The source and destination ports are placed within the segment. The segments are then encapsulated within an IP packet. The IP packet contains the IP address of the source and destination. The combination of the source and destination IP addresses and the source and destination port numbers is known as a socket. The socket is used to identify the server and service being requested by the client. Every day thousands of hosts communicate with millions of different servers. Those communications are identified by the sockets.

It is the combination of the transport layer port number, and the network layer IP address of the host, that uniquely identifies a particular application process running on an individual host device. This combination is called a socket. A socket pair, consisting of the source and destination IP addresses and port numbers, is also unique and identifies the specific conversation between the two hosts.

A client socket might look like this, with 1099 representing the source port number:

The socket on a web server might be:

Together, these two sockets combine to form a socket pair:,

With the creation of sockets, communication endpoints are known so that data can move from an application on one host to an application on another. Sockets enable multiple processes running on a client to distinguish themselves from each other, and multiple connections to a server process to be distinguished from each other.

The source port of a client request is randomly generated. This port number acts like a return address for the requesting application. The transport layer keeps track of this port and the application that initiated the request so that when a response is returned, it can be forwarded to the correct application. The requesting application port number is used as the destination port number in the response coming back from the server.