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Net task force proposes Web standard

Documents may get easier to post to the Web thanks to the advancement this week of a specification called WebDAV.

Documents may get easier to post to the Web thanks to the advancement this week of a specification called WebDAV.

The Internet Engineering Task Force this week moved WebDAV, or Distributed Authoring and Versioning, from draft to proposed standard, and formally requested comment on it.

WebDAV is a set of extensions to the hypertext transfer protocol that will standardize the way Web authoring tools post information to Web servers. Currently, tools like Microsoft's FrontPage or NetObjects' Fusion rely on proprietary extensions that the Web developer's Internet service provider must support. Alternately, users must user cumbersome file transfer protocol downloads to post information to Web servers.

WebDAV would eliminate the need for those proprietary extensions and FTP downloads.

"HTTP is a protocol for reading documents, and DAV is a set of extensions to HTTP that lets you both read and write documents," said Microsoft product manager for platform marketing Steve Sklepowich. "It lets you move Web documents around as you would as part of your file system."

WebDAV consists of three main parts. "Propfind" is a way of storing and retrieving metadata--information included in an HTML document that describes it, such as the names of authors and documents and their dates. "Locking" prevents multiple parties from accessing a document simultaneously. "Collections" pulls together various Web pages components--such as image files--that may be located in different places.

Firms and institutions behind WebDAV include Microsoft, Novell, Netscape Communications, Xerox, NetObjects, and the University of California at Irvine. The proposed standard will remain under review for the next six to 24 months before progressing to full IETF ratifcation.

In the meantime, Microsoft has announced support for WebDAV in the Office 2000 suite of applications and the NT Server operating system. The firm also will support the spec in future versions of the Windows OS, the FrontPage authoring tool, and the BackOffice applications suite.