There is no meaningful difference between or for people on StackOverflow.

Keeping different tags for them makes a distinction without a clear difference; it is too easy to assume that TCPIP means the protocol TCP riding on IP (the only way it is used now). In ages past, there was a proposal to encapsulate TCP over CLNP, but has been dead for years.


As YOU pointed out, it is possible to consider TCP/IP as a competing model to the OSI model (this was the way it was used in the early 90s); however, all other competing protocols (CLNP, Decnet, Netware, Appletalk) have died off, so essentially there is no other competing protocol in use. Furthermore, even TCP/IP professionals routinely use OSI Model and TCP/IP interchangably when referring to a layered protocol stack.

For clarity's sake, it is more pedantically appropriate to retain and rename to if you want a tag for a protocol stack. We could do the same with , rename it , but that would mean retagging many questions which currently use both tags (when referring to questions about TCP). If we do this, we now have a that is of little use on StackOverflow (like is today).

My original proposal to delete went for 8 hours with two upvotes and three downvotes. I am content to leave the status quo, if that is the community decision.

It occurs to me after so many edits, that the protracted back and forth on this question is perhaps related to the bigger problem... to date, people are unwilling to put a clear policy in writing about guidelines for networking questions on StackOverflow (ref my +100 bounty that went untouched).

  • They are technically not synonyms, right? but you see questions on Stack Overflow looks same?
    – YOU
    Apr 29, 2011 at 4:07
  • @YOU, are you making a distinction between them? I think they are synonomous Apr 29, 2011 at 4:07
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    @Mike, Personally, I just don't want to assume they are same because TCP use IP as at lower layer. And Apart from Stack Overflow, questions on Server Fault looks a little bit different for me. questions tagged with 'TCP' are more like TCP connections, and questions tagged with 'TCPIP' looks more related to TCP/IP theory.
    – YOU
    Apr 29, 2011 at 4:16
  • @YOU, technically you can use TCPIP to contrast against the OSI Model, but the distinctions are pedantic and the vast majority of professionals use OSI Model / TCPIP (as a theoretical framework) interchangeably. Ages ago, there were viable competing protocols (as an undergrad, I still remember being told IPv4 was going to die in favor of CLNP). If we leave both TCPIP and TCP, it's not really something I will complain about... essentially more badges for me. Apr 29, 2011 at 4:28
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    I see a difference between TCP and TCP/IP. I agree that having two tags that seem similar can be confusing, but that can be resolved with the tag-wiki.
    – apaderno
    Apr 29, 2011 at 4:54
  • Imm @Mike, for Networking side, I agree with distinctions are pedantic. But I think writing a TCP server or connecting to server with TCP doesn't really need to care about TCP/IP model on programming side, IMHO. (on unrelated note: people said IPv4 is going to die since a decade or two ago, and still using it now, isn't it?)
    – YOU
    Apr 29, 2011 at 4:55
  • @YOU, I was talking about the debate over the viability of IP, because because CLNP was the favored-child of DoD. At that time, DoD had a lot of skin in the game and the internet (as we now know it) was still tiny; so people speculated that IP would die. IPng (now known as IPv6) was never started until 1992. You're right though, people have been saying IPv4 would run out of address space since the mid-1990s, but it's hung in there quite well with all the kludge fixes that got put in. Apr 29, 2011 at 5:05
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    I understand the distinction might be important on Server Fault, or even Super User, but I'm not sure the distinction is nearly as relevant on Stack Overflow. I'm all for combining the tags; no one is going to be interested in questions with one tag and not in questions with the other. Apr 29, 2011 at 8:09
  • @Mike, regarding your edit about renaming "tcpip" -> "osi-model". I think there is some questions wrongly tagged instead of normal "tcp" connection questions. So, I think may be manual retagging, after checking the question would be better? But I doubt that it is worth doing or not though, IMHO. And I think "osi-model" is less programming related than "tcpip". (and unrelated note - batch manual retagging could lead to something like this)
    – YOU
    Apr 29, 2011 at 11:58
  • @YOU, the argument you made for keeping tcpip as a different tag is that the term is overloaded, it could mean the protocol TCP riding on IP, or it could be referring to a theoretical protocol stack. I concede the point, but now you are arguing my original point. Retagging (or rather, untagging) is fine as well. But now we have a tag for a subject that routinely gets punted to ServerFault. Apr 29, 2011 at 12:01
  • @Mike, Um, I am quite agree with your points as a network engineer, but afraid those questions on Stack Overflow are marginal case, and renaming those to more general one could confuse to non-network engineers IMHO.
    – YOU
    Apr 29, 2011 at 12:04
  • @YOU, we are in violent agreement. There is no point in having an osi-model tag on StackOverflow. If you untag tcp questions tagged with tcpip, you are left with a tcpip tag that is as useful as the osi tag. I proposed deleting tcpip to begin with... I have a -1 for that proposal with no upvotes. Leaving things as status quo doesn't t bother me, but I'm trying to do the right thing for StackOverflow. Apr 29, 2011 at 12:13

2 Answers 2


Programmers typically operate on the OSI stack at a much higher level than where the difference between TCP and TCP/IP becomes interesting.

I suggest someone review a selection of the questions marked distinctly, and determine if there's an real value to having the distinction remain.



My brief survey suggests that there is no practical difference, but a more thorough review might show differently for those that are arguing against this change.

Let's not be pedantic for the sake of pedantry - we want all these questions to be tagged so that they are easy to find via search engines and so the internal site linking and tagging is strong and useful. If we must maintain a distinction, then someone needs to spend time re-tagging those questions that are incorrectly tagged.

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    we agree. I went through the pedantry because YOU pointed out that TCPIP is an overloaded term. Apr 29, 2011 at 12:27
  • +1 - and tag synonyms also have another, important purpose - because it's our only tool for controlling the input. If the majority are tagging tcp when they mean tcpip or vice-versa, then it needs to be a synonym for practical purposes.
    – Nicole
    Apr 29, 2011 at 16:57

If the overwhelming majority of questions tagged with one could be tagged with the other (a quick sample indicates that to be the case, but I'm not prepared to dig into the details) then it's right to consider a merger. Given that the shortest tag is also the one with most questions, I'd suggest merging to that.

FWIW, while I have encountered TCP built on top of other low-level protocols (e.g., TCP/ATM) there's really no reason why anyone would build it that way any more because interoperability with the internet (i.e., IP) is such a hugely desirable feature.

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