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My Thoughts, Trials and Adventures

Network Programming Pt 2 - TCP client

Posted at — Aug 31, 2020 | Last Modified on — May 11, 2023


HTTP is powered by TCP, websites can be retrieved by communicating through TCP socket. this a code walkthrough of c program to retrieve example.com

TCP client

the code explained here can be found in my NetworkProgramming GitHub repository.

TCP client flowchart

struct addrinfo hints;

    memset(&hints, 0, sizeof(hints));

    struct addrinfo *peer;
    hints.ai_socktype = SOCK_STREAM;

    printf("args: %s %s\n", argv[1], argv[2]);

    if (getaddrinfo(argv[1], argv[2], &hints, &peer) < 0)

        printf("addrinfo() error!\n");
        return 1;

  1. we start by declaring a addrinfo struct hints. we then call getaddrinfo(). getaddrinfo() resolves domain name into IP address.
  2. note that unlike in server, we only need to set hints.ai_socktype = SOCK_STREAM; other fields are filled automatically by getaddrinfo() based on IP we are connecting to.
    char peer_addr[100];
    char peer_protocol[100];
    getnameinfo(peer->ai_addr, peer->ai_addrlen, peer_addr, sizeof(peer_addr), peer_protocol, sizeof(peer_protocol), NI_NUMERICHOST);

    printf("ip: %s | protocol: %s\n", peer_addr, peer_protocol);

  1. we can print the domain and protocol using the code above (Optional)
    //family socket_type protocol
    int socket_fd = socket(peer->ai_family, peer->ai_socktype, peer->ai_protocol);

    if (socket_fd < 0)
        printf("socket error.\n");
        return 1;

    if (connect(socket_fd, peer->ai_addr, peer->ai_addrlen) < 0)
        printf("connect error.\n");
        return 1;

  1. we start by creating a socket using peer fields are arguments.
  2. we then need to call connect() to connect to a remote address.connect() returns a negative number on error.
    char *header = "GET /index.html HTTP/1.1\r\nHost: www.example.com\r\n\r\n";
    send(socket_fd, header, strlen(header), 0);

    char res[4096];
    int bytes_received = recv(socket_fd, res, 4096, 0);
    printf("bytes_received: %d\n", bytes_received);

    printf("%s\n", res);

  1. declare a string header, this needs to be sent to the server to get a response.
  2. we can then call recv(), this stores response from the web server into res
  3. the response is printed to stdout using printf()

Let’s test it out!

compile the program using gcc

gcc tcp_client_classic.c -o tcp_client

run the program with required args: domain and protocol

./tcp_client example.com http


args: example.com http
ip: | protocol: http
bytes_received: 1607
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Age: 505529
Cache-Control: max-age=604800
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Date: Wed, 02 Sep 2020 08:30:19 GMT
Etag: "3147526947"
Expires: Wed, 09 Sep 2020 08:30:19 GMT
Last-Modified: Thu, 17 Oct 2019 07:18:26 GMT
Server: ECS (nyb/1D10)
Vary: Accept-Encoding
X-Cache: HIT
Content-Length: 1256

<!doctype html>
    <title>Example Domain</title>

    <meta charset="utf-8" />
    <meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
    <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1" />
    <style type="text/css">
    body {
        background-color: #f0f0f2;
        margin: 0;
        padding: 0;
        font-family: -apple-system, system-ui, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Segoe UI", "Open Sans", "Helvetica Neue", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;
    div {
        width: 600px;
        margin: 5em auto;
        padding: 2em;
        background-color: #fdfdff;
        border-radius: 0.5em;
        box-shadow: 2px 3px 7px 2px rgba(0,0,0,0.02);
    a:link, a:visited {
        color: #38488f;
        text-decoration: none;
    @media (max-width: 700px) {
        div {
            margin: 0 auto;
            width: auto;

    <h1>Example Domain</h1>
    <p>This domain is for use in illustrative examples in documents. You may use this
    domain in literature without prior coordination or asking for permission.</p>
    <p><a href="https://www.iana.org/domains/example">More information...</a></p>


This article covered a code walkthrough on how to retrieve a web page using sockets.