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Understanding protocols: the backbone of digital communication

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In the fascinating world of technology, everything is interconnected, and even the smallest detail can be crucial. So, today the itez team has decided to introduce you to something that usually remains behind the scenes but is a crucial element of the crypto world.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll tell you all the basics about protocols: what they are, the different types, and why they are necessary.


Introduction to protocols

Few people give it much thought, but protocols invisibly permeate our lives on a constant basis. For instance, did you know that you use protocols literally every day? Yes indeed, you do so when connecting to a WiFi network or Bluetooth.

Even the internet itself is simply a collection of protocols. It is protocols like TCP/IP that allow computers on the network to exchange information. And a special thanks is owed to the HTTP protocol, which is currently transmitting this web page to your device.

Sounds exciting, doesn't it? There's a lot more interesting ahead, but first, let's understand what a protocol is.

Definition of a protocol

A protocol is a set of rules that determine how devices or programmes should interact with each other. It establishes standards for exchanging information, data formats, and sequences of actions.

To put it simply, you can compare this technology to languages. Not only people but also devices and programmes use a specific language to understand each other. If machines were to use two different protocols, they wouldn't be able to understand each other and interact correctly—just like an English-speaking reader wouldn't be able to read this article if it were written in Japanese.

The importance of protocols in modern technology

The importance of using various protocols in modern technology is hard to overstate. Let's delve into why we need protocols today:

1. Compatibility. We've likened different protocols to different languages and that's the crux of it. This function of protocols enables different devices and programmes to "communicate", interact, and work together.

2. Reliability. With protocols, devices learn to understand each other, and protocols continuously learn to make their interaction even more seamless. They constantly optimise the entire mechanism of operation, closely monitoring the data exchange process and tirelessly correcting errors to make it as secure and efficient as possible.

Moreover, to protect data transmission, protocols employ various security features such as encryption and authentication. This helps safeguard data from unauthorised access.

Overall, protocols play a vital role in modern technology, allowing devices and programmes to interact with each other while ensuring reliable, efficient, and secure information transmission.


Types of protocols

To delve deeper into this topic, let's start with the basics. Here, we'll talk about communication and cryptographic protocols—two fundamental types of protocols that play a crucial role in modern technology.

Communication protocols

Communication protocols define communication standards, meaning the rules by which devices exchange information.

For this purpose, communication protocols establish data formats, action sequences, and methods for ensuring reliable information transmission.

Here are a few examples of the most popular protocols of this type:

  • TCP/IP. This is the most basic protocol of all. It forms the backbone of the Internet and is used for data transmission across networks.
  • HTTP. This one is needed to transfer web pages from servers to users' computers.
  • FTP. And this protocol is out there for file transfer between computers.
     

Cryptographic protocols

Cryptographic protocols focus on protecting information rather than its transmission. Alternatively, they are also called security protocols.

Using encryption methods, cryptographic protocols ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of data transmitted between two or more parties.

Here are some examples of the most popular protocols of this type:

  • TLS/SSL is used to encrypt traffic between websites and browsers.
  • SSH secures remote access to computers.
  • IPsec encrypts VPN traffic.
     

Communication protocols define the structure and format of data, while cryptographic protocols encrypt this data to protect it from unauthorised access.

These two types of protocols are indispensable tools in the modern digital world. They enable people to exchange information quickly and securely. Without communication and cryptographic protocols, messages from loved ones and new posts from our Telegram channel would not reach you.

However, the protocols are far from perfect, so they are often used in combination with each other. This helps make the data transmission process more reliable and secure.

For example, intercepting information from a communication protocol like HTTPS would be easy for attackers, making all unencrypted traffic accessible to anyone. This is where cryptographic protocols come to the rescue: for instance, TLS/SSL can easily encrypt all traffic transmitted between websites and browsers.

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Protocols in computing

When it comes to protocols in computing, we need to learn two main types of protocols—network and application ones.

But what is a protocol in computing? It means a kind of language or a set of rules through which computers exchange information between each other. 

Network protocols

As the name suggests, such protocols focus on data transmission across computer networks. Network protocols define the rules by which devices exchange information, ensuring its reliable delivery.

This group includes well-known protocols like TCP/IP, HTTP, and FTP. Yes, these are the same as name communication protocols. They’re used for information exchange in the network. In addition to them, network protocols also include:

  • SMTP, which is used for sending emails.
  • POP3 retrieves emails.
     

Application protocols

The group of application protocols complements the network ones. It defines the rules for interaction between specific applications.

Application protocols establish data formats, commands, and methods that applications use to exchange information.

Here are some protocols belonging to this group:

  • HTTPS ensures secure transmission of web pages through encryption.
  • IMAP is used for accessing emails on the server, allowing users to view, manage, and synchronise messages across different devices.
  • SMTP/POP3 are used with a focus on message formats and mailbox management.
     

The meaning of protocols in computing cannot be overstated. Network and application protocols are what lets the entire digital infrastructure exist. Without these invisible helpers, computers and applications would not be able to interact with each other.

