AIMultiple ResearchAIMultiple Research

The Ultimate Guide to HTTP vs. SOCKS Proxies in 2024

HTTP and SOCKS are the two main internet protocols that proxy servers use to receive and forward client connection requests. Both provide anonymity while browsing and allow users to access geo-restricted content regardless of location. However, there are some situations where you should not use an HTTP or SOCKS proxy. You must first understand its benefits and limitations to make the most of an HTTP or SOCKS proxy. 

This article explains what HTTP and SOCKS proxies are, how they work, differences between SOCKS proxies and HTTP proxies, when you should use them, and their advantages.

Top proxy services supporting HTTP & SOCKS protocols

Residential proxies are capable of supporting both HTTP and SOCKS protocols. Our assessment of proxy providers is focused on their residential proxy solutions, evaluating their pricing in this specific area.

Proxy providerPricing (Starts From) Traffic/GBFree trial PAYG
Bright Data$1017-day
Smartproxy$1423-day 100MB trial for $1
IPRoyal$7124-hour refund

Table notes:

Nimble provides residential proxies, includes built-in solutions proxy for unblocking, and a web scraping API. Their residential proxy network can be integrated with your own scraping tools or used in conjunction with other scraping APIs.

Explaining the terms

What is HTTP?

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is an application layer protocol that transfers information, such as text, images, audio, video, etc., between clients and web servers.

What is an HTTP proxy?

An HTTP proxy is an intermediary that receives and forwards HTTP requests between client machines and web servers. 

What is a SOCKS proxy?

SOCKS, which stands for Socket Secure, is an internet protocol that operates at OSI Layer 5 1. It monitors and manages network traffic through a proxy server between the client and the server.

A SOCKS proxy server uses TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) connections to accept client connection requests. SOCKS proxies, as opposed to HTTP proxies, receive and forward HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, and FTP requests. HTTP proxies are used to transfer HTTP or HTTPS information between a client and server. 

What’s the difference between SOCKS4 and SOCKS5?

SOCKS proxies are classified into two types: SOCKS4 and SOCKS5. SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 are network protocols that handle incoming and outgoing traffic between clients and servers. Even though SOCKS proxies use these two protocols, there are some differences between SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 proxy comparison chart

SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 are the two types of protocols used by SOCKS proxies. They differ from each other in terms of connection types, SSH tunneling, and authentication. The chart compares the SOCKS4 and SOCKS5.

Explained features:

  • TCP connection and UDP connection: TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) are communication protocols that allow data to be transmitted between a user and a web server. SOCKS4 only supports TCP connections, whereas SOCKS5 supports both UDP and TCP. 
  • Authentication: Unlike SOCKS4, SOCKS5 proxies provide several authentication methods to verify user identity while connecting to a proxy server, including null authentication, username/password authentication, and GSS-API authentication.
  • SSH tunneling: Another key difference between SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 is that a SOCKS5 proxy uses secure shell (SSH) encrypted tunneling to secure data transmissions. 

How do they work? 

SOCKS proxy

SOCKS proxies use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to transfer data between a client and a web server. Unlike the UDP protocol, which is used by HTTP proxies, TCP establishes a connection between the client and the server to ensure that data reaches its intended destination. After establishing the connection, the SOCKS proxy transmits incoming and outgoing data between the client and the destination. This slows down data transmission in the TCP protocol but ensures that data is delivered to the correct destination.

SOCKS proxies, as previously stated, use two SOCKS protocol types: SOCKS4 and SOCKS5. SOCKS5 is an enhanced version of SOCKS4. Unlike SOCKS4, SOCKS5 encrypts data in a  network traffic using the SSH (Secure Shell) encrypted tunneling method (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Representation of how SOCKS proxies work

SOCKS5 proxies stand between a client and web server to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic between them. SOCKS5 proxies, unlike HTTP proxies, use SSH encrypted tunneling to receive client connection requests.

HTTP proxy

An HTTP proxy communicates with web servers on behalf of the client who makes a connection request to servers by hiding their IP addresses. It monitors and transfers both incoming and outgoing HTTP data. We explained how HTTP proxies work in six steps with a high-level diagram (see Figure 3):

  1. A client sends an HTTP request to the targeted website. 
  2. HTTP proxy creates a tunnel between client and destination web server. 
  3. HTTP proxy receives the request and assigns the client a different IP address to hide their real IP address. 
  4. HTTP proxy makes the connection on behalf of the client. 
  5. Once the website accepts the connection request, HTTP proxy accesses the website and forwards the requested HTTP information to the client.

