Your Internet Consultant - The FAQs of Life Online

6.1. What is FTP?

FTP stands for file transfer protocol. It is a tool that allows you to copy files between computers on the Internet. With the FTP program, you can log into an account on a remote computer in order to send files to it or receive files from it. FTP, in contrast to Telnet, isn't used for running programs; it just lets you move files between computers.

Before you can use FTP to transfer files between your host and a remote site, you need to have access on the remote computer. You need an account of your own before you can Telnet into most computers, and, similarly, you need permission to use FTP to access a computer. After all, system administrators usually don't want total strangers going through the files on their system or downloading and uploading files without permission. (This is akin to going into someone's else's office and taking some of his stuff.)

If you have full access on two Internet hosts, you can use FTP to copy files from your account on one to your account on the other. This is sometimes known as full-privilege FTP.

Honestly, FTP by itself isn't very exciting, but it's the de facto standard for transferring files on the Internet. FTP is kind of like my old Pontiac Sunbird hatchback: ugly and hard to get around in, but it gets the job done. (Actually, my Sunbird became engulfed in flames once and later died on the side of the road somewhere in Nowheresville. FTP seems to do these things sometimes, too.) Despite its drab interface and single-mindedness of purpose, FTP shines when coupled with the Internet's anonymous FTP archives.

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