The File Transfer Protocol, otherwise known as FTP, is a general term used for a cluster of computer applications that manage the transfer of data or files from one machine to another. It's a word that originated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) back in the early part of the seventies when time-sharing and mainframes were the standard of the computer industry and personal computing had not yet broken into the mainstream.
Brief History of FTP
A long time ago, when communication speeds from one computer to another were still quite inadequate and comparatively poor to today's standards (that is, it ranged from the 9.8 kilobytes-per-second standard to the supposedly fast 16.8 kilobytes-per-second that couldn't possibly compare to the modern broadband speed of 1 megabyte-per-second), FTP was considered the best method for downloading particularly humongous files from various online servers and websites.
The use of FTP eventually dropped with the advent of SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol or SSH File Transfer Protocol), which could challenge even broadband-level speeds of data delivery and has the added bonus of being a lot more private and secure than its predecessor. Moreover, even though FTP applications have been enhanced and improved over time, its fundamental attributes and makeup remain the same and is still in use to this day in the form of SFTP.
FTP Concepts and Definitions
The key concept to remember about FTP is the term "protocol", which refers to a set of standards or rules that manage the communication between machines. It's a primary component (although in many instances, they are now taken for granted) that's seen in the following benchmarks: the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), which dictates the policies by which files are transferred from one computer to another; the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which established standards for Internet communications and addresses (URLs) between two computers in the worldwide web; and TCP/IP, which is otherwise known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.
The main goal of FTP is to make sure that file transfers are as straightforward and quick as possible regardless of how slow a connection is in order to alleviate the user of the encumbrances of learning the details and minutiae on how the transfer should be completed. The end result of these policies and edicts can be seen up to the present, particularly in today's online interactions; that is, with a simple mouse click, you'll be able to start a complex sequence of events that the layman user doesn't fully comprehend yet delivers exactly what you want in terms of file access and retrieval.