How to Use Anonymous FTP
RFC 1635

Document Type RFC - Informational (May 1994; No errata)
Also known as FYI 24
Authors Peter Deutsch  , Alan Emtage  , April Marine 
Last updated 2013-03-02
Stream IETF
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IESG IESG state RFC 1635 (Informational)
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Network Working Group                                         P. Deutsch
Request for Comments: 1635                                     A. Emtage
FYI: 24                                                           Bunyip
Category: Informational                                        A. Marine
                                                               NASA NAIC
                                                                May 1994

                        How to Use Anonymous FTP

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  This memo
   does not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of
   this memo is unlimited.


   This document provides information for the novice Internet user about
   using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP).  It explains what FTP is,
   what anonymous FTP is, and what an anonymous FTP archive site is.  It
   shows a sample anonymous FTP session.  It also discusses common ways
   files are packaged for efficient storage and transmission.


   This document is the result of work done in the Internet Anonymous
   FTP Archives (IAFA) working group of the IETF.  Special thanks are
   due to Mark Baushke (Cisco), John Curran (BBN), Aydin Edguer (CWRU),
   Rafal Maszkowski (Onsala Space Observatory), Marsha Perrott
   (PREPnet), Bob Peterson (Texas Instruments), Nathan Torkington
   (Victoria University of Wellington), and Stephen Tihor (NYU) for
   excellent comments and contributions.

What is FTP?

   FTP refers to the File Transfer Protocol [1], one of the protocols
   within the TCP/IP protocol suite used on the Internet.  The File
   Transfer Protocol makes it possible to transfer files from one
   computer (or host) on the Internet to another.  There are many FTP
   implementations built on the specification of the FTP protocol.  A
   user of an FTP program must log in to both hosts in order to transfer
   a file from one to the other.

   It is common for a user with files on more than one host to use the
   FTP program to transfer files from one host to another.  In this
   case, the user has an account on both hosts involved, so he has
   passwords for both hosts.

IAFA Working Group                                              [Page 1]
RFC 1635                       How To FTP                       May 1994

   However, Internet users may also take advantage of a wealth of
   information available from archive sites by using a general purpose
   account called "anonymous FTP".

What is an Archive Site?

   An archive site is a host that acts as a repository of information,
   much like a conventional library.  Information stored on these
   Internet hosts is made available for users to transfer to their local
   sites.  Users run software to identify this information and transfer
   it to their own hosts.  Such a transfer is done with a program that
   implements the File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

What is Anonymous FTP?

   Anonymous FTP is a means by which archive sites allow general access
   to their archives of information.  These sites create a special
   account called "anonymous".  User "anonymous" has limited access
   rights to the archive host, as well as some operating restrictions.
   In fact, the only operations allowed are logging in using FTP,
   listing the contents of a limited set of directories, and retrieving
   files.  Some sites limit the contents of a directory listing an
   anonymous user can see as well.  Note that "anonymous" users are not
   usually allowed to transfer files TO the archive site, but can only
   retrieve files from such a site.

   Traditionally, this special anonymous user account accepts any string
   as a password, although it is common to use either the password
   "guest" or one's electronic mail (e-mail) address.  Some archive
   sites now explicitly ask for the user's e-mail address and will not
   allow login with the "guest" password.  Providing an e-mail address
   is a courtesy that allows archive site operators to get some idea of
   who is using their services.

What Information Do You Need to Know?

   To retrieve a specific file, a user needs to know what host it is on,
   and the pathname of the file.  A pathname tells the directory (and
   possibly subdirectories) that house the file, and the name of the
   file.  Often discussions of available files will not specifically
   say, "This file is available for anonymous FTP from X host with Y
   pathname".  However, if a file is publicly announced as available and
   referred to as something like pub/good-stuff on, it is a
   good assumption that you can try to transfer it.

   You may also need to know if your machine uses an ASCII, EBCDIC, or
   other character set to know how likely a transfer of binary
   information will work, or whether such a transfer will require other

IAFA Working Group                                              [Page 2]
RFC 1635                       How To FTP                       May 1994
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