7 Minutes to Decide What Web Scraping Tool Is Best for You

The Internet is full of data. When we started writing this article, there were 1,844,003,423 running websites (live stats over here) from various niches: business sites, magazines, e-commerce, blogs, social media, and the list goes on. The information they offer is vital for you; either you are a customer looking for the best deal or a business owner who wants to improve their business.

As the number of websites continues to grow, they also become more and more complex. Therefore, you will need more time, more energy, and better organization techniques when doing research.

This is when web scraping tools come in handy and the reason they became so popular in these last years.

A web scraping tool allows you to efficiently extract data from any website in terms of time, accuracy, and money. The problem is not finding a tool but choosing which one of them is the best for you.

So, why don’t you find out by reading this article?

What is a web scraping API?
What are the alternatives to APIs?
Outsource the web scraping process
Use web scraping software
Use data extraction browser extensions
Build your own web scraper
The advantages of using an API
The disadvantage of using an API
Is a web scraping API the right choice for you?

What is a web scraping API?

The most common tool for web scraping is an API. But, what exactly is that?

An Application Programming Interface (API) is a contract established between two software products to exchange data under some common-agreed terms.

Still, what? In simple terms, if you think about two people who talk to each other, an API is the language they use to communicate.

This means you can use an API to implement an application that will communicate with another application. A first-hand example is when you sign in on a website, and you have the option to use your Google or Facebook account instead of manually typing your email address and password.

When you use an API, all you have to do is compute the request correctly and wait for the result to appear. Well-written documentation usually describes how it needs to look so that the API will return the response you expect.

After you get familiar with the way it works and integrate it into your application, you don’t need to worry about the API’s implementation details.

Especially in web scraping, where you can encounter multiple challenges:

  • Javascript rendering: a headless browser is needed to scrape dynamic websites;
  • IP blocking: using a proxy pool and geolocation, you avoid getting blocked by websites;
  • Anti-bots mechanisms: by imitating human behavior or using libraries, you can bypass CAPTCHAs and honeypots during the scraping process.

Here, on WebScrapingAPI, we manage to overcome all these problems by offering a wide range of features. Made you curious? Give the API a try. It’s free!

What are the alternatives to APIs?

As with everything in life, web scraping comes in many flavors. It would be pretty boring otherwise, right? Besides APIs, there are multiple options when you need large-scale data extraction.

Outsource the web scraping process

If you own a small business that does not include a development team, you may consider hiring qualified people to handle the web scraping process. But this implies other costs, like time to find the suitable candidates for the job, more time for the onboarding process, and money to pay them.

Alternatively, some businesses specialize in web scraping and make their services available to companies that need the data. They usually own an efficient infrastructure and are willing to adapt to your business needs. Furthermore, they will manage any scalability issues and deliver the data in any format you want.

However, the money invested in an outsourcing company may add up in time, according to the websites’ complexity or the monthly maintenance. Make sure you have enough resources to see the project through!

Use web scraping software

If there is no need for a lot of customization, a good option comes as software already available online. This method can bring decent results to the table without a ton of extra work.

The main advantage here stems from the fact that working with a finished piece of software takes a lot less time to set up, learn and use.

If you were to compare the time it took to find and learn how to operate some application with other methods, the results would favor the readymade implementation for most small use cases.

Lacking full customization may make the software pretty useless in some instances, and this is why some with particular needs tend to choose a more hands-on approach (an API, for example).

Use data extraction browser extensions

From blocking those annoying ads on a Youtube video to watching Netflix with friends, browser extensions provide many features. You can include web scraping too as a browser functionality by using specific extensions.

Web scraping in a browser may be the fastest and easiest way to start. If you are a beginner, this way of scraping can help with grasping the basics.

Being browser-based means there is nothing else to set up or install besides adding the new extension. Usually, the interface is intuitive and streamlined. Easy even for non-programmers to learn and use. Usually, you just point your mouse and click.

Unfortunately, the ease of use and friendly interface means they may be lacking in some features. Usually, web scrapers as browser extensions are limited to particular needs, as they are not capable of scraping vast amounts of data. This restriction makes them somewhat unimpressive for someone who wants everything scraped off the web.

Build your own web scraper

Of course, you always have the freedom to build your own web scraper, all in-house. This option is best suited if you already have a developer team with a strong understanding of how web scraping works.

You have at your disposal the plenty of articles and tutorials that will help you in this process. We recommend this article on how to build your own scraper with Python.

However, the web scraping process can become lengthy and laborious if you consider just a few of the many challenges web scraping encounters.

You can use the time, money, and energy you would invest in building a web scraper for your business’s real goals, replacing all this painstaking process with a ready-made solution.

The advantages of using an API

What developers love the most about an API is how easily they can integrate it into their application. All you need is a pair of credentials and a basic overview of the API documentation.

After you manage to make the first request, you can focus only on the part of it that interests you, which leads us to another significant advantage of the APIs: customization.

No matter the API’s complexity, we must say that hidden implementation details are also a big yes. You can use a simple API of a well-known application that only replaces some CRUD operations. In this case, the API would spare you from some tedious coding.

For web scraping, an API has much more going on under the hood. As we already mentioned, most websites use various techniques to prevent the bots from scraping them.

To overcome these, you can use the built-in solutions an API provides for these problems: Javascript rendering, datacenter & residential proxies, custom headers, CAPTCHA bypass, IP rotations, and geolocation.

Even if you’re not familiar with all the technical details behind anti-bot mechanisms and their solution, you can still use the API with no problem!

The disadvantage of using an API

Like any other tool, an API has some downsides as well.

One of them would be learning how to use it. You can not simply start using an API and expect it to work correctly. Depending on the complexity, an API’s documentation can be a bit too lightweight. If the documentation is incomplete, learning how to use the API can take a while.

Another inconvenience would be more of a security concern. According to OWASP’s top 10 vulnerabilities, nine of them refer to APIs. Once a hacker compromises an API, all the application that uses it becomes vulnerable.

Is a web scraping API the right choice for you?

It is well known that there is no perfect solution to a problem, but you can at least find one with more benefits and fewer costs. As a developer (or even a web scraping enthusiast), you may already know how important it is to choose the technology, library, or programming language that best fits your needs.

The flexible nature, vast customization, and straightforward use by hiding the implementation details make working with an API the closest you can get to the perfect web scraping solution.

WebSrapingAPI combines an API’s advantages with the complex solutions of anti-bots techniques, making it a powerful tool for large-scale web scraping. Are you tempted to give it a try? Begin with the free plan anytime!

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