Web scraping is a technique that involves using a computer program (also known as a spider) to automatically extract data from websites. It is commonly used by businesses, researchers, and individuals to gather information for various purposes such as market research, price comparison, sentiment analysis, and more.
Explaining how web scrapping works is beyond the scope of this article but to put it in simple words, you can scrape the web by making HTTP requests to a website's server, downloading the HTML (or other required files) of the web page, and then parsing that HTML to extract the data you need. It can be done manually or using web scraping tools which automate the process.
In this article, we will look at some basics of web scrapping including the benefits associated with web scrapping, tools you can use to scrape the web, using proxies along with the tools and the legal implications of web scrapping. So let's begin.
Main advantages of web scrapping
There are several benefits of web scraping. It facilitates speedy and effortless data retrieval from diverse sources, allowing companies and scientists to acquire essential knowledge and make sound decisions. Additionally, it can be utilized to automate monotonous jobs and save both time and resources.
Furthermore, web scraping can track prices and recognize modifications in real-time, which is beneficial for market analysis and cost comparison. It also enables businesses to gain an edge over their rivals by tracking their activities and staying current on industry tendencies.
To put it simply, web scraping is an effective, economical and potent tool for extracting valuable information from the web, which can enhance judgment and help companies prosper.
Types of web scrapping tools
Using a tool is the most efficient way to scrape the web. There are several types of web scraping tools available, each with its own set of features and capabilities. Some common types of web scraping tools include:
- Programming-based web scraping tools: Programming-based web scraping tools are built for developers and necessitate programming knowledge to operate; examples of this kind of tool are Scrapy, Beautiful Soup, and Selenium.
- Visual web scraping tools: Visual web scraping tools present a user-friendly interface and do not need programming skills, like Octoparse, Parsehub, and WebHarvy.
- Cloud-based web scraping tools: Cloud-based web scraping tools are hosted in the cloud and can be accessed through browsers, such as Mozenda and Apify.
- Browser extensions: Browser extensions are installed on the browser and enable scraping of data from webpages while browsing; these include Data Miner and Web Scraper.
- API based web scraping: API based web scraping tools provide an API endpoint that you can use to extract data from webpages; Kimono and Import.io are examples of this type of tool.
- Web scraping services: These companies provide a complete web scraping solution that includes data extraction, data cleaning, and data delivery.
Top 14 web scrapping tools and their unique feature
Here is a list of top 15 tools you can use for scrapping the web along with the specially of each tool.
- Scrapy - An open-source and collaborative web crawling framework for Python.
- Beautiful Soup - A Python library for parsing HTML and XML documents and extract data from them.
- Selenium - A browser automation tool that allows you to control a web browser and interact with web pages in a programmatic way.
- Octoparse - A visual scraping tool that enables users to extract data from websites without coding.
- WebHarvy - A visual web scraper that can be used to extract data from websites and can also be integrated with database and CRM systems.
- Content grabber - A web scraping tool that enables you to extract structured data from websites and automate data collection.
- Mozenda - A web scraping tool that allows you to extract data from websites, and also provides data visualization and reporting features.
- Web scraping studio - A web scraping tool that enables you to extract data from websites and also provides a built-in scheduler, data export, and API integration.
- Data Miner - A browser extension that allows you to scrape data from websites and export it to various formats such as CSV, Excel, and JSON.
- Apify - A web scraping and automation platform that allows you to extract data from websites, run headless browsers, and automate web actions.
- Kimono - A web scraping tool that can turn any website into an API with just a few clicks, allowing you to extract structured data from any webpage. (This tool is not available now.)
- WebScraper.io - A web scraping tool that allows you to extract data from websites in a simple and fast way, with a point and click interface.
- Import.io - A web scraping tool that allows you to extract data from websites, and also provides data visualization and collaboration features.
What are web scrapping proxies and why use them?
As web scraping has become more prevalent, many websites/servers have implemented measures to prevent or block automated scraping. Using proxies can help you overcome this issue.
Simply put, proxies are servers that are placed in the middle of the web scraping software and the targeted website. They are used to hide the original IP address of the web scraping software and avoid any kind of restrictions that the website might have in place to block web scraping activities.
When the web scraping software makes a request to the website, it will be sent via the proxy server which will then forward the request to the website. The website's server will then respond to the proxy server which will in turn deliver the response to the web scraping software.
Thus, the website will only be able to see the IP address of the proxy server and not the original IP address of the web scraping software.
Types of web scrapping proxies
There are several types of web scraping proxies, each with its own set of features and capabilities. Some common types of web scraping proxies include:
- Residential proxies: These proxies are provided by internet service providers (ISPs) and are assigned to a specific physical location. They are often used for web scraping because they are less likely to be detected as a proxy and can access websites that have stricter geolocation-based restrictions.
- Datacenter proxies: These proxies are provided by hosting companies and are not associated with a specific physical location. They are less expensive than residential proxies and are often used for web scraping in large quantities.
- Rotating proxies: These proxies automatically switch IP addresses after a certain period of time or after a certain number of requests. This allows for a higher level of anonymity and makes it more difficult for websites to detect and block the proxy.
- Anonymous proxies: These proxies hide the original IP address of the user and are often used to protect the user's privacy and to bypass web scraping blocks.
- SOCKS proxies: These proxies use a protocol called SOCKS (Socket Secure) to route network packets between a client and a server. They are often used for web scraping because they can handle both TCP and UDP traffic, unlike HTTP proxies which only handle TCP traffic.
- Backconnect proxies: These proxies provide a single endpoint to access multiple IPs, it allows to change IP address with just one request, they are good option if you are scraping a lot of pages.
Is web scrapping legit?
Web scraping is usually thought of as being acceptable provided that it is done for legitimate reasons. However, there are some situations where web scraping can be considered unlawful or not appropriate. For instance, if the website you are scraping has explicitly stated in their terms of usage that scraping is not allowed, then it would be illegal to do so. Additionally, if the website's information is private or safeguarded by copyright laws, then it would be forbidden to scrape that data without agreement. It is essential to be conscious of these legal and ethical problems when using web scraping tools. It is always better to have consent before scraping a website's data to stay away from any legal problems.
In summation, web scraping is a competent strategy that permits you to draw out organized data from websites and utilize it for different purposes. It is a broadly utilized approach for data accumulation, market research, price comparison, sentiment analysis and significantly more. The cycle of web scraping can be done physically or utilizing web scraping apparatuses, which robotize the procedure.
However, because of the extended use of web scraping, numerous websites have put limitations set up to forestall scraping. This is the place web scraping intermediaries become an integral factor, empowering the client to shroud their IP address and avoid these limitations.
Web scraping is a continually advancing field, with new devices and strategies being created constantly. It is essential to comprehend the essentials of web scraping, and in addition to be aware of the lawful and moral contemplations encompassing its utilization.