Please Whitelist This Site?

I know everyone hates ads. But please understand that I am providing premium content for free that takes hundreds of hours of time to research and write. I don't want to go to a pay-only model like some sites, but when more and more people block ads, I end up working for free. And I have a family to support, just like you. :)

If you like The TCP/IP Guide, please consider the download version. It's priced very economically and you can read all of it in a convenient format without ads.

If you want to use this site for free, I'd be grateful if you could add the site to the whitelist for Adblock. To do so, just open the Adblock menu and select "Disable on". Or go to the Tools menu and select "Adblock Plus Preferences...". Then click "Add Filter..." at the bottom, and add this string: "@@||^$document". Then just click OK.

Thanks for your understanding!

Sincerely, Charles Kozierok
Author and Publisher, The TCP/IP Guide

NOTE: Using software to mass-download the site degrades the server and is prohibited.
If you want to read The TCP/IP Guide offline, please consider licensing it. Thank you.

The Book is Here... and Now On Sale!

Read offline with no ads or diagram watermarks!
The TCP/IP Guide

Custom Search

Table Of Contents  The TCP/IP Guide
 9  The Open System Interconnection (OSI) Reference Model
      9  OSI Reference Model Layers

Previous Topic/Section
Session Layer (Layer 5)
Previous Page
Pages in Current Topic/Section
Next Page
Application Layer (Layer 7)
Next Topic/Section

Presentation Layer (Layer 6)

The presentation layer is the sixth layer of the OSI Reference Model protocol stack, and second from the top. It is different from the other layers in two key respects. First, it has a much more limited and specific function than the other layers; it's actually somewhat easy to describe, hurray! Second, it is used much less often than the other layers; in many types of connections it is not required.

The name of this layer suggests its main function as well: it deals with the presentation of data. More specifically, the presentation layer is charged with taking care of any issues that might arise where data sent from one system needs to be viewed in a different way by the other system. It also takes care of any special processing that must be done to data from the time an application tries to send it until the time it is sent over the network.

Presentation Layer Functions

Here are some of the specific types of data handling issues that the presentation layer handles:

  • Translation: Networks can connect very different types of computers together: PCs, Macintoshes, UNIX systems, AS/400 servers and mainframes can all exist on the same network. These systems have many distinct characteristics and represent data in different ways; they may use different character sets for example. The presentation layer handles the job of hiding these differences between machines.

  • Compression: Compression (and decompression) may be done at the presentation layer to improve the throughput of data. (There are some who believe this is not, strictly speaking, a function of the presentation layer.)

  • Encryption: Some types of encryption (and decryption) are performed at the presentation layer. This ensures the security of the data as it travels down the protocol stack. For example, one of the most popular encryption schemes that is usually associated with the presentation layer is the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol. Not all encryption is done at layer 6, however; some encryption is often done at lower layers in the protocol stack, in technologies such as IPSec.
Presentation Layer Role in the OSI Model

The reason that the presentation layer is not always used in network communications is that the jobs mentioned above are simply not always needed. Compression and encryption are usually considered “optional”, and translation features are also only needed in certain circumstances. Another reason why the presentation layer is sometimes not mentioned is that its functions may be performed as part of the application layer.

The fact that the translation job done by the presentation layer isn't always needed means that it is common for it to be “skipped” by actual protocol stack implementations. This means that protocols at layer seven may talk directly with those at layer five. Once again, this is part of the reason why all of the functions of layers five through seven may be included together in the same software package, as described in the overview of layers and layer groupings.

Key Concept: The sixth OSI model layer is called the presentation layer. Protocols at this layer take care of manipulation tasks that transform data from one representation to another, such as translation, compression and encryption. In many cases, no such functions are required in a particular networking stack; if so, there may not be any protocol active at layer six.

Previous Topic/Section
Session Layer (Layer 5)
Previous Page
Pages in Current Topic/Section
Next Page
Application Layer (Layer 7)
Next Topic/Section

If you find The TCP/IP Guide useful, please consider making a small Paypal donation to help the site, using one of the buttons below. You can also donate a custom amount using the far right button (not less than $1 please, or PayPal gets most/all of your money!) In lieu of a larger donation, you may wish to consider purchasing a download license of The TCP/IP Guide. Thanks for your support!
Donate $2
Donate $5
Donate $10
Donate $20
Donate $30
Donate: $

Home - Table Of Contents - Contact Us

The TCP/IP Guide (
Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005

Copyright 2001-2005 Charles M. Kozierok. All Rights Reserved.
Not responsible for any loss resulting from the use of this site.