What is web scraping?

Web scraping is the process of collecting data from websites. This type of technology allows you to extract information from web pages in an automated fashion. It’s slightly different from web crawling because, while in scraping we collect data, with crawling we basically follow the links between web pages without collecting anything. Web scraping is then a great tool for collecting large amounts of data quickly and easily. Let's take a closer look at what web scraping is and how it works.

How does web scraping work?

Web scraping works by using a program to send requests to websites and then extract specific data from the HTML code that’s returned. This can be done manually or automatically using software called “web scrapers” or “spiders” which are designed to go through web pages and pull out relevant information. The scrapers can be set up to visit multiple websites, extracting specific data points as they go along.

Data extraction has traditionally been done manually, but with the use of web scraping, it's now possible to automate this process. This helps save time and money as well as reduce errors since the process is completely automated with no manual input required by humans. Additionally, because the data is collected in an automated fashion, you can obtain larger amounts of data more quickly than if you were doing it manually.

How can I start my first web scraping project?

It depends on your skills and the time you have before getting the results you need.

If you’re short on time and have no programming skills, a no-code solution is what you need. There are several solutions on the market, like Octoparse, Automatio, or webscraper.io where given some pages in input, you can declare the desired output and get the results. These solutions are not perfect because generally can’t avoid being blocked by anti-bot software but are a good solution to taste the water when having no time and or no programming skills.

On the opposite, if you’re a programmer, you have plenty of choices for the framework to use. I’ve written about that in this post, where I listed the most interesting Github repositories for web scraping.

The Web Scraping Club
The most interesting GitHub Repositories about web scraping (2023)
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Final remarks about web scraping

I hope I’ve clarified what is web scraping and how to start with it, I’m sure there are still a lot of questions I will answer in the following articles, like “is web scraping legal?” or “And what are typical use cases of web scraped data?

Want to know more? Here’s a brief video by Oxylabs that explains what’s web scraping and what is used for.

This post is written by Pierluigi Vinciguerra (pier@thewebscraping.club)

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