Speed Up Your Python Web Requests: Requests vs. Urllib

Feb 3, 2024 ยท 2 min read

When writing Python code to interact with web APIs or scrape websites, the choice of HTTP library can have a significant impact on performance. Two of the most popular options are requests and Python's built-in urllib. But which one is faster?

Requests - Fast and Simple

The requests library provides a simple, elegant interface for making HTTP requests in Python. It abstracts away a lot of the low-level details, making it very easy to use.

In terms of performance, requests is quite fast - generally faster than urllib for most use cases. Here's why:

  • Connection pooling and keep-alive - requests reuses connections intelligently with connection pooling, avoiding expensive TLS handshakes.
  • HTTP persistent connections - requests utilizes HTTP keep-alive to reuse the same TCP connection for multiple requests, reducing latency.
  • Efficient encoding/decoding - requests uses optimized C libraries like chardet for encoding and decoding payloads, instead of slow Python implementations.
  • So for most API, web scraping, or HTTP automation tasks, requests will provide better performance versus urllib.

    Urllib - Lower Level Control

    The urllib set of modules (like urllib2, urllib3) provide building blocks for working with HTTP at a lower level in Python. Some advantages:

  • More control over details like headers, redirection, retries
  • Ability to use advanced HTTP features like proxies and authentication
  • However, this comes at a performance cost in most cases. Using urllib directly means you manage connections, handle HTTP persistent connections manually, and encode/decode payloads in Python instead of efficient C libraries.

    Conclusion

    For most tasks, the simplicity and performance of the requests library makes it a better choice over using urllib directly. But for advanced use cases that require lower-level control, urllib has the hooks to achieve that flexibility.

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