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Gabija Fatenaite

Mar 17, 2020 5 min read

There’s a high chance you’ve seen “SOCKS proxies” as a default option on browsers and specific applications when going through your proxy settings. Mind you, default doesn’t necessarily stand as the best option, but there is some reasoning behind why SOCKS proxies are there. In this article, we will expand upon what is SOCKS5, why these proxies are different and how they can be utilized.

SOCKS5 proxies are often used for live calls or streaming websites. Such websites commonly use User Datagram Protocol (UDP) to send data, and for now, SOCKS5 are the main proxies which can transfer you through to a UDP session.

To put it simply, if you think that HTTP(S) traffic won’t be enough for you, and you need a proxy  for non-TCP protocols, then SOCKS5 proxies are the way to go. Take note that in almost all cases, HTTP(S) traffic won’t be blocked by a firewall, and you might not need a SOCKS5 proxy.

This is the short version of what is SOCKS5 and how it is used. However, in this article, we aim to answer what is SOCKS proxy and how to use SOCKS5 in greater detail, so in the end all of this will make a lot more sense.

SOCKS5 proxies are different from HTTP
What is SOCKS5?

Internet protocols

Let’s start from the beginning. The internet is mainly built on top of three protocols:

  1. Internet Control Messaging Protocol (ICMP)
  2. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
  3. User Datagram Protocol (UDP)

ICMP is a control protocol. This means that it was designed not to carry application data, but rather information about the status of the network itself. The best-known example of ICMP in practice is the ping utility. This protocol is not relevant for web scraping, so we won’t be getting into it at all in this article.

The protocols that are important in our case are TCP and UDP. 

Both TCP and UDP are transportation protocols meant to pass data. The difference between TCP and UDP is that TCP almost guarantees that all sent data will reach its destination in the correct order, as well as make other optimizations and error-checks. 

In UDPs case, it is a connectionless protocol. The data that reaches its destination can arrive without order or not arrive at all. Usually, this sort of connection is used in real-time communication where the data delivery speed is preferable over receiving the correct data.

So, where does a SOCKS proxy stand in all of this? Let’s first answer what SOCKS is:

What is SOCKS?

SOCKS is an internet protocol that allows one device to send data to another via a third device. In other words, this third device would be called a SOCKS server or a SOCKS proxy.

So what is a SOCKS proxy server and what does it do? It creates a connection to any other server that stands behind a firewall, and exchanges network packets between the client and the actual server.

What is a SOCKS5 proxy and how are they used?

SOCKS proxies are usually needed where a TCP connection is prohibited and data can be reached only through UDP. Sadly, in some cases, such a connection is generally used for illegal reasons, such as torrent streaming. Fortunately, using SOCKS5 proxies is not illegal as they are just a tool which allows for a specific way to connect to the internet.

What is SOCKS5?

SOCKS5 is the latest version of the SOCKS protocol. The difference between SOCKS5 and older versions of it is its improved security and the ability to support UDP traffic.

But this issue can be turned back around. Businesses can use the same SOCKS5 proxies for monitoring any copyright infringements made by illegal sources like the torrents, as mentioned earlier. This way, a company can ensure that any content streaming online is legal. 

There are many other possible ways to use SOCKS proxies. Tech enthusiasts often find new and innovative ways to use these proxies but most of these use cases are very niche. Therefore, we have outlined the most common use cases as for most users understanding the basics of what is SOCKS5 and SOCKS proxies will be more than enough.

Understanding the basics of what is SOCKS is enough
SOCKS5 proxies can be used for many different purposes

Are SOCKS proxies the best choice for a business?

The short answer: if you think HTTP(S) connections are not enough for your needs, then use a SOCKS5 proxy.

However, it depends on what kind of data you need to scrape. In most cases, an HTTP(S) proxy is more than enough for most scraping jobs (both Oxylabs datacenter and residential proxies support an HTTP(S) connection) unless you need to do something more traffic-intensive (like video streaming). 

Armed with the knowledge on what is a SOCKS5 proxy, making the decision whether to use them or HTTP(S) proxies should now be easier. To make the decision making even easier, we will point out the benefits of both HTTP(S) proxies and SOCKS proxies.

HTTP(S):

  • You’ll be able to manage more requests/second with HTTP(S)
  • Most scraping jobs can be handled on an HTTP(S) connection.
  • You require more advanced security and encryption while scraping.
  • With Oxylabs, you can rotate HTTP(S) proxies.

SOCKS: 

  • When more traffic-intensive scraping is required.
  • Suitable for monitoring any copyright infringements.

Conclusion

By this point, what is SOCKS5 should be reasonably clear. In its use for business, it all boils down to whether you need a UDP connection for more versatile or traffic-intensive data gathering. However, in most cases, an HTTP(S) proxy is not only enough but could be a better decision for your business.

If you’re not sure whether the targets you want to scrape require an HTTP(S) or UDP connection, or where to begin, you can check our blog post on how to plan a web scraping project.

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About Gabija Fatenaite

Gabija Fatenaite is a Senior Content Manager at Oxylabs. Having grown up on video games and the internet, she grew to find the tech side of things more and more interesting over the years. So if you ever find yourself wanting to learn more about proxies (or video games), feel free to contact her - she’ll be more than happy to answer you.

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