Re: Call for Community Feedback: Retiring IETF FTP Service

Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com> Mon, 16 November 2020 17:12 UTC

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Subject: Re: Call for Community Feedback: Retiring IETF FTP Service
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From: Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>
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Date: Mon, 16 Nov 2020 12:12:08 -0500
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On 11/16/20 11:48 AM, Adam Roach wrote:

> In the analysis, I think there are two costs to consider and one 
> benefit. The benefit of leaving it online, of course, is that some 
> small group of users still find utility in FTP.

IMO that misstates the benefit.   A stable service can have a large (and 
long-term) benefit even if only a few clients at a time use it.

Once upon a time, before RFCs were officially available in PDF, I put up 
an "RFCs in PDF" service that downloaded RFCs via FTP and automatically 
translated them to PDF.   That service basically allowed Windows users 
to print RFCs with the page breaks in the right places.   Many people 
thanked me, the RFC editor asked for my code and eventually provided 
RFCs in PDF offically.   Having a simple, stable API that I could use to 
watch for new RFCs, and download and process them, made it easy to 
implement that service.

One of the big problems with moving to HTTP is that HTTP is seen as 
implementing a user interface, and user interfaces inevitably evolve.   
The demands of providing that user interface tend to outweigh any other 
demands.

I don't have a great love of FTP except that I see tremendous value in 
an interface that has been able to be stable for decades.  To me this is 
a Good Thing, a sign that FTP got some important things right even 
though there's clearly a lot about FTP that is also baroque.   IETF 
should strive to make all of its protocols be useful for as long as FTP 
has been.

Unfortunately, HTTP shows no sign of ever getting there.   It's a lot 
more baroque than FTP ever was, and it's not stable.   It's great that 
HTTP is being improved, because it's so heavily used. But it's not 
providing a stable interface, one that works over time.

IMO, FTP should be viewed as a separate service, also a valuable one, 
rather than an alternative to HTTP.   The two have evolved differently 
to serve different purposes; neither one is suitable to replace the other.

Keith