Anonymous File Transfer Protocol

Why Trust Techopedia

What Does Anonymous File Transfer Protocol Mean?

Anonymous File Transfer Protocol (AFTP) is a network protocol that transfers files using a transmission control protocol-based network. AFTP allows users to transfer files from one computer to another in an anonymous fashion.


Operating within the application layer of the open systems interconnection (OSI) model, an anonymous file transfer enables unprotected access to requested information regarding a remote system. In other words, it allows anonymous, outside computer users to access the FTP server without an assigned user ID or password. The electronic information contained within websites that permit AFTPs should always be categorized as publicly accessible.

There are numerous anonymous FTP sites available for exchanging music, pictures, movie clips and other kinds of files.

Techopedia Explains Anonymous File Transfer Protocol

One disadvantage of an AFTP is that it can compromise overall system security if used in an improper or malicious fashion. Although this form of anonymous access does not typically allow anonymous users to transfer files, some anonymous file transfers may occur if programmers allow it in order to provide convenience for their users.

Anonymous FTP serves as a means of retrieving public data without having to create an account on the server, thus providing unprotected access to specific information over a network. The remote site decides which types of information are to be made available for general public access. Such types of information are referred to as publicly accessible information.

When a user logs on to an FTP server using “anonymous” as the user ID, limited access is allowed to the contents on the server, with some operating restrictions. The only operations allowed are:

  • Logging on using FTP
  • Listing the contents available from a limited set of directories
  • Retrieving files from these directories

Archives for electronic mailing lists are usually stored on and made available through anonymous FTP. Much data is made available to users on these servers. It is the responsibility of the person who owns this information to make the appropriate content available for public access. The information can be removed at any time by the owner. Most anonymous FTP sites do not allow anonymous users to upload files to the FTP server.

Some archive sites prompt the user to enter the email ID in place of a password as a courtesy. This gives the archive site operators some idea of who is using the facility.


Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.