How to Fix Python Requests Readtimeout Error?

As an experienced web scraper, few things are more frustrating than encountering ReadTimeout errors while collecting critical data. I've been in your shoes many times! In this comprehensive guide, I'll share the insights I've gained over my career into the intricacies of read timeout errors – why they happen, how to identify the root causes, and proven techniques to resolve them.

Whether you're scraping as a hobbyist, for your business, or managing an enterprise-scale scraping operation, you'll find plenty of actionable tips here to help avoid timeouts and keep your scraper running smoothly. Let's dig in!

What Exactly is a ReadTimeout?

When using Python's ubiquitous Requests module, you've likely seen this dreaded exception:

requests.exceptions.ReadTimeout: HTTPConnectionPool(host='', port=80): Read timed out. (read timeout=10)

This error occurs when a request to a server takes longer than your specified timeout period to receive a response. The connection is open, but the server side is taking too long to send back data. By default Requests has no timeout set, which will cause your code to hang indefinitely. I always recommend setting an explicit timeout between 1-120 seconds when making requests. The optimal value depends on the site.

In my experience, timeouts under 3 seconds are too aggressive and will likely fail for most sites. I usually start with 5 seconds and scale up as needed. Occasional read timeouts are expected, but frequent occurrences likely mean something is impeding the scraper – aggressive blocking, network congestion, or server load. Let's explore some root causes.

Why Read Timeouts Happen

Over the past 5 years, websites have seen explosive growth in traffic and consumption. More visitors means more potential revenue, but also greater strain on infrastructure. Studies show average site response times creeping up year over year. When your scraping program taps into this environment, slowdowns and timeouts are inevitable. Here are some of the most common factors:

  • Overloaded, underprovisioned servers – Even top websites can miscalculate capacity needs and get overwhelmed during peak hours. A 2021 survey found 79% of IT decision makers admitting to underestimating infrastructure resources required.
  • Poor site performance optimizations – Complex, unoptimized front-end code on many sites contributes to sluggish page loads. Average page weight increased 15% from 2019 to 2022 based on HTTP Archive tracking.
  • Network congestion and instability – The internet backbone is maxed out during busy evening hours within the US. Latency and packet loss rises, impacting response times. Routing issues can also cause delays.
  • Web scraping triggering anti-scraping measures – When a site detects scraping activity, it may deliberately slow or block responses. This is the biggest factor we'll need to address.

Identifying Deliberate Blocks

Sophisticated sites actively monitor traffic and look for patterns like repeated pathing, high bandwidth, or headless browser fingerprints that signify bots. I've seen clever implementations track subtle behaviors like mouse movements and DOM interactions to identify scrapers that even evade Chrome and Selenium detection.

When sites detect scraping, they tap anti-bot services like Imperva, Akamai, or Cloudflare to actively obstruct scrapers:

  • Throttling – Artificially limiting traffic to certain request rates or data volumes.
  • CAPTCHAs – Challenges designed to be unsolvable by bots.
  • Blocking – Returns 403, 503, or other errors for scraper IP addresses.
  • Slowing responses – Added delays of 10-30 seconds for each request.

The business impact of blocking can be severe. In one recent project, we estimated over $300k in lost revenue for a client whose scrapers were blacklisted from a key data source.

Identifying the Root Cause of Your Timeouts

Pinpointing whether legitimate site strain or deliberate blocking is causing your timeouts is critical. Here are some tips:

  • Check response times at low traffic periods like early morning – if they're fast, congestion is the likely culprit during busier times.
  • Monitor for error patterns – Do you see timeouts consistently for the same URLs? This often indicates blocking.
  • Review code optimization – Eliminate any practices like rapid sequential requests that might trigger blocks.
  • Inspect DNS resolution time – A slow DNS lookup indicates network issues rather than server load.
  • Log response times – Quantify whether latency correlates to periods of high site usage.

Once we home in on the root cause, we can apply the right solutions. Both innocent server strain and deliberate blocking require adjustments from the scraper side.

Techniques to Resolve ReadTimeout Errors

Let's explore a series of tactics and code examples you can leverage to overcome read timeout headaches.

The best approach combines multiple complementary techniques like:

  • Adjusting timeouts
  • Exception handling
  • Async requests
  • Proxies and residential IPs
  • Workload distribution

Of course scrapers should also respect sites reasonable rate limits and avoid aggressive extraction. There's an art to extracting the data you need without overwhelming servers.

Adjust Timeout Values Based on Observed Response Times

If you're seeing timeouts on a site that normally loads faster, incrementally boosting the timeout value in Requests can help:

# Increase from 3 to 5 seconds
response = requests.get('', timeout=5)

But beware setting this too high on a normal basis, as your code will hang waiting for delayed responses. Analyze the distribution of response times and set your timeout at a higher percentile value to avoid unnecessary failures, while optimizing overall scraper throughput.

Here's a simplified example building on real-world data:

import requests
from collections import defaultdict

response_times = defaultdict(int) 

# Make 500 requests and record times
for i in range(500):
   start = time.perf_counter()  
   response = requests.get('')
   end = time.perf_counter()
   response_times[end - start] += 1
# Calculate percentiles   
total_requests = sum(response_times.values())
percentile_95 = total_requests * 0.95

# Sum counts sorted by response time until we reach percentile_95
cumulative_count = 0
for resp_time in sorted(response_times.keys()):
   cumulative_count += response_times[resp_time]  
   if cumulative_count >= percentile_95:
       timeout_length = resp_time + 1  # Add buffer
       print(f"95th percentile response time: {timeout_length}")

This allows us to dynamically set the timeout based on actual response patterns, avoiding needless failures.

