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Glossary - File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

FTP is the standard protocol for transferring files between hosts.  Originally it was used almost exclusively on Unix workstations and mainframes, but it eventually replaced Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) specializing in file distribution (e.g., many hardware vendors maintained a BBS for customers to download driver software) as users increasingly got themselves connected to the internet.

Early FTP software provided only a command-line interface which wasn't easy for beginners who had no experience with command-line interface style environments such as DOS or CP/M.  As the internet became more popular, new standards arose -- originally there was Gopher, but it was quickly succeeded by HTTP (a.k.a., the World Wide Web {"WWW"}); both protocols provided a more intuitive interface for users.

Although Gopher wasn't widely used once HTTP gained popularity (FTP was already mainstream by this time), FTP remained a vital internet protocol.  This is clearly evidenced in Unix/Linux environments (mostly for source code distribution), automated Perl module repository access via CPAN, etc., in addition to continuing to be used by both hardware and software vendors to distribute product updates.

See also

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