WWW FAQs: What is a protocol?

2006-08-07: On the Internet, the word "protocol" refers to a set of rules for communicating. Two programs or computers that follow the same rules are able to exchange information, even if they don't run the same operating system and are not made by the same company.

Sometimes protocols are "layered" on top of other protocols, taking advantage of what's already there and adding additional capabilities.

Examples of Internet protocols include the HTTP protocol spoken by web browsers and web servers, the FTP protocol for transferring files, and the TCP/IP protocols on which both of these are based.

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