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man pages section 3: Basic Library Functions

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Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2022

socket (3C)


socket - create an endpoint for communication


#include <sys/socket.h>

int socket(int domain, int type, int protocol);


The socket() function creates an endpoint for communication and returns a descriptor.

The domain argument specifies the protocol family within which communication takes place. The protocol family is generally the same as the address family for the addresses supplied in later operations on the socket. These families are defined in <sys/socket.h>.

The currently supported protocol families are:


UNIX system internal protocols


Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPv4)


Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6)

The socket has the indicated type, which specifies the communication semantics. Currently defined types are:


There must be an entry in the netconfig(5) file for at least each protocol family and type required. If a non-zero protocol has been specified but no exact match for the protocol family, type, and protocol is found, then the first entry containing the specified family and type with a protocol value of zero will be used.

A SOCK_STREAM type provides sequenced, reliable, two-way connection-based byte streams. An out-of-band data transmission mechanism may be supported. A SOCK_DGRAM socket supports datagrams (connectionless, unreliable messages of a fixed (typically small) maximum length). A SOCK_SEQPACKET socket may provide a sequenced, reliable, two-way connection-based data transmission path for datagrams of fixed maximum length; a consumer may be required to read an entire packet with each read system call. This facility is protocol specific, and presently not implemented for any protocol family. SOCK_RAW sockets provide access to internal network interfaces. The types SOCK_RAW, which is available only to a user with the net_rawaccess privilege, and SOCK_RDM, for which no implementation currently exists, are not described here.

The protocol parameter is a protocol-family-specific value which specifies a particular protocol to be used with the socket. Normally this value is zero, as commonly only a single protocol exists to support a particular socket type within a given protocol family. However, multiple protocols may exist, in which case a particular protocol may be specified in this manner.

Sockets of type SOCK_STREAM are full-duplex byte streams, similar to pipes. A stream socket must be in a connected state before any data may be sent or received on it. A connection to another socket is created with a connect(3C) call. Once connected, data may be transferred using read(2) and write(2) calls or some variant of the send(3C) and recv(3C) calls. When a session has been completed, a close(2) may be performed. Out-of-band data may also be transmitted as described on the send(3C) manual page and received as described on the recv(3C) manual page.

The communications protocols used to implement a SOCK_STREAM ensure that data is not lost or duplicated. If a piece of data for which the peer protocol has buffer space cannot be successfully transmitted within a reasonable length of time, then the connection is considered broken and calls will indicate an error with −1 returns and with ETIMEDOUT as the specific code in the global variable errno. The protocols optionally keep sockets “warm” by forcing transmissions roughly every minute in the absence of other activity. An error is then indicated if no response can be elicited on an otherwise idle connection for a extended period (for instance 5 minutes). A SIGPIPE signal is raised if a thread sends on a broken stream; this causes naive processes, which do not handle the signal, to exit.

SOCK_SEQPACKET sockets employ the same system calls as SOCK_STREAM sockets. The only difference is that read(2) calls will return only the amount of data requested, and any remaining in the arriving packet will be discarded.

SOCK_DGRAM and SOCK_RAW sockets allow datagrams to be sent to correspondents named in sendto(3C) calls. Datagrams are generally received with recvfrom(3C), which returns the next datagram with its return address.

An fcntl(2) call can be used to specify a process group to receive a SIGURG signal when the out-of-band data arrives. It can also enable non-blocking I/O.

The operation of sockets is controlled by socket level options. These options are defined in the file <sys/socket.h>. setsockopt(3C) and getsockopt(3C) are used to set and get options, respectively.

Some file descriptor flags can be specified at socket creation time to avoid race conditions. These options are passed by using a bitwise-inclusive-OR of values from the following list with the value passed for the type parameter to the socket(). See the open(2) man page for details on what each flag does.


If set, the O_CLOEXEC flag is set for the new file descriptor.


If set, the O_CLOFORK flag is set for the new file descriptor.


If set, the O_NONBLOCK flag is set for the new file descriptor.


If set, the O_NDELAY flag is set for the new file descriptor.


If set, the O_NOSIGPIPE flag is set for the new file descriptor.

Return Values

Upon successful completion, a descriptor referencing the socket is returned. Otherwise, -1 is returned and errno is set to indicate the error.


The socket() function will fail if:


Permission to create a socket of the specified type or protocol is denied.


There were insufficient resources available to complete the operation.


The specified address family is not supported by the protocol family.


The per-process descriptor table is full.


Insufficient user memory is available.


There were insufficient STREAMS resources available to complete the operation.


The specified protocol family is not supported.


The protocol type is not supported by the address family.


The socket type is not supported by the protocol.


See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:

Interface Stability

See Also

close(2), fcntl(2), ioctl(2), read(2), write(2), accept(3C), bind(3C), connect(3C), getsockname(3C), getsockopt(3C), listen(3C), recv(3C), recvmmsg(3C), send(3C), sendfile(3C), sendfilev(3C), sendmmsg(3C), setsockopt(3C), shutdown(3C), sockatmark(3C), socketpair(3C), in.h(3HEAD), socket.h(3HEAD), attributes(7)


Historically, AF_* was commonly used in places where PF_* was meant. New code should be careful to use PF_* as necessary.


The socket() function has been present since the initial release of Solaris.

Support for PF_UNIX and PF_INET protocol families has been present since the initial release of Solaris. Support for PF_INET6 was added in Solaris 8.

Support for PF_NCA sockets was added in Solaris 8 7/01 (Update 5), and removed in Oracle Solaris 11.4.

Support for SOCK_* flags as part of the type parameter was added to Oracle Solaris in the 11.4 release.