Speed Up HTTP Requests: When to Use http.client over requests

Feb 3, 2024 ยท 2 min read

Python offers multiple options for making HTTP requests - from the built-in http.client module to popular third party libraries like requests. While requests is more full-featured, http.client can be significantly faster for simple GET and POST requests.

Why is http.client Faster?

The key difference lies in how low-level these libraries operate:

  • http.client directly uses Python's TCP sockets and HTTP protocol implementation. This allows it to make very fast unadorned requests without additional processing layers.
  • requests adds abstractions like connection pooling, proxies, and automatic content decoding. This provides convenience, but adds overhead.
  • So for bare metal performance, http.client is hard to beat.

    When to Use Each Library

    Use requests when you need advanced connection handling, SSL verification, or response data manipulation. The overhead is worth it for feature richness.

    Use http.client for simple high performance requests where you deal with HTTP protocol and encodings yourself. It shines in applications like scrapers or microservices where speed is critical.

    Here's a simple example of each:

    import http.client
    
    conn = http.client.HTTPSConnection("www.example.com")
    conn.request("GET", "/")
    r = conn.getresponse()
    print(r.status) 
    
    import requests
    r = requests.get("https://www.example.com")
    print(r.status_code)

    So consider using Python's low-level http.client when you need raw speed, and leverage requests for more complex applications. The right tool for the job makes all the difference.

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