According to the docker-compose reference link, let’s see the definition of “ports” and “expose“.

1)  “ports” in docker-compose

Expose ports. Either specify both ports (HOST:CONTAINER), or just the container port (a random host port will be chosen).

  • Ports mentioned in docker-compose.yml will be shared among different services started by the docker-compose.
  • Ports will be exposed to the host machine to a random port or a given port.

My docker-compose.yml
looks like:

mysql:
  image: mysql:5.7
  ports:
    - "3306"

If I do docker-compose ps, it will look like:

  Name                     Command               State            Ports
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  mysql_1       docker-entrypoint.sh mysqld      Up      0.0.0.0:32769->3306/tcp

2) expose in docker-compose

Expose ports without publishing them to the host machine – they’ll only be accessible to linked services. Only the internal port can be specified.

Ports are not exposed to host machines, only exposed to other services.

mysql:
  image: mysql:5.7
  expose:
    - "3306"

If I do docker-compose ps, it will look like:

  Name                  Command             State    Ports
---------------------------------------------------------------