What Is a Computer Protocol?

How protocols affect web surfing

Address bar of a web browser, close up view

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A computer protocol is a set of invisible 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.

Types of Internet Computer Protocols

A document's internet protocol is described by the first several letters in the browser address bar, ending in "://." The most common protocol is http:// for a regular hypertext page, followed by https://, which governs hypertext pages that are secured against hackers.

Examples of internet computer protocols include:

  • 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 Computer Protocols Affect Web Surfing

Although computer protocols can be 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 ://, then computer protocols should be nothing more than a curiosity in your daily online life.