Web scraping is a technique to retrieve data from websites. Scraping is still somewhat new to most people. And as data science evolves, this practice becomes even more complex and harder to understand. Just like any other thing that seems to be too entangled, web scraping has overgrown with dozens of misconceptions. To help you get a better understanding of this activity we will bust all the most popular and believed myths that only keep you away from your goals.
1. It’s too Hard to Do
True, web scraping has its challenges that you will have to learn to overcome. Still, there are a lot of ready-to-use tools that will help you gather the required information even if you’re completely novice to data science. Usually, these scrapers come with detailed instructions and documentation that will help you to take a grasp of the process.
Additionally, there is nothing bad about outsourcing scraping. Many companies and freelancers offer their services and are ready to fetch you well-structured and easy to process information. It will cost more than using a scraper. But you will save yourself a lot of time and effort since you won’t have to dive into the details and do everything on your own.
2. It’s not Legal
No law forbids web scraping. Yet, you should follow the rules of the website you’re working with and common ethical guidelines. Once you break the terms the site owner has set, you break the law.
Therefore, even though scraping itself is completely legal, you should still be careful when performing this activity. Also, consider that you’re not allowed to scrape personal data since it’s always protected by the website and by the law. Gathering it you might face charges. So as long as you play by the rules, you’re not doing anything illegal.
3. You Don’t Need Any Additional Tools
Many beginners think that a good web scraper program is sufficient. But actually, it’s not. Most website owners will try to protect their content from getting processed for different reasons. The would implement scripts that can detect scraping bots and ban them from the website.
Bots give themselves out because they send too many requests from the same IP address. A real user can’t send that many requests. Thus, the server detects suspicious activity and simply bans the IP denying bots the access.
You can bypass this limitation using proxies. They will mask your real IP address and put another one over it. You only should choose reliable providers and not get tempted by free proxies. The latter is rather useless and quite dangerous as you don’t know who else uses them along with you. Using proxy network you can be sure only authorized clients have access to the pool of IP addresses, and no one is using them for malicious purposes.
You can choose between data center proxies that are cheaper but trickier to use, especially if you’re new to all this. Residential proxies are more reliable as you’re the only one using a single IP address at the time.
4. The Scraper Will Do Everything for You
Well, it will fetch the data. But you have to tell it what it has to look for. That’s why before launching the scraper you have to determine your needs as precisely as possible. The Internet is more than full of data – there is an endless amount of information. And you can’t just give your scraper approximate goals and hope for the best. The program has to know the exact kind of data you need. Otherwise, you will have no success with web scraping.
Also, scrapers require you to watch over them. For example, proxies might get blocked, or your tool encounters some anti-scraping method it doesn’t know how to deal with. You should control these situations and fix them as fast as possible. Since most scrapers are based on AI, they learn as they work. And if you let the bot perform the same mistake over and over again, it will think that that’s what it’s supposed to do. That’s why you can’t just launch the scraper and sit back. And that’s why many businesses outsource this process.
5. Scraping and Crawling is the Same Thing
It’s not. Crawling is the part of scraping. Crawlers go through websites and index the data. And scrapers extract the data and process it to present the information to you in a structured and feasible way. You should think of web scraping as data extraction.
The best example of what web crawlers do is the way search engines work. They constantly send their bots to new and existing web pages to process the information and understand what those pages are about. Thus, as the website gets examined with crawlers, the search engine understands which keywords fit it and can decide whether this site is relevant to a specific user or not.
6. Web Scraping is a Business Tool
Originally it was used more often for academic researches. Over time businesses realized the value of data in the modern world and began using scraping to gather information about their competitors and target audience. It allowed companies to make better data-based decisions. That’s how scraping became “a business tool”.
Still, web scraping is widely used for various personal, professional, or educational needs. And as it becomes more accessible and advanced, users come up with new ways to utilize this instrument.
Conclusion: Web scraping is not some sky-high knowledge, and thanks to the dedicated and ready-to-use tools most people can get the advantage of it. Yet, there are some challenges that you should know about. They’re not too difficult to overcome, but only if you’re aware of solutions. And if you don’t feel like becoming a specialist in scraping, you can merely outsource this task and let professionals perform this process correctly. Then you will get high-quality data that’s easy to work with.