FTP is a computer network communication protocol that is used to transfer files from a server to a client. It is designed with a client–server architecture, with separate control and data connections between the client and the server.
Users can connect anonymously if the server is configured to allow it, or they can authenticate themselves using a clear-text sign-in protocol, typically in the form of a username and password. Before operating systems had graphical user interfaces, the first FTP client applications were command-line based and required text input to be used.
Since then, many FTP clients and automation utilities for desktops, servers, mobile devices, and hardware have been developed, and FTP has been integrated into a wide range of software and browsers. It can run in either active or passive mode, depending on how the data connection is established.
Both modes were updated in September 1998 to support the passive mode’s IP address and server port number. It was last updated in 1998 to support IPv6, and in 1999 it was extended to include passive mode.
FTP Support in web browsers
Most common web browsers can retrieve files from FTP servers, though some may not support protocol extensions like FTPS.
When an FTP URL is supplied rather than an HTTP URL, the accessible contents on the remote server are displayed in a manner similar to that used for other web content.
FTP support is being phased out in major browsers such as Chrome and Firefox as of 2019. In Chrome 88, Google completely removed it from it’s Chrome browser.
As of 2019, Mozilla was debating proposals such as only removing support for obsolete FTP implementations in order to simplify their code. Mozilla has disabled FTP support for Firefox as of April 2021 and Firefox Release 88.0 with plans to eventually retire support.
FTP is often used by webmasters to access, upload and remove files from a web server in bulk. It can also be used for backing up files from a server to store locally.
Most web hosting providers including AGR Technology provide the option to enable FTP on servers and setup a username and password in order to access with appropriate software.
Related terms from our tech glossary:
Wikipedia Contributors (2019). File Transfer Protocol. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_Transfer_Protocol.
Neiman, C. (n.d.). What to expect for the upcoming deprecation of FTP in Firefox. Mozilla Add-ons Blog. https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2020/04/13/what-to-expect-for-the-upcoming-deprecation-of-ftp-in-firefox/.