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What Is Web Scraping and How Does It Work?

There are a lot of websites that contain a huge amount of data such as their product details, articles, stats, contacts, prices, and so on that interests their visitors. If you are one of them who wants access to that information, typically, you will perform a function similar to the web scrapers, where you’ll manually copy-paste the information into a new document.

What Is Web Scraping?

Web scraping basically assists in extracting the data or information from a website. After collecting the information, it is then transferred or exported into a different document, mainly a spreadsheet or API to make it more useful. 

It is considered that web scraping can be done manually as well as with automated tools. Of course, people prefer them because they function faster and can be less costly sometimes. However, scraping a website's data is not as easy as it sounds as websites are designed in different shapes and sizes. For this reason, the automated tools and software for web scraping varies in their features and functions.

How Do Web Scrapers Work?

Web scrapers have a bit of a complex way of working. After all, it's easier to understand the front end of the website than the back end.

  1. Firstly, the web scraping tool will ask you to receive the URLs of websites to download before accessing its information.
  2. After the completion of download, the scraper will open a page of HTML code. Advanced scrapers are also able to open CSS and Javascript coding elements.
  3. Next, it will ask if you would like to extract the informative data altogether or some of it specifically before running the scraper. Mainly, the automated web scraper focuses on selecting specific data instead of running the process through all of it. For example, if you are on a website where you only need to know the product price, then the scraper will not open product reviews for you after your selection.
  4. At last, the scraper will perform its function to show the data output in a more helpful format for the user.

Mostly, web scraping tools provide the extracted information in the format of Excel spreadsheet or a CSV file. Other advanced scrapers support formats like API, JSON, etc.

Types Of Web Scrapers

Web scrapers differ from each other through their features and functionality. However, to make it easier for people to understand, they are usually categorized into 4 main groups and that is how their performance is compared. 

  1. Self-built and Pre-built - because just like a website can be built by anyone, scrapers can be built too. For that reason, one must possess programming knowledge.
  2. Browser extension and Software - some web scrapers can be accessed by installing them while some are app-like programs that can be added on to the browser.
  3. Cloud vs Local - the local scrapers run onto the computer through resources and internet connection while the other one runs on an off-site server that is provided by the developer company of the scraper.
  4. The User Interface - these scrapers have two types of UI features for the users. One is a full-fledged one and the other is a minimal one. Both have different technicalities for users to understand.

For more information, click the link and check out the best web scraping software for your projects.

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