One of the peculiar quirks of science fiction writers is their need to come up with their own sets of laws or rules that govern the universe. Isaac Asimov is the most notable of these cosmic disciplinarians, having created his three laws of robotics that still spark discussion today, but Arthur C. Clark has a rulebook of his own. The first of these laws states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
For the layman, it’s as good a description of the internet as they’re ever going to need. This invention that we all take for granted today works in many wild and mysterious ways. However, due to the fact that all the workings are hidden beneath pretty websites, it’d be easy to assume that there’s a good chunk of magic keeping it all moving along. After all, what does it all look like under the hood?
From FTP to SFTP
The internet is built around different ways of moving data around. Most people will be aware of HTTPS, otherwise known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, but the lesser-known and fading HTTP continues to facilitate interactions online. FTP, on the other hand, is used to transfer files from person to person or application to application, as its name suggests. The FTP meaning is File Transfer Protocol, and it is often used by employees to share files, as well as IT departments and webmaster teams.
While not in most users’ vocabulary, FTP predates HTTPS and its own predecessor HTTP. It also predates the internet as we know it. According to an infographic from Solar Flare Serv-U, FTP was first created back in 1971, with the first generation lasting into the 1980s. This protocol is currently in its third generation, which goes some way to stress that development on the internet’s cogs and gears is constantly ongoing.
Of course, as any artist will lament, continuing to work on something has a tendency to change its original shape. By the late 1990s, several variants of FTP began to appear. FTPS, with the ‘S’ referring to its security, debuted in 1997, while SFTP, a similar concept, came along in the mid-2000s. Today, web users are probably using something else entirely, though.
Managed File Transfer (MFT) is a type of FTP with more bells and whistles. As mentioned, the overall development of the protocol has trended towards making it more secure to use. MFT is simply the result of all this research and experimentation. It’s a much safer way to move data from one place to another that offers granular control over admin and its various transfer functions. It also supports older protocols like FTPS and SFTP.
So, why is any of that important to the internet’s many million users? All the protocols above have combined to create and secure the internet that we rely so heavily upon today. From an industry perspective, FTP meant that important files could be sent easily, while its later iterations added extra security and scalability. It’s quite difficult to see what shape the internet would be in today without any of these protocols.