Overview of Windows Sockets 2

Windows Sockets 2 utilizes the sockets paradigm that was first popularized by Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) UNIX. It was later adapted for Microsoft Windows in the Windows Sockets 1.1.

One of the primary goals of Windows Sockets 2 has been to provide a protocol-independent interface fully capable of supporting the emerging networking capabilities, such as real-time multimedia communications.

Windows Sockets 2 is an interface, not a protocol. As an interface, it is used to discover and utilize the communications capabilities of any number of underlying transport protocols. Because it is not a protocol, it does not in any way affect the "bits on the wire", and does not need to be utilized on both ends of a communications link.

Windows Sockets programming previously centered around TCP/IP. Some of the programming practices that worked with TCP/IP do not work with every protocol. As a result, the Windows Sockets 2 API added new functions where necessary.

Windows Sockets 2 has changed its architecture to provide easier access to multiple transport protocols. Following the Windows Open System Architecture (WOSA) model, Windows Sockets 2 now defines a standard service provider interface (SPI) between the application programming interface (API), with its functions exported from WS2_32.DLL, and the protocol stacks. Consequently, Windows Sockets 2 support is not limited to TCP/IP protocol stacks as is the case for Windows Sockets 1.1. For more information, see Windows Sockets 2 Architecture.

There are new challenges in developing Windows Sockets 2 applications. When sockets only supported TCP/IP, a developer could create an application that supported only two socket types: connectionless and connection-oriented. Connectionless protocols used SOCK_DGRAM sockets and connection-oriented protocols used SOCK_STREAM sockets. Now, these are just two of the many new socket types. Additionally, developers can no longer rely on socket type to describe all the essential attributes of a transport protocol.

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