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What Is HTTP Proxy?

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Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, was designed in the 1990s and is a foundation of any data exchange on the internet. Over the years, this protocol has evolved and extended, making it an inseparable part of the internet today.

This article will explain the HTTP proxy meaning, how it works, and what benefits different configurations can bring.

What is HTTP?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, allows files to be transferred over the internet. HTTP essentially instigates the communication between a client and a server.

Without HTTP, we wouldn’t be able to send and display sound, video, images, and other files over the internet. So, it’s easy to see why it has been a crucial aspect of the World Wide Web ever since its inception.

Described as “stateless and connectionless,” HTTP is a widely adopted protocol currently available in two different versions – HTTP/1.0, followed by its fresher version – HTTP/1.1. The latter can reuse the connection over and over multiple times. Meanwhile, the older version requires a separate connection each time.

HTTP cookies may be another term that you have come across in web scraping. We have covered this topic in our article: What are HTTP cookies?

What is an HTTP proxy server?

The HTTP proxy can essentially be described as a high-performance content filter that traffic flows through to reach you. In other words, it acts as an intermediary between the client browser and the destination web server. Then, any traffic that is processed through the server will appear as though it came from the proxy’s dedicated IP address instead of the one that your device is associated with.

An additional benefit of an HTTP proxy server is that it has the potential to save a lot of bandwidth through the compression of web traffic, caching of files and web pages from the internet, and a reduction in the number of ads that reach your computer. This makes it an attractive option for companies that need to access ad-heavy websites such as those owned by news corporations.

Furthermore, the HTTP proxy allows for a large number of users to utilize the connection at any one time, which makes it useful for companies that have a large number of employees. As a company, you can also add a layer of security by setting up an HTTP proxy server on your organization’s public web server to stop attempts of storing unauthorized files.

HTTP proxy can also be understood as an HTTP tunnel: a network link between devices with restricted network access, such as firewalls. HTTP tunnels can be created for penetration testing firewalls.

How does HTTP proxy work?

An unfortunate reality of the current day and age is that cybercriminals constantly pose a threat to companies online. This is where an HTTP proxy server becomes particularly useful – all thanks to its ability to filter out any suspicious activity over your connection. Regularly examining web traffic to identify any malware, an HTTP proxy server quickly blocks any potential attacks from external networks.

The HTTP proxy also examines the source of the web traffic before sending it to an internal web client. Doing so ensures that potentially harmful content is far less likely to enter your network, and buffer overflow attacks can be avoided.

You can customize the HTTP proxy server’s ruleset to suit your business requirements. Depending on the configuration, companies can set up the ruleset for different purposes, which will soon be discussed.  

HTTP proxy benefits

As already mentioned, you can set up HTTP proxy server’s rules for your goals. Depending on the configuration, HTTP proxy can help you with:

  • Security – protocol anomaly detection rules can be set to identify and deny suspicious packets, in this way protecting your web server from attacks coming in from the external network.
  • Privacy – some choose to use a proxy to shield their real IP address for various security reasons. Just like a regular proxy, an HTTP proxy can also mask your IP address.
  • Content restrictions – companies can restrict content that comes into  their network. The HTTP proxy can be set up to restrict content based on domain or path name, file name, or an extension that appears in the URL.
  • Bypass target website restrictions – this is particularly relevant for web scraping and web crawling. HTTP proxies are used to generate HTTP request headers that contain information about the browser that makes the requests. If you would like to learn more, we have identified five main HTTP headers for web scraping.


So, that concludes our complete guide on HTTP proxy servers and how they work.

Utilizing an HTTP proxy server has the potential to benefit your business in many ways: protect your network from external attacks, shield your IP address, restrict unwanted content, and help you with web scraping projects.

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