What Is the Difference Between SOCKS vs HTTP Proxy and Which One to Choose?
Gleb Lepeshkin
Gleb Lepeshkin Published: 2022/03/21

In our articles we often try to give you a better view at how proxies operate by juxtaposing various proxies by their types. These articles serve two purposes: educational and economical. We want you to be able to make a more thoughtful choice when selecting one type of proxies versus another, when you decide to apply proxies for your online operations.

Of course, this choice is somewhat more complex when it comes to selecting proxies by the types of protocol they are running on. And here you can always rely on the help from our account managers that will guide you through this process of selecting just the right private proxies for your use case.

Now, the two most common types of proxies by operating protocols are SOCKS and HTTP proxies. So in this post, we will give you an in-depth comparison of the differences between http proxy vs socks proxy, so that you will be more up-to-date on how the technology functions in each case. Hope, it will be exciting to learn more about proxy protocols to make better decisions on what proxies to buy in the future.

What Are HTTP Proxies?

As mentioned above, HTTP and SOCKS proxies are two of the most common types of proxies by protocols. So, before you decide on which is better, SOCKS or HTTP proxy in your particular case, I want you to reveal the key attributes of these two types of proxies for yourself by carefully studying what stands behind each type.

Now, HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. And even after the appearance of the latest SOCKS5 proxies, HTTP(S) proxies remain one of the most popular proxies in the industry. 

HTTP proxies are used with browsers and other programs relying on TCP protocol. The standard ports (80, 8080, 3128) are engaged for such data transfer. The sequence of operation is also straightforward: the browser sends requests to the proxy server and the proxy is requesting a particular resource (URL address). After the data is received by the proxy it gets sent back to the browser on your computer. 

Both HTTP and HTTPS proxies can be used with any TCP protocol using the special CONNECT mode, which establishes a tunnel to a specified host and port. The only difference is that data between the user and a proxy is encrypted in HTTPS proxies, while in HTTP it is not. HTTPS stands for HTTP over SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), and when referred to proxies it means that the connection will be made secure, just like in the case of transferring financially sensitive information (credit card data, CVV/CVC etc.). 

What are SOCKS proxies?

The name of the underlying protocol comes from Socket Secure. This type of proxy was originally introduced to bypass firewalls. The applications running this proxy utilize ports 1080 and 1081. In terms of version evolution, SOCKS later became SOCKS4 and now, the latest SOCKS5 version. 

So, what is the key difference between SOCKS4/4a and SOCKS5 network protocols? SOCKS4 supports only TCP connections, and only to a provided IP address. SOCKS4 was later extended to 4a, which supports sending in a domain name, instead of IP to resolve it remotely. SOCKS4/4a originally used ident protocol for authorization, though modern implementations of SOCKS4/4a can use the provided ident string in the handshake for credential authorization. SOCKS5 supports both TCP and UDP connections to IPv6 or IPv4 proxy, and hostname addresses and credentials authorization.

Now, let’s consider the areas of application of SOCKS proxies. Due to its protocol specifics and nature SOCKS proxies are used in two major areas:

– For bypassing blacklisted IPs and firewalls, and 

– For increasing speed and performance. SOCKS proxies do not change the headers of data packets unlike other types of proxies and SOCKS protocol is binary, making it a slight edge against HTTP protocol, which is text-based, making SOCKS proxies faster in data handling.

So, the bottomline is that SOCKS proxies provide you with rather good security of connection and great performance for a range of missions.

What Is the Difference Between SOCKS vs HTTP Proxy and Which One to Choose?

Key Differences Between SOCKS Proxy And HTTP Proxy   

In order to start considering the key difference between HTTP proxy and SOCKS, below we will compare HTTP vs SOCKS proxies in various categories from functionality and performance to compatibility and security. We will go through all of these categories and reveal the advantages of one type of proxies versus the other.

1. Security 

All proxies are meant to serve the purpose of granting us anonymity. But the level of security and privacy that they offer vary from one type to another. In this section we will put SOCKS vs HTTP proxy to see how they compare in terms of security.

Both HTTP and SOCKS proxies don’t use any kind of encryption between user and the proxy, however, nowadays most of the Internet sites use HTTPS protocol, and both SOCKS and HTTP proxies, while working with this protocol, transmit unmodified encrypted data between user and the target host.

It is possible for the proxies to decipher the data on the fly but not without user noticing. HTTP proxies are slightly less secure in that regard, because they can be used to fetch data from an HTTPS site and return it as plain text to the user. This mode is used by some programming libraries but most use the CONNECT mode that establishes a tunnel to the target host (same as SOCKS) and transmits data without modification.

2. Compatibility 

Both HTTP and SOCKS proxies are good for various use cases. So, if you are choosing between a SOCKS vs HTTP proxy from the standpoint of compatibility you need to remember that proxies are often used with third party devices, applications, tools, and bots. Below we will compare the use cases of SOCKS proxy vs HTTP proxy when it comes to their compatibility.

