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!

#2 What finger does...

by Waldo

Sunday February 6th, 2000 12:52 AM

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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:

finger <>

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