Short for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, TCP/IP is a set of rules (protocols) governing communications among all computers on the Internet. More specifically, TCP/IP dictates how information should be packaged (turned into bundles of information called packets), sent, and received, as well as how to get to its destination. TCP/IP was developed in 1978 and driven by Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf.
How does TCP/IP work?
As the name implies, TCP/IP is a combination of two separate protocols: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). The Internet Protocol standard dictates the logistics of packets sent out over networks; it tells packets where to go and how to get there. IP has a method that lets any computer on the Internet forward a packet to another computer that is one or more intervals closer to the packet's recipient. You can think of it like workers in a line passing boulders from a quarry to a mining cart.
The Transmission Control Protocol is responsible for ensuring the reliable transmission of data across Internet-connected networks. TCP checks packets for errors and submits requests for re-transmissions if any are found.
Three of the most common TCP/IP protocols
- HTTP - Used between a web client and a web server, for non-secure data transmissions. A web client (i.e. Internet browser on a computer) sends a request to a web server to view a web page. The web server receives that request and sends the web page information back to the web client.
- HTTPS - Used between a web client and a web server, for secure data transmissions. Often used for sending credit card transaction data or other private data from a web client (i.e. Internet browser on a computer) to a web server.
- FTP - Used between two or more computers. One computer sends data to or receives data from another computer directly.
Domain names and TCP/IP addresses
The TCP/IP address for a website or web server is typically not easy to remember. To remedy this issue, a domain name is used instead. For example, 188.8.131.52 is the IP address for the Computer Hope website and computerhope.com is the domain name. Using this method, instead of a set of numbers, makes it much easier for users to remember Computer Hope's web address.
- Additional information on the breakdown of an IP address can be found on our IP definition.
- How to determine your TCP/IP address.
- Computer network and network card help and support.