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Version Control with Subversion, 2nd Edition by Brian W. Fitzpatrick, Ben Collins-Sussman, C. Michael Pilato

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What Is WebDAV?

DAV stands for Distributed Authoring and Versioning. RFC 2518 defines a set of concepts and accompanying extension methods to HTTP 1.1 that make the Web a more universal read/write medium. The basic idea is that a WebDAV-compliant web server can act like a generic file server; clients can mount shared folders over HTTP that behave much like other network filesystems (such as NFS or SMB).

The tragedy, though, is that despite the acronym, the RFC specification doesn’t actually describe any sort of version control. Basic WebDAV clients and servers assume that only one version of each file or directory exists and that it can be repeatedly overwritten.

Because RFC 2518 left out versioning concepts, another committee was stuck with the responsibility of writing RFC 3253 a few years later. The new RFC adds versioning concepts to WebDAV, placing the V back in DAV—hence the term DeltaV. WebDAV/DeltaV clients and servers are often called just DeltaV programs, since DeltaV implies the existence of basic WebDAV.

The original WebDAV standard has been widely successful. Every modern computer operating system has a general WebDAV client built in (details to follow), and a number of popular standalone applications are also able to speak WebDAV—Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop, to name a few. On the server end, Apache HTTP Server has been able to provide WebDAV services since 1998 and is considered the de facto open source standard. Several other commercial WebDAV ...

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