What is WebDAV Protocol?

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Raj Vardhman
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Raj Vardhman

Updated · Oct 25, 2023

Raj Vardhman
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When browsing the web, HTTP lets you view and interact with webpages. While you can find pages that allow editing, most are only accessible for viewing. If you encounter pages that need editing, but you can't do so, you'll need WebDAV.

WebDAV is a protocol that lets users manage and edit files through web servers. With 85,077 live websites using WebDAV, you can see how crucial it is to online file management. Besides these valuable functions, WebDAV offers more things that most users need to learn.

If you're dealing with files online, it's crucial to understand what WebDAV is and how it works. This way, you can maximize its use and see how it compares with other alternatives.

Keep reading to learn more!

Understanding What WebDAV Is

📖 Definition

WebDAV is the shortened term for Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning. It's a set of HTTP protocol extensions that allow file editing and managing. WebDAV allows users to collaborate on web pages and files through remote web servers.

WebDAV is an extension of HTTP, a protocol that handles web content distribution between networks. To understand how WebDAV works, you also need to understand HTTP.

HTTP is the internet protocol that allows users to access and view web pages online. It even allows the editing of shared documents, pages, or websites.

While HTTP can allow these functions, it only depends on the nature of the web pages.

For instance, HTTP can't allow users to edit or manage a web page, file, or website only for viewing. In such cases, WebDAV offers the solution.

With WebDAV, you can collaborate on file editing and management. It also permits users to transfer, delete, and copy files. 

This protocol supports files on remote servers, cloud storage, and web hosting services. 

💡 Did You Know?

With 1.1 billion registered hostnames, the web hosting industry powers all websites. Experts predict that this industry will get bigger by 2027.

As an extension of HTTP, WebDAV uses port 80 for unencrypted access and port 443 for SSL/TLS protocol. Moreover, this protocol has two categories: Class 1 and Class 2. 

Here's a quick look at each one:

Class 1 

Class 1 WebDAV Servers allow the essential management of files and folders. Some of the actions are copying, moving, and deleting. However, it lacks certain advanced features like locking and versioning.

Class 2 

Class 2 WebDAV Servers offer a more advanced set of functionalities. It supports more features such as locking, version control, and metadata management. 

WebDAV is the foundation of protocols like CalDAV and CardDAV. These protocols let clients schedule information on remote servers and share contact data. 

WebDAV Features

Besides the essential file management and editing, the WebDAV protocol offers various tools to do these tasks. 

If you plan on using this protocol, here are some of the features and uses you can enjoy:

WebDAV Features

Server Support

Many servers can support the WebDAV protocol. Some of them are Apache, Internet Information Services, and SabreDAV server.

Users can also use the existing WebDAV cloud storage services if they're not inclined to build their cloud storage.

If you're looking for options, pCloud is an excellent cloud platform. It offers a seamless transition to systems like DropBox and OneDrive if you use them.

💡 Did You Know?

The cloud is a convenient tool for file management and storage. If you are unfamiliar with these platforms, you can check this guide about cloud storage and how it works.

Client Support

WebDAV supports many systems and apps called WebDAV Clients.

This feature makes the protocol accessible to many users. It's unlike other tools available only to a particular system or app.

The WebDAV protocol is compatible with several operating systems. These are:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Linux
  • MacOS
  • Git
  • Apache Subversion

Besides operating systems, WebDAV also powers some apps and software. These are:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Apple iWork
  • Adobe Photoshop

With a WebDAV URL, users can edit files on remote servers. It's a helpful feature since they don't need to download the files for editing.

File and Folder Hierarchy Structure

With WebDAV, users can create a hierarchical structure of their files and folders. This function allows them to organize their data. Other benefits of this feature are:

  • Easier access to files and folders
  • Increases productivity and collaboration
  • Provides user-access control, enhancing file security

Version Control

The Version Control allows users to view and revert to older file versions. 

It's a valuable feature when a user needs to track changes in the file. It ensures that the latest update remains available. 

This feature is ideal for several users who edit a specific version simultaneously. 

With Version Control, users can make changes without overriding another user’s modifications. 


Another excellent feature of WebDAV is the security it offers. This protocol lets you enjoy secure connections to keep your data safe.

The protocol enforces user authentication, allowing only authorized users to access specific files. 

It also uses SSL/TLS encryption to prevent malicious interception and data eavesdropping. 

WebDAV also has a file-locking feature, letting users lock specific files and folders. As a result, it prevents unauthorized users from making any changes to the files. 

⚠️ Alarming Fact

The possibility of data breaches is so high since a new cyber attack happens every 39 seconds on the web. If your files online have sensitive data, using WebDAV lessens the risk of these attacks.

File Sharing

File Sharing is a valuable feature of WebDAV for a working group that needs to work collaboratively on a project. It even supports large-scale file sharing.

