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what is a protocol

Posted on 2016-10-20
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Last Modified: 2016-11-17
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Question by:rgb192
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 41853088
A protocol is a specific method for a network connection such as http, ftp, smtp, etc.  The actual details of a protocol are in the binary code implemented in the driver software.  This article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_protocol_suite lists most of the Internet protocols in use.  From a user viewpoint, all you usually need is to make sure your software is using the same protocol as the site you're trying to connect to.
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Expert Comment

by:Antzs
ID: 41853152
Protocol is a certain way of communication in between devices.  The devices communicating with each other need to be talking in the same language.
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Expert Comment

by:Scott Silva
ID: 41854193
Are we doing your homework?  Just wondering...
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Author Comment

by:rgb192
ID: 41861085
"Are we doing your homework?  Just wondering..."

No, I graduated high school over a decade ago.
Perhaps I should have expanded more on the question - I want to know what exactly a Protocol is comprised of and how they're built -i.e. Assembly/Machine Code?

What is a Protocol, exactly?
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Assisted Solution

by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 250 total points
ID: 41861115
"Protocol" is a general word for things in networks in particular that have to work a certain way.  However, there is no 'exactly' because each one is different.  Most networking software over the years has been written in C because that is easier than Assembly language to maintain and it is also easier to re-compile on another machine.  Some low level parts may require Assembly language but those are usually in the drivers for a specific machine.

This is the best description I can give you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_protocol_suite   There is no 'exact' answer because 'protocol' is a general purpose category, not a specific thing.
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Accepted Solution

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tliotta earned 250 total points
ID: 41866532
A protocol is really just a set of rules. A network protocol is a set of rules that say what signals can be sent over a wire (or broadcast by radio or whatever) and what to do when a particular signal is received.

A protocol might be HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). A given set of signals sent across a network will tell some remote system to send back a document in an agreed upon format so it can be displayed on the local screen.

That protocol might (unlikely) be written in assembler for some systems, but it's far more likely to be written in a language such as C. An assembler will be different for different types of systems, making it necessary to write significant sections (or even all) of the protocol code from scratch for each system. And when a new generation of a system is built, all of the protocols could need to be rewritten, possibly from scratch, making it difficult to get a new system to work for customers.

But a language such as C can be written with portability in mind. Properly written C modules can be relatively easy to get to work on almost any new system.

In short, protocols are just rules. "When 'y' comes across the network, do 'Y'." You can find documents called RFCs (
Request for Comments) on the internet. Each one is for a proposed set of rules for a particular protocol (as well as some other things). If a given RFC is accepted and implemented by enough people, it essentially becomes a 'standard'. Then anyone can use that RFC or standard to write programming to implement that protocol. The programmer may use any language, even an assembler.

If you want to build a computer at home and write the protocols yourself, you're free to do so in any way you wish. And as long as your code implements the rules according to the specifications in the RFCs, you can communicate with any other system on the same network or across the internet.
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Author Closing Comment

by:rgb192
ID: 41891405
data rich answers thanks
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