Data scraping is the process of extracting data from the web and it has become very popular in recent years. If used and analyzed properly, data can be a powerful tool. Hence, web scraping is an important growth catalyst for many businesses today. There’s currently a lot of inaccurate and misleading information about data scraping, which can make you confused. In this post, we’ll breakdown the most common myths about data scraping.
1.Data Scraping Is Illegal
Data scraping and web crawling are not illegal, as long as you follow all the rules. Generalizing the whole data scraping practice as an illegal activity is nothing but wrong. All websites have their rules that you need to carefully follow and obey. The same logic is behind web scraping. If you get involved in web scraping, you need to get familiar with the legal and ethical side of data scraping. You will find a lot of debates and controversial information on the topic of legality. But one thing is undebatable and it’s that the problem of legality arises not on web scraping itself, but on how people choose to use the data they have scraped.
Before you scrape the website, you need to read the terms of service of that website, where you’ll find whether you are allowed to scrape this website in general. People can scrape copyrighted information and republish it without giving credit to the original author. So in this case, the problem lies not in the fact that data was scraped, but in how it was later used. Also, you can scrape information that is not publicly available and publish it on a public website later. You might’ve paid for that data or maybe you had to log in to somewhere to get access to that information. Republishing such data would be simply unethical. These are some examples of how data scraping can become an illegal activity.
2. You Need to Know How to Code
If you want to scrape a website, you don’t need to be a great programmer. In fact, you don’t need to be a programmer at all. There are many solutions to web scraping for those who are not aware of coding. The market is now full of different tools and software which can scrape specific data from specific websites per your requirements. You can use such tools by simply watching a tutorial without coding knowledge. However, you need to take into consideration that if you chose a software, it might not be applicable to some websites and will provide you with limited data only.
Another great solution for those who need web scraping but don’t know how to code is to work with web scraping service companies. Working with web scraping service providers is a better solution, as they will provide you data per your wants and needs, and as regularly as needed. If a website has specific restrictions, web scraping software won’t be able to get over them. As for the services, since data scraping is performed by a professional, they will provide you with more accurate data and do the work manually if needed.
3. Any Website Can Be Scraped
A very widespread myth about web scraping is that a scraper can extract data from any given website or web page. So you might think that you can choose any given website from the web and scrape it. However, what you need to understand is that all websites have certain restrictions that entail a lot of challenges associated with big data and web scraping. You can’t simply go and get data only because “it’s a good website to scrape” without following its rules and standards.
4. Web Scraping Is All About Selecting Data from HTML Tree
This is a very common myth that can drive really crazy those who have a solid understanding of web scraping. Firstly, let’s understand what web scraping is all about. Data scraping, when done accurately, involves cleaning, deduplication, filtering, visualization, and in general, it’s a complex task. The extracted data usually needs cleaning because more than 90% of your raw data can be simply unusable or duplicated. You would also need to integrate that data with your current system. So web scraping is not simply copy-pasting data from one place to another. Without all of that, data scraping will carry no value whatsoever.
People who have never worked with an enterprise-grade scraper think that web scraping is not a “big deal”. They think that it’s all about copying data from the HTML of the page using string matching and regular expression methods, otherwise known as a regex. This assumption is nothing but a myth. There are many nuances that web scraping involves that make it a fairly complicated process. And this is yet another reason why it’s better to work with a web scraping service and liberate yourself from all that headache.
5. Web Crawlers Can Crawl the Entire Web
Some people think that web scraping is more of a superpower than an actual thing. They think that crawling and scraping have the ability to get data from the entire world wide web. This is so inaccurate and not feasible in real life. The big data is not just big, it’s enormously big, and that amount is growing even bigger every millisecond. Not mentioning all the challenges associated with big data. So do you think it’s realistic to crawl the entire web with a single scraper? Most definitely NO.
Firstly, you need to understand what data you need. Next, you have to find appropriate sources that carry such data. And only after that, you can start thinking about the scraping process. All websites have different structures and all scrapers are written and created for specific website types. The same scraping tool or strategy can’t work for all websites. So thinking that you can scrape the whole web with a single web scraping method is non-realistic and even bizarre.
