The acronym TCP/IP stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol and refers to a family of network protocols which are the basis for communication and data exchange over the internet as well as on private IP networks. The development of TCP/IP already began in the 1970s and traces back to the work of DARPA. Whilst the protocol family used to compete with alternative protocols such as AppleTalk by Apple, IPX/SPX by Novell or NetBEUI by Microsoft, TCP/IP has now established itself as a universal and worldwide popular protocol. It is platform-independent and available for devices with all operating systems imaginable. The reasons for the success of the protocol family are the victory of the Internet as well as its flexibility and versatility.

The key benefits and characteristics of TCP/IP

TCP/IP has a number of benefits. It can be used regardless of the network technology and the architecture of the host computer. It creates universal, flexible connection options throughout the network and requires no central administration to do so. This decentralization ensures high reliability. TCP/IP is furthermore completely application independent and can be used for a variety of applications and purposes. Standardised application protocols make TCP/IP universal. Whilst IP handles addressing and network routing at the network layer, TCP provides connection oriented data transfer.

Connection oriented data transfer via TCP

Unlike connectionless UDP (User Datagram Protocol), TCP connections are end-to-end connections with full-duplex data transfer. Before exchanging data, the communication partners establish a connection and define parameters for the data exchange. During transmission, TCP is able to secure the data transfer through confirmations. In addition, mechanisms to control the flow, jams and overloads are implemented.

Higher level protocols built on TCP protocols

A number of protocols are built on TCP/IP at the application layer. Among others, these include FTP (File Transfer Protocol), HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol), Telnet (Teletype Network) or SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).