There was a time when you could do almost anything in a web browser or could at least install extensions to do what the browser natively can’t. While the craze of turning browsers into Swiss Army knives has mellowed down a bit, there’s still plenty of things you can do with the software that would normally require a separate app for the same task. Ironically, Firefox is moving in the opposite direction and is removing FTP functionality that has been a staple in web browsers for decades.
FTP, short for File Transfer Protocol, isn’t exactly something that most users directly access, but it is the technology that enables many file download or upload activities on the Internet. This predated more modern ways to transfer and share files and, as you might expect, isn’t exactly up-to-date on the latest security technologies. Unlike HTTP, however, FTP doesn’t have a direct HTTPS equivalent that could be easily supported on both server and client sides.
Mozilla and Google have made the difficult decision to just excise FTP support from their browsers completely. Mozilla explains that FTP, while simple and convenient, is also a security nightmare waiting to happen. The connection can be easily spoofed and the data modified to suit a hacker’s needs, making the protocol pretty much non-secure by default.
Firefox 90 completely removes FTP support after a period of deprecation that started back in April. Users simply need to make sure they’re on the latest version to take advantage of the security implications of this change, but they might also have to make other preparations beforehand as well. Starting with Firefox 90, all FTP links will be pushed to external applications, presuming you have one installed in the first place.
There might be fewer uses of FTP on the Web these days, so that might not exactly be a problem for most users. That said, removing FTP functionality from the core of Firefox also means that extensions that utilized the browser’s FTP support will no longer work starting with this version. Heavy users of FTP are urged to find a different application for handling those links, but, chances are, they might already be using a different program for their more advanced use cases.