We call the era we live in the ‘age of Information.’ It makes sense, the internet brings knowledge from the furthest corners of the world right to our fingertips. Almost anything we want to know is just a few clicks away.
With so much knowledge and data, however, comes the challenge of finding, accessing, and storing it properly. The sheer volume of information available on any particular topic makes it almost impossible to gather manually. Essentially, the difficulty of collecting information led to the birth of efficient, robust, and programmable data gathering tools. Developers call them web scraping tools.
This article explores some of the different techniques you can use to gather information on the internet. It will guide you through some of the most popular uses of web scraping and where the future of web scraping tools is headed.
How Do Different Web Scraping Techniques Work?
Manual web scraping is an obviously slow process. It takes vast amounts of time and effort. Because of this, developers automate most web scraping techniques with programming languages like Python or Java. Here are some of the most common ways automated web scraping tools gather data:
One of the more straightforward web scraping techniques involves sending HTTP requests and retrieving data from the responses. It accommodates static and dynamic pages and uses socket programming for communication.
This technique involves going through the HTML code and structure of a website to navigate relevant content and extract information. Scripts written in query languages like XQuery and HTQL can parse through the HTML and retrieve page content.
Text Pattern Matching
Using regular expressions, scripts in languages like Python and Perl match and retrieve content. Such languages have powerful expression-matching abilities that require developers to specify the structure of the data they wish to scrape.
Information on the internet takes a variety of forms. It can be tabular or descriptive, numerical or non-numerical, and/or static or dynamically updated. With such radical differences in appearance, it is no surprise that there are different web scraping techniques. The final strategy relies on your resources and factors like your allowable margin of error.
What Are Some Of The Current Popular Uses Of Web Scraping?
Many different fields or disciplines rely on web scraping tools to obtaining and structuring data off the internet. The recent boom in data science and data, in general, has led to a massive increase in the use of web scraping tools. After all, simply making sense of data requires extensive amounts of data in the first place.
Here are some of the most common uses of web scraping tools:
Driving Artificial Intelligence Models
Artificial Intelligence is one of the hottest technologies of our times. We use it for many purposes. These include prediction, analytics, and also advanced academic research. Data lies at the foundation of all AI models. AI data models are trained and fine-tuned over large amounts of data. Because of this, the quality and also quantity of the data available can dictate an AI model’s performance.
Through web scraping, scientists feed AI models the vast amounts of data they need to produce valuable insights and results. In most cases, the data scraped through web scraping tools can’t be fed directly into the models. The data needs to be cleaned and structured.
Effective Risk Management
The financial world is volatile. It involves daily high-risk decisions. That is why companies implement advanced AI models to reduce this risk, or at least get a better sense of it through forecasting. With a better understanding of the risk involved, investors can consequently make more informed decisions involving vast amounts of capital.
Web scraping tools, chiefly, help train the advanced risk assessing AI models for better accuracy. The data the tools obtain takes into account all the different factors that affect the financial world. These are factors like politics coupled with economics and trade.
Better Product Engineering And Marketing
Enterprises, need to manufacture a quality product. They also have to get them to the right consumer. Because of this companies dedicate a lot of resources to engineering their products to perfection and market them intelligently. The product’s and the enterprise’s success depend on both of these factors.
Data plays a huge role in the development of a product and, once ready, its marketing. Companies try to understand how their consumer segment will react to a product after its launch. They get this information by web scraping for consumer reaction and behavior data. Then, they use that to fine-tune the product.
Data Aggregation Of All Kinds
When multiple sources or platforms offer the same kind of product, it gets complicated for consumers to choose one. Most platforms, however, structure their information differently. In addition, some platforms may be full of data that is not relevant. In this scenario, data scraping, as well as data aggregation products, help consumers. By aggregating data from multiple sites and displaying in a single location, these sites also make it easier for a consumer to do their research.
For example, hotel aggregators show you the cost of all rooms that meet your criteria on a single page. Airline aggregators also help you find cheap flights.
How Does The Future Of Web Scraping Tools Look?
The need for web scraping tools increases as more and more data accumulates on the internet. Now that you understand how different industries use web scraping tools, however, you probably wonder about their future.
Here are some of the exciting developments we expect for web scraping tools.
Advanced Web Scraping Techniques
Recent developments show web scraping tools combined with advanced techniques like machine learning and natural language processing. This greatly increases the power and performance of web scraping tools. In addition, it will provide businesses with insights they might never have believed possible. The uses of these new, intelligent web scraping tools will be groundbreaking.
Smarter Web Scraping Tools
Even now developers are constantly updating Web scraping tools to feature the most efficient backend processes and eliminate bugs. As time passes, web scraping tools will do much more than simply fetch data just simply fetching data. The next generation will process the data during collection or even dynamically optimize as they scrape.
Better Legality Around Web Scraping
The legality of web scraping tools is a heavily debated topic. Many websites claim that web crawling can negatively impact consumer privacy, and use techniques to gather private information. One of the most anticipated developments in the web scraping world is better legal freedom to test and develop web scraping tools properly.
In addition to techniques that you can implement yourself, many APIs available simplify much of the work. Scrapestack is a web scraping REST API that masterfully gathers data from millions of web pages and handles tricky situations like captchas and proxy IPs. For large volumes, businesses consider APIs like this the leading web scraping tools. This is because they have simple interfaces and efficient backend implementations.