What Does Wireshark Mean?

Wireshark is a free and open source network protocol analyzer that enables users to interactively browse the data traffic on a computer network. The development project was started under the name Ethereal, but was renamed Wireshark in 2006.


Many networking developers from all around the world have contributed to this project with network analysis, troubleshooting, software development and communication protocols. Wireshark is used in many educational institutions and other industrial sectors.

Techopedia Explains Wireshark

Wireshark is a network or protocol analyzer (also known as a network sniffer) available for free at the Wireshark website. It is used to analyze the structure of different network protocols and has the ability to demonstrate encapsulation. The analyzer operates on Unix, Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems, and employs the GTK+ widget toolkit and pcap for packet capturing. Wireshark and other terminal-based free software versions like Tshark are released under the GNU General Public License.

Wireshark shares many characteristics with tcpdump. The difference is that it supports a graphical user interface (GUI) and has information filtering features. In addition, Wireshark permits the user to see all the traffic being passed over the network.

Features of Wireshark include:

  • Data is analyzed either from the wire over the network connection or from data files that have already captured data packets.
  • Supports live data reading and analysis for a wide range of networks (including Ethernet, IEEE 802.11, point-to-point Protocol (PPP) and loopback).
  • With the help of GUI or other versions, users can browse captured data networks.
  • For programmatically editing and converting the captured files to the editcap application, users can use command line switches.
  • Display filters are used to filter and organize the data display.
  • New protocols can be scrutinized by creating plug-ins.
  • Captured traffic can also trace Voice over Internet (VoIP) calls over the network.
  • When using Linux, it is also possible to capture raw USB traffic.

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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.