Web parsing or web scraping can be described as the process of collecting data from different web pages. Usually, these actions require the use of special tools such as scraping-bots, that use special scripts to perform monotonous and repeatable actions at exceedingly speeds.
It is important to keep in mind that these bots can only be used as tools for accessing publicly available data. Bots choose the needed information and copy it from the website, that means they can’t be used for copying all databases. Usually scraping is applied for tracking prices or assortment analysis.
One of the main use cases of web scraping lies in commercial tasks. Lot of companies use scraping bots for accessing products and pricing lists, bots also allow scraping data from multiple sources. That can be helpful in the case of creating a price comparison tool or tracker for business leads. Usually, those tasks require use of a set of residential proxies or other ways to change IP addresses.
But regular users also can use such tools for browsing the web and, for example, choosing the best buying options for selected items. Today’s market can provide good websites to practice web scraping online, with a fairly low entry threshold. Other use cases can include repetitive tasks that can help different purposes. For example, you can track the availability of goods in different online stores, if you want to buy something rare.
Web Scraping Tools
Web scraping is a widely used practice by both companies and individuals, which leads to great diversity of tools and services for it. The choice of one must be based on your specific use case. Scraping process comes with many different details that you need to think of before choosing your solution. Right now, the market provides three main categories of scraping tools. Keep in mind that some tasks require use of datacenter rotating proxies or other rotating proxies, for maintaining bot work.
SaaS scraping platforms can provide you with all in one online service with a determined set of tools. Usually, these tools allow you to choose sites for scraping and how information will be provided to you in the end. Adding additional plugins or third party instruments in that case can become a problem.
These services in most cases force you to pay in a subscription model. For the money, you will likely get a comprehensive set of tools that will cover most of the simple and undemanding scraping tasks. SaaS can also be a good page to practice scraping data, before moving to more advanced code options.
In contrast to SaaS providers, desktop scraping applications are usually installed locally on your computer. That means you have full control over the program processes. Desktop solutions also tend to be freely accessible or provide licenses that need to be purchased only once.
The key feature of a desktop scraper lies in the requirements of your work. That means you need to provide system maintenance, that can be a problem in case of scaling you scraping. But for smaller projects, desktop solutions can be a good alternative. You also need to provide your own datacenter proxies or other tools for IP address change, if you try some of the advanced scraping tasks. Datacenter and residential solutions can be the best proxies for web scraping depending on your tasks.
Last course of action lies in the field of building your own solution. Most programming languages have at least some number of frameworks and libraries for scraping. In this use case, you can build a fully custom solution that will answer all your specific calls and tasks. For example, try to use Scrapy as a tool for some of your tasks and see if it can change to better your workflow.
Do Sites Allow Scraping Their Pages?
Web scraping stays legal, and web sites allow it as long as you scrape only publicly available data. One of the most important things to maintain while scraping is data and intellectual property regulations. Depending on the country’s laws, such activity can be heavily punished. In the EU for example, you need to provide a special permit to collect any personal data. That also covers one of the key difference between web crawling and web scraping. Web crawling uses only publicly available data, so risks of this kind are not an issue.
Other cases of web scraping practices stay absolutely legal. In most cases, to stay within the bounds of the law, it’s enough not to step on sensitive data and explicit content. It’s also wise to check if your scraping tools are applicable for the type of data you are scraping. For example, you could use static residential proxies, to access different types of the data at the same time. In the end, web scraping comes as only automation of work that can be done by humans.
Best Websites to Practice Web Scraping
As mentioned before, a lot of simultaneous connections to a website from a single IP address can trigger a ban. However, some sites offer ready to use sandboxes to start your experiments with web scraping tools. Here will give you five websites to practice web scraping skills.
One of the good websites to practice web scraping will be Toscrape. This site provides tasks with different levels of complexity that can help develop skills both for newbies and more skillful users. The site is split into two parts: the first is a bookstore-like page that offers a big text collection to scrape data from, and the second is a list of famous people’s quotes.
Bookstore pages allow you to train in a number of basic tasks like extracting data, title and stock prices. If you are searching for easy websites to practice scraping on with libraries like Requests, Beautiful Soup or python frameworks, this can be your stop.
3. Yahoo Finance
Yahoo!Finance is a huge base of stock market data and company information. This portal can become yet another good place to start web scraping practice. Design of the site makes it easy to access tables and separated items since it opens in new pages. You can try to parse stock data and change prices.
Wikipedia can be an ideal example for html pages to practice web scraping. This site is a perfect tool for starting scraping large portions of information or data that is available through HTML protocol. Here you can develop your skills in the field of dealing with properties. Also you can try to scrape different types of data links or images. But beware if you try to fast scrape, in that case your access can be blocked.
Reddit is also a good place to practice web scraping different types of data. Site using a specific URL format that allows it to extract any comment, link or image posted. Also, you can track most upvoted posts or comments and watch over different subreddits simultaneously. Therefore, Reddit is a site where you can try to take advantage of retrieving almost all popular data formats.
Frequently Asked Questions
Please read our Documentation if you have questions that are not listed below.
What is web scraping?
Web scraping is basically an extraction of information from pages and websites. Scraping requires a special set of tools for you to retract needed information from the page. With the right setting you can parse data like images, links, text, tables and more.
What types of proxies should I use for web scraping?
What kind of proxies is better to use for web scraping depends only on your use case at the moment. Some of the tasks can be done by using datacenter proxies. Others, like more geo-targeted scraping may require residential proxies.
Is web scraping legal?
In the vast majority of cases scraping is legal, however you need to be attentive before starting it. As long as you extract publicly available data there won't be a problem. But you should think twice when trying to access personal data that way. In many countries, even if personal data is public, you can't scrape it.
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