Websocket vs HTTP: 6 Key Differences & Use Cases
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Websockets vs HTTPs – which is best? This is the most common question that network users or professionals might keep ruminating on. Statista says that there are 5 billion internet users worldwide. According to statistics, internet usage is growing at an exponential rate. With this development, comes the need for communication. This article will discuss some communication protocols like Websockets and HTTP and lists the differences as websocket vs HTTP.

The Internet connects computer nodes and networking devices all over the world through communication links, which enables communication among people and devices. Apart from linking computer nodes, the Internet also connects the things around us to automate most of the manual processes in our lives. 

As we have numerous devices connected with communication links, there are more possibilities for data communication across devices. This is where communication protocols come into play. These protocols are the rules that hold complete details about the communication. 

Table of Contents

Communication Protocols

Communication protocols are a set of rules for communication purposes. These protocols define the transmission mode, syntax, and error recovery methods of the communication and allow the devices to share or interact with any user or device in the network. HTTP, SMTP, FTP, and TCP are examples of protocols that work in the client-server communication model. 

The client-server communication model ensures communication between the client and the server components. The client is the one who requests the information, and the server responds to the request with messages or services. Web sockets, HTTP push-pulls, long polling, and others are the client-server communication models. 

What Are HTTP and Websockets?

Both HTTP and web sockets are communication protocols that work with the intention of enabling the client to server communication. Their differences include the type of duplex communication,  transmission mode, and use cases. In HTTP protocol, the server responds after the client’s requests and the connection terminates after one request and response. In the case of web sockets, however, the server keeps sending information until either of them stops.

Websocket vs HTTP - Modes of Communication
Websocket vs HTTP – Modes of Communication

What Is HTTP?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a client-server communication protocol that works on the request-response model. Web browsers are an example of clients that the user sends the requests to the server. In HTTP, the client is the first person to initiate a communication and the server will respond to that corresponding request, and the communication terminates. 

The HTTP protocol communicates in a half-duplex mode, where, both the client and the server communicate, but only one at a time. The client sends the request to the server, and then the server responds to the client without interruption from one or the other. Go through the HTTP proxies blog to know how proxies work with HTTP.

Three-Way Handshake Model

HTTP uses a three-way handshake model where the client and server send three messages to establish a connection in the Transaction Control Protocol. There are three steps in this model:

  • The client sends the first message with a Synchronize Sequence Number (SYN) that keeps track of the count of the request to establish a connection with the server.
  • The server receives the message and sends an acknowledgment with the SYN message (SYN-ACK) to ensure the client that they received the message.
  • The client sends the third message to the server as an acknowledgment (ACK) of receiving the SYN-ACK packets. 

Elements in the HTTP request

The HTTP request contains a header, request line, and body to describe the request’s details.  

  • Request line – The request line specifies the GET/Post methods and versions like HTTP1 or HTTP2.
  • Header – The header includes the type and length of the request. 
  • Body – This element is optional (because?). This body element contains the message body. 

Drawbacks of HTTP

  • HTTP uses a half-duplex communication model, where the communication works from both directions, but only one is possible at a time. 
  • The connection closes after the response message from the client. HTTP can only process one request in one connection link. If the client wants to send three requests, they have to create three individual connection links. Establishing a connection link every time will not help when the client wants frequent updates from the server. 
  • The clients must take the initiative of reaching the server with the requests. The server waits until the request arrives from the client despite the messages to send the client.

Upgrades in HTTP Versions

HTTP released upgraded versions of their software. 

  • HTTP Streaming – HTTP Streaming allows the server to send multiple responses to the client in one connection, which handles the complexity of creating individual connection links for each request. However, this method is not as efficient in maintaining connectivity without any interruptions.
  • Long polling – This is another upgrade from HTTP that tries to elongate the response time so the server can send multiple data requests to the client. In this case, the client cannot expect an immediate response from the server. The server records the information they receive and sends them to the client.

What Is a Web Socket?

