Busting 8 myths about Web scraping
Updated: Feb 5, 2021
If you are reading this article, you are either interested in learning about web scraping, investing in it or exploring ways to use scraping to grow your business. Enterprises are gradually discovering varied applications of web scraping each day. However, scraping as an activity is surrounded by a lot of misconceptions, myths and misunderstandings. A lot of these myths about web scraping have often caused people to be sceptical about adopting the method for data gathering.
In this article, we will bust some common myths and misconceptions about web data scraping. These myths about web scraping are one of the most searched queries on the internet and have often been heard in most conversations about the data gathering tool.
Myth #1: Web Scraping is illegal
The aspect of legality is not a black-and-white subject. The web extraction tool can be used for both good and bad purposes. What answers the question of web scraping is legal or not depends on how it is being used. If you ensure that you are not violating the rules of the web page, it is not illegal. It is wise to study all permissions offered by a site before you start extracting information from the same. You can also ask for permissions from the site owner.
Once the processes have been established, web scraping can be used by your business to improve operational efficiency, performance and even study the market and the industry. We, at Datahut. have helped enterprises across industries like journalism, retail and even recruitment to build a strong data-based pipeline.
Myth #2: You can scrape personal details and email addresses using web scraping!
Scraping personal contact details of individuals would not be the most sensible application you would want to use this data extraction tool for. Many client services’ companies work to generate leads by contacting people on their email addresses and phone numbers. However, the data freely available on most websites is not the most updated or relevant personal information that you could gather.
In the EU, with the GDPR enforced, gaining personal data has become an even more cumbersome task. GDPR strengthens individuals’ data-protection rights and synchronizes those rights throughout the European Union. Additionally, most sources with authentic and relevant personal contact details will forbid you from scraping them.
Myth #3: You need to be able to code to scrape data from the Web
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be a brilliant programmer to be able to scrape information from the internet. This is one of the popular myths about web scraping that keeps many individuals and businesses from investing in the same. However, there are companies that provide web scraping services to you at different costs and for your different requirements.
Myth #4: Web Scraping is resilient
A web scraper essentially consists of an algorithm or a set of codes to imitate human actions on web-pages to browse, copy information and paste it in another file. Is there some way it could fail? The answer lies in the complex architecture of web pages and websites. Most modern web pages have a complex structure. They are often designed so to either accommodate for innovative features or provide security to the web pages.
Moreover, most pages and their structures are frequently updated, changed and revised by the owners. While the reasons could be many, this makes the job difficult for the scraper. Due to an ever-evolving and complicated page structure, a single scraper code cannot be deployed to scrape information from multiple pages over a period of time. A separate logic is developed for most web pages that are unique to the architecture and features of the website being targeted. These scrapers are then maintained, updated and optimized to ensure they do not fail in their operation over time. This, of course, takes me to the next myth!
Myth #5: Web Scraping is cheap!
Web Scraping as a process is complex to set up and maintain. As mentioned above, algorithms need to be built to maintain to scrape both standard and unique customized elements of a web page. This takes effort and experience which can cost you a lot. At Datahut, we create a hybrid data extraction solution. This means you can use an internally automated scraping mechanism, making web scraping a fairly simpler job. For more complicated architectures, we create customized solutions. This allows us to price our services with flexibility. We have services starting at $39 (USD).
However, if you are technically sound about how to write a scraping script, you can do so yourself for a one-time project. For long-term projects where you need regularly updated data from various sources in a particular format, it is wiser to avail the services of professional web scraping companies. You should make this decision on the basis of your requirements and budget constraints.
Myth #6: You can scrape the web by simply selecting data from the HTML tree
People who have not worked with an actual enterprise-grade scraper believe that web scraping involves only copying data from HTML tree of the page using simple string matching and regular expression (regex) methods. However, this is barely true. Web scraping is a fairly complicated process. Have you ever seen pages where you scroll down and the content on the page loads only as you keep scrolling? This is called pagination and simply extracting data from the HTML tree would not work in this case. There are several other nuances to web scraping that many of you are unaware about.
Often, scraped data needs to be checked for missing values due to anomalies in the page structure or display properties. You might also need to remove duplicates from this data. There are functions written to deal with login screens, popups and filters. Many web scrapers also have facilities to connect to other tools and platforms that can help you build data and analytical pipelines without having to worry about the infrastructure. Building these features and more needs more than just HTML trees. Datahut offers these services and more in a transparent process to ease your efforts of data extraction.
Myth #7: You can scrape any website or web page
This is one of the popular myths about web scraping. People feel a scraper can pull information from any page given its URL. We have mentioned that a web page has several rules and standards. These rules are often put in place to protect and secure the data. These rules prevent a bot from scraping the data from the page directly.
Myth #8: Web scraping and Web crawling is the same
Although both processes render web data, the underlying processes and technology differ. Most people use the terms interchangeably and are unaware of these differences. While web crawling means indexing, web scraping means extraction. Crawling in simpler terms means following links to reach numerous pages.
Web crawling or indexing is used to index the information on the page using bots also known as crawlers. These bots are primarily used by major search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo search. Web scraping or extraction, on the other hand, is an automated way of extracting content using scrapers.
Let us encapsulate the main points covered in this article:
Data Scraping is not illegal unless it violates the rules of the target site.
You cannot scrape personal details like email addresses, contact numbers or other pieces of secure information using web scrapers.
You do not need to be an ace programmer to be able to scrape web data.
Web scraping is not a uniform and resilient process. It needs manual intervention for regularly updating and changing the algorithm according to the target page.
Web Scraping can be an expensive process. It is not cheap!
Web scraping is not just about pulling information from the HTML structure of the web page.
Not all pages on the Web can be scraped by bots.
Web scraping and web crawling and not just two terms meaning the same thing. They have different definitions and solve different purposes!
While we have addressed most of the popular misconceptions and myths about web scraping, there might be more questions surrounding this subject. We advise you to do your due research and take an informed decision on web scraping. You can post your questions on this post as well if you have any further doubts.
Datahut provides efficient and reliable data scraping services at affordable costs. You can read about our services and processes on our official website. You should conduct thorough research of all the features mentioned above and compare all the tools available in the market before you make your final call.
Wish to leverage Datahut’s Web Scraping Services to grow your business? Contact Datahut, your web data scraping experts.