Advanced Message Queuing Protocol is an open standard application layer protocol for message-oriented middleware featured queuing, routing for both p2p and pub/sub, reliability and security. AMQP mandates the behavior of the messaging provider and client to the extent that implementations from different vendors are interoperable, in the same way as SMTP, HTTP, FTP, etc. have created interoperable systems.

Previous standardizations of middleware have happened at the API level and were focused on standardizing programmer interaction with different middleware implementations, rather than on providing interoperability between multiple implementations. Unlike defining an API and a set of behaviors that a messaging implementation must provide, AMQP is a description of the format of the data that is sent across the network. Consequently any tool that can create and interpret messages that conform to this data format can interoperate with any other compliant tool irrespective of implementation language.

AMQP supports a wide variety of messaging applications and communication patterns. It provides flow controlled, message-oriented communication with message-delivery guarantees such as at-most-once (where each message is delivered once or never), at-least-once (where each message is certain to be delivered, but may do so multiple times) and exactly-once (where the message will always certainly arrive and do so only once), and authentication and/or encryption. It assumes an underlying reliable transport layer protocol such as TCP.

AMQP defines a self-describing encoding scheme allowing interoperable representation of a wide range of commonly used types. It also allows typed data to be annotated with additional meaning. The type-system is used to define a message format allowing standard and extended meta-data to be expressed and understood by processing entities. It is also used to define the communication primitives through which messages are exchanged between such entities.

The basic unit of data in AMQP is a frame. There are nine AMQP frame bodies defined that are used to initiate, control and tear down the transfer of messages between two peers. Multiple links, in both directions, can be grouped together in a session. The link protocol transfers messages between two nodes but assumes very little as to what those nodes are or how they are implemented. A key category is those nodes used as a rendezvous point between senders and receivers of messages (e.g. queues or topics). The AMQP specification calls such nodes distribution nodes and codifies some common behaviors.