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Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
      9  TCP/IP Key Applications and Application Protocols

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TCP/IP File and Message Transfer Applications and Protocols (FTP, TFTP, Electronic Mail, USENET, HTTP/WWW, Gopher)

The purpose of networking applications is to allow different types of information to be sent between networked devices. In the world of computers, information is most often arranged into discrete units called files. When those files are created specifically for the purpose of communication, they are often called messages. One of the most important groups of TCP/IP applications is the one that describes the basic mechanisms for moving these files between internetworked devices: file and message transfer applications.

In this section I describe in detail the most important applications used in TCP/IP for file and message transfer, and the protocols that implement them. I begin with an overview of these applications, and a description of the differences between them. I then include four subsections that describe the four most important file/message transfer application families: explicit file transfer, electronic mail, network news (Usenet) and hypertext (the World Wide Web). I also provide a brief look at the Gopher protocol, which has fallen out of favor but is worth a quick mention, especially due to its role as an historical precursor of the Web.

Related Information: I have made the decision to draw a distinction between application protocols that are normally used explicitly by a user to move messages and files, and those that are used implicitly to share files. The former usually use specific commands to transfer data and are described in this section. The latter work by creating the appearance to the user that a file on a remote device is actually local, by transmitting commands and data over the network automatically, and are described in a separate section on network file and resource sharing protocols. In TCP/IP, this sharing function is most often performed by the Network File System (NFS).


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