What Is a Computer 'Protocol'?

How Do Protocols Affect My Web Surfing?

Address bar of a web browser, close up view
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Question: What Is a Computer 'Protocol'? How Do Protocols Affect My Web Surfing?

You see 'http://' and 'ftp://' in web page addresses. What are these 'protocols'? How do they affect me? 

Answer: a 'protocol' is a set of invisible computer rules that govern how an internet document gets transmitted to your screen. These dozens of programmatic rules work in the background in the same way a bank employs staff procedures to keep your money safe.

A document's internet protocol is described by the first several letters in your browser's address bar, ending in the three characters '://'. The most common protocol you will see is http:// for a regular hypertext page. The second most common protocol you will see is https://, for hypertext pages that are secured against hackers. Examples of internet computer protocols:

  • http Hypertext Transfer Protocol
  • https Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secured
  • TCP/IP Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol
  • ftp File Transfer Protocol
  • IMAP Internet Message Access Protocol
  • POP Post Office Protocol
  • SMTP Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
  • telnet Terminal Network protocol
  • UDP User Datagram Protocol
  • nntp Network News Transfer Protocol
  • MAC Media Access Control protocol
  • DNS Domain Name System protocol
  • DHCP Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol

How Do Computer Protocols Affect My Web Surfing?
While computer protocols can be very cryptic and technical for programmers and administrators, protocols are really just FYI knowledge for most users. As long as you are aware of the 'http' and 'https' at the beginning of the address, and can type the correct address after the ://, then computer protocols should be nothing more than a curiosity of daily life.

If you want to learn more about computer protocols, try Bradley Mitchell's technical articles here.

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