Network Working Group                                         P. Hoffman
Internet-Draft                                            VPN Consortium
Expires: July 2, 2005                                       January 2005

                           The ftp URI Scheme

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2005).


   This document specifies the ftp Uniform Resource Identifier (URI)
   scheme that was originally specified in RFC 1738.  The purpose of
   this document is to allow RFC 1738 to be made obsolete while keeping
   the information about the scheme on standards track.

1.  Introduction

   URIs were previously defined in RFC 2396 [RFC2396], which was updated

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   by draft-fielding-uri-rfc2396bis [2396bis].  Those documents also
   specify how to define schemes for URIs.

   The first definition for many URI schemes appeared in RFC 1738
   [RFC1738].  Because that document has been made obsolete, this
   document copies the ftp URI scheme from it to allow that material to
   remain on standards track.

   Note that the file: and ftp: URIs are not the same, even when the
   target of the ftp: URI is the local host.

2.  Scheme Definition

   The FTP URL scheme is used to designate files and directories on
   Internet hosts accessible using the FTP protocol described in STD 9
   [FTP], RFC 959.

   An FTP URL follows the standard syntax described in
   draft-fielding-uri-rfc2396bis [2396bis].  If :<port> is omitted, the
   port defaults to 21.

2.1  FTP Name and Password

   A user name and password may be supplied; they are used in the ftp
   "USER" and "PASS" commands after first making the connection to the
   FTP server.  If no user name or password is supplied and one is
   requested by the FTP server, the conventions for "anonymous" FTP are
   to be used, as follows:

   o  The user name "anonymous" is supplied.

   o  The password is supplied as the Internet e-mail address of the end
      user accessing the resource.

2.2  FTP url-path

   The url-path of an FTP URL has the following syntax:


   <cwd1> through <cwdN> and <name> are (possibly encoded) strings and
   <typecode> is one of the characters "a", "i", or "d".  The <cwdx> and
   <name> parts may be empty.  The part ";type=<typecode>" may be
   omitted.  In fact, the whole url-path, including the leading "/", may
   be omitted.

   The url-path is interpreted as a series of FTP commands as follows:

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   o  Each of the <cwd> elements is to be supplied, sequentially, as the
      argument to a CWD (change working directory) command.

   o  If the typecode is "d", perform a NLST (name list) command with
      <name> as the argument, and interpret the results as a file
      directory listing.

   o  Otherwise, perform a TYPE command with <typecode> as the argument,
      and then access the file whose name is <name> (for example, using
      the RETR command.)

   Within a name or CWD component, the characters "/" and ";" are
   reserved and must be encoded.  The components are decoded prior to
   their use in the FTP protocol.  In particular, if the appropriate FTP
   sequence to access a particular file requires supplying a string
   containing a "/" as an argument to a CWD or RETR command, it is
   necessary to encode each "/".

   Historical note: Most FTP client implementations precede the <cwd1>
   with a "/" before sending the CWD command.  This is in conflict with
   RFC 1738, although the practice is quite widespread.  Thus, a client
   that is presented with the URL <URL:>
   might send the two commands "CWD /abc" and "RETR def" or it might
   send the two commands "CWD abc" and "RETR def".  Server implementers
   should be aware of these two different interpretations of the same

   FTP URLs may also be used for other operations; for example, it is
   possible to update a file on a remote file server, or infer
   information about it from the directory listings.  The mechanism for
   doing so is not spelled out here.

2.3  FTP Typecode is Optional

   The entire ;type=<typecode> part of a FTP URL is optional and is
   rarely used.  Historically, the typecode option was rarely
   implemented and in practice, dereferencing is done by guessing.  If
   the typecode is omitted, the client program interpreting the URL must
   guess the appropriate mode to use.  In general, the data content type
   of a file can only be guessed from the name, such as from the suffix
   of the name; the appropriate type code to be used for transfer of the
   file can then be deduced from the data content of the file.

2.4  Hierarchy

   For some file systems, the "/" used to denote the hierarchical
   structure of the URL corresponds to the delimiter used to construct a
   file name hierarchy, and thus, the filename will look similar to the

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   URL path.  This does NOT mean that the URL is a filename in the Unix
   or similar filesystems.

3.  Security Considerations

   There are many security considerations for URI schemes discussed in
   [2396bis].  The FTP protocol uses passwords in the clear for
   authentication, and offers no privacy, both of which are considered
   extremely unsafe in current practice.

   Both RFC 2577 [RFC2577] and RFC 2228 [RFC2228] cover security
   considerations and methods that can be used to give greater
   protection to FTP.

   Some FTP clients may resolve FTP URLs incorrectly and try to move to
   a directory "above" the base directory of the URL.  FTP servers
   should be aware of this and never allow such access.  Such security
   procedures are already common using the "chroot" facility of many
   operating systems.


   email addresses can be harvested

4  Informative References

   [RFC1738]  Berners-Lee, T., Masinter, L. and M. McCahill, "Uniform
              Resource Locators (URL)", RFC 1738, December 1994.

   [RFC2396]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R. and L. Masinter, "Uniform
              Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax", RFC 2396,
              August 1998.

   [2396bis]  Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R. and L. Masinter, "Uniform
              Resource Identifiers (URI): Generic Syntax", work in
              progress, draft-fielding-uri-rfc2396bis-nn.txt.

   [FTP]      Postel, J. and J. Reynolds, "File Transfer Protocol", STD
              9, RFC 959, October 1985.

   [RFC2577]  Allman, M. and S. Ostermann, "FTP Security
              Considerations", RFC 2577, May 1999.

   [RFC2228]  Horowitz, M., "FTP Security Extensions", RFC 2228, October

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Author's Address

   Paul Hoffman
   VPN Consortium
   127 Segre Place
   Santa Cruz, CA  95060


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