I am keen to know the difference between curl and wget. Both are used to get files and documents but what the key difference between them.

Why are there two different programs?

up vote 201 down vote accepted

The main differences are:

  • wget's major strong side compared to curl is its ability to download recursively.
  • wget is command line only. There's no lib or anything, but curl's features are powered by libcurl.
  • curl supports FTP, FTPS, HTTP, HTTPS, SCP, SFTP, TFTP, TELNET, DICT, LDAP, LDAPS, FILE, POP3, IMAP, SMTP, RTMP and RTSP. wget supports HTTP, HTTPS and FTP.
  • curl builds and runs on more platforms than wget.
  • wget it's released under a free software copyleft license (the GNU GPL). curl is released under a free software permissive license (a MIT derivate).
  • curl offers upload and sending capabilities. wget only offers plain HTTP POST support.

You can see more details at the following link:

curl vs Wget

  • 1
    Thanks, this is exactly what I've been wondering about for a few hours. I used wget to do a recursive spider on a site, seems stalled on a page that has eleventy bazillion links on it. The reality is it's running at 100% CPU on one core. Was hoping that there was something better that does that newfangled multicore thing I've been hearing about. – Brian Topping Jun 7 '15 at 10:13
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    One of the things wget does that is left out of this answer is http mirroring (or 'spidering') ability. curl is very good at what it does, but it alone is not intended to be used to mirror a web site. – jsbillings Sep 26 '15 at 12:38
  • What about wput being an alias, supporting ftp. – mckenzm Jan 23 '17 at 5:01
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    These phrases have no sense: "and all copyrights are assigned to FSF", "is entirely stand-alone and independent with no organization parenting at all". It's obvious that the author of cURL is the copyright owner of it. It's obvious that the author of wget is the copyright owner of it. But both are free as in freedom software. You can say instead that wget is under a copyleft license, and cURL under a permissive license. – Valerio Bozz Apr 11 at 11:59
  • @ValerioBozz: Actually no. Both curl and wget are community projects. With curl, each person owns the copyright to the code they contribute. With Wget, as with most other GNU programs, the various authors give away their copyrights to the FSF. That is, they don't own that code anymore. This is to allow the FSF to strictly enforce copyleft and to relicense the code if required. – darnir Nov 27 at 23:20

In a few words:

  • wget is a tool to download files from servers
  • curl is a tool that let's you exchange requests/responses with a server

wget

Wget solely let's you download files from an HTTP/HTTPS or FTP server. You give it a link and it automatically downloads the file where the link points to. It builds the request automatically.

curl

Curl in contrast to wget let's you build the request as you wish. This gives a lot of freedom to the user and makes an amazing debugging tool. Add to that the other key difference between the two; the plethora of protocols supported. Curl supports FTP, FTPS, Gopher, HTTP, HTTPS, SCP, SFTP, TFTP, Telnet, DICT, LDAP, LDAPS, IMAP, POP3, SMTP, RTSP and URI. Combine these two key points and you have an amazing tool to test protocols, test server configuration, etc.

As many say, you can download a file with curl. That however is only useful if you happen to want to downlaod a file from a server that uses a protocol that wget doesn't support.

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    Actually wget also follows the redirect then saves the response unlike curl. Both can achieve the opposite to the default behaviour wget -qO - http://google.co.uk/ or curl http://google.co.uk/ > index.html – Matt Aug 15 '14 at 17:46
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    @mtm curl http://google.co.uk/ > index.html is not using an inbuilt functionality though. Anyway the main distinction is the purpose each tool was made for. There is not denying that tools evolve and many times deviate from their initial trajectory. – Pithikos Aug 16 '14 at 10:24
  • @mtm curl http://google.co.uk -o index.html would use curl's internals instead of shell output redirection with >. – Petrus Repo Jan 15 '15 at 11:35

Actually, the major difference is that curl includes a library (libcurl), and that library is widely used by other applications. wget is standalone.

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