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A networking protocol is a set of networking standards. This means when computers communicate via a network, they apply a collection of rules when sending and receiving data. For instance, when using IP, it is a "rule" that all computers use an IP address which allows other computers following the rule (or IP protocol) to be able to send and receive data to and from that particular system. With protocols, how would two machines agree to communicate and how would one machine find another?
Think of protocols like a spoken language. The English language has a set of rules such as proper spelling and grammar. English-speakers understand each other because there is a set of rules for communicating information. Without a standardized spelling and grammar, how would people know a sentence is a question or know what a writer is trying to convey?
Examples of some protocols include
Keep in mind that protocols can be used together in combination (like TCP/IP) and stacked on top of one another (HTTP runs on top of TCP/IP). More about this stacking can be learned by studying the OSI Model.