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Definition

network socket

Contributor(s): John Harschutz

A network socket is one endpoint in a communication flow between two programs running over a network.

Sockets are created and used with a set of programming requests or "function calls" sometimes called the sockets application programming interface (API). The most common sockets API is the Berkeley UNIX C interface for sockets. Sockets can also be used for communication between processes within the same computer.

This is the typical sequence of sockets requests from a server application in the connectionless context of the Internet in which a server handles many client requests and does not maintain a connection longer than the serving of the immediate request:

 

socket()
|
bind()
|
recvfrom()
|
(wait for a sendto request from some client)
|
(process the sendto request)
|
sendto (in reply to the request from the client...for example, send an HTML file)

A corresponding client sequence of sockets requests would be:

 

socket()
|
bind()
|
sendto()
|
recvfrom()

Sockets can also be used for "connection-oriented" transactions with a somewhat different sequence of C language system calls or functions.

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a computer networking protocol that manages server authentication, client authentication and encrypted communication between servers and clients.

See a video introduction to sockets:

This was last updated in March 2015

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