SOCKS vs. HTTP Proxy: Detailed Comparison

SOCKS vs. HTTP Proxy Detailed Comparison

Proxies are essential parts of the toolkit of a modern internet user. It is one of those tools you use to ensure security and anonymity in this data-centric digital landscape. However, the world of proxies can be confusing and technical, especially if you are new to it. There are different types of proxies and a lot of terminologies.

For example, you will often be asked to choose between a SOCKS Vs. HTTP proxy. To make a good choice, you must understand both proxy types and the use case.

Learning about the differences among proxy types allows you to understand better how they work and how to use them effectively. You are in the right place.

In a prior article, we gave a detailed explanation of residential vs. Datacenter proxies. In this article, we will explore the meaning and differences between HTTP proxy and SOCKS proxy.

Before we get started, let’s talk a little bit about why we use proxies.

 

Why do we use proxies?

Why do we use proxies

We know that the internet is a network of computers connected across the globe. We also know that proxies are computers that serve as an intermediary between you and the internet.

When you, the user, access the internet via a computer and do a Google search, you get results displayed to you in less than a second. This happens because the internet comprises several protocols that make it easy to communicate from both ends, you as the user and the internet as the server.

These protocols enable data exchange between you and internet servers. One of these protocols is IP addresses. Your IP address identifies you and aids in data exchange. You should be curious about what your IP address says about you. It tells you just enough to get the job and jeopardize your privacy.

Therefore, these data privacy issues are one big reason proxy servers are used. Proxy servers are an excellent way to facilitate access to any website or page via your browser and yet keep your data anonymous and secure.

There are also technical reasons. The way proxies work makes them excellent tools for bypassing content filters, firewalls, and geolocation restrictions. The servers are independent of the users. Therefore, location-based restrictions are ineffective if a user uses proxies.

Now that we have a general sense of why we use a proxy let’s discuss a specific type of proxy — SOCKS proxies.

 

What Are SOCKS Proxies?

What Are Socks Proxies

SOCKS Proxies operate on a network communication protocol called SOCKS, which stands for Socket Secure. This protocol allows a user behind a firewall to establish a Transmission Control Protocol with a destination server. In essence, it facilitates the exchange of data packets between a server and client (the user).

SOCKS is designed to route any type of traffic generated by any protocol or program. Thus, SOCKS is quite versatile, making it the go-to solution for processes like streaming and peer-to-peer sharing.

SOCKS is an advanced data transfer protocol and is specially tailored for programs that don’t support the use of proxy directly. These are programs that utilize standard ports 1080 and 1081.

The SOCKS protocol is designed in a way that its proxy server does not read the data packets exchanged between the user and server. It doesn’t try to understand the data; it just sends and receives. This is a strength and also the Achilles heel of SOCKS proxies.

SOCKS proxy has evolved from the original SOCKS to SOCKS4 and the most recent advancement, SOCKS5.

 

What is SOCKS5?

The SOCKS5 is a more advanced and secure version of the SOCKS protocol. It improves and fixes all shortcomings of the SOCKS4. We can simply say that SOCKS5 is a completely anonymous proxy.

 

SOCKS5 vs. SOCKS4

The main differences between the two versions of the SOCKS protocol —SOCKS4 and SOCKS5— are as follows.

  • SOCKS5 can use several authentication methods, while SOCKS4 doesn’t support authentication at all.
  • SOCKS5 supports UDP proxies: SOCKS4 doesn’t.
  • SOCKS5 offers better security thanks to routing traffic via a complete TCP connection and SSH tunneling methodology.
  • It also supports remote DNS-query while SOCK4 does not.

The terms “SOCKS” and “SOCKS5” are commonly used interchangeably. However, because the SOCKS5 version is more popular and feature-complete, it’s common to omit the “5” entirely when discussing SOCKS.

Our next stop is HTTP proxies.

 

What Are HTTP Proxies?

What Are HTTP Proxies

A large part of the internet, including the one you use, operates using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTP Proxies operate on this popular protocol, so they are used more than SOCKS proxies. They also cache or filter content and collect data via web browsers.

An HTTP proxy is designed to do one thing exceptionally well; transmit HTTP data. Most free proxy services you see on proxy lists across the internet are HTTP proxies. They’re easy to set up and don’t require authentication. However, you must know that free proxies have their risks and limits.

An HTTP proxy, like a SOCKS proxy, can be used to make TCP connections when the clients are within a firewall. However, unlike SOCKS proxies, HTTP proxies understand and interpret the network traffic between the client and server (HTTP protocol).

HTTP Proxies are also available in an encrypted form (known as HTTPS), allowing HTTP data to be transferred securely using light SSL encryption. This can help the proxy tunnel through a firewall or prevent third-party monitoring (e.g., an internet service provider).

Differences Between SOCKS and HTTP Proxies

SOCKS VS HTTP Proxies

One significant difference between both types of proxy is that SOCKS proxies are general-purpose proxies while HTTP proxies are specific-use proxies. Other ways in which they differ from each other are discussed below.

Proxy level and security

HTTP is considered a higher-level proxy since it operates at higher internet security levels. It adds a layer of security between the client and the server and can detect and deny suspicious data packets or spyware.

