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Web Scraping vs API: What’s the Best Way to Extract Data

September 22, 2021Category : Blog Web Scraping
Web Scraping vs API: What’s the Best Way to Extract Data

Today, data extraction performs a huge role in crafting a winning business strategy, thanks to the advancements in technology. In this era, web scraping can give businesses the advantage they need to beat their competitors. Through web scraping, a firm can conduct market research and study its competitors more effectively. Moreover, the data acquired through web scraping vs API methods will keep the company up to speed on shifting industry trends.

The importance of data is that many businesses would not even know how to hit the ground running without it. Luckily, the web can overwhelm one with the data it has. But, it is too difficult to gather and organize such volume data on the downside.

To meet this demand, businesses go for two popular data extraction techniques: Web scraping and APIs. 

Web Scraping vs API: What’s the Difference?

Web scraping is deriving data from a specific website or even a webpage via manual or software tools. Web scraping with the help of software tools is usually preferred as it is more efficient and less time-consuming than the manual method. 

Web scraping directs on retrieving specific information from multiple websites. Then, the application and tools convert the voluminous data into a structured format for the users.

Meanwhile, through an Application Programming Interface, one can get access to the data of an application or operating system. The data can be either offered for free or be available at a cost. The owner can also define the number of requests that a single user can make or the volume of data they can access.

While web scraping provides you with the option to extract data from any website through web scraping tools, APIs presents direct access to the type of data you would want.

In web scraping, the user can obtain the data till it is available on a website. However, access to the data might be either too limited or expensive when it comes to API.

With API, data extraction is normally from only one website (unless it is some aggregator), and through web scraping, data is available from multiple websites. 

When it comes to web scraping, there is dependence on proxy servers which is not the case with API. The web scraping tool conveniently binds the extracted data into a structured format. But, on the other hand, a developer will have to organize the data obtained with the help of API programmatically.

The automatic banking of data through the web scraping procedure enables the user to download the same later. This function is not feasible in an API. Plus, as compared to API, web scraping is much more customizable, complex, and has a set of commands.

Web Scraping vs API: Similarities 

Both web scraping and API scraping are the procedures most sought after by data engineers. In the end, even though both the methods work separately, they provide the same service of presenting the user with data. 

With these new modes of obtaining information, a user can collect customer information and insight that was previously unseen. 

Why Web Scraping is Better than Extracting Data through APIs

If you are a business that requires up-to-date information, then web scraping is the choice to lock in. There will be minimum limitations, and a user can produce better results through web scraping software. Further, it is customizable to obtain the specific type of information a business demands. 

#1: Absence of Rate-Limiting

While in API there are restrictions, web scraping does not have any, at least in the technical sense. APIs can cost a fortune and may come down difficult for small businesses looking to gain market intelligence. Since a user will spend a lot of time collecting data, APIs will likely burn a hole in your pocket. 

But, if the business chooses web scraping, there will be no price tag to extract data on any website on the internet. But, it is desirable not to crawl websites whose robot.txt explicitly warns you against it. A piece of common knowledge is that the websites that show up on Google are scrapable. Still, to be on the ethical side of it, if robot.txt of a website forbids the user from scraping, it should be appreciated. 

#2: No Customization with API

Web scraping provides scope for customization that ranges from data extraction process to frequency, format, structure by changing your crawler’s user agent. Now, this adaptability is not possible with a website’s API. There will be either limited or no customization since the consumer does not have any control over it.

#3: Not All Websites Allow the Scraping of Data

Some websites do allow the scraping of data, but many others do not. A few websites allow access. In this case, using API might be your only option. 

#4: Near Real-Time and Relevant Data

Databases from websites obtained using API cannot be updated in near real-time, making the data old-fashioned. Near real-time data will allow you to have accurate data so that the results are better.

#5: Anonymity in Web Scraping

In obtaining data through web-scraping, a user can stay anonymous. But it is not feasible when using API as the user needs to register to receive a key and pass it along every time you request data.

#6: Better Structure in Web Scraping

Navigating through an unstructured API is time-consuming. You might have to deal with queries before getting to the actual data. However, websites nowadays want to be XHTML validated for rankings on search engines, and the structure is easy to scrape. 

Web Scraping + API: The Preferred Approach Today

Websites contain an excess of data that can be useful to businesses, and it could be any data. The obtained data is used based on how the business wants contact information to stock prices.

Some businesses use the website data to compare their pricing strategy to that of their competitors. Meanwhile, businesses also use data to grow their mailing list and study the dynamic market trends to tackle them. If you are considering the legality of web scraping, don’t worry. It is legal. A healthy practice to avoid any problems would be to respect a site’s terms of service, avoid scraping classified information, and not overburden a site’s servers. 

If web scraping is not possible, APIs are the way to go. But, in the modern era, companies prefer web scraping vs API interchangeably to extract data from websites. If you want to obtain a large amount of data, contact PromptCloud, and we’ll provide you with a specialized web scraper program to handle your scraping needs.

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