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0x400. NETWORKING > 0x420. Sockets

Sockets

A socket is a standard way to perform network communication through the OS. A socket can be thought of as an endpoint to a connection, like a socket on an operator's switchboard. But these sockets are just a programmer's abstraction that takes care of all the nitty-gritty details of the OSI model described above. To the programmer, a socket can be used to send or receive data over a network. This data is transmitted at the session layer (5), above the lower layers (handled by the operating system), which take care of routing. There are several different types of sockets that determine the structure of the transport layer (4). The most common types are stream sockets and datagram sockets.

Stream sockets provide reliable two-way communication similar to when you call someone on the phone. One side initiates the connection to the other, and after the connection is established, either side can communicate to the other. In addition, there is immediate confirmation that what you said actually reached its destination. Stream sockets use a standard communication protocol called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which exists on the transport layer (4) of the OSI model. On computer networks, data is usually transmitted in chunks called packets. TCP is designed so that the packets of data will arrive without errors and in sequence, like words arriving at the other end in the order they were spoken when you are talking on the telephone. Webservers, mail servers, and their respective client applications all use TCP and stream sockets to communicate.


  

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