Command Line Web Browsing: An Introduction to cURL


With the current availability of high-speed internet and feature-rich web applications, surfing the web has become an enjoyable experience for many individuals. However, not everyone is aware that web browsing can be performed via the command line as well. One such tool that facilitates this is called “curl,” short for “Client URL.” In this article, we will provide an exhaustive introduction to curl and demonstrate how users can use it to browse the web in ways they may not have known were possible.

What is Curl?

Curl is a command-line tool used for transferring data via one of the many supported protocols, such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, and SFTP. It was designed initially by Daniel Stenberg in 1997 and has since evolved into an open-source project widely used by developers and system administrators alike. Curl provides a great deal of flexibility and functionality, allowing you to fetch data from websites, interact with APIs, and upload files.

Here is a breakdown of some key features of the Curl:

1. Cross-Platform Compatibility: Curl is available on a wide range of platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

2. Support for Multiple Protocols: As mentioned earlier, Curl accommodates various protocols, extending its functionality to more than just web browsing.

3. SSL/TLS Support: Curl allows secure connections via SSL and TLS, making it a safe choice for handling sensitive data.

4. Scriptable: Curl can be combined with other command-line utilities or scripted within a shell or programming language, making it highly customizable and powerful.

Installing Curl

Curl is usually included with most Linux distributions but may need to be installed on Windows and macOS. To install Curl, follow the instructions for your operating system:

1. Windows: Download and install the official Curl binary for Windows found here:

2. macOS: Use the Homebrew package manager to install Curl. If you haven’t installed Homebrew, follow this guide: Once installed, enter the following command in your terminal: ‘brew install curl’

3. Linux: Curl is typically pre-installed on most Linux distributions. If it is not, you can install it using your package manager. For example, on Ubuntu, type ‘sudo apt install curl’ in the terminal.

Basic Curl Usage

To fetch a webpage’s content using Curl, simply type ‘curl’ in your terminal, followed by the URL you wish to visit. For example:


This command fetches the HTML source code of the specified URL and displays it in the terminal. If you’d like to save the contents to a file instead, use the ‘-o’ flag followed by a file name:

curl -o example.html
More Advanced Curl Features

Beyond merely fetching a webpage’s content, Curl provides a wide array of functionalities. Some examples include:

1. Submitting HTTP POST requests: When interacting with web forms or APIs, you may need to send data via POST requests. Curl can handle this task easily. For example:

curl -d “field1=value1&field2=value2” -X POST

2. Authentication: Curl supports a variety of authentication mechanisms, including Basic, Digest, NTLM, and OAuth. The most common is Basic authentication, which can be used as follows:

curl -u username:password

3. SSL/TLS options: Curl can handle sites with self-signed SSL certificates or verify the server’s SSL certificate using the following command:

curl –insecure
curl –cacert /path/to/certificate.crt

4. Following redirects: Some websites use HTTP redirects to navigate users to another page. To follow these redirects automatically, use the ‘-L’ flag:

curl -L

Curl is a powerful and flexible command-line tool for web browsing, uploading and downloading files, and interacting with APIs. While it might not replace your preferred web browser’s graphical interface, Curl offers advanced users intricate control over web communication in ways not typically possible through traditional browser environments. With a wide range of supported protocols, Curl provides users with a command-line solution for nearly any web-related task they may encounter.

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