A Breakdown of HTTP Clients in Elixir

Elixir's ecosystem has quite a few HTTP clients at this point. But what's the best one? In this post, I want to break down a bunch of the clients we have available. I'll give an overview of the clients I personally like the most, and I'll talk about which clients are the best choice in different use cases. I'll also share some advice with library authors.

Cover image of a futuristic-looking box ring with a metallic snake inside of it

This is AI generated, just to be clear

All Your Clients Are Belong to Us

So, let's take a whirlwind tour of some HTTP clients available in Elixir. We'll talk about these:

This is not a comprehensive list of all the Elixir HTTP clients, but rather a list of clients that I think make sense in different situation. At the end of this post, you'll also find a mention of other well-known clients, as well as advice for library authors.


Let's start with Mint. Mint is arguably the lowest-level HTTP client we've got in Elixir. It's essentially a wrapper around a raw TCP or SSL socket. Its job is to make the socket aware of the network protocol. It's stateless, meaning that all you deal with is a "connection" data structure, and it's process-less, meaning that it doesn't impose any process architecture on you.

Think about a :gen_tcp or a :ssl socket. Their job is to allow you to connect servers and clients on the TCP and TLS network protocols, respectively. When you're using one of these directly, you usually have to do most of the encoding of decoding of the data that you're sending or receiving, because the sockets carry just binary data.

Mint introduces an abstraction layer around raw sockets, rather than on top of them. Here's a visual representation:

Drawing of Mint surrounding a raw socket

When you use Mint, you have an API that is similar to the one provided by the :gen_tcp and :ssl modules, and you're using a socket underneath. Mint provides a data structure that it calls a connection, which wraps the underlying socket. A Mint connection is aware of the HTTP protocol, so you don't send and receive raw binary data here, but rather data that makes sense in the semantics of HTTP.

For example, let's see how you'd make a request using Mint. First, you'd want to open a connection. Mint itself is stateless, and it stores all the connection information inside the connection data structure itself.

{:ok, conn} = Mint.HTTP.connect(:http, "httpbin.org", 80)

Then, you'd use Mint.HTTP.request/5 to send a request.

{:ok, conn, request_ref} = Mint.HTTP.request(conn, "GET", "/", [], "")

Sending a request is analogous to sending raw binary data on a :gen_tcp or :ssl socket: it's not blocking. The call to request/5 returns right away, giving you a request reference back. The underlying socket will eventually receive a response as an Erlang message. At that point, you can use Mint.HTTP.stream/2 to turn that message into something that makes sense in HTTP.

receive do
  message ->
    {:ok, conn, responses} = Mint.HTTP.stream(conn, message)
#=> [
#=>   {:status, #Reference<...>, 200},
#=>   {:headers, #Reference<...>, [{"connection", "keep-alive"}, ...},
#=>   {:data, #Reference<...>, "<!DOCTYPE html>..."},
#=>   {:done, #Reference<...>}
#=> ]

Mint supports HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 out of the box, as well as WebSocket through mint_web_socket.

When to Use Mint

Generally, don't use Mint. Seriously. You know I mean this advice, because I'm one of the two people who maintain and originally created Mint itself! For most use cases, Mint is too low level. When you use it, you'll have to care about things such as pooling connections, process architecture, keeping the connection structs around, and so on. It's a bit like what you'd do in other cases, after all. For example, you're unlikely to use :gen_tcp to communicate directly with your PostgreSQL database. Instead, you'd probably reach at least for something like Postgrex to abstract a lot of the complexity away.

Still, there are some use cases where Mint can make a lot of sense. First and foremost, you can use it to build higher-level abstractions. That's exactly what a library called Finch does, which we'll talk about in a bit. Mint can also be useful in cases where you need fine-grained control over the performance and process architecture of your application. For example, say you have a fine-tuned GenStage pipeline where you need to make some HTTP calls at some point. GenStage stages are already processes, so having an HTTP client based on a process might introduce an unnecessary layer of processes in your application. Mint being processless solves exactly that.

Drawing of a GenStage pipeline with a traditional process-based HTTP client on the left, and the same pipeline but with Mint as the HTTP client on the right

A few years ago, I worked at a company where we would've likely used Mint in exactly this way. At the time, I wrote a blog post that goes into more detail in case you're interested.

Bonus: Why Isn't Mint in the Elixir Standard Library?

That's a great question! When we introduced Mint back in 2019, we posted about it on Elixir's website. Our original intention was to ship Mint with Elixir's standard library. This is also one of the reasons why we wrote Mint in Elixir, instead of Erlang. However, we then realized that it worked well as a standalone library, and including it into the standard library would increase the cost of maintaining the language as well as potentially slow down the development of Mint itself.

That said, I think of Mint as the "standard-library HTTP client", that is, the low-level client that you'd expect in the standard library of a language like Elixir.


Finch is a client built on top of Mint. It serves an important job in the "pyramid of abstractions" of HTTP clients listed in this post: pooling. Finch provides pooling for Mint connections. Using Mint on its own means implementing some sort of strategy to store and pool connections, which is what Finch provides.

