers provide PERMANENT REDIRECTS
from a WRONG URL to a better URL for the sake of stupid authors of
broken references.  They have never been the same resource on any
server for which I have ever had readable code.

It is completely idiotic for the protocol standard to state that a
very expensive network round-trip correction needed because of indirect
stupidity on the part of the server in providing the wrong URL to the
client, or because clients have been encouraged to remove the trailing
slash because some moron in UI thought it looked better without the
slash, can be "worked around" by ignoring the difference between
the two resources.  Any WebDAV server that does not return a redirect
in that situation is a bad HTTP server.

A WebDAV client cannot assume anything about the nature of the URI,
since there is absolutely no requirement in HTTP that two URI that
differ only by the trailing slash are in fact the same resource.
An HTTP server cannot ignore the difference because the content of
a representation is interpreted in relation to the URI that was used to
access that resource.  Likewise, it often cannot ignore the difference
because an HTTP server consists of many interoperating components
that are configured according to the URI name space being accessed,
not necessarily all within the same machine.  Therefore, the ONLY
interoperable behavior when faced with a slashless collection request
is to perform an external redirect, even if that means existing
WebDAV clients will puke and die.

A WebDAV client must therefore handle the redirect.


Roy T. Fielding, Chief Scientist, Day Software
                  (roy.fielding@day.com) <http://www.day.com/>

                  Chairman, The Apache Software Foundation
                  (fielding@apache.org)  <http://www.apache.org/>
Received on Tuesday, 18 June 2002 19:22:03 UTC

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