Chapter 15. Apple Filing Protocol

First developed in-house by Apple to run on the AppleTalk network stack, the Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) has undergone a long transformation—first to TCP/IP and then from the single-user Mac OS 9 to the more robust requirements of Mac OS X. It has simultaneously scaled from running on a serial line through increasingly robust Ethernet technologies up through now-common gigabit connections. Despite Apple’s evolution towards more open and standardized practices, AFP is—for better or for worse (mostly for better)—still Apple’s primary and preferred file sharing protocol.

This chapter examines Apple’s AFP implementation, especially noting the evolution of its treatment of user identification and permissions management. As always, a great amount of care is taken to hold this discussion at an appropriate depth, hopefully bringing to bear an analysis that can not be found elsewhere.


In its lifetime, AFP has seen several major revisions, the most recent of which is 3.1. Notable in AFP 3.1 are improvements to disconnect and reconnect behavior and better support for shared directory service domains. AFP 3.0 brought other important features that are roughly analogous to the features of HFS+: support for files larger than 2 GB, Unicode filename support, and per-file (rather than per-directory) permissions. For a long time, Panther Server was the only product that offered an AFP 3.1 installation. More recently, Novell Netware 6.5, Group Logic’s ExtremeZIP 4.0, ...

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