Web scraping. Sounds extremely familiar, doesn’t it? There are countless articles written on the web scraping every day. But, how do you tell a great one from a good one? What should you really believe?
Given that the world wide web is a goldmine of information, it gets easy to believe what is not entirely true. Especially when a niche subject is becoming more commonplace, such as web scraping. In this article, we shall walk you through some of the biggest misconceptions about web scraping services.
1) It is legal!
We come across this the most. Web scraping is seen as stealing data and content from people. But in a historic turn of events in late 2019, the Court of Appeals, US of A, rejected LinkedIn’s request to prevent an analytic company from crawling its data.
The decision was a game-changer in the data privacy and regulation industry. It finally proved that any data that is publicly available and not copyrighted can be scrapped legally. But this does not come without its fair share of reservations. It cannot be used for unlimited commercial purposes. Also, it is still illegal to obtain data from sites that require authentication. The terms of services that are required to be signed off before entering such a site usually forbid automated data collection.
2) Web scraping is not the same as web crawling
Crawling and scraping are more often than not used interchangeably. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Web scraping is used for extracting data and downloading it in desired formats. Web crawling reads web pages for the sole purpose of building entries for search engine index. Then web scraping looks for something specific, while web crawling will find and fetch links from a list of seed URLs to fuel search engines.
3) You can not scrape just any website or content
Let us explain this with an example. You can scrape YouTube to look for, say, relevant headlines. Since it is a publicly available forum. But you can’t repost the videos since that content is copyrighted. The clear mark of distinction is that only publicly available sites can be scraped. Things become problematic only when you rain on their parade, on your terms, without prior permission. For ease of convenience, do not scrape the following:
a). Data encrypted by username and password
b). Websites marked by ToS and captcha
c). Copyrighted data
4) You don’t need to be a coding guru
There is a plethora of web scraping services that are very useful for non-technical businesses. It is far more efficient and cost-effective than building a web scraping team in-house. You get access to better infrastructure; you can dial it up (or down!) depending on your requirement. Then you just need to know how to choose a tailor-made data scraping service for your set of requirements. That is literally all!
5) The usage of scraped data is not limitless
Scraping data comes with its own set of limitations. They are mostly intuitive if you think about it. You can use scraped data from publicly available websites to draw insights and to do ground-level research. It becomes unethical when you try using the scraped data for profit. Primarily if you aim to repackage and sell this data. It is also illegal to repurpose somebody else’s content and not cite the sources. And needless to say, fraudulent use of data is, well, considered a fraud.
6) Not all data scraping services are versatile
In the world of the world wide web, websites are continually upgrading. The layouts change. The structures change. The terms of services change. Maybe your scraping extracted the first time around but cannot the second time. Data scraping services just have to readjust to be able to successfully parse websites. Different geo-locations and machine access can also result in unsuccessful parsing. The trick is to pick a versatile data scraping service carefully.
7) Web scraping at super-fast speed is a great idea
A classic click-bait advertisement is parsers saying how fast they are. You, in fact, don’t want that. As counterintuitive as it sounds. As much as you want data in seconds, data extracted at hyper-speed can overburden a web server and cause the servers to crash. You could plausibly get slapped with lawsuits if real damages are caused. A textbook example of that is the Dryer and Stockton case of 2013.
So how do you bypass this situation? Simple. Find a responsible Data scraping service provider.
8) Web scraping and API are the same
The goal of both web scraping and API is to create access to data. But the real difference is that web scraping allows you to scrape and website for data (with the limitations we have stated above, of course!) instead of API, which gives you access to detailed data. What does that mean? It means that while there may be scenarios where API are not available for a particular website or are glaringly expensive; you have web scraping come to your rescue.
Excellent Data scraping services, in essence, helps you make your own API of sorts when it is non existent. Quite the win!
9) Scraped data can’t be used as is
While raw data is usually unprocessed and very difficult to work with, sometimes this first-level data can actually work wonders. Especially if your scraping goal is lead generation. This stage can also be leveraged if an actual human is going to be drawing insights. Raw data is usually underrated, especially when you can’t afford manipulation and processing both in terms of money and time. Arrange raw data into a spreadsheet and you just might be surprised!
10) Web scraping is only meant for businesses
This could not be further from the truth. What web scraping can be used for is only limited by our own imagination. You can apply it to practically every part of your digital life. Need to find the best deal on your next big purchase? Extract data to get real-time data feeds on price differences. Need to find the best movie to watch? Scrape movie review sites and sort out your evenings like never before! Stuck in a loop and want to look at other job offers? Parse career sites and find the best fit for all your needs. Realtors use it to draw regression analysis on real estate prices. Travel aggregator sites find you the best deals. It truly is time to give web scraping a shot.
While we have tried to cover some of the most oft believed myths on web scraping, it is wise to employ the services of a premium data scraping service provider to ensure you get the maximum bang out of your buck!