In the digital world, network protocols can be compared to cars—they are ready to deliver the necessary information from one device to another. Meanwhile, application protocols would be like mechanics, maintaining this transport in proper working condition and supporting the rules of the road, which regulate the operation of this entire system. Only together do they ensure the highest efficiency of data transmission.


Blockchain and crypto protocols

Now let's explore how protocols facilitate the functioning of blockchain and enable crypto transactions.

Understanding blockchain protocols

Blockchain serves as an expansive database distributed across countless computers globally, storing records of every transaction within the cryptocurrency network. This database is open to all users, ensuring decentralisation and transparency, as it's not controlled by any central authority.

Smart contracts, powered by blockchain, are specialised algorithms or programmes that autonomously execute predefined conditions, further reinforcing decentralisation by eliminating third-party influence.

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With this foundation in mind, let's dissect what blockchain protocols entail. These protocols, falling under the broader category of crypto protocols, sustain the operation of blockchain networks by defining several fundamental rules:

1. Blocks. Protocols dictate how new blocks are created and added to the blockchain, specifying block formats, creation rules, and network integration procedures.

2. Transactions. Each blockchain protocol incorporates mechanisms for verifying the authenticity and irreversibility of transactions, upholding the core tenets of decentralised systems.

3. Data. Blockchain protocols delineate the structure governing data distribution and storage within blockchain networks.

Such protocols are indispensable and highly sought-after in the digital asset market. Here are a few examples of some of the most renowned blockchain protocols:

  • Bitcoin. Utilises the UTXO (Unspent Transaction Output) model for balance tracking.
  • Ethereum. Implements an account-based model for managing balances and smart contracts.
  • Hyperledger Fabric. A modular blockchain designed for private networks.
     

Role of protocols in cryptocurrency transactions

Now let's delve into another layer of protocols and understand what crypto protocols entail.

A crypto protocol comprises a set of rules and instructions governing the operation of a cryptocurrency system. Similar to blockchain protocols, crypto protocols play a pivotal role in various aspects:

1. Data format. Crypto protocols determine the structure of blocks, transactions, and addresses.

2. Consensus mechanism. The choice of protocol in a crypto system dictates the consensus mechanism used in the network—the algorithm for achieving agreement among network participants regarding the state of the blockchain.

3. Coin issuance. Crypto protocols also establish rules for creating, issuing, and distributing new units of digital assets.

Here are just a few examples of such protocols that members of the crypto community often encounter:

  • Bitcoin utilises Proof-of-Work (PoW) for consensus and has a capped supply of 21 million BTC.
  • Ethereum implements Proof-of-Stake (PoS) for consensus and supports smart contracts.
  • Cardano utilises PoS with the Ouroboros algorithm, emphasising scalability and security.
     

But why are protocols so crucial when it comes to conducting cryptocurrency transactions? There are several significant reasons:

1. Security and transparency. Thanks to crypto protocols, all new transactions are recorded in the blockchain. The blockchain network is accessible to all participants, making it nearly impossible to tamper with data or exploit information for nefarious purposes.

2. Transaction consensus. Consensus protocols ensure that all network participants agree on the state of the blockchain and transaction records.

3. Cryptocurrency mining. Crypto protocols, particularly PoW and PoS ones, regulate how network participants mine new coins, add new blocks to the blockchain, and receive rewards for their efforts. You can learn more about mining and staking from our latest articles. 

4. Coin issuance. Lastly, the type of protocol determines the rate of issuing new units of digital assets into circulation, including the speed of issuance and the total supply of cryptocurrency.

Since different cryptocurrencies utilise different protocols, they vary significantly in numerous characteristics such as transaction speed, scalability, and security. Therefore, understanding the differences between them and considering their unique features is crucial. Such knowledge helps investors find the right approach to each cryptocurrency, thereby maximising potential returns on investment.


The future of protocols

The landscape of protocols is constantly evolving, much like the broader cryptocurrency world. It adapts to new trends, responds to emerging challenges, and embraces evolving realities.

Take, for instance, the rising trend in the crypto sphere known as restaking protocols. These ones, like EigenLayer, enable users to earn rewards by restaking ETH in the Ethereum mainnet or in liquidity staking pools as wrapped tokens on various platforms. It's an innovation garnering significant attention today.

Another technological marvel is the rapid advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT). This term encompasses a network of interconnected computing devices capable of collecting and transmitting data wirelessly without human intervention. The evolution of IoT demands even greater flexibility, energy efficiency, and security from protocols to cater to the vast array of interconnected devices. 


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Here are three other cool articles: 

Understanding cryptocurrency: a comprehensive guide

Understanding market volatility

Comprehensive guide to buying and selling Toncoin


This article is not investment advice or a recommendation to purchase any specific product or service. The financial transactions mentioned in the article are not a guide to action. It’s not intended to constitute a comprehensive statement of all possible risks. You should independently conduct an analysis on the basis of which it will be possible to draw conclusions and make decisions about making any operations with cryptocurrency.

Maria Kachura
Maria Kachura

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