6. Web Scraping Is Fully Automated
You might think that since web scraping is a technological process that works with bots, then it is fully automated. But this is not entirely true. Many processes in web scraping are indeed automated and work simply with the help of the technology behind it. However, you will still need human involvement in the scraping process. The tool won’t work entirely on its own considering the complex process of web scraping we have discussed above.
Human involvement is needed to monitor structural changes and for fixing all the problems that might arise during the process. So technology alone is not enough for delivering high-quality and reliable data. That’s why working with a professional web scraping service creates a lot of advantages. You can do your work and concentrate on the main tasks of your business, while the web scraping service will deal with the web scraping.
7. You Can Scrape Personal Data
Web scraping is a powerful tool for businesses because it can help get insights into the competition, the market trends, and most importantly, you can get data of potential customers to generate more leads. Lead generation is a crucial aspect of any business and web scraping is often used for generating more leads. However, any data that is not publicly available is not allowed to scrape. There are many laws that protect personal data of people. For instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law in the European Union that came into effect on May 25, 2018. The aim of this law is to make the data collection process transparent and honest.
Before you crawl personal information, such as name, email address or IP address, you need to receive explicit consent of the person and present valid reason of why you need that data. The data-protection issue is increasingly becoming an important topic as businesses scrape personal data for their use. Many sources that carry authentic personal contact details would simply forbid you from scraping their websites.
8. There Is No Difference Between Web Scraping and Web Crawling
Web scraping and web crawling are closely related to each other but they are not the same thing. Most people use these two terms interchangeably. Although they both render web data, the underlying processes and technology are very different. Web crawling means indexing, which means that this method indexes information on the web page using bots aka crawlers. Web crawling bots are used by the biggest search engines like Google or Yahoo. Using a web crawling technique, you can get general data only.
Web scraping, on the other hand, can provide you with specific information. Web scraping is also known as web extraction because it’s an automated way of extracting data from the web using scraping services, tools or software. Web scraping bots extract data by either replicating in other web pages or that data is later used for analysis. With these methods, you can get data in a variety of content, such as text, image, price, etc.
9. Web Scraping Is Resilient
The web is ever-evolving and websites often change their structures, algorithms, and coding behind them. The technology behind web scraping is coding as well. You don’t need to know how to code to use web scrapers, but the scraper itself works by coding. So a web scraper consists of algorithms and a set of codes that can read the codes and algorithms of websites to scrape their data. So it’s logical that they are adjusted to read specific types of codes. But if the website changes the set of codes it uses, then the scraper would fail to read that website’s content. So believing that web scraping is resilient is simply unrealistic.
Since the web pages are evolving and changing their structures very fast, it’s pretty complicated to find a scraper or crawler that would keep providing you with data for a long time. However, if you work with a web scraping service, you’ll be able to avoid this issue. If you don’t want to spend your time maintaining and adjusting your scrapers, then hiring a web scraping service would be an easy choice for you.
10. Data Scraping Is Used for Businesses Only
Web scraping has gained major popularity in the business world for many reasons. It can help you achieve a competitive advantage in many ways, of course, if you decently analyze the data you get. Data scraping is also a valuable tool for businesses to gain accurate, organized and fresh data. But since web scraping has so many benefits for businesses, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be used in other fields as well.
Data scraping is an important tool for research, either individual, educational or professional. Many researchers use web scraping because they simply can’t deal with the huge amount of data available on the web. There are so many challenges associated with big data that if researchers start dealing with those, they would simply give up. With the help of web scraping, students can spend their time on more creative problem solving rather than manual information gathering.
Another industry that uses web scraping and highly benefits from it is the financial industry. Financial data offers many advantages to investors and those who deal with the stock market. There are so many financial sources available on the web and they all carry valuable financial information. Journalists can also use web scraping. All journalists need fresh and reliable information to present relevant news, and web scraping can help them stay always updated on what’s happening right now.
In general, the future of web scraping promises to be full of new and exciting adventures and it’s packed with lots of new opportunities for different industries and fields. So don’t get tricked by misleading myths about web scraping, but rather start leveraging its power for your own good today!