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In computer science, a set of rules or procedures for transmitting data between electronic devices, such as computers. In order for computers to exchange information, there must be a preexisting agreement as to how the information will be structured and how each side will send and receive it. Without a protocol, a transmitting computer, for example, could be sending its data in 8-bit packets while the receiving computer might expect the data in 16-bit packets. Protocols are established by international or industrywide organizations. Perhaps the most important computer protocol is OSI (Open Systems Interconnection), a set of guidelines for implementing networking communications between computers. The most important sets of Internet protocols are TCP/IP, HTTP, and FTP.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on protocol, visit Britannica.com.