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Definition of Datagram

A datagram is a basic transfer unit associated with a packet-switched network. In simpler terms, it is a self-contained, independent packet of data that carries information sufficient for routing from the originating source to the destination, without relying on prior exchanges between the source and destination computers. Each datagram is transmitted individually and can take different paths to reach its destination, making it a fundamental concept in network protocols, particularly in UDP (User Datagram Protocol).

Origin of Datagram

The concept of the datagram originated in the early days of computer networking and was instrumental in the development of packet-switched networks. It was first proposed by Leonard Kleinrock in 1961 in his work on packet-switching theory, which later became a foundational technology for the ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet. The introduction of the datagram was a significant departure from traditional circuit-switched communication methods, offering a more efficient and flexible approach to data transmission.

Practical Application of Datagram

One practical application of datagrams is in the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP services, like Skype and Zoom, use datagrams to transmit voice data over the internet. Datagram-based protocols like UDP are preferred for these applications because they can handle the transmission of real-time data efficiently. UDP allows for the fast transmission of voice data packets with minimal delay, making it ideal for live audio communication where speed is more critical than perfect accuracy.

Benefits of Datagram

The primary benefits of using datagrams in networking include flexibility and efficiency. Since datagrams are independent and self-contained, they offer a high degree of flexibility in routing through the network. This independence allows for load balancing and effective handling of network congestion, as packets can be rerouted dynamically. Datagram-based protocols like UDP have low overhead and can transmit data quickly, which is essential for time-sensitive applications such as online gaming, live streaming, and VoIP.


In TCP/IP, a packet refers to a formatted unit of data carried by the network, while a datagram specifically refers to a packet in the UDP protocol, where each packet is treated independently.

Datagram transmission, particularly through UDP, is fast but does not guarantee delivery, order, or data integrity, which can be acceptable for applications where speed is more critical than reliability.

While datagrams can be used for file transfer, protocols like TCP are generally preferred for this purpose due to their reliability and error-checking mechanisms.


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