An HTTP proxy can understand data transferred between the client and server, irrespective of the data sensitivity. SOCKS doesn’t interpret network traffic but is used to access connections outside a firewall that limits the client’s access. HTTP proxy can be used to handle only HTTP traffic smartly. It recognizes repeated requests and caches the replies to improve performance.

SOCKS proxies use the lower-level protocol, TCP, and are susceptible to Man-in-the-Middle attacks. However, SOCK5 guarantees security by incorporating an SSH encrypted tunneling mechanism. An SSH tunnel ensures data privacy by restricting the proxy to read the data passed between the server and client.

An anti-detection browser like Incogniton provides the most security by masking other parameters besides the IP address. It allows users to bypass any IP bans or restrictions.

 

Speed

SOCKS proxy has faster operations compared to HTTP because it has less code to run for performing computations. In addition, the UDP protocol of the latest SOCKS5 provides even faster processing since it does not waste time converting data packets into a stream of fixed packets and does not wait for all packets to reach from the client or server to the other end.

The speed of an HTTP proxy depends on whether it is a public, shared, or private proxy. Public proxies are usually overloaded and hence are slower; shared proxies are faster than public proxies because they have fewer users, and lastly, private proxies provide the maximum speed.

Compatibility

HTTP can only work using the HTTP protocol to retrieve information via a web browser. SOCKS can operate in varied environments and handle different kinds of traffic.

The HTTP proxy server supports only port 80 connections (HTTP) and port 443 connections (HTTPS SSL). On the other hand, ports 1080 and 1081 are typically reserved for SOCKS proxy servers, but, unlike HTTP/HTTPS proxies, they can use any other port.

HTTP proxy servers can connect with various third-party tools as compared to SOCKS. SOCKS proxy servers connect with a limited pool of tools. Most web browsers can be configured to exchange data with a web server through a SOCKS server. To make such connections, the client must first be SOCKS-enabled to establish a connection with the SOCKS server and specify the host.

Operability

HTTP proxies have a disadvantage in that they work only on one protocol, although it has numerous use cases. They detect and process client and server network traffic and accordingly detect inconsistencies in cache requests and responses.

SOCKS proxies, on the other hand, are simpler to use. They work with many protocols and usage options, so they can be more flexible. Their edge over other kinds of proxies is that they will be able to grant access to the connections even behind a firewall.

Which One Is Right For You?

When configuring an internet proxy, you may notice a plethora of options. For example, when configuring a proxy server in a web browser, you can select between a standard HTTP(S) proxy and a SOCKS5 proxy.

Apart from the standard functionality of adding a security layer and providing anonymity, choosing between SOCKS and an HTTP proxy is primarily determined by what you require from a proxy. If you use a firewall, SOCKS connections are your best bet to break through the restriction without compromising security.

When choosing a proxy, you should consider the following factors:

  • Type Of Data: You can only use HTTP if your data is also HTTP. Thus, you will encounter problems if you want to transfer information over UDP, POP3, or other non-HTTP networks. However, you can access any kind of data with a SOCKS connection.
  • Speed Requirements: HTTP proxies provide fast load times and are superior for managing data transfers based on time rather than quantity. SOCKS proxies are quick and straightforward to use. This is because SOCKS is a generic proxy and does not require any code.
  • Cost: Many HTTP/HTTPS proxies are available for free. You already know that there is danger involved with using free proxies because you do not know who is running the service. You could be exposed to viruses or malware, and some servers maintain a user log that records your usage.
  • Security and Privacy: SOCKS proxies do not use logs, so you remain completely anonymous, and your usage is not tracked. Because there is no record, there can be no accidental discovery of whatever you do. This cannot be said of HTTP proxies.
  • Compatibility: SOCKS allows you to connect to any network quickly and easily because it supports both TCP and UDP transfer protocols. Although HTTP proxies are limited to HTTP data, they are compatible with a wide range of popular tools.

Regarding SOCKS vs. HTTP proxies, the superior argument depends on your purpose. These two are good and provide good layers of security and anonymity, essentially what a proxy does. However, if you are considering other online uses, take the time to choose what suits you best.

You should now be familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of each protocol. Take advantage of this knowledge to get the most out of your chosen proxy.

FAQ

What is the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)?

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a network protocol that defines how to establish and maintain a network conversation in which applications can exchange data. TCP interacts with the Internet Protocol (IP), which defines how computers send data packets to one another.

 

What’s better: SOCKS5 or a VPN?

Proxies and VPNs serve different purposes. A direct comparison like VPN vs. SOCKS might be incorrect. VPNs are typically more user-friendly, while proxies are more customizable. More importantly, SOCKS proxies can fulfill the VPN’s role when a user needs a simple tool for bypassing web restrictions.

 

How do I know if my proxy is SOCKS or HTTP?

Check your proxy settings and try to find port numbers for your proxy. SOCKS ports are usually 1080 or 1081 but are aware that they can take any port number. HTTP/HTTPS proxies, however, have a definite port number of 80 and 443, respectively. It is recommended that you know what type of proxy your provider provides.

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