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A summary of the basic differences between the different kind of containers that LDP supports.

This document is a summary of the basic differences between the different kind of containers that Linked Data Platform (LDP) supports.

LDP specifies three types of containers:

  1. Basic Container
  2. Direct Container
  3. Indirect Container.

This documents describes the differences between the three types of containers by showing what triples are added by an LDP Server when adding a new element to each kind of container.

In particular we assume we have a fictitious blog entry (/blog/entry1/) and we want to add a comment to it. We start by showing what happens if the blog entry is a Basic Container, then we show what happens if the blog entry was instead a Direct Container, and lastly if it was an Indirect Container.

This document assumes familiarity with concepts described in the LDP Spec (http://www.w3.org/TR/ldp/#ldpdc) and the examples described in the LDP Primer (http://www.w3.org/TR/ldp-primer/). If you haven't read those documents this document might not make much sense. However, if you read those documents and still have some doubts about the differences between the different kind of containers this document should help to clarify them.

Basic Container

Assuming we have a Basic Container issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/ will return something like this:

</blog/entry1/> a ldp:Container .
</blog/entry1/> dc:title "First blog entry" .

To add an object to this container (for example, a comment to this blog entry) we would issue an HTTP POST /blog/entry1 with Slug: comment1 which will result in

  1. A new resource created at /blog/entry1/comment1
  2. A new triple (with predicate ldp:contains) added to /blog/entry1/

Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/comment1 will return the new resource created, something like this:

</blog/entry1/comment1/> a ldp:RDFSource .
</blog/entry1/comment1/> dc:title "this is a new comment" .

Because /blog/entry1/ is a Basic Container the LDP Server will also automatically add a new triple to it. Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/ now returns:

</blog/entry1/> a ldp:Container .
</blog/entry1/> dc:title "First blog entry" .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:contains </blog/entry1/comments1> .

The important thing to notice is that by posting to a Basic Container, the LDP server automatically adds a triple with ldp:contains predicate pointing to the new resource created.

Direct Container

An Direct Container behaves a lot like a Basic Container but with some additional features. In a Direct Container we get to specify two additional attributes that the LDP Server will use to automatically add triples to another resource when posting new elements to the container. The membershipResource attribute will let the LDP Server know the URI of this other resource and the hasMemberRelation will indicate the predicate these new triples will have.

Assuming /blog/entry1/ is a Direct Container created with membershipResource /blog/comments and hasMemberRelation hasComment

Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/ returns

</blog/entry1/> a ldp:DirectContainer .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:membershipResource </blog/comments> .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:hasMemberRelation hasComment .
</blog/entry1/> dc:title "First blog entry" .

Issuing an HTTP POST /blog/entry1/ with Slug: comment1 will result in

  1. A new resource created at /blog/entry1/comment1
  2. A new triple (predicate ldp:contains) added to /blog/entry1/
  3. A new triple (predicate hasComment) added to /blog/comments

The first two items are identical to what we saw in the Basic Container example. Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/comment1 will return the new resource created, something like this:

</blog/entry1/comment1/> a ldp:RDFSource .
</blog/entry1/comment1/> dc:title "this is a new comment" .

Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/ will show the new triple with ldp:contains predicate, just like in the Basic Container example:

</blog/entry1/> a ldp:DirectContainer .
</blog/entry1/> a ldp:membershipResource </blog/comments> .
</blog/entry1/> a ldp:hasMemberRelation hasComment .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:contains </blog/entry1/comments1> .

The third item is what sets the Direct Container appart from the Basic Container. Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/comments will show also a new triple in this resource but this one with predicate hasComment as indicated by the hasMembershipRelation triple on the container:

</blog/comments> hasComment </blog/entry1/comment1>

Notice how a new triple was added to a totally different resource. In this case the triple was added to /blog/comments with predicate hasComment because that's what the membershipResource and hasMemberRelationship of the Direct Container specify.

One thing to notice is that the resource added to /blog/comments will always be the URI of the newly created resource. In our example /blog/comments will get a new triple pointing to /blog/entry1/comment1. In other words, in a Direct Container we can configure the subject and the predicate of the new triple, but not the object. [Technically speaking this is not accurate, it is possible to revert the relationship by using is predicate isMemberOfRelation in the Direct Container instead of hasMemberRelation but for the sake of simplicity I am not going to dive into that scenario in this document.]

Indirect Container

The Indirect Container is a bit like the Direct Container but with an extra twist. In an Indirect Container we can specify the subject, predicate, and the object of the new triple what will be added.

Assumming /blog/entry1/ is an Indirect Container created with membershipResource /blog/comments, hasMemberRelation hasComment, and insertedContentRelation theComment.

Issuing an HTTP GET /blog/entry1/ returns

</blog/entry1/> a ldp:IndirectContainer .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:membershipResource </blog/comments> .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:hasMemberRelation hasComment .
</blog/entry1/> ldp:insertedContentRelation theComment .
</blog/entry1/> dc:title "First blog entry" .

When issuing an HTTP POST to an Indirect Container we need to specify some additional information for the LDP Server to be able to determine the object that will be used when adding the new triple to the ldp:membershipResource. In our particular example the body must contain an RDF triple with predicate theComment. For example, let's assume that we issue an HTTP POST /blog/entry1/ with Slug: comment1 and the following triple in the body of the POST request:

<> theComment </blog/extras/first/text> .

The result of this HTTP will be

  1. A new resource created at /blog/entry1/comment1
  2. A new triple (predicate ldp:contains) added to /blog/entry1/
  3. A new triple (predicate hasComment, object </blog/extras/first/text>) added to /blog/comments

The first two actions are identical to what we saw in Basic Container and Direct Container so I will not elaborate on them.

The third action is what is interesting in Indirect Containers. If we issue an HTTP GET /blog/comments we will see that a new triple has been added to it, and it will look as follows:

</blog/comments> hasComment </blog/extras/first/text>

The subject of this triple (/blog/comments) and the predicate (hasComment) is what the membershipResource and the hasMemberRelation properties of the container indicated, similar to what we saw for Direct Containers.

However, the object of this new triple (/blog/extras/first/text) is not the newly created /blog/entry1/commment1 resource. Instead, the object of this new triple is the object indicated in the triple with predicate theComment in the body of the request: /blog/extras/first/text.

When adding a new resource to an Indirect Container, the LDP Server looks at the body of the request for a triple with the same predicate as the insertedContentRelation property and picks from that triple the value to use as the object in the new triple.

@jcoyne

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commented Apr 16, 2015

Would you mind posting this to the http://github.com/projecthydra/hydra wiki?

@hectorcorrea

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commented Apr 22, 2015

Done. I've copied this to https://github.com/projecthydra/hydra/wiki/LDP-Containers-for-the-perplexed so that others can edit it.

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