Content Management

WebDAV is a valuable protocol for content management because it offers functions like:

  • Automatic Backup
  • Data Replication
  • File Versioning

With WebDAV, you won't need other tools to back up your files or copy data.

This protocol lets you enjoy functions in other content management systems.

🎉 Fun Fact

Over 80 million websites run using CMS (Content Management Systems). WordPress is the most common CMS, which powers 43.1% of all sites.

The Evolution of WebDAV

Here’s a timeline from the World Wide Web until the finalization of the WebDAV protocol updates. 

Timeline of WebDAV Evolution

1989 - Beginning of the WebDAV Protocol

Designing WebDAV took years to complete. It started when Sir Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web at CERN in 1989. 

Berners-Lee originally intended for HTTP to allow authoring and casual web browsing. The first version of Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web (WWW) is viewable and editable.

The growth of WWW made it more accessible to the public. As a result, it became a read-only medium. 

It means that authoring web pages isn’t possible for interoperable multi-author access. 

1996 - Solving the issue of distributed authoring

Jim Whitehead led a meeting with the World Wide Web Consortium Members in 1996. Its goal is to overcome the notable problem of distributed authoring.

The protocol's work progression made one thing clear. It's that handling distributed authoring, and versioning takes too much work. As a result, it must distribute the tasks to several groups.

The WebDAV group concentrated on distributed authoring. Delta-V added versioning later. 

2007 - Finalizing the WebDAV updates from RFC 4918

The WebDAV working group finalized its task in 2007. It happened after the Internet Engineering Steering Group accepted the RFC 2518 updates.

WebDAV vs Alternatives

Various alternatives to WebDAV can also do file editing on a remote server. These are the most common: 


Unlike WebDAV and its alternatives today, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) has limited security. In contrast, it has a good grasp of HTTPS security. 

Another difference between FTP and WebDAV is that FTP needs its server process. Meanwhile, WebDAV runs within the server. 

Also, FTP doesn’t have locking and version tracking features. It makes collaboration somewhat challenging. 

FTP runs workalike protocols that address its weak security. 


Secure Shell (SSH) mainly uses cryptography for operating system activities. For instance, it offers remote file access over an unsecured network. 

Among the services included under SSH are: 

  • SCP (Secure Copy Protocol)
  • SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol)

SCP handles moving files, while SFTP manipulates files and folders. However, both need collaboration-oriented functionalities WebDAV has, such as file-locking. 

🎉 Fun Fact

Tatu Ylönen introduced the SSH1 protocol in 1995. It happened after the password-sniffing attack at the Helsinki University of Technology. 


Distributed File System (DFS) is a filing system. It allows users to access file storage from different hosts through a computer. It can access files for remote users.

DFS provides all the essential filesystem services on a local drive, like file locking. However, it does not have built-in file version tracking like WebDAV. 

You can update it to have larger attack surfaces than protocols like WebDAV. 

Here’s a table that points out the weak and strong points between WebDAV and its alternatives. 







Supports authentication and encryption.

Does not support authentication and encryption.

Provides strong encryption and authentication functionalities. This protocol also supports data integrity checking.

Like SSH, DFS supports encryption, authentication, and data integrity checking. 


Users can collaborate and share their files over the Internet.

A known protocol for sharing files between computers. It can upload and download files from the web server. 

Used for managing remote computers and supports data transfer between two systems. 

Makes file retrieval from several sources faster. It provides a unified view of files stored on networks. 


Most applicable for websites requiring frequent updates, blog-based sites, and online stores.

Applicable for large file transfers such as software over the Internet.

Offers secure remote access to servers and between computers. 

Appropriate for distributed file systems requiring high availability and scalability.


Files.com, WinSCP, Cyberduck, FileZilla Pro, BitKinex, etc. 

FireZilla, Transmit, SmartFTP, CuteFTP, etc. 

Terminals, mRemoteNG, SmarTTY, MobaXterm, KiTTY, PuTTY, etc. 

Amazon.com, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Dropbox, etc. 


WebDAV pioneered operational possibilities never before imagined. It gave the World Wide Web editing functionality. 

Through WebDAV, any web server can act as a file server. Also, users can now access a server through user-friendly graphical clients.


Is WebDAV faster than FTP?

Yes. Unlike FTP, WebDAV only uses one port. It doesn't need data connections for each file when sending several files simultaneously.

Does Google Drive support WebDAV?

No, Google Drive doesn't support the WebDAV protocol. You must use a third-party cloud storage manager like MultCloud to connect to Google Drive.

What is the maximum speed in WebDAV?

The maximum speed in WebDAV depends on your connection's speed. For instance, if your internet connection is 10 Mbps, then WebDAV's connection would be 10 Mbps as well.


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