FTP or HTTP consumes more resources?

Skip Montanaro (skip@automatrix.com)
Sat, 21 Jan 1995 15:33:15 +0100

Dan Connolly asked about the relative weight of the FTP and HTTP protocols.
I have no first-hand experience to share, but will make the observation that
most Web browsers (until Netscape was released?) treated FTP as stateless,
so it was still one connection per file with the added overhead of user
authentication for each file transmitted. It's hard to see how FTP could be
"lighter weight" than HTTP under those conditions.

I think Netscape caches FTP connections, however. I can't otherwise explain
the speed of succesive file retrieves from ftp servers and the output of
netstat that shows ESTABLISHED connections long after I've left the server.
Their downfall at one point seemed to be that they maintained ftp
connections far too long, so that they were consuming valuable slots on
heavily used ftp servers that restrict the number of connections.

In short, if you're worried about serving FTP-based information to people
with Web browsers you'll have to try and understand the mix of clients
(traditional ftp programs vs. inefficient first generation Web browsers vs.
more efficient tools like Netscape) to see which is the better protocol.

Skip Montanaro		skip@automatrix.com			  (518)372-5791
Automatrix - World-Wide Computing Solutions	     http://www.automatrix.com/
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