The History, Function, Governance, and Value of the TCP/IP Standard
With the rapid development of computer technologies during the 60’s and 70’s, the need for communication protocols between heterogeneous computers with differing operating systems became increasingly apparent. Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn addressed this need by collaborating on a new protocol called the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Eventually, the protocol was split into two separate protocols, TCP and the Internet Protocol (IP), and then developed into a suite of communications protocols known by the names of these two primary components. This paper explores the history, function, governance, value, and future of the TCP/IP standard.
History of the TCP/IP Standard
Kahn and Cerf’s paper, published in 1973, described a protocol design and philosophy intended to support the sharing of computer resources between networks (Spira, 2003). Their concept transferred primary responsibility for data transfer to the host rather than the networks, utilizing a “gateway” (router) to interface with each network and forward data back and forth. Messages are split into “segments” by TCP, then broken into even smaller “packets,” and reassembled at the destination. The protocol allows for variation in packet sizes, transmission failures, detection of duplicates, and other issues associated with transmission between dissimilar networks (Cerf and Kahn, 1974).
When TCP was broken into two protocols in 1974, TCP retained responsibility for breaking up and reassembling the messages, while IP assumed responsibility for transmission of the packets between networks. Over time, the TCP/IP protocols evolved into a protocol stack, or grouping of many related protocols, each working together within a prescribed standard. These include such familiar protocols as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and of course TCP and IP. Because of its...