A computer protocol is the set of rules that helps computers to communicate with each other or helps them in transferring data over the internet. These are governing rules and instructions that each computer has to follow for starting and ending the communication. There are different types of computer protocols such as HTTP, SMTP, POP, IMAP, FTP, TCP, IP, etc.

What is a protocol?

Protocols are the set of rules that a computer has to follow to exchange data with other computers over some network. These rules are invisible and follow set standards.

Based on requirements, a computer system can send or exchange data over some computer network like a LAN, Internet, MAN, etc.

Types of computer protocols

Let’s discuss different types of computer protocols in detail.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

This protocol is used for transferring the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) pages between the user computer and the server computer.

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secured)

This protocol works exactly same as the HTTP. The only difference is added ‘S’, which stands for secure. HTTPS is more secure and follows data encryption.

A common example of such protocol can be seen in a bank or financial website where we use web pages for financial transactions.

TCP (Transmission Control Protocol)

This protocol is used by the computers to communicate over a network. TCP works by dividing the data into data packets and sending them over the network and then again reassembling them at the receiver end.

IP (Internet Protocol)

IP protocol is used to route the data packets by looking at the IP addresses of the packets. IP is a protocol that we always use with TCP. TCP/IP is the best computer networking protocol.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol)

SMTP is used for email exchange between computers over IP and TCP/IP network. SMTP has further two types as POP and IMAP.

POP (Post Office Protocol)

This protocol is used for retrieving the emails from the mail server on the client machine in an IP network. Usually, the email client device downloads the emails from the mail server locally and deletes the original version from the server.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP supersedes POP and currently supported by all modern email clients and server. This protocol works on TCP/IP network where email from the server can be accessed by multiple email clients on different devices.

The original emails server mail remains intact and can only be deleted if someone does it explicitly.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

FTP protocol is used for transferring files from a computer to another. The file extension could be anything like – .docx, .jpg, .exe, .mov, etc.


This protocol transfers the binary data packets from the computer into digital data packets, as we send them over a computer network. It is used with the LAN communications. All the computers following Ethernet have to have NIC (Network Interface Card).

UDP (User Datagram Protocol)

It is another communication protocol and is an alternative to the transmission control protocol.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)

It is a network management protocol which dynamically assigns the unique IP addresses to all the devices that get connected to the network. For example, a router typically behaves as a DHCP server and allocates dynamically random IP addresses to its clients.

What a computer protocol does?

Whatever we see happening over the internet is done by protocols. Some of the necessary things that protocols do could be –

  • It defines the data bit size, which is needed to transfer the data over a network.
  • It handles how the data has to be formatted while sending.
  • It checks the errors in the data before sending data and after receiving it.
  • It defines how we can transfer data packets over some network.
  • How the data has to be compressed, is also something done by the protocols.
  • It also handles data once a computer receives it.
  • Manages how the data has to be represented on a computer screen.

This list is endless. There is a protocol for everything. We have protocols for sending files, for sending emails, for opening a website page, for opening some secured website page, and what not.

Example to understand computer protocol

Let’s see a common example which involves different protocols to carry out a single job.

  • If you decide to send an email you will need a browser to browse to the respective web page for login. Here you are using the HTTP protocol.
  • Now you have to enter your user ID and password for getting access to your email. This string of ID and password need to be sent to the server computer for validation. – Here, the user computer is using TCP/IP protocol to verify the authentication.
  • You can access your email after the validation completes successfully. Now you send an email to your friend. – Here you are using SMTP protocol for email exchange.

Nowadays everybody has access to the internet and even while opening any web page, you can notice a common computer protocol. If you wish to open any web page then either you enter the whole address as www.stemjar.com or https://www.stemjar.com.

Either way, you will be able to open Stemjar but the address of the final open page will be same as https://www.stemjar.com. Here, the first five letters are nothing but HTTPS protocol.