Protocol dictates the correct way to address a foreign dignitary, such as "Her Excellency the Right Honorable…"  These strict rules of etiquette ensure that no one is inadvertently offended when meeting people of different cultures.

In the online world, protocols make it possible for different types of computers - Macintosh, PC, UNIX - to communicate with each other as well. They are standards or rules that enable one computer to understand messages sent from another and then act on those messages.  There are many protocols for communicating on the Internet.  Some common ones are:

  • Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) - send and receive email
  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP) - transfer files between computers
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) - transmit information on the Web

Without protocols, computers would have no idea what to do with our email messages or how to display a Web page.

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Modified 2005 from The University of Texas at Austin's TILT by members of the LSU Libraries Reference Department.
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