curl vs Wget
Please let me know if you have other thoughts or comments on this document.
File issues or pull-requests if you find problems or have improvements.
What both commands do
- both are command line tools that can download contents from FTP, HTTP and HTTPS
- both can send HTTP POST requests
- both support HTTP cookies
- both are designed to work without user interaction, like from within scripts
- both are fully open source and free software
- both projects were started in the 90s
- both support metalink
How they differ
library. curl is powered by libcurl - a cross-platform library with a stable API that can be used by each and everyone. This difference is major since it creates a completely different attitude on how to do things internally. It is also slightly harder to make a library than a "mere" command line tool.
pipes. curl works more like the traditional unix cat command, it sends more stuff to stdout, and reads more from stdin in a "everything is a pipe" manner. Wget is more like cp, using the same analogue.
Single shot. curl is basically made to do single-shot transfers of data. It transfers just the URLs that the user specifies, and does not contain any recursive downloading logic nor any sort of HTML parser.
More protocols. curl supports FTP, FTPS, Gopher, HTTP, HTTPS, SCP, SFTP, TFTP, TELNET, DICT, LDAP, LDAPS, FILE, POP3, IMAP, SMB/CIFS, SMTP, RTMP and RTSP. Wget only supports HTTP, HTTPS and FTP.
More portable. curl builds and runs on lots of more platforms than wget. For example: OS/400, TPF and other more "exotic" platforms that aren't straight-forward unix clones.
More SSL libraries and SSL support. curl can be built with one out of eleven (11!) different SSL/TLS libraries, and it offers more control and wider support for protocol details.
HTTP auth. curl supports more HTTP authentication methods, especially over HTTP proxies: Basic, Digest, NTLM and Negotiate
SOCKS. curl supports several SOCKS protocol versions for proxy access
Bidirectional. curl offers upload and sending capabilities. Wget only offers plain HTTP POST support.
HTTP multipart/form-data sending, which allows users to do HTTP "upload" and in general emulate browsers and do HTTP automation to a wider extent
curl supports gzip and deflate Content-Encoding and does automatic decompression
curl offers and performs decompression of Transfer-Encoded HTTP, wget doesn't
curl supports HTTP/2 and it does dual-stack connects using Happy Eyeballs
Much more developer activity. While this can be debated, I consider three metrics here: mailing list activity, source code commit frequency and release frequency. Anyone following these two projects can see that the curl project has a lot higher pace in all these areas, and it has been so for 10+ years. Compare on openhub
Wget is command line only. There's no library.
Recursive! Wget's major strong side compared to curl is its ability to download recursively, or even just download everything that is referred to from a remote resource, be it a HTML page or a FTP directory listing.
GPL. Wget is 100% GPL v3. curl is MIT licensed.
GNU. Wget is part of the GNU project and all copyrights are assigned to FSF. The curl project is entirely stand-alone and independent with no organization parenting at all with almost all copyrights owned by Daniel.
Wget requires no extra options to simply download a remote URL to a local file, while curl requires -o or -O.
Wget supports only GnuTLS or OpenSSL for SSL/TLS support
Wget supports only Basic auth as the only auth type over HTTP proxy
Wget has no SOCKS support
Its ability to recover from a prematurely broken transfer and continue downloading has no counterpart in curl.
Wget enables more features by default: cookies, redirect-following, time stamping from the remote resource etc. With curl most of those features need to be explicitly enabled.
Wget can be typed in using only the left hand on a qwerty keyboard!
Some have argued that I should compare uploading capabilities with wput, but that's a separate tool/project and I don't include that in this comparison.
For a stricter feature by feature comparison (that also compares other similar tools), see the curl comparison table
Feedback and improvements by: Micah Cowan, Olemis Lang
Updated: December 10, 2018 15:15 (Central European, Stockholm Sweden)