The kernel maintains exactly one pipe object for each FIFO special file that is opened by at least one process. The FIFO must be opened on both ends (reading and writing) before data can be passed. Normally, opening the FIFO blocks until the other end is opened also.
A process can open a FIFO in nonblocking mode. In this case, opening for read-only succeeds even if no one has opened on the write side yet and opening for write-only fails with ENXIO (no such device or address) unless the other end has already been opened.
Under Linux, opening a FIFO for read and write will succeed both in blocking and nonblocking mode. POSIX leaves this behavior undefined. This can be used to open a FIFO for writing while there are no readers available. A process that uses both ends of the connection in order to communicate with itself should be very careful to avoid deadlocks.
When a process tries to write to a FIFO that is not opened for read on the other side, the process is sent a SIGPIPE signal.
FIFO special files can be created by mkfifo(3), and are indicated by ls -l with the file type 'p'.