HTTP proxies demonstrate the maximum compatibility with almost all tools and applications out there. So, if you have a proxy-related business task or you use proxies for security reasons, you can be sure that with an HTTP proxy you will be on the safe side.

With SOCKS proxies the compatibility is limited. Not all third-party tools support this type of proxy. That means that you will need to check a tool for SOCKS compatibility before starting your scraping or parsing.

3. Speed and Performance 

When we are talking about proxies, speed and performance become a critically important factor. You want to be able to establish a fast connection without jeopardizing the quality of communication. In this section we will define the speed difference between SOCKS proxy and HTTP proxy.

You might have heard already about public HTTP proxies. These are free to use proxies that are normally overloaded. Plus they are not safe to use from the security perspective. There is a very high chance that your private info or data might get stolen or intercepted. Of course, this type of HTTP proxy is very slow and unreliable in terms of performance.

Now, private (or sometimes called ‘elite’) HTTP proxies demonstrate great speeds and performance across the board. You can successfully use private proxies for data scraping and other online missions. All in all, they have been optimized by the providers to have the best connection parameters to please your needs.

4. Functionality 

In terms of functionality there are some key differences between HTTP and SOCKS proxies that you might want to consider before ordering proxies.

Normally HTTP(S) proxies are used for retrieving information data through Internet browsers. These proxies are versatile and can be configured to be used for various purposes.

Since SOCKS proxies do not use the HTTP protocols, they are commonly used for more general purposes like data streaming and P2P file sharing. And, for the same reason they do not interfere with the traffic by interpreting or analyzing it.

Choosing Between a SOCKS vs HTTP Proxy

When you are about to choose HTTP or SOCKS proxy for your particular case, please remember the following key differences between the two. SOCKS proxies can be your ideal choice when your online activities involve transferring large amounts of data or downloading heavy files. And HTTP proxies will be great when your tool or bot needs to analyze the incoming information from your target.

In the end, choosing between SOCKS and HTTP proxies should be mainly based on which proxy type your software/programming language supports.

Consider PrivateProxy Your Trusted Partner

For over a decade PrivateProxy has been a reliable provider of HTTP and SOCKS proxies to our users worldwide. When our clients request our help with regards to supplying them with the best proxy solutions we are ready to advise them on SOCKS vs HTTP proxy differences and suggest the optimum proxy set for their particular needs. 

So, if you decide to buy HTTP proxies or SOCKS proxies from us (read on about What is a SOCKS5 proxy here), our qualified account managers will guide you through the intricacies of proxy selection and setup process. 

Currently, our SOCKS5 proxies can support UDP proxying, which we provide on request. These IPs can be successfully used as games proxies for network gaming servers that use UDP instead of TCP protocol. 

We have a vast experience in providing just the right proxies for your online missions and will gladly share this expertise with you.

Final Thoughts

In this article we gave an in depth description of SOCKS and HTTP(S) proxies from the technological and business perspective. If you want to learn more about datacenter vs residential proxies, follow this link to learn more. Now you should have a better understanding on what proxies to use and how they will perform in your particular case. So, if you are still asking yourself: “Which is better, SOCKS or HTTP proxy for me?” or “What is the main difference between a static proxy vs rotating proxy?” We suggest approaching our tech support to find the answer. Like we said before, proxy is our business and we will provide just the right solution for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our Documentation if you have questions that are not listed below.

  • Which is better, SOCKS or HTTP proxy for me?

    This entirely depends on your use case. If your task is closely related with downloading huge files, you will likely benefit from TCP-based SOCKS proxies. And if you want to engage in scraping and you need good compatibility of your proxies with all types of tools, apps and bots, then your clear choice is an HTTP proxy. If you are still in doubt, we will gladly guide you through the process of selecting proxies. Just approach our account manager through the intercom chat box below.

  • Should I buy both HTTP and SOCKS proxies from a single provider?

    Of course, it is up to you to decide which proxies you will buy from which sources. But if you are happy with your current provider of HTTP proxies, most likely you will not even notice any difference when you buy a set of SOCKS proxies from him. In most cases, you will have the same dashboard to access your proxies, and you will even be offered such proxies for trial before you commit your funds. Once you have established a good business partnership with your provider, it is absolutely justified to purchase all kinds of proxy-related solutions from a single source.

  • What are the key differences between an HTTP proxy vs SOCKS proxy?

    The key differences between HTTP and SOCKS proxies come from the technical specifics behind such proxies. HTTP proxy is more flexible than SOCKS when it comes to using proxies inside tools and bots, and SOCKS proxies are faster due to the fact that these proxies do not interpret or analyze the traffic coming through them. All of that is happening due to the differences of protocols behind the proxies: SOCKS are running on TCP and HTTP proxies use HTTP protocol (HTTPS proxies also feature higher security by applying SSL protocol).

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