Choosing between a SOCKS vs HTTP proxy requires a thorough understanding of how each type works and what configurations they convey. Only then you will be able to easily juggle between different types of proxies, as well as to find the best option for your specific use case.
In this article, we will outline what HTTP and SOCKS proxies are, how they operate, and what benefits each brings. Also, we will compare both proxy types and dwell on the differences between SOCKS proxies vs HTTP proxies.
What are HTTP proxies?
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol and is the foundation of any data exchange across the internet. It is a connectionless text-based protocol that allows fetching resources, like HyperText Markup Language (HTML) or other scripting languages, like CSS, and transmitting from web servers to web browsers.
HTTP is generally called a client-server protocol since it helps clients (usually web browsers) send requests to servers for data elements, such as pages, images, or videos. After the request is served, the connection between the web browser and server ends. Therefore, each request requires a new connection.
As the name implies, an HTTP proxy is specifically made for HTTP connections and operates via the same client-server model. Like any other regular proxy, it also acts as an intermediary: HTTP proxy stands between a server and a client (web browser) by transmitting requests and delivering the resource back to the client in HTTP format.
What are SOCKS proxies?
SOCKS is another internet protocol. It stands for SOCKet Secure and is commonly used for traffic-intensive tasks, like content streaming or P2P sharing. SOCKS uses a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection that is designed to send and receive data packets across the internet, as well as to guarantee successful delivery of resources over networks.
When using SOCKS proxies, the internet traffic is routed through a proxy server via TCP connection on behalf of a client. Just like most other proxy types, SOCKS proxies hide the client’s IP address and serve when bypassing geo-restrictions.
Unlike HTTP, SOCKS cannot interpret web data. However, they are mostly used to facilitate communication with websites that have a firewall and limit regular client access. Most importantly, SOCKS proxies work on any kind of network protocol on any port.
What is SOCKS5?
SOCKS5 is the latest edition of the SOCKS protocol. Compared with the older versions, SOCKS5 supports TCP or UDP connections and provides enhanced security.
Reasons to use SOCKS and HTTP proxies
Now we are going to outline why you should use SOCKS or HTTP proxies.
HTTP proxies are a reliable choice for many businesses that need to cover numerous goals and use cases. The HTTP proxy’s server configuration can be set according to your needs. Here are the main pros of using an HTTP proxy:
- Clean data. While operating as a middleman between a client and its destination, an HTTP proxy has the ability to understand data. This means that an HTTP proxy can be set up for content filtering or caching web data. Therefore, HTTP proxies help extract relevant data from websites and avoid collecting what is unnecessary.
- Advanced security. HTTP proxies add an additional layer of security while detecting and denying suspicious data packets, such as spyware or malformed content, trying to enter your server.
- Increase your scraper’s success rate. HTTP proxies are used for configuring HTTP request headers. This practice can help you to facilitate access to restricted targets and lower your chances of getting blocked. If you are interested in how to enhance your web scraping operations, read our article on “5 Key TTP Headers for Web Scraping.”
Since SOCKS proxies are compatible with any network protocol or port, they can be used in multiple applications and in a wealth of scenarios. We have listed several reasons why SOCKS proxies can be beneficial:
- Firewalls. As we already mentioned, SOCKS proxies can be an excellent choice for cases that involve firewalls. Whenever clients are behind a firewall and want to initiate arbitrary TCP connections to servers that are outside, they might not be able to. This is where SOCKS proxies come to play and make it happen. (In fact, this also applies to HTTP proxies – the firewall may restrict a client’s access to certain websites via an HTTP connection.)
- Compatibility with any network protocol or port. Unlike an HTTP proxy that establishes only an HTTP connection, SOCKS can go through TCP. Also, SOCKS5 proxies can use User Datagram Protocol (UDP) connection to deliver datagrams over a network, ensuring efficient performance.
SOCKS vs HTTP proxies: the main differences
The final decision on which proxy type you should choose depends mostly on your goals and needs. Equipped with the knowledge of both proxy types, we can now highlight their main differences.
Ensuring privacy and security play an important role in the whole purpose of using a proxy. Both HTTP and SOCKS proxies act as mediators between a client and a server in order to secure your online activities and make them harder to be traced.
HTTP proxies are widely used for email protection and cybersecurity projects due to their ability to understand data packets and filter them according to specific needs. This also can be useful for web scraping and data mining activities.
Although HTTP proxies can only handle HTTP(S) traffic, their configurations can be set according to numerous use cases. Since HTTP proxies can interpret network traffic between a client and a web server, they can spot repeated requests or cache responses.
As for SOCKS proxies, they are not liable to specific network protocols, thus can be more flexible to employ. As they are unable to understand network traffic, they are perfect for accessing connections behind the firewall.
As with any other proxy type, we generally advise on choosing private proxies if speed measures are of great importance to you.
Due to their ability to filter data or cache web pages, HTTP proxies can fuel your scraping operations, as well as enhance load speeds and performance. As a result, these proxies allow you to manage more requests per second.
On the other hand, SOCKS proxies are widely appreciated for their speed as they are easier to apply: this makes them a right fit for downloading, transferring, and uploading web data online.
There is no question of rivalry since selecting between SOCKS vs HTTP proxies depends on your use case and needs. SOCKS may be a reliable choice for projects that involve downloading and transferring large amounts of data. On the other hand, HTTP proxies may be ideal for filtering data for security or performance reasons. If in doubt, if your target is HTTP(S), HTTP proxies should work just fine for you. Oxylabs’ HTTP proxies are considered as one of the most stable proxy types on the market.
If you want to learn more about web scraping, read our step-by-step Python Web Scraping Tutorial. And if you consider which solution meets your business needs, do not hesitate and contact our sales team for further advice and assistance.