Socket Programming in Python (Guide)


Sockets and the socket API are used to send messages across a network. They provide a form of inter-process communication (IPC). The network can be a logical, local network to the computer, or one that’s physically connected to an external network, with its own connections to other networks. The obvious example is the Internet, which you connect to via your ISP.

In this tutorial, you’ll create:

A simple socket server and client
An improved version that handles multiple connections simultaneously
A server-client application that functions like a full-fledged socket application, complete with its own custom header and content

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll understand how to use the main functions and methods in Python’s socket module to write your own client-server applications. You’ll know how to use a custom class to send messages and data between endpoints, which you can build upon and utilize for your own applications.

The examples in this tutorial require Python 3.6 or above, and have been tested using Python 3.10. To get the most out of this tutorial, it’s best to download the source code and have it on hand for reference while reading:

Get Source Code: Click here to get the source code you’ll use for the examples in this tutorial.

Networking and sockets are large subjects. Literal volumes have been written about them. If you’re new to sockets or networking, it’s completely normal if you feel overwhelmed with all of the terms and pieces.

Don’t be discouraged though. This tutorial is for you! As with anything Python-related, you can learn a little bit at a time. Bookmark this article and come back when you’re ready for the next section.


Sockets have a long history. Their use originated with ARPANET in 1971 and later became an API in the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) operating system released in 1983 called Berkeley sockets.

When the Internet took off in the 1990s with the World Wide Web, so did network programming. Web servers and browsers weren’t the only applications taking advantage of newly connected networks and using sockets. Client-server applications of all types and sizes came into widespread use.

Today, although the underlying protocols used by the socket API have evolved over the years, and new ones have developed, the low-level API has remained the same.

The most common type of socket applications are client-server applications, where one side acts as the server and waits for connections from clients. This is the type of application that you’ll be creating in this tutorial. More specifically, you’ll focus on the socket API for Internet sockets, sometimes called Berkeley or BSD sockets. There are also Unix domain sockets, which can only be used to communicate between processes on the same host.

Socket API Overview

Python’s socket module provides an interface to the Berkeley sockets API. This is the module that you’ll use in this tutorial.

The primary socket API functions and methods in this module are:


Python provides a convenient and consistent API that maps directly to system calls, their C counterparts. In the next section, you’ll learn how these are used together.

As part of its standard library, Python also has classes that make using these low-level socket functions easier. Although it’s not covered in this tutorial, you can check out the socketserver module, a framework for network servers. There are also many modules available that implement higher-level Internet protocols like HTTP and SMTP. For an overview, see Internet Protocols and Support.

TCP Sockets

You’re going to create a socket object using socket.socket(), specifying the socket type as socket.SOCK_STREAM. When you do that, the default protocol that’s used is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). This is a good default and probably what you want.

Why should you use TCP? The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP):

Is reliable: Packets dropped in the network are detected and retransmitted by the sender.
Has in-order data delivery: Data is read by your application in the order it was written by the sender.

In contrast, User Datagram Protocol (UDP) sockets created with socket.SOCK_DGRAM aren’t reliable, and data read by the receiver can be out-of-order from the sender’s writes.

Why is this important? Networks are a best-effort delivery system. There’s no guarantee that your data will reach its destination or that you’ll receive what’s been sent to you.

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