Why Do People Scrape Web | Is It Legal To Scrape Any Website?

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Web scraping has become a common practice among individuals and companies nowadays. With every business striving hard to grow, today data is in demand more than ever before. Businesses today cannot even sustain themselves if they lack the useful data to make business decisions in their domain.

But before we understand why there is a growing demand for web scraping let us first understand what actually web scraping is.

What is Web Scraping?

Websites around the globe have a tremendous amount of valuable data that includes product pricing, hotel pricing, financial data, and many more. We can use this data for either beating our own competitor or creating a report on market sentiment.

If you want to access this data you either have to copy and paste the data manually or you can use any web scraping service.

However, if you chose to do it manually then the process of extracting data from millions of pages would be close to impossible. Thus, we can take advantage of web scraping.

Extraction of data from a website in a non-clean fashion using a script is known as web scraping. The data collected can then be stored in a database or can be exported in CSV files.

For example, you can use web scraping to export a list of product names and prices from any eCommerce website into a CSV file. If the website does not block you while scraping then you can prepare a python or nodejs script to scrape the website and if it does block you then opt for web scraping tools. Frankly speaking, web scraping can be a challenge if you are a beginner or you are facing a website with top-notch anti-bot detection like LinkedIn.

Today websites are built in a very different format. Let us understand how we can scrape websites of all kinds.

How do web scrapers work?

Any web scraper will be given a target URL (the webpage you want to scrape) for web scraping. Then the scraper will either make a normal HTTP GET request in order to extract the data or it will render javascript if the website loads with several API calls.

You can also check this by visiting the network tab of that website. Once this is done the scraper can return data in JSON or HTML format, CSV, etc.

Why is the purpose of web scraping & why do people web scrape?

On the internet, you can find many web scrapers. Now, web scrapers are available in many different forms:

  • Browser Extension
  • Desktop app
  • APIs
  • Proxies

Why do different industries scrape data?

  • Many financial companies scrape data from the web so that they can buy and sell stocks at the right time. This data provides them with a clear trend of where the next investments can be made.
  • Many restaurants scrape reviews so that they can analyze which dish or department is not working well. Timely they can make an important decision and can even improve the service.
  • Travel companies scrape pricing from niche websites to keep track of their pricing. To make a competitive edge in the market you need pricing data from your competitor’s website.
  • Many Enterprise businesses scrape Yelp to generate cold leads. They extract names and contact details in a sheet and then contact them to convert them to their paid customers.
  • eCommerce websites scrape the web to analyze which data is in demand or how to set the pricing of any particular product.
  • Many governments also scrape data before elections to analyze the mood of the nation. Obviously, they outsource this job. This helps them to pick topics for rallies.

Is Price Scraping even legal?

Well, the correct answer is yes & no. You can scrape publicly available data. However, if you scrape private data it can be against the scraping laws.

A few points that should be taken into consideration before you scrape a web page.

  • See if the page is not behind an authentication wall.
  • The page does not include any private information of a user.
  • You should follow the robots.txt file.
  • Do not overload the host server with unnecessary calls.

Again it all depends on your business needs, but let’s not forget the legal actions that can be taken against you when you scrape private data or private profiles.

Final Take

Every business has different needs when it comes to the data they need to analyze. To take business decisions, it has become important for stakeholders to get as much data as they can to run their successful businesses.

Through, web scraping it is easy to get extract useful information & hence, businesses harvest it via different sources. You are just reducing the time taken manually to extract data when you scrape web pages.

Guest post by Divanshu Khatter

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