Web sockets also work on the client-server communication model on top of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). Unlike HTTP, web sockets use full-duplex communication which allows the client and server to send and receive information from each other simultaneously. The client will send requests to the server like in HTTP, but they do not perform a three-way handshake. Once the server receives the request, they establish a connection and start the communication. The TCP connection link will not terminate after the first response. So they can send any number of information until the client or server stops the connection. 

Web Socket Connections

Web sockets use the HTTP transmitting mechanism to initiate a request from the client. Once the request from the client reaches the server, they may use the TCP connection as a web socket connection where sending multiple information requests is possible. The bi-directional communication model maintains persistent connectivity. 

Drawbacks

  • It is a complex process to build protocols because the web sockets can not use simple HTTP components. 
  • It is better to use HTTP for simple and non-dynamic data communication as their simple to implement.
  • The web browsers should comply with HTML.

Web Socket vs HTTP

Websocket vs HTTP - Differences
Websocket vs HTTP – Differences
HTTPWeb Socket
HTTP uses a half-duplex mode where only one action at a time is possible.Websockets use full-duplex mode. Both directions can work simultaneously. 
Uni-directional messaging.Bi-directional messaging.
The client initiates the request each time.Both client and server can push the information. 
The connection terminates after one request-response.The connection stays active until one of them closes it.
The server can send only one response for one request.Both the client and server can send and receive multiple pieces of information for one connection.
Applications searching for a protocol to deal with static data or error handling scenarios will choose HTTP.Applications that prefer constant updates and immediate updates choose this web socket communication protocol.

Uses Cases of HTTP

  • HTTP is preferable in applications that deal with static data and are not updated regularly. 
  • Applications that do not use the data as frequently will choose HTTP.
  • HTTP is better in dealing with cacheable resources where the system stores the responses for future purposes.

Use Cases of Web Sockets

  • Web sockets are preferable in applications that handle real-time data.
  • The applications that use dynamic data and expect constant and frequent updates will choose web sockets.
  • Social media has to establish connections with multiple users. They will keep track of the updates constantly. This type of application can choose web sockets for handling real-time data.

Proxies and Communication Protocols

Proxies are compatible with almost all types of communication protocols. Proxy servers are intermediary servers that ensure the anonymity of their customers in internet communication. Users can achieve this anonymity by integrating proxies with their requests. So, proxies will hide the actual identity of the request sender by forwarding the requests with the proxy address. 

ProxyScrape provides proxies that are compatible with most communication protocols. They also provide proxies that are specific to protocols, like HTTP, Socks4, and Socks5. You can buy proxies that are specific to your requirements at reasonable prices. Check out this blog to understand the difference between HTTP and Socks Proxies

Related Articles:

Proxy with HTTP Python Request

How to Use Proxy with Python Request Module?

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between HTTPs and Websockets?

HTTPs and Websockets are the communication protocols that have a defined set of rules with which communication works. The major difference is the data transmission mode. An HTTP starts sending data as responses when a request is received, whereas Websockets send and receives data based on data availability.

2. Which protocol is better suited to handle real-time communication?

Websockets are the best choice to handle real-time communication as they support bi-directional communication. In this model, both the client and server can push or pull data. They do not have to wait of each other and can work simultaneously. This model is also known as event-driven protocol as their work-flow is based on a triggered event and not on the requests.

3. What is the three-way handshake model?

The HTTP communication model can be broken down into the following three steps: 
1. The client requests the server with the SYN number.
2. Receiver acknowledges the message by sending back the SYN with an ACK.
3. The client again sends, then the ACK message confirms the acknowledgment. 
Instead of randomly sending the requests and responses, they make sure of the reception of the message by giving an acknowledgment.

Conclusion

In this comparison of websocket vs HTTP, it is clear that the web socket protocol has the upper hand over HTTP as they effectively tackle most of the shortcomings in HTTP. The web socket protocol enables a continuous flow of data transmission from both directions till the connection is alive. These qualities in web sockets make them popular among people, especially proxy users. Some may say that web sockets are the future of telecommunication, and HTTP is almost dead. This assertion is not true as HTTP is still preferable over static and cacheable resources. The HTTP’s transmitting protocol is the pioneer of web sockets as they use this mechanism for the initial client request.