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TCP vs. HTTP: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on February 20, 2024
TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is a core protocol for data transmission over the internet, while HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is an application-level protocol for web communication.
TCP vs. HTTP

Key Differences

TCP is a fundamental protocol in the internet protocol suite, ensuring reliable, ordered, and error-checked delivery of data between applications. HTTP, on the other hand, is an application protocol used for transferring web documents, like HTML.
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While TCP operates at a lower level, managing the data transmission between servers and clients, HTTP works at a higher level, defining the commands and services used for transmitting webpage data.
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TCP creates a connection between a sender and receiver, ensuring that packets of data are delivered accurately and in sequence. HTTP uses this reliable connection established by TCP to exchange web-based information.
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TCP is protocol-agnostic, meaning it can transmit any type of data, whereas HTTP is specifically designed for the hypertext and multimedia documents found on the World Wide Web.
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In internet communication, TCP acts as the foundation for various application protocols, including HTTP, which relies on TCP’s underlying features to function effectively in web communications.
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Comparison Chart

Layer

Transport layer in OSI model
Application layer in OSI model
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Function

Manages data transmission between devices
Transfers hypertext and multimedia on the web
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Protocol Type

Core internet protocol
Application-specific protocol
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Reliability

Ensures reliable, ordered data transmission
Relies on TCP for reliable delivery
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Usage

General data transmission for various protocols
Specifically used for web document transfer
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TCP and HTTP Definitions

TCP

TCP establishes a connection between sender and receiver before data transfer.
Email services use TCP to establish a secure connection for sending messages.
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HTTP

HTTP is a protocol used for transmitting web pages over the internet.
Websites are accessed using HTTP protocols.
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TCP

TCP provides error-checking and preserves the order of data packets.
TCP rearranges data packets received in the wrong order.
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HTTP

HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted in web communication.
HTTP requests retrieve information from web servers.
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TCP

TCP manages the sending and receiving of data packets over the internet.
Streaming services rely on TCP for smooth data delivery.
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HTTP

HTTP operates on top of TCP, utilizing its connection-oriented features.
HTTP leverages TCP for reliable web document transfer.
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TCP

TCP is protocol-agnostic, supporting a wide range of internet applications.
TCP is essential for both web browsing and file sharing.
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HTTP

HTTP is stateless, meaning each request is independent of the others.
Each click on a web link generates a new HTTP request.
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TCP

TCP is a core internet protocol that guarantees reliable data transmission.
Secure file transfer uses TCP to ensure data integrity.
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HTTP

HTTP is the foundation of data communication for the World Wide Web.
HTTP is responsible for loading web pages in a browser.
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TCP

A protocol developed for the internet to get data from one network device to another;
TCP uses a retransmission strategy to insure that data will not be lost in transmission
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HTTP

A protocol used to request and transmit files, especially webpages and webpage components, over the internet or other computer network.
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HTTP

A protocol (utilizing TCP) to transfer hypertext requests and information between servers and browsers
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is TCP used for web browsing?

Yes, as the underlying protocol for HTTP.
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What does TCP stand for?

Transmission Control Protocol.
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Can HTTP be secure?

Yes, with HTTPS, which encrypts HTTP data.
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What does HTTP stand for?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
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What makes HTTP stateless?

It treats each web request as a separate transaction.
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How does TCP handle lost packets?

It retransmits them until they are correctly received.
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Can TCP handle multiple connections?

Yes, it can manage multiple simultaneous connections.
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What layer of the OSI model does HTTP operate at?

The application layer.
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Is HTTP used for non-web applications?

Generally no, it's designed for web communication.
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Can HTTP function without TCP?

No, HTTP relies on TCP for data transmission.
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What layer of the OSI model does TCP operate at?

The transport layer.
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What's the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP with encryption.
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Does HTTP save data between sessions?

No, it's stateless; each request is independent.
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Is TCP only used for HTTP?

No, it's used for various internet protocols.
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How does TCP ensure data integrity?

Through error-checking and sequence control.
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What port does HTTP typically use?

Port 80 by default.
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Does TCP work with protocols other than HTTP?

Yes, like FTP, SMTP, and more.
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Are there alternatives to HTTP for web communication?

Yes, like SPDY and HTTP/2.
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Is TCP suitable for streaming media?

TCP is used, but protocols like UDP may be better for real-time streaming.
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Can TCP be used for real-time communication?

It's less ideal for real-time due to its reliability focus.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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