Figure 3: Diagram of how HTTP proxies work.

HTTP proxies receive HTTP connection requests from clients and forward them to the destination web server.

It is nearly impossible to scrape a large amount of data without being blocked. Most e-commerce websites employ various anti-scraping techniques such as CAPTCHAs to prevent their websites from being scraped.

Bright Data’s Super Proxy Servers enable individuals and businesses to scrape massive amounts of data in record time by eliminating the risk of being detected and blocked by websites.

To explore how to tackle web scraping challenges, check out our in-depth guide on web scraping best practices.

Bright Data's Super Proxy Servers enable individuals and businesses to scrape massive amounts of data super fast.
Source: Bright Data

Advantages of HTTP/HTTPS proxies

  • HTTP(s) proxies provide an extra layer of security between the client and the server. Because data is encrypted with HTTPs proxies, no one can access incoming and outgoing network traffic (see Figure 4). Only the client, proxy server, and the destination web server can see what data is sent over the network.

Figure 4: Through network traffic, HTTPS proxy encrypts incoming and outgoing data.

Unlike HTTP, HTTPS proxies add an additional layer of security between the client and the server. HTTPS proxies encrypt and decrypt data transmitted between a client and a web server.
  • HTTP proxies can interpret data in network traffic. HTTP proxies filter or restrict specific web content to protect the user’s machine from malicious activity. This is especially useful in web scraping projects. It is challenging to separate relevant and irrelevant data while scraping a large amount of data from various websites. After downloading the scraped data, you must remove any incorrect, irrelevant, or duplicate data from your dataset. HTTP proxies help businesses collect relevant data and avoid data that does not make sense.

Smartproxy residential proxies can interpret and work with HTTP traffic. The proxy provider offers 55M+ rotating residential proxies provided by internet service providers (ISPs), making them suitable for high-volume tasks like web scraping.

Advantages of SOCKS proxies

  • A SOCKS5 proxy is more secure than an HTTP proxy because it supports multiple authentication methods to prevent unauthorized clients from connecting to the server.
  • Unlike SOCKS proxies, HTTPS proxies only use the HTTP protocol. While HTTP proxy servers can only process HTTP and HTTPs traffic between the client and the web server, SOCKS proxies can process a variety of protocols, including HTTP, FTP, and SMTP.
  • A SOCKS5 proxy is faster than an HTTP proxy since it supports UDP connections. UDP is faster and more efficient than TCP.

Oxylabs’ SOCKS5 proxies are used for traffic-intensive scraping, bypassing geographic restrictions, and avoiding IP bans or restrictions. SOCKS5 proxies support TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) protocols, ensuring the successful delivery of user data to the destination site.

Source: Oxylabs

HTTP vs SOCKS proxies: the main differences

Figure 5: The chart compares HTTP and SOCKS proxy servers in terms of different features.

Although both HTTP and SOCKS proxies hide clients' IP addresses, there are significant differences in terms of security, performance, and speed.

Which is better for you: HTTP or SOCKS proxies?

We cannot say that HTTP(s) proxy servers are superior to SOCKS proxies or that SOCKS proxies are superior to HTTP(s). Depending on your use case, both HTTP(s) and SOCKS proxy servers bring their benefits. The important thing is to understand your needs and the outcomes you want. 

For example, if you aim to transfer data using the HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, or FTP protocols, HTTP proxies are not the best option. However, if you need to extract a large amount of data and avoid collecting irrelevant information to save time, you should consider using an HTTP proxy server, which filters content. 

Further Reading

If you want to learn more about web scraping and how it can benefit your business, feel free to read our articles on the topic:

Also, feel free to check our sortable/filterable list of proxy service /server.

If you want to learn more about HTTP and SOCKS proxies you can reach us:

Find the Right Vendors
Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
Follow on

Gulbahar Karatas
Gülbahar is an AIMultiple industry analyst focused on web data collections and applications of web data.

Next to Read


Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.