Finch is quite smart about its pooling. It uses nimble_pool when pooling HTTP/1.1 connections. The nimble_pool library is a tiny resource-pool implementation heavily focused on a small resource-usage footprint as well as on performance. Since HTTP/2 works quite differently from HTTP/1.1 and the former is capable of multiplexing requests, Finch uses a completely different strategy for HTTP/2, without any pooling. All of this is transparent to users.

The API that Finch provides is still quite low-level, with manual request building and such:

{:ok, _} = Finch.start_link(name: MyFinch)

Finch.build(:get, "https://hex.pm") |> Finch.request(MyFinch)
#=> {:ok, %Finch.Response{...}}

However, but the convenience of pooling and reconnections that Finch provides is fantastic.

Okay, when to use Finch then? Personally, I think Finch is a fantastic library whenever you have performance-sensitive applications where you're ready to sacrifice some of the convenience provided by "higher-level" clients. It's also great when you know you'll have to make a lot of requests to the same host, since you can specify dedicated connection pools per host. This is especially useful when communicating across internal services, or talking to third-party APIs.


Req is a relatively-new kid on the block when it comes to HTTP clients in Elixir. It's one of my favorite Elixir libraries out there.

#=> "Req is a batteries-included HTTP client for Elixir."

It's built on top of Finch, and it takes a quite "functional-programming" approach to HTTP. What I mean by that is that Req revolves around a Req.Request data structure, which you manipulate to add options, callbacks, headers, and more before making an HTTP request.

req =
  Req.Request.new(method: :get, url: "https://github.com/...")
  |> Req.Request.append_request_steps(
    put_user_agent: &Req.Steps.put_user_agent/1
  |> Req.Request.append_response_steps(
    decompress_body: &Req.Steps.decompress_body/1,
    decode_body: &Req.Steps.decode_body/1
  |> Req.Request.append_error_steps(retry: &Req.Steps.retry/1)

{req, resp} = Req.Request.run_request(req)

Req is extensively customizable, since you can write plugins for it in order to build HTTP clients that are tailored to your application.

When To Use Req

First and foremost, Req is fantastic for scripting. With the introduction of Mix.install/2 in Elixir 1.12, using libraries in Elixir scripts is a breeze, and Req fits like a glove.

  {:req, "~> 0.3.0"}

#=> [
#=>   {"connection", "keep-alive"},
#=>   ...
#=> ]

Req is also a great fit to use in your applications. It provides a ton of features and plugins to use for things like encoding and decoding request bodies, instrumentation, authentication, and so much more. I'll take a quote straight from Finch's README here:

Most developers will most likely prefer to use the fabulous HTTP client Req which takes advantage of Finch's pooling and provides an extremely friendly and pleasant to use API.

So, yeah. In your applications, unless you have some of the needs that we described so far, just go with Req.


While Mint is the lowest-level HTTP client I know of, there's another client worth mentioning alongside it: httpc. httpc ships with the Erlang standard library, making it the only HTTP client in the ecosystem that doesn't require any additional dependencies. This is so appealing! There are cases where not having dependencies is a huge bonus. For example, if you're a library author, being able to make HTTP requests without having to bring in additional dependencies can be great, because those additional dependencies would trickle down (as transitive dependencies) to all users of your library.

However, httpc has major drawbacks. One of them is that it provides little control over connection pooling. This is usually fine in cases where you need a few one-off HTTP requests or where your throughput needs are low, but it can be problematic if you need to make a lot of HTTP requests. Another drawback is that its API is, how to put it, awkward.

{:ok, {{version, 200, reason_phrase}, headers, body}} =
  :httpc.request(:get, {~c"http://www.erlang.org", []}, [], [])

The API is quite low level in some aspects, since it can make it hard to compose functionality and requires you to write custom code for common functionality such as authentication, compression, instrumentation, and so on.

That said, the main drawback of httpc in my opinion is security. While all HTTP clients on the BEAM use ssl sockets under the hood (when using TLS), some are much better at providing secure defaults.

iex> :httpc.request(:get, {~c"https://wrong.host.badssl.com", []}, [], [])

09:01:35.967 [warning] Description: ~c"Server authenticity is not verified since certificate path validation is not enabled"
     Reason: ~c"The option {verify, verify_peer} and one of the options 'cacertfile' or 'cacerts' are required to enable this."

While you do get a warning regarding the bad SSL certificate here, the request still goes through. The good news is that this is mostly going away from OTP 26 onward, since OTP 26 made SSL defaults significantly safer.

When to Use httpc

So, when to use httpc? I would personally recommend httpc only when the most important goal is to not have any external dependencies. The perfect example for this is Elixir's package manager itself, Hex. Hex uses httpc because, if you think about it, what would be the alternative? You need Hex to fetch dependencies in your Elixir projects, so it would be a nasty chicken-and-egg problem to try to use a third-party HTTP client to fetch libraries over HTTP (including that client!).

Other libraries that use httpc are Tailwind and Esbuild. Both of these use httpc to download artifacts the first time they run, so using a more complex HTTP client (at the cost of additional dependencies) isn't really necessary.

