Tech

Google strips FTP code from Chrome

The Chromium team has finally done it – File Transfer Protocol (FTP) support is not just deprecated, but stripped from the codebase in the latest stable build of the Chrome browser, version 95.

It has been a while coming. A lack of support for encrypted connections in Chrome’s FTP implementation, coupled with a general disinterest from the majority of the browser’s users, and more capable third-party alternatives being available has meant that the code has moved from deprecated to gone entirely.

Support for fetching document resources over FTP was stripped from Chrome 72, proxy support for FTP was removed in Chrome 76, and Chrome 86 introduced a flag to turn it off completely.

In between 76 and 86, Google tinkered with deprecation, backing away in the first half of 2020 in response to the pandemic and the workload faced by hardpressed IT crews. However, the writing was on the wall for the venerable protocol.

By version 88 it was disabled for all users, but still could be switched back on. Now the code to support it has at last been removed once and for all, a little later than hoped.

Mozilla dumped the protocol from its Firefox browser back in July, and Apple doesn’t really support it in Safari.

As for Microsoft, while its Edge browser might be based on Chromium, there is always Internet Explorer, which should still do the business should you have a need for a bit of browser-based retro file-transfer action. And few browsers deserve the retro tag as much as IE, even if Microsoft is determined to kill it off in most forms next year.

As for why FTP has attracted such ire – well, the protocol is over 50 years old and comes from more innocent times, when authentication was not what it is today. More secure options now exist (such as FTPS and SFTP) and, frankly, Google and pals would rather users opted for a dedicated transfer app than bother maintaining the code in the browser.

There remain a good few FTP sites out there (such as the US Census Bureau), although many now have alternatives for file transfer. The final ejection of the code from Chrome, which lays claim to a huge userbase, means it really is time to move on. ®


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