WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) is a set of extensions to HTTP/1.1. It is an open, published standard that allows you to edit documents on a remote web server.

WebDAV supports the following features:

1.Editing: Create, update, and delete files. 

2.Properties: Store metadata such as titles, author names, and publication dates. You 
  can set, delete, and retrieve these metadata. 

3.Collections: Group resources into collections that are organized like a file system,
  similar to a directory or desktop folder. 

4.Locking: Prevent others from editing the same content you're working on in WebDAV. 
  The duration of the locks is independent of any individual network connection.

The goal of this working group is to define extensions to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that enable remote collaborative authoring of Web resources. This is the third charter for this Working Group, and does not include items that have already been completed by this Working Group (base WebDAV Proposed Standard, ordered collections extension, and access control extension).

When the WebDAV working group was initially formed, it was reacting to experience from circa-1995/96 HTML authoring tools that showed they were unable to meet their user's needs using the facilities of the HTTP protocol. The observed consequences were either postponed introduction of distributed authoring capability, or the addition of nonstandard extensions to the HTTP protocol. These extensions, developed in isolation, are not interoperable. The WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol, RFC 2518, addressed these concerns by providing facilities for overwrite prevention (locking), metadata management (properties), and namespace management (copy, move, collections).

Despite their utility, several important capabilities were not supported in the initial Distributed Authoring Protocol. It is a goal to create protocols to support these capabilities:

  • Referential Containment (Bindings): The WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol has unusual containment semantics where multiple containment is allowed, but not supported by any protocol operations, yet container deletion assumes inclusion containment, deleting the container and its members. Most object management systems provide full support for referential containment, and have delete semantics that only remove the container without affecting contained objects.

  • Namespace Redirection (Redirect References): HTTP, via its 301 and 302 responses, supports namespace redirection where a request on one URL is returned to the client with instructions to resubmit the same request to another URL.

As with most application layer protocols, implementation and field experience on the WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol has highlighted many issues that should be addressed as the protocol is advanced from proposed to draft standard status. Some of these issues will require additional deliberation within the WebDAV working group.


The following items were initially identified as being out of scope for the WebDAV working group, and continue to be such:

  • Definition of core attribute sets, beyond those attributes necessary for the implementation of distributed authoring and versioning functionality

  • Creation of new authentication schemes

  • HTTP server to server communication protocols

  • Distributed authoring via protocols other than HTTP and SMTP

  • Implementation of functionality by non-origin proxies


The further output of this working group is expected to be these documents:

  1. A Bindings Protocol, providing a specification of operations supporting referential containment for WebDAV collections. [Proposed Standard]

  2. A Redirect References Protocol, providing a specification of operations for remote maintenance of namespace redirections, and the interaction of these redirections with existing HTTP and WebDAV methods. [Proposed Standard]

  3. An updated version of WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol that resolves known issues with the protocol. [Draft Standard]

At present, the Binding Protocol and Redirect Reference protocols have been through a WG last call but major changes were made and another WG last call seems advised. The revision of the WebDAV Distributed Authoring Protocol has been started.