Choosing the Best Language for Web Scraping

Because data is the centerpiece of many organizations these days, it’s only natural that we look for ways to gain easier access to the data we need. Most platforms that offer marketing opportunities provide us with data, and so do our website and other internal online resources.

What do we do when we need external data to which we have no easy access?

Well, that’s where web scraping comes in to automate this process while protecting our identity and IP address. If you’re a programmer looking to find the best programming language for the job, you will love this guide!

Definition of web scraping

Web scraping uses specialist software to download, store, and sort data from various sources across the web. This automated process saves up a lot of time because a human would need a lot of it to do the same job manually.

Furthermore, web scraping tools are usually equipped with a safety mechanism against being banned from the websites they’re scraping data from. In some cases, they rotate IPs; in others, they can be set up in such a way that they simulate human users.

Either way, the connection is safe, and the software can access the data until it gets it all.

Main uses of scraping

Data scraping has a wide variety of business uses, and there is little limitation to what you can do with it if the data you seek is public. Here is a list of the most common uses of data scraping:

  • Web content research;
  • Business intelligence;
  • Lead identification;
  • Market research;
  • Product scraping.

Whenever large data sets need to be acquired from publicly available sources, we can resort to data scraping, which works for basically all industries. If done correctly, this data will be ready for immediate analysis or other uses you have intended for it.

Many companies couldn’t run their operations the way they do if it wasn’t for web scraping.

Advantages/disadvantages of using different programming languages for scraping

The most common programming language used for scraping is Python, as it is ideal for anyone trying to create a robot able to scrape data from online sources.

Broadly speaking, programming languages used to create web scraping software are usually quite simple, but not every one of them falls into this category.

Python:

  • Advantages: Scrapy and Beautiful sope frameworks, supports XPath, Python useful idioms for navigation, searching, and modifying a particular parse tree.
  • Disadvantages: Not the best visualization, and R overtakes it still in some aspects.

Node.js:

  • Advantages: Takes one CPU core, allowing you to use the same script in multiple instances; good for streaming, API, and socket-based implementation.
  • Disadvantages: Can handle only small-scale scraping, not great stability in communication, and lacks maturity.

Ruby:

  • Advantages: With Pry, NokoGiri, and HTTParty, you can set up a web scraping tool quickly, enabling you to create a debugging program, send HTTP requests and furnish the HTML of a page as a string.
  • Disadvantages: It’s community-supported, slower, has poor documentation, and it uses quite a bit of your computer’s resources.

The scraping tools are not very difficult to make, but if you are doing it for the first time, you can run into quite a few issues, so be patient. Golang web scraper is the new kid on the block worth checking out if you are unfamiliar with it. While the Golang web scraper isn’t as popular as other options, it sure packs a punch. To learn more about the process step-by-step, visit this page.

How to choose the right option

Choosing the right option here can be tricky. The first and obvious solution is to use the programming language you are familiar with, but this isn’t always the smartest course of action.

The best way to go about this is to put down on paper what you want your program to achieve and pick the programming language that can pull that off. If you are doing this for the first time, maybe you should pick a programming language with the best support and documentation.

Conclusion

We hope you found our small guide useful. Data scraping bots are helpful tools for most businesses out there, and we recommend building a custom one for your particular needs if you have the budget for it and the necessary know-how.

There are plenty of resources online that help you build a scraping robot using one of the popular programming languages. With so many of these out there, it’s unlikely you’ll run into a problem that somebody hasn’t found a solution to already.

Furthermore, there are communities like forums and subreddits with active users willing to help you get your first scraping bot online as soon as possible.

