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Collaborative editing

Real-time collaborative editing applications allow several people to edit a document simultaneously. For example, Etherpad [30] and Google Docs [31] allow multiple people to concurrently edit a text document or spreadsheet (the algorithm is briefly discussed in “Automatic Conflict Resolution” on page 174).

We don’t usually think of collaborative editing as a database replication problem, but it has a lot in common with the previously mentioned offline editing use case. When one user edits a document, the changes are instantly applied to their local replica (the state of the document in their web browser or client application) and asynchronously replicated to the server and any other users who are editing the same document.

If you want to guarantee that there will be no editing conflicts, the application must obtain a lock on the document before a user can edit it. If another user wants to edit the same document, they first have to wait until the first user has committed their changes and released the lock. This collaboration model is equivalent to single-leader replication with transactions on the leader.

However, for faster collaboration, you may want to make the unit of change very small (e.g., a single keystroke) and avoid locking. This approach allows multiple users to edit simultaneously, but it also brings all the challenges of multi-leader replication, including requiring conflict resolution [32].

 
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