Section: Linux Programmer's Manual (5)
Updated: 1996-01-11
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services - Internet network services list  


services is a plain ASCII file providing a mapping between friendly textual names for internet services, and their underlying assigned port numbers and protocol types. Every networking program should look into this file to get the port number (and protocol) for its service. The C library routines getservent(3), getservbyname(3), getservbyport(3), setservent(3), and endservent(3) support querying this file from programs.

Port numbers are assigned by the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), and their current policy is to assign both TCP and UDP protocols when assigning a port number. Therefore, most entries will have two entries, even for TCP only services.

Port numbers below 1024 (so-called 'low numbered' ports) can only be bound to by root (see bind(2), tcp(7), and udp(7)). This is so clients connecting to low numbered ports can trust that the service running on the port is the standard implementation, and not a rogue service run by a user of the machine. Well-known port numbers specified by the IANA are normally located in this root-only space.

The presence of an entry for a service in the services file does not necessarily mean that the service is currently running on the machine. See inetd.conf(5) for the configuration of Internet services offered. Note that not all networking services are started by inetd(8), and so won't appear in inetd.conf(5). In particular, news (NNTP) and mail (SMTP) servers are often initialized from the system boot scripts.

The location of the services file is defined by _PATH_SERVICES in /usr/include/netdb.h. This is usually set to /etc/services.

Each line describes one service, and is of the form:

service-name   port/protocol   [aliases ...]
is the friendly name the service is known by and looked up under. It is case sensitive. Often, the client program is named after the service-name.
is the port number (in decimal) to use for this service.
is the type of protocol to be used. This field should match an entry in the protocols(5) file. Typical values include tcp and udp.
is an optional space or tab separated list of other names for this service (but see the BUGS section below). Again, the names are case sensitive.

Either spaces or tabs may be used to separate the fields.

Comments are started by the hash sign (#) and continue until the end of the line. Blank lines are skipped.

The service-name should begin in the first column of the file, since leading spaces are not stripped. service-names can be any printable characters excluding space and tab. However, a conservative choice of characters should be used to minimize inter-operability problems. E.g., a-z, 0-9, and hyphen (-) would seem a sensible choice.

Lines not matching this format should not be present in the file. (Currently, they are silently skipped by getservent(3), getservbyname(3), and getservbyport(3). However, this behaviour should not be relied on.)

As a backwards compatibility feature, the slash (/) between the port number and protocol name can in fact be either a slash or a comma (,). Use of the comma in modern installations is depreciated.

This file might be distributed over a network using a network-wide naming service like Yellow Pages/NIS or BIND/Hesiod.

A sample services file might look like this:

netstat         15/tcp
qotd            17/tcp          quote
msp             18/tcp          # message send protocol
msp             18/udp          # message send protocol
chargen         19/tcp          ttytst source
chargen         19/udp          ttytst source
ftp             21/tcp
# 22 - unassigned
telnet          23/tcp



There is a maximum of 35 aliases, due to the way the getservent(3) code is written.

Lines longer than BUFSIZ (currently 1024) characters will be ignored by getservent(3), getservbyname(3), and getservbyport(3). However, this will also cause the next line to be mis-parsed.  


The Internet network services list
Definition of _PATH_SERVICES


listen(2), endservent(3), getservbyname(3), getservbyport(3), getservent(3), setservent(3), inetd.conf(5), protocols(5), inetd(8)

Assigned Numbers RFC, most recently RFC 1700, (AKA STD0002)

Guide to Yellow Pages Service

Guide to BIND/Hesiod Service



SEE ALSO manual pages