A distance-vector routing protocol in data networks determines the best route for data packets based on distance. Distance-vector routing protocols measure the distance by the number of routers a packet has to pass, one router counts as one hop. Some distance-vector protocols also take into account network latency and other factors that influence traffic on a given route.
To determine the best route across a network routers, on which a distance-vector protocol is implemented, exchange information with one another, usually routing tables plus hop counts for destination networks and possibly other traffic information. Distance-vector routing protocols also require that a router informs its neighbours of network topology changes periodically.
Distance-vector routing protocols use the Bellman–Ford algorithm and Ford–Fulkerson algorithm to calculate the best route. Another way of calculating the best route across a network is based on link cost, and is implemented through link-state routing protocols.
The term distance vector refers to the fact that the protocol manipulates vectors (arrays) of distances to other nodes in the network. The distance vector algorithm was the original ARPANET routing algorithm and was implemented more widely in local area networks with the Routing Information Protocol (RIP).