Ignoring here hypothetical protocols which can only return the whole directory in one go, since they would have obviously terrible performance.
I'm not so sure. You'll only have "an obviously terrible performance" if you have thousands (or maybe millions?) of files in one directory. When NFS was initially developed you had horrible performance in such a case no matter what (typically you had O(N²) performance and thousands of files were not acceptable for that reason alone) and later versions are not completely stateless so in the end the whole exercise only created grief for a lot of people without any actual upside.
But it's obviously to late to try to fix it.
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