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The internet layer is a group of "internetworking methods, protocols, and specifications in the "Internet protocol suite that are used to transport "datagrams (packets) from the originating "host across "network boundaries, if necessary, to the destination host specified by an "IP address which is defined for this purpose by the "Internet Protocol (IP). The internet layer derives its name from its function of forming an internet (uncapitalized), or facilitating "internetworking, which is the concept of connecting multiple networks with each other through "gateways.

Internet-layer protocols use IP-based packets. The internet layer does not include the protocols that define communication between local (on-link) network nodes which fulfill the purpose of maintaining link states between the local nodes, such as the local network topology, and that usually use protocols that are based on the framing of packets specific to the link types. Such protocols belong to the "link layer.

A common design aspect in the internet layer is the "robustness principle: "Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send"[1] as a misbehaving host can deny Internet service to many other users.



The internet layer has three basic functions:

In Version 4 of the Internet Protocol ("IPv4), during both transmit and receive operations, IP is capable of automatic or intentional "fragmentation or defragmentation of packets, based, for example, on the "maximum transmission unit (MTU) of link elements. However, this feature has been dropped in "IPv6, as the communications end points, the hosts, now have to perform "path MTU discovery and assure that end-to-end transmissions don't exceed the maximum discovered.

In its operation, the internet layer is not responsible for reliable transmission. It provides only an unreliable service, and "best effort" delivery. This means that the network makes no guarantees about packets' proper arrival (see also "Internet Protocol#Reliability). This was an important design principle and change from the previous protocols used on the early "ARPANET. Since packet delivery across diverse networks is an inherently unreliable and failure-prone operation, the burden of providing reliability was placed with the end points of a communication path, i.e., the hosts, rather than on the network. This is one of the reasons of the resiliency of the Internet against individual link failures and its proven "scalability.

The function of providing reliability of service is the duty of higher level protocols, such as the "Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) in the "transport layer.

In IPv4 (not IPv6), a "checksum is used to protect the header of each datagram. The checksum ensures that the information in a received header is accurate, however, IP does not attempt to detect errors that may have occurred to the data in each packet.

Core protocols[edit]

The primary protocols in the internet layer are the "Internet Protocol (IP). It is implemented in two versions, "IPv4 and "IPv6. The "Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is primarily used for error and diagnostic functions. Different implementations exist for IPv4 and IPv6. The "Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) is used by IPv4 hosts and adjacent "multicast routers to establish multicast group memberships.


"Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a suite of protocols for securing Internet Protocol (IP) communications by authenticating and encrypting each IP packet in a data stream. IPsec also includes protocols for "cryptographic key establishment. IPsec was originally designed as a base specification in IPv6 in 1995,[2][3] and later adapted to IPv4, with which it has found widespread use in securing "virtual private networks.

Relation to OSI model[edit]

Despite clear primary references and normative standards documents, the internet layer is often improperly called network layer.[1][4] This is done because the internet layer of the TCP/IP model is easily compared directly with the "network layer (layer 3) in the "Open Systems Interconnection "(OSI) protocol stack.[5][6][7][8]

Although they have some overlap, these two models represent different classification methods. In particular, the allowed characteristics of protocols (e.g., whether they are connection-oriented or connection-less) placed in these layers are different between the models. OSI's network layer is a catch-all layer for all protocols that facilitate network functionality. The internet layer, on the other hand, is specifically a suite of protocols that facilitate "internetworking using the "Internet Protocol.["citation needed]

IETF standards[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b R. Braden, ed. (October 1989), Requirements for Internet Hosts -- Communication Layers, "IETF, "RFC 1122Freely accessible 
  2. ^ R. Atkinson (August 1995), Security Architecture for the Internet Protocol, "IETF, "RFC 1825Freely accessible 
  3. ^ P. Karn; P. Metzger; W. Simpson (August 1995), Security Architecture for the Internet Protocol, "IETF, "RFC 1829Freely accessible 
  4. ^ RFC 1123
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links[edit]

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