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What is FTP?
FTP is File Transfer Protocol.  It is another way of moving files from one computer to another.  FTP servers are text-based rather than graphical.  You can access FTP sites with a browser like Netscape or Internet Explorer, but an FTP client is the best way to do it.  Go to to find one.  CuteFTP is very popular and very good.

What are the advantages of FTP over Usenet?
FTP can be very fast, depending on the speed of the server and its connection.  FTP also keeps the file size down.  Usenet binary postings are normally uuencoded (Unix to Unix encoding, a leftover from UUCP) for transfer over NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol).  FTP is an excellent one to many protocol for distributing files.

What are the advantages of Usenet over FTP?
Far too many to enumerate here, but we'll try.

  • FTP sites are often just not there.  Dead links to FTP sites are very, very common.
  • Even if the site is not dead, FTP can be very frustrating, especially to the beginner.  Some sites are just too busy to ever get on.  Some are ratio sites.  They require you to upload something before you can download.  Sounds fair (until you run into those sites that immediately disconnect you after you upload something).  Others are banner sites.  They require you to go to Web sites (normally porn or casino sites) and click on banners to make money for the site owner.  They are out to make money.  Period.
  • Usenet can be relatively anonymous.  FTP is not.  The FTP server has to have a fixed IP address for a client to find it.  If you can find it, so can people who would prefer that MP3s not be freely distributed.
  • Setting up an FTP site can cost you your ISP account.  Most ISPs prohibit setting up servers, including FTP servers, so consult your AUP or TOS before considering it.  Good luck, and don't say you weren't warned.
  • There is a different philosophy on the Usenet MP3 groups: give freely and hope that others do the same.  There is no requirement to give in order to get.  If you lurk and leech and never contribute anything, that is just fine.


I still want to try FTP.  So how do I?

Find an FTP site.  Lycos is good, as are many others.  Click on a link to a song you want.  You should see something like this in your browser location window:


Let's look at this address:

  • ftp:// is the protocol.  It has the same format in your browser as a Web site (http://)
  • mp3:mp3 is the username and password for you to log onto the site.  If this element is missing, then the site accepts anonymous logon.
  • The @ sign tells the browser that the site name or IP address is next.  In this case, the IP address is (a totally made up address - don't try to go there).  It does not have to be a numeric IP address, although it often is.  It could be something like or any valid host address.
  • Next is a colon (:) and the number 21.  This is the port number for the FTP server.  Port 21 is default, so if it is not there, don't worry about it.  Some people give their servers weird port numbers (I guess to fool port scanners into thinking something is there other than an FTP server).
  • What follows is the site directory structure, and ultimately the filename.  Note that there are no spaces allowed.  Those spaces are converted to %20 (which is hexadecimal for ASCII 32 = space character).  You may see other %## characters as well for other non-alphanumeric ASCII symbols.
  • If you are lucky, your browser will connect to the FTP site and prompt you to either save the file or open it with some plugin or program.  Save it.  Boy, were you lucky!
  • If you are semi-lucky, the browser will say there are too many users on the site.  Come back later and you may get your MP3.
  • If your luck is about normal, you just won't get any response.  The site could be dead, it could be a banner or a ratio site, etc.  You probably will never know if you continue to use a browser.
  • If you went and got an FTP client, put all the elements explained above into your FTP client: hostname (do not include "ftp" in the address), username and password (or anonymous), and port number (21 if not specified).  You probably don't want to include a starting directory.  Just log on and follow the site's current directory structure down to where the MP3 is supposed to be.
  • If the site is live, but it's a ratio site or banner site, you will know immediately.  Either jump through their hoops or move on to another site.
  • There, now you've tried it.  Remember: this is not a real tutorial, and coming to the discussion group or another group in the hierarchy to ask about FTP probably won't get you more answers.  Do a Web search and read some FTP client help files if you feel you need to learn more.  This information has been provided for ONE reason - to keep detailed discussion out of the absm.d group (where it really is off-topic).
  • Hurry on back to absm.* after your great adventure and share with all of us (but remember to check quality first)!