There are multiple types of proxies, each with certain unique characteristics that make it ideal for a particular use case. These unique attributes give rise to the differences between various proxy types. This SOCKS vs. HTTP proxy comparison article will highlight the differences between SOCKS proxies and HTTP proxies.
What is a SOCKS Proxy?
A SOCKS proxy is an intermediary that uses the Socket Secure (SOCKS) network protocol to route internet traffic through a firewall. It creates a secure Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connection between itself, the user’s computer, and the server. This TCP connection serves as the channel through which a web client (browser) can make a request. (TCP is a communication standard that dictates how computers and servers send data packets to each other.)
To ease communication, especially in the newer version of SOCKS proxies – the SOCKS5 proxy – TCP works in conjunction with the User Datagram Protocol (UDP). UDP is a communications protocol that helps distinguish user requests by providing port numbers. However, it is worth pointing out that not all versions of the SOCKS protocol support UDP connections; only the SOCKS5 proxies support it.
Ordinarily, the proxy establishes a TCP connection that transmits requests, such as HTTP, HTTPS, SMTP, POP3, and FTP. In SOCKS5 proxies, these requests are sent via UDP, while in the older version of this proxy type, the requests are sent via the TCP connection. The proxy then returns an associated UDP port number, available on the SOCKS5 proxy, to the web client. The proxy, which can use the port number to differentiate the web requests, then forwards the data packages to the targeted server. It also receives the data packages from the server and forwards them to the client.
Uses of a SOCKS Proxy
A SOCKS proxy is used in the following cases:
- Music, video, or data streaming
- Peer-to-peer downloading or uploading
- File sharing
- Load balancing
- Bypassing firewalls
- Bypass geo-restrictions by hiding IP address
- Sending emails
- Web browsing
What is an HTTP Proxy
HTTP, an acronym for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is a protocol used to fetch HTML data from a web server. It helps transfer information between a computer and a server, provided they are interconnected in what is referred to as a network. In doing so, it enables browsers, which are designed to send HTTP requests, to load web pages. The need for improved security gave rise to a more secure version of HTTP called HTTPS. This version encrypts data.
Against this backdrop, an HTTP proxy is specifically designed to handle HTTP requests. Similarly, an HTTPS proxy handles HTTPS requests. The HTTP/HTTPS proxy acts as an intermediary between a client and a server. When the HTTP proxy is integrated into a browser, it is known as a client-side HTTP proxy. It transmits HTTP requests from the browser to the server and receives responses on behalf of the browser. In other cases, a web server is configured to have an HTTP proxy. In such an instance, the proxy is referred to as a server-side HTTP proxy. It receives HTTP requests on behalf of the server.
Uses of an HTTP Proxy
HTTP/HTTPS proxies are used for the following:
- Both client-side and server-side HTTP proxies help filter content
- Server-side proxies cache frequently accessed files, saving bandwidth and reducing the load on the server
- Email protection by scanning emails to identify phishing links
- Load balancing
SOCKS vs. HTTP Proxy Differences
There are several differences between SOCKS and HTTP proxies, which are summarized in the table below:
|SOCKS Proxies||HTTP Proxies|
|They can handle multiple types of requests and protocols, including HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SMTP, and POP3||They can only handle HTTP and HTTPS requests|
|SOCKS proxies rely on TCP and UDP||HTTP proxies ignore TCP|
|SOCKS proxies can bypass firewalls||HTTP proxies cannot bypass firewalls|
|They handle much higher internet traffic volume (because they support different types of requests and protocols)||They handle less volume of traffic (because they only support one type of request and protocol)|
|A SOCKS proxy is slower when it handles higher volumes of traffic||An HTTP proxy is faster (because it handles less traffic volume)|
|SOCKS proxies do not interpret web traffic and are, therefore, less secure||HTTP proxies interpret web traffic and are, therefore, used in cybersecurity and email protection|
|A SOCKS proxy can be deployed more flexibly because it can use different types of protocols||An HTTP proxy is inflexible as it can only use one protocol (HTTP or HTTPS)|
|SOCKS proxies are extremely fast||HTTP proxies deliver decent load speeds|
SOCKS proxies and HTTP proxies differ in several ways. For instance, while SOCKS proxies deliver great speeds and can handle more traffic, attributes that make them suitable for peer-to-peer downloading, HTTP proxies only deliver decent speeds and handle less traffic volume. Additionally, SOCKS proxies cannot interpret web traffic, while HTTP proxies can. So, if you are wondering which proxy type to choose between these two, it is important to consider their unique attributes.
For more information on SOCKS vs. HTTP proxies, see this new article.