Roughly speaking, when you clicked on the link that brought you to this page, your browser did something like the following:
#create an INET, STREAMing socket s = socket.socket( socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_STREAM) #now connect to the web server on port 80 # - the normal http port s.connect(("www.mcmillan-inc.com", 80))
When the connect completes, the socket s can be used to send in a request for the text of the page. The same socket will read the reply, and then be destroyed. That’s right, destroyed. Client sockets are normally only used for one exchange (or a small set of sequential exchanges).
What happens in the web server is a bit more complex. First, the web server creates a “server socket”:
#create an INET, STREAMing socket serversocket = socket.socket( socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_STREAM) #bind the socket to a public host, # and a well-known port serversocket.bind((socket.gethostname(), 80)) #become a server socket serversocket.listen(5)
A couple things to notice: we used
socket.gethostname() so that the socket would be visible to the outside world. If we had used
s.bind(('localhost', 80)) or
s.bind(('127.0.0.1', 80)) we would still have a “server” socket, but one that was only visible within the same machine.
s.bind(('', 80)) specifies that the socket is reachable by any address the machine happens to have.
A second thing to note: low number ports are usually reserved for “well known” services (HTTP, SNMP etc). If you’re playing around, use a nice high number (4 digits).
Finally, the argument to listen tells the socket library that we want it to queue up as many as 5 connect requests (the normal max) before refusing outside connections. If the rest of the code is written properly, that should be plenty.
Now that we have a “server” socket, listening on port 80, we can enter the mainloop of the web server:
while 1: #accept connections from outside (clientsocket, address) = serversocket.accept() #now do something with the clientsocket #in this case, we'll pretend this is a threaded server ct = client_thread(clientsocket) ct.run()
There’s actually 3 general ways in which this loop could work - dispatching a thread to handle clientsocket, create a new process to handle clientsocket, or restructure this app to use non-blocking sockets, and mulitplex between our “server” socket and any active clientsockets using select. The important thing to understand now is this: this is all a “server” socket does. It doesn’t send any data. It doesn’t receive any data. It just produces “client” sockets. Each clientsocket is created in response to some other “client” socket doing a
connect() to the host and port we’re bound to. As soon as we’ve created that clientsocket, we go back to listening for more connections. The two “clients” are free to chat it up - they are using some dynamically allocated port which will be recycled when the conversation ends.