Demystifying Web Scraping: 7 Frequently Asked Questions
Web scraping. Friend or foe?
If this concept is news to you, I bet that you possess an arsenal of questions. The truth is that web harvesting treats you as well as you choose to approach it.
Web scraping and data analytics are proving to be critical drivers of market growth in a variety of sectors nowadays. I suppose the strategic analysis and market knowledge obtained from scraped data are just too tempting to pass up.
With the massive amount of data currently available, compiling it without the help of an advanced scraping solution is close to impossible.
Check out these 7 Web Scraping Questions to ensure the best practices and long-term productivity.
1. What Does the Law Say? Is Web Scraping Illegal?
Legality is most likely your primary concern; and if it isn’t, it should be. I’m here to let you know that it does not come in absolutes. Since ethical practice is in the hands of the beholder, each and every page on the world wide web that you scrape comes with a set of rules, or permissions, that one must follow.
It is your duty to ensure that you have acknowledged the guidelines in their entirety before enrolling on your web scraping journey. You might already be feeling lost, so here’s a tip: when in doubt, contact the owner of the site.
You might have come around a multitude of tutorials. However, nobody else but yourself is able to ensure that your scraping process is a bona fide practice. It is essential to remember that the information you are extracting must not be used for personal gain or anything that could come off as copyright infringement.
Always keep in mind — If you wish to scrape someone’s page, you can obtain written approval from them or check for a TOS (Terms of Service). If you’re scraping a pair of pages, read and investigate their terms of service. Logging into a site counts as accepting the TOS.
2. Web Scraping vs. Web Crawling. Are They the Same?
Web crawling is described as the process of finding information on the Internet, indexing all the content and submitting them to a database, then tracking all URLs and indexes and adding that data into the database.
Web crawlers are a crucial component of search engines. When Google gives you the perfect result for your search, it’s because their crawlers had already indexed it long before.
Web scraping, on the other hand, is all about collecting data from websites. You can use it to pinpoint and gather specific information according to your needs. For instance, if you’re trying to generate business leads, you can use a web scraping API to finely-tune this process. You can do web scraping without using web crawling if you create a list of URL pages from which you need detailed information.
3. A Thin Line Between Web Scrapers & APIs?
Now that we’ve got the hang of the family tree, let’s find out what APIs actually are. Web scraping and APIs each have the purpose of gaining access to web info.
APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are a type of interface that enables one piece of software to communicate with another. For example, you can move a JSON to an API, or retrieve the same file from the API, among other things.
Web scraping is a technique for extracting data from any website using web scraping tools. APIs, on the other hand, have a straightforward connection to the data you require.
Some websites have their own public API and they offer access to the public (for free or for a small fee). When this is an option, it should be the first thing you try. But don’t expect the website’s API to offer you all the information they have, so you might still need a scraper.
Some web scraping tools are also APIs. These are separate products that have their own benefits. An example is being easy to integrate with whatever other software the clients are using. Here’s a more in-depth look at web scraping APIs and what makes them great.
4. Mr. Robot Lied to You: Do You Need to be a Code Genius?
Most believe that in order to navigate the online environment, they must have the skills of seasoned developers. When it comes to site scraping, you don’t necessarily need programming expertise.
Thanks to a brilliant set of code gurus, in today’s day and age we are able to find a plethora of software at our immediate disposal. You can use tools like WebScrapingAPI to save precious time and ensure the best possible results.
After all, a data extraction tool can serve any type of professional — from financial consultants to stock market aficionados, without them having to learn programming languages such as Python.
5. Is HTML data extraction the end all be all?
Web scraping is a much more difficult task where you should delete both duplicated material and redundant files that are ready to use. Before using a web scraping tool, you must come up with a clear layout of the precise type of information that you want to obtain.
After all, that is the beauty of coming into the possession of so much raw, valuable data. How you choose to interpret and sort through it is entirely up to you. That ensures custom-made results that fit in just right with your needs. Therefore, HTML extraction is a palpable blessing destined to gather every single thing that you ask for.
Web scraping, unlike screen scraping, which removes just the pixels displayed, captures the internal HTML code and, with it, the data contained in a database. The scraper will then copy the whole website’s content to another location.
The Document Object Model, or DOM, is a tree-like framework that is used to create HTML. The Document Object Model is made up of a variety of tags that can be nested inside of one another. Each component of an HTML page may be represented by a different tag, and most components have an opening and closing tag.
At the end of the day, HTML data extraction helps web scraping fulfill its promises and provides an easy-to-understand blueprint of what data collection is truly about.
6. Can You Scrape Everything Under the Sun?
Again for those in the back: you can’t scrape from any website. It is much easier to obtain valuable knowledge in today’s modern environment than it has ever been. However, you must be mindful that not every database or web directory is at one’s scraping disposal.
Some websites have complex anti-bot functionalities which make data extraction a pain. It’s still possible, mind you, but a lot more difficult. Websites aimed at the general public can provide material that you can use in your study, as long as you keep the data to yourself. Never gather personal information for reselling purposes.
This, however, doesn’t rule out the possibility of scraping social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Scraping services that adhere to the specifications of the robots.txt file are very much welcomed.
Always keep the Terms of Service section of the websites you web harvest in mind and strive to maintain only the most respectful of practices.
7. Not Mr. Webwide. Can Web Scraping Cover the Entire Internet?
Web scraping is not able to track down the whole Internet for you. No one has that amount of time at their convenience, an army of specialized companies would not be able to comb through the infinite bulk of data for you and end up making sense.
One of the most significant advantages of web scrapers is their ability to capture and retrieve massive amounts of data. Do remember that not all websites are built the same way, thus making it difficult to create standardized codes that can be used on any resource at any time.
There is an average of 4.3 human births per second and twice as many new web pages per second worldwide. Don’t bother to count, but also be mindful of the fact that scraping the whole Internet would take (almost) forever.
It’s best if you focus on what’s really needed. The Internet is a big place and I doubt you need to know what’s happening in every corner of it.
It’s Easier in Layman’s Terms
These Frequently Asked Questions are of increased interest to both developers and professionals around the globe. Make sure to remain ethical in your web scraping endeavors and stay informed on the latest tech news.
It truly does not matter whether you’re just starting out with web harvesting or you’re looking for the best web scraping tools to use. The internet is sure to provide you with the information you need.