TCP/IP is a large setsometimes called a suiteof communications protocols that fit in the middle of a larger set of mechanisms. These protocols provide the linkage between applications that can communicate and a physical network that carries the communicated data. Thus, TCP/IP complements and extends the capability of a physical network, but can't work without it.
However, the best thing about TCP/IP isn't what it can do, but what it has enabled! TCP/IP has literally and truly enabled people and organizations around the world to get past the artificial boundaries of technology choices and vendor preferences. The protocol enables the global quest for freedom of choice and rewards those who have implemented TCP/IP with an unprecedented bounty of online information and services.
Enough of the history and the hype: You're ready for some more concrete information that solidifies your grasp of what TCP/IP is and how you use it every time you communicate via a network. The next chapter looks more closely at what TCP/IP means to you.