Choosing the Right Client

I've tried to write a bit about when to use each client so far, but to recap, these are my loose recommendations:

MintYou need 100% control on connections and request lifecycle
MintYou already have a process architecture, and don't want to introduce any more processes
MintYou're a library author, and you want to force as few dependencies as possible on your users while being mindful of performance and security (so no httpc)
FinchYou need a low-level client with high performance, transparent support for HTTP/1.1 (with pooling) and HTTP/2 (with multiplexing)
ReqMost applications that make HTTP calls
httpcYou're a (hardcore) library author who needs a few HTTP requests in their library, but you don't want to add unnecessary transitive dependencies for your users

Some of the HTTP clients I've talked about here form sort of an abstraction pyramid.

A drawing of a pyramid (like the food pyramid thing) but for HTTP clients

Library Authors

I want to also talk about library authors here. If you're the author of a library that needs to make HTTP calls, you have the options we talked about. If you're only making a handful of one-off HTTP calls, then I'd go with httpc, so that you don't have any impact on downstream code that depends on your library. However, if making HTTP requests is central to your library, I would really recommend you use the "adapter behaviour" technique.

What I mean by adapter behaviour technique is that ideally you'd build an interface for what you need your HTTP client to do in your library. For example, if you're building a client for an error-reporting service (such as Sentry), you might only care about making synchronous POST requests. In those cases, you can define a behaviour in your library:

defmodule SentryClient.HTTPClientBehaviour do
  @type status() :: 100..599
  @type headers() :: [{String.t(), String.t()}]
  @type body() :: binary()

  @callback post(url :: String.t(), headers(), body()) ::
              {:ok, status(), headers(), body()} | {:error, term()}

This would be a public interface, allowing your users to implement their own clients. This allows users to choose a client that they're already using in their codebase, for example. You can still provide a default implementation that ships with your library and uses the client of your choice. Incidentally, this is exactly what the Sentry library for Elixir does: it ships with a default client based on Hackney. If you go with this approach, remember to make the HTTP client an optional dependency of your library:

# In mix.exs
defp deps do
    # ...,
    {:hackney, "~> 1.0", optional: true}

What About the Others?

These are not all the HTTP clients available in Elixir, let alone on the BEAM! I have not mentioned well-known Elixir clients such as HTTPoison and Tesla, nor Erlang clients such as hackney.


HTTPoison is an Elixir wrapper on top of hackney:

#=> %HTTPoison.Response{...}

Because of this, I tend to not really use HTTPoison and, if necessary, go straight to hackney.


hackney is a widely-used Erlang client which provides a nice and modern API and has support for streaming requests, compression, encoding, file uploads, and more. If your project is an Erlang project (which is not the focus of this post), hackney can be a good choice.

:hackney.request(:get, "https://example.com", [])
#=> {:ok, 200, [...], "..."}

However, hackney presents some issues in my opinion. The first is that hackney had questionable security defaults. It uses good defaults, but when changing even a single SSL option, then it drops all those defaults. This is prone to security flaws, because users don't always fill in secure options. While not technically a fault of the library itself, the API makes it easy to mess up:

# Secure defaults:
#=> {:error, {:tls_alert, {:handshake_failure, ...

# When changing any SSL options, no secure defaults anymore:
ssl_options = [reuse_sessions: true]
:hackney.get("https://wrong.host.badssl.com", [], "", ssl_options: ssl_options)
# 11:52:32.033 [warning] Description: ~c"Server authenticity is not verified ...
#=> {:ok, 200, ...}

In the second example above, where I changed the reuse_sessions SSL options, you get a warning about the host's authenticity, but the request goes through.

Another thing that I think could be improved in hackney is that it brings in a whopping seven dependencies. They're all pertinent to what hackney does, but it's quite a few in my opinion.

Last but not least, hackney doesn't use the standard telemetry library to report metrics, which can make it a bit of a hassle to wire in metrics (since many Elixir applications, at this point, use telemetry for instrumentation).

One important thing to mention: while HTTPoison is a wrapper around hackney, its version 2.0.0 fixes the potentially-unsecure SSL behavior that we just described for hackney.


Tesla is a pretty widely-used HTTP client for Elixir. It provides a similar level of abstraction as Req. In my opinion, its main advantage is that it provides swappable HTTP client adapters, meaning that you can use its common API but choose the underlying HTTP client among ones like Mint, hackney, and more. Luckily, this feature is in the works for Req as well.

The reason I tend to not reach for Tesla is mostly that, in my opinion, it relies a bit too much on module-based configuration and meta-programming. In comparison, I find Req's functional API easier to compose, abstract, and reuse.

There are other clients in Erlang and Elixir: gun, ibrowse, and more. But we gotta draw a line at some point!


We went through a bunch of stuff here. We talked about the clients I personally like and recommend for different use cases. You also got a nice little summary table for when to use each of those client. Last but not least, I mentioned some other clients as well reasons why I prefer the ones in this post.

That's all. Happy HTTP'ing!


I want to thank a few folks for helping review this post before it went out. Thank you José, Wojtek, and Jean.