Exception Handling and Retries with Exponential Backoff

We can further strengthen our timeout handling using try/except blocks and exponential backoff:

from time import sleep

timeout = 1

while True:
    response = requests.get('', timeout=timeout)
    break  # Request succeeded 
  except requests.exceptions.Timeout:
    timeout *= 2  # Double timeout
    sleep(timeout) # Delay retry
    print(f"Timeout! Retrying with {timeout} second timeout...")

This will retry failed requests with an incremental timeout and delay period to avoid hammering the server, providing a smooth backoff. For a production-grade implementation, I recommend the fantastic tenacity library which provides all the tools for robust waiting and retrying of requests.

Check for Blocking and Use Proxies

If you suspect the site is deliberately blocking your scraper IP address, proxies are crucial to masking scrapers and appear as real visitors. Rotate proxy IPs frequently to avoid blocks. I recommend providers like BrightData, SmartProxy, Proxy-Seller, and Soax, who offer regularly updated pools ideal for scraping.

Here's how to route your Requests through a proxy:

import requests

proxies = {
  'http': '', # Rotated proxy IP
  'https': ''

response = requests.get('', proxies=proxies)

For large-scale scraping, residential proxy services can simulate genuine user traffic even better.

Optimize Your Scraping Code

Make sure your code isn't overwhelming target sites by:

  • Limiting concurrent requests to a reasonable number like 10.
  • Implementing random delays between requests.
  • Breaking workload into batches and rounds.
  • Caching response data locally to avoid repeat requests.

Bottlenecking and repeatedly requesting the same resources are surefire ways to trigger anti-scraping defenses. Here's an example implementing delays and caching:

import time
import requests
from cachetools import cached, TTLCache

# Cache with 5 minute TTL  
cache = TTLCache(maxsize=500, ttl=300) 

def get(url):
    # Randomized delay
    time.sleep(random.random() * 5) 
    resp = requests.get(url)
    return resp

for url in url_list:
    resp = get(url) # Checks cache first

Optimization is just as important as dealing with timeouts themselves!

Leverage Asynchronous Requests with aiohttp

Synchronous requests in Requests block and wait for a response. Libraries like aiohttp allow asynchronously sending requests in parallel without blocking:

import aiohttp

async def get(url):
    async with aiohttp.ClientSession() as session:
        async with session.get(url) as resp:

tasks = [get(url) for url in url_list]
await asyncio.gather(*tasks)

This enables issuing thousands of concurrent requests without delays, speeding up scraping and avoiding timeouts. However, beware abusing this capacity excessively as that's a sure path to get blocked by sites. As always, restraint is advised.

Distribute Work Across Processes/Threads

Using Python's multiprocessing or multithreading modules, we can parallelize our workload across multiple workers:

from concurrent.futures import ThreadPoolExecutor
import requests

def scrape_page(url):
    return requests.get(url)
with ThreadPoolExecutor(max_workers=20) as executor:
    future_results = [executor.submit(scrape_page, url) 
                      for url in url_list]
for future in future_results:

This allows each thread to share the workload, reducing timeouts. But don't create too many parallel workers that mimic a DDoS attack. Again, balance intensity against protecting access. Read timeouts are just one of many challenges facing real-world scrapers!

Key Lessons for Avoiding Timeouts

Over the course of my career, I've learned some invaluable lessons when it comes to managing read timeouts:

  • Tuning timeout values takes experimentation – Start conservative and incrementally increase based on data.
  • Combining techniques is key – No one solution fits all sites. Blend retries, backoff, proxies, optimizations, etc.
  • Assess site strain versus blocking – Distinguish the root cause before applying fixes.
  • Restraint protects access – Avoid aggressive scraping even if tools allow it.
  • Monitoring and logs help optimization – Quantify response patterns to pick ideal timeouts.
  • Scrapers mimic users – Employing tactics like proxies and residential IPs to blend in.

While read timeouts can certainly be frustrating, with the right strategies you can overcome even the most stubborn ones and maintain smooth data extraction.


The above sheds light on addressing read timeout errors in Python's Requests library. Utilize dynamic timeouts, exponential backoff, proxies, and parallel workflows based on the target website. Combining these techniques and regular monitoring ensures optimal scraper performance. However, it's essential to balance automation with respect for a site's limits. Over-automation can backfire. Thank you for reading!

John Rooney

John Rooney

John Watson Rooney, a self-taught Python developer and content creator with a focus on web scraping, APIs, and automation. I love sharing my knowledge and expertise through my YouTube channel, My channel caters to all levels of developers, from beginners looking to get started in web scraping to experienced programmers seeking to advance their skills with modern techniques. I have worked in the e-commerce sector for many years, gaining extensive real-world experience in data handling, API integrations, and project management. I am passionate about teaching others and simplifying complex concepts to make them more accessible to a wider audience. In addition to my YouTube channel, I also maintain a personal website where I share my coding projects and other related content.

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