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When a road needs to extend across a river or valley, a bridge is built to connect the two land masses. Since the average car cannot swim or fly, the bridge makes it possible for automobiles to continue driving from one land mass to another.

In computer networking, a bridge serves the same purpose. It connects two or more local area networks (LANs) together. The cars, or the data in this case, use the bridge to travel to and from different areas of the network. The device is similar to a router, but it does not analyze the data being forwarded. Because of this, bridges are typically fast at transferring data, but not as versatile as a router. For example, a bridge cannot be used as a firewall like most routers can. A bridge can transfer data between different protocols (i.e. a Token Ring and Ethernet network) and operates at the "data link layer" or level 2 of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) networking reference model.

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