HomeBusiness

What is a SOCKS5 Proxy, and Where Is It Used?

There’re multiple types of proxy servers, each suited for specific functions. For instance, if you’re looking to undertake large-scale web scraping su

There’re multiple types of proxy servers, each suited for specific functions. For instance, if you’re looking to undertake large-scale web scraping successfully, it’s advisable to use residential proxies rather than datacenter proxies. This is regardless of the fact that both types of proxies assign a different IP address, effectively anonymizing the browsing.

At the same time, if you intend to use a proxy that doesn’t have bandwidth limitations to undertake peer-to-peer (P2P) downloads and content streaming, SOCKS5 proxies are your best bet. However, before delving into what SOCKS5 proxies are, let us first understand what’s a proxy server.

What is a Proxy Server?

A proxy server is a hardware- or software-based intermediary through which web requests and responses pass on their way to the web server and web client (browser), respectively. In this regard, the proxy acts as a gateway from a client to a server and vice versa. There’re multiple types of proxies, but this article will mainly focus on HTTP and SOCKS5 proxy solutions.

SOCKS5 Proxies

A SOCKS or SOCKS5 proxy is a proxy through which data packets between a browser (client) and web server are routed using the secure socket (SOCKS) internet protocol. This proxy type and internet protocol are mainly used to bypass firewalls by establishing a Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) connection between a client and server, which would otherwise be blocked without the use of a proxy.

Importantly, SOCKS is a layer 5 protocol on the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Reference model, meaning it creates active communication sessions between the client and server. It sits between layer 4 (the transport layer that includes the TCP and UDP) and layer 7 (the application layer). 

For clarity, layer 4 ensures complete data transfer, while layer 7 is the application layer that interacts with user applications. It’s worth noting that the application layer uses the HTTP, HTTPS, POP3, SMTP, SNMP, SMPP, FTP, and Telnet protocols. Thus, by facilitating the connection between the application layer and the transport layer, the SOCKS proxy is used for the following use cases: 

  • Email communication
  • Web browsing
  • Peer-to-peer sharing and downloads
  • Content streaming
  • File transfers 
  • Accessing services hidden behind a firewall
  • Traffic-intensive web scraping

First developed in the 1990s, the original SOCKS protocol has been improved and optimized. This resulted in the SOCKS5 protocol on which a SOCKS5 proxy is based. The improvements brought support for UDP, various authentication methods, and Secure Shell (SSH) encryption. This means that the SOCKS5 protocol offers more security than SOCKS4 that came before it. It also offers better connection speed and performance.

HTTP/HTTPS Proxies

An HTTP proxy is a layer 7 (application layer) proxy that’s meant to protect one network from another. It breaks the direct TCP/IP connection between a client and a web server. It can therefore sit in front of the client (HTTP client proxy) or in front of the server (HTTP server proxy). 

An HTTP client proxy intercepts all requests sent by the client and initiates its own but similar requests rather than passing the web client’s original requests. It’s also the first recipient of the server responses, making it appear as though it was the originator of the requests. An HTTP server proxy receives the requests on behalf of the server. Next, it sends the response as if it were the originator of the response. 

As a proxy based on layer 7, the HTTP/HTTPS proxy supports the following protocols: Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). In this regard, HTTP/HTTPS proxies are used for the following:

  • File transfers
  • Emailing
  • General web browsing
  • Content filtering
  • Caching frequently accessed content (HTTP server proxy)

Differences between SOCKS5 Proxies and HTTP/HTTPS Proxies

SOCKS5 ProxiesHTTP/HTTPS Proxies
They create a TCP connection between a server and a client via a proxyThey break the direct TCP connection between a server and a client
SOCKS5 proxies don’t filter contentHTTP proxies undertake content filtration, thus preventing cyberattacks
They offer more flexibility and reliability as they support both TCP and UDPThey offer less flexibility as they only support TCP connections
SOCKS5 proxies are more secure because they support various authentication methods and SSH encryptionHTTP/HTTPS proxies are less secure
They do not directly use the HTTP protocol and are, therefore, protocol agnosticThey directly use the HTTP protocol
They do not interpret or understand data packetsThey interpret and understand data packets
SOCKS proxies are fast, making them perfect for P2P downloads and file sharingHTTP proxies only deliver decent speeds

Conclusion

SOCKS5 proxies offer numerous unique advantages over HTTP proxies. For instance, they’re more flexible and reliable as they’re not bound to one communication protocol. They’re also fast, making them ideal for P2P downloads, heavy web browsing, content streaming, and emailing.