Google Chrome developers are taking steps to remove FTP support from the browser. They wanted to do this for years, but despite the benefits of removing it, there are some challenges along the way.
To figure out if it’s a bad or good thing, we’ll have to analyze the various aspects involved.
Is FTP Useful?
The first consideration is whether FTP is useful at all. This standard Internet protocol, appropriately called File Transfer Protocol (FTP), is used for transferring files over the web. For those who use it, it serves the purpose of:
- helping you download files from websites
- uploading files to websites
That’s how to use FTP in Google Chrome. However, other protocols, such as HTTP, can perform the same functions as FTP. Moreover, such newer protocols offer extra functionalities since you can also use HTTP to open websites, update your blog, check your emails, and many other things. On that score, the old FTP protocol doesn’t stand a chance.
What if Google Removes FTP from Chrome?
Even if FTP isn’t necessary, will removing it affect Chrome’s functionality? If Chrome removes FTP support, the browser will download PDF files, images and other resources from the FTP sites instead of displaying them on the browser. What will be shown on your browser is the list of each FTP folder’s contents.
Perhaps, that’s a minor inconvenience, but still a nuisance.
The Benefits of Removing FTP Support
Well, there should be a benefit valuable enough to overcome the inconvenience. The advantage of this feature is enhanced browser security. Just like HTTP, FTP is unencrypted. No wonder Mozilla also wants to eliminate FTP support in Firefox.
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Lack of encryption leaves you susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks which can modify files sent through FTP. In such situations, your computer can be infected by harmful software, especially if you don’t have good antimalware tools like
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Lack of encryption leaves you susceptible to malware such as:
Also, hackers can snoop on FTP traffic. So, FTP removal will improve security.
The Challenge with Removing FTP Support
However, FTP removal isn’t so straightforward since many PC manufacturers use FTP sites to host firmware updates and driver installers. This will create the inconvenience of users getting separate FTP clients to download such firmware and driver installers.
However, the PC manufacturers too should abandon FTP. Apart from being insecure, it has a lousy user interface. This will make FTP removal a win-win.
Why Google is Removing FTP Support
However, there’s more reason why Google is removing FTP support in Chrome, beyond the security issues. First, Google will likely encourage websites to abandon FTP if it slowly minimizes FTP support in Chrome. Since more than 1 billion people use Chrome, that will have a significant impact on the Internet.
Also, few Chrome users take advantage of FTP. Only about 0.1% to 0.2% of Chrome users access FTP sites weekly (a 2014 statistic by a Chrome developer). Even so, that’s still a lot of people: between 1 and 2 million. Now, you know why they are dragging their feet.
The Final Verdict
Overall, removing FTP support from Chrome is a good thing, but how Google does it is what matters most. If done in a gradual and well-planned manner, it will undoubtedly improve the Internet ecosystem.