Simplifying HTTP Requests in Python: Urllib vs. Requests

Feb 8, 2024 ยท 2 min read

When working with HTTP requests in Python, you generally have two main options: the built-in urllib module or the popular third-party requests library. Both can handle common tasks like GET and POST requests, but they take different approaches.

Urllib: Low-Level but Built-In

The urllib module comes built into Python, so there's no extra installation required. It provides a fairly low-level API, meaning you work closely with things like request headers and response data.

For example, here's how to make a GET request with urllib:

import urllib.request

with urllib.request.urlopen('') as response:
  html =

This gives you control, but also means more verbose code for common tasks.

Requests: Simple and Intuitive

The requests module takes a more high-level approach, abstracting away low-level details:

import requests

response = requests.get('')
html = response.text

Requests makes it easy to do things like:

  • Use parameters, headers, and POST data naturally
  • Automatically encode URLs and data for you
  • Convert response data to JSON seamlessly
  • Handle HTTP compression for you
  • So requests is simpler for common cases. But urllib allows handling more complex low-level use cases.

    When to Use Each?

    For most purposes, requests should be your first choice for HTTP in Python. The convenience methods and automatic handling make development quicker.

    However, urllib is always available as a fallback for advanced low-level control. Being built-in also makes it useful for cases where third-party dependencies are difficult.

    So consider requests your tool for typical tasks, and urllib there when you need fine-grained control!

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