caldav connect

Network protocols are used to transfer data between potentially different computer architectures. They describe and standardise the format in which the data is transferred. On the Internet, several major protocols include the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) used in transferring files, Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) used in sending emails to the email server for transmission, and Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) for retrieving emails from the email server.

And then there’s the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) – and its secure variant HTTPS – which is the underpinning of the modern Web. From the simplest website to the most complicated Web application and even Joomla! itself, the underlying protocol used to transfer all that data is HTTP. Its versatility is quite ubiquitous yet extensible, and over the years, a number of protocol extensions have emerged.

WebDAV, or Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning, is one of those extensions. Originally designed to enable multiple people to collaborate on a single website (hence the ‘distributed authoring’ part), WebDAV has since become so much more. Indeed, one of the most popular uses for WebDAV is to support filesystem operations over HTTP; a classic example of which would be connecting to a cloud storage service and making it appear as a standard network drive/folder.

WebDAV is itself extensible (its versioning capabilities are implemented in an extension), and its collaborative features make it perfect for other purposes which require coordination, such as scheduling. This is where CalDAV comes in. Short for ‘Calendaring Extensions to WebDAV’, CalDAV allows multiple users (or multiple devices of a single user) to share the same calendar; changes made on one device or by one user will be reflected across all of them.

All of the DAV protocols are open standards (and are detailed in various RFCs), which means anybody can use them and write software that implements them. Today, most open methods of synchronising files and folders rely on WebDAV; similarly, open online calendaring systems also use CalDAV for synchronisation. Another WebDAV extension, CardDAV, is used to synchronise address book contact information using the vCard format, enabling a full PIM experience with software that supports both CalDAV and CardDAV.

But WebDAV and CalDAV can do so much more than sync. Collaborative features in both protocols enable you to connect multiple users to a shared workspace, plan meetings, share information and resources globally, and in general, act as a single team regardless of wherever you are in the world.

But how does one go about using WebDAV and CalDAV (or, for that matter, CardDAV)? That will be explored in an upcoming post.

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