In telecommunications, connection-oriented describes a means of transmitting data in which the devices at the end points use a preliminary protocol to establish an end-to-end connection before any data is sent. Connection-oriented protocol service is sometimes called a "reliable" network service, because it guarantees that data will arrive in the proper sequence. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a connection-oriented protocol.
For connection-oriented communications, each end point must be able to transmit so that it can communicate. The alternative to connection-oriented transmission is the connectionless approach, in which data is sent from one end point to another without prior arrangement. Connectionless protocols are usually described as stateless because the end points have no protocol-defined way to remember where they are in a "conversation" of message exchanges. Because they can keep track of a conversation, connection-oriented protocols are sometimes described as stateful.
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- Tom Sheldon's Linktionary offers an introduction to connection-oriented and connectionless services.