Finger Protocol Implemented!

Saturday February 5th, 2000

Brian Ryner has implemented the finger protocol in Mozilla. Download the latest build and give it a try! Here's a sample (paste it into the URL bar):

A great contribution -- thanks Brian!

#1 Pull my finger?

by gerbilpower

Saturday February 5th, 2000 10:18 PM

Okay, excuse my ignorance but what exactly does this figure protocol do? I don't understand from the demonstration.


#2 What finger does...

by Waldo

Sunday February 6th, 2000 12:52 AM

Back in the day, when the Internet was almost all Unix, VMS, etc., people would be given "shell accounts" to do their work. That is, everything was text-based and more than one person would share a fast computer via terminals or modems or whatever...

When you wanted to check on a particular user's status, such as a friend or coworker on a remote system, you'd "finger" them, which meant basically type:


If they were online, you'd get a text blurb back saying some basic info about them, including how long they were on, if they had e-mail waiting, and sometimes it would say what they were doing too :)

You could then try to talk to them (by typing "talk"). (the talk program is a kind of split-screen where you could type back and forth in real-time.)

Anyway, finger was often the best way to see if your friend was online on a remote system. If they weren't on at the moment you fingered them, you'd get a message about when they last logged in.

Additionally, users could provide a ".plan" file, which would be extra personal info they wanted to display to the finger-er when they were fingered.

For example, you'd type "finger" and get something like:

Login: waldo Name: Waldo ? Directory: /home/waldo Shell: /bin/bash On since Mon Dec 6 22:29 (PST) on tty1 5 days 6 hours idle No mail. Plan: This is my .plan file. Have a nice day.

(the above may be formatted weird in this message system)

Anyway, a lot of sysadmins don't run the finger daemon any more for security reasons, and of course non-unix/VMS computers generally use AIM or ICQ to announce when users are online. So it's not as popular as it once was.

Still, finger is fun. John Carmack, guru of Doom/Quake, is famous for still using a .plan file to talk to his fans. Try in mozilla:

For more on finger, see...


Hope this helped somewhat, W

#3 Re: What finger does...

by stephan

Sunday February 6th, 2000 8:40 AM

Some of us still *use* finger, you know! It's ideal for finding out things linke when someone logged on to the network last time, if they have read your mail etc. And I don't really care if someone disables it, as long as it works on my local network.

#6 Re: What finger does...

by Salsaman

Sunday February 6th, 2000 6:15 PM

Reminds me of a neat trick I used to do back then. Finger the accounts of everyone on your course, and if any of them said: 'never logged in' you knew their account was still set to the default password. I managed to get about 5 accounts this way ;-)

#8 Re: Re: What finger does...

by Tanyel

Sunday February 6th, 2000 11:43 PM

Bugzilla's tiny little mind will never be able to count the number of people you have just corrupted. I must try this.

#4 Getting Old...

by WillyWonka

Sunday February 6th, 2000 9:06 AM

I find it kind of funny that a lot of people have never heard of Finger and Usenet (I read an article about this on ). I guess I'm getting old (In internet terms). Seeing that the popularity of Corel linux and red hat is increasing, I guess I figured people used these tools.

#7 Re: Getting Old...

by gerbilpower

Sunday February 6th, 2000 11:28 PM

I've known what Usenet was for years (even before I got online), but this is the first time I heard of the Finger protocol :)

::prays that his new motherboard will arrive tomorrow so he can finally get to play with Linux::


#9 Re: Getting Old...

by Tanyel

Sunday February 6th, 2000 11:52 PM

I would like Usenet to die. It is sorely lacking. Forums like MozillaZine are much more enjoyable.

#10 Usenet

by Hendy99

Monday February 7th, 2000 12:27 AM

I'm quite fond of usenet myself :)

#13 Re: Re: Getting Old...

by gwalla

Monday February 7th, 2000 3:32 PM

Hey, I love Usenet! I use it all the time (too mcuh in fact...)

Usenet's distributed nature also has certain advantages over web-based forums (where everybody must access the same server). However, we'll see what happens when Web DAV is ready for prime time.

Speaking of which, are there any plans to implement WebDAV in mozie?

#14 Re: Re: Re: Getting Old...

by Tanyel

Monday February 7th, 2000 4:15 PM

Well my problems with Usenet are partially due to a lack of respect from the posters, or lack or regulation. soc.culture.african.american has plenty of examples of that. I have enjoyed some of the programming newsgroups quite a bit. What is WebDAV?

#5 Proxy

by WillyWonka

Sunday February 6th, 2000 9:26 AM

Argh, its not working over this proxy server. I'll have to try it on my other computer when its free. Anyone going to be adding finger to the proxy list or is my proxy server just setup wrong?

#11 How I Discovered Finger

by sebbo

Monday February 7th, 2000 9:10 AM

My college went from a VMS to giving students Eudora accounts in the early '90s, with a special app (I don't remember its name) for looking up other students' info. Fields for one's entry included such esoterica as office phone number, .plan, .project, and picture (some sort of binary-encoded thing that I never saw actually working right).

Once I noticed that all my hackerish friends has various silly plan files, I quizzed them on this, and got the explanation of Finger.

Later, when I got a shell account with my ISP and learned the rudiments of UNIX, I was very excited when I put my first .plan file up, and was able to finger and have it work.

"Very cute and all, what is it good for?" you ask. Well, if you live in the Boston area, finger is a useful little toy.

#12 linuxfr use a modified finger

by Menix

Monday February 7th, 2000 10:34 AM

interesting use of finger for linuxfr (DaLinuxFrenchPage) readers : for people who can't try it, let's try : It displays last news in the database... very usefull for text users

#15 Where does this fit with URI standards?

by dmh

Tuesday February 8th, 2000 2:44 PM

Whilst I think this is a pretty cool feature, I was wondering whether it fits in with existing W3C addressing schemes? According to it isn't an "official" URL, although an IETF URI Working Group was working on a draft specification...

Any chance of Moz supporting a URL for IRC? ? ;o)