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What are tech protocols?

What are tech protocols?

Sabrina Koumoin's photo
Sabrina Koumoin
ยทFeb 9, 2021ยท

3 min read

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๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿพโ€โš–๏ธ Whenever we (humans) decide to create something useful, in order for it to spread and to be used at a massive scale, we generally need to create rules of participation.

We call these rules protocols.

๐Ÿš‚ Protocols (or standardized ways of doing things) are so common that we don't even realize that at some point everyone had to agree on them before they became 'the norm'. For example:

  • There's a reason all countries use the stop light system and the same road signs. It's to make things easier so that you don't need to get an entire training session just to drive in another country. Imagine if each country had its own signs - we would go crazy!
  • There's a reason we all use the same mathematical operators. Even if you don't understand someone's language, if they write 2+2 you know it equals 4.
  • A lot of languages use the Roman Alphabet (ABC) to make writing easier.
  • Mailing addresses have a conventional form so that it's easy for delivery companies to know where a package should go. If we didn't have this convention in place people would write all sorts of things on their packages!

It's important to remember that all of these conventions didn't "just" happen.

There was a time when most of the world did not use the same mathematical signs for example. People had to agree to stick to some ways of doing all these things to make it easier for all.

(Obviously, if you're creating your own tool that you only intend to use by yourself, then you probably don't need to establish any protocols. But if you want a lot of people to use your tool then you will to standardize certain things)

Protocols on the web

Web conventions and protocols allow us to work with each other on the web. Developers and engineers can work on different hardware/software that can still interact with each other as long as they adhere to the same protocols.

A common area where you can find a lot of protocols in tech is networking. Networking means connecting things together to communicate and share information. There are many different networking protocols because there are a lot of different things that people might want to share with each other.

Protocols must be implemented or used in hardware or software. For example,

  • Hardware manufacturers implement networking protocols when they configure their devices to work the way some protocols require.
  • Software developers implement protocols by creating software that adheres to certain practices.

If you don't follow the protocol then no one will understand what you're trying to do, and your software/ hardware will be kinda useless.

A famous web protocol is HTTP or HyperText Transfer Protocol. It's a protocol that regulates how communication with servers on the internet should work. Just like the government came up with the standard address notation we use for our mail, HTTP defines the ways in which requests to servers and responses from servers should be written!

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