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Tech Term: Protocol

Computers use quite a lot of different types of protocol to function. In particular, the Internet
takes advantage of protocol to a great degree. You might recognize terms like Hypertext
Transfer Protocol Secure, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, File Transfer
Protocol, Internet Message Protocol, and Post Office Protocol. But what exactly is protocol, and
why is it important?

Basically, it’s a Rule

While you’re reading this blog, turn your glance upward to the address bar. You’ll see the
website’s name and the world wide web (www) at the front, but before all of that, you’ll see the
protocol in the form of letters with a colon and backslashes. This indicates the way that the
information you’re viewing on your webpage was sent to your device.

The two most notable website protocols to consider are HTTP and HTTPS. These stand for
Hypertext Transfer Protocol and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, respectively. Both of these
are used to show that a hypertext page was used to transmit the information from its source to
your web browser. As you might have guessed, however, HTTPS has an additional layer of
security that keeps prying eyes away from seeing the data as it’s in transit.

Why Do We Use Protocols?

To understand how protocol works, we’ll use the example of two children; one of them throws a
baseball, while the other is prepared to catch a frisbee. Of course, the two are incredibly
different things, which complicates the actual act of catching it. The situation is quite similar for a
computer. If a device is only preparing to receive 8-bit packets whereas the data sent is in 16-bit
packets, things aren’t going to work according to plan.

By thinking about it in this sense, it’s easy to see that the protocol is designed to give the device
an idea of the data it’s about to receive so that it can be both sent and retrieved successfully.

How Important is Protocol for the Average User?

If you’re not the one responsible for programming or network administration within your
organization, then it’s likely that you won’t need to know much about protocol. However, it
doesn’t hurt to remember that you should only enter data into a web form (particularly sensitive
information) if the device is using a secure connection through HTTPS. For other questions or
concerns you might have about protocol, be sure to reach out to us.