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A network socket is a software structure within a network node of a computer network that serves as an endpoint for sending and receiving data across the network. The structure and properties of a socket are defined by an application programming interface (API) for the networking architecture. Sockets are created only during the lifetime of a process of an application running in the node.
Because of the standardization of the TCP/IP protocols in the development of the Internet, the term network socket is most commonly used in the context of the Internet protocol suite, and is therefore often also referred to as Internet socket. In this context, a socket is externally identified to other hosts by its socket address, which is the triad of transport protocol, IP address, and port number.
The term socket is also used for the software endpoint of node-internal inter-process communication (IPC), which often uses the same API as a network socket.