Python requests vs urllib

Feb 6, 2024 ยท 2 min read

Python provides developers two key modules for making HTTP requests: requests and urllib. Both get the job done, but they take different approaches.

The urllib module comes built-in with Python. It provides low-level building blocks for composing request URLs, headers, and data. You can use urllib to finely craft each part of the HTTP request. However, this requires more lines of code and manual effort:

import urllib.request

url = 'https://api.example.com/data'
headers = {'User-Agent': 'python-script'}

req = urllib.request.Request(url, headers=headers)
with urllib.request.urlopen(req) as response:
   data = response.read()

In contrast, the requests module (externally maintained) provides a simpler higher-level interface. With Requests, you can make the same request in a single line:

import requests

data = requests.get('https://api.example.com/data').json()

Requests handles encoding parameters, HTTP verbs, sessions with cookies, and more - reducing boilerplate. Under the hood, it uses urllib3 to handle HTTP connections.

So when should you use each module?

  • Urllib - If you need low-level control over each part of the HTTP request. Useful for advanced cases.
  • Requests - Simplifies and abstracts much of HTTP. Great for most common cases.
  • In summary, Requests makes HTTP calls easier while urllib provides more flexibility. Consider using Requests to start and fall back to urllib as needed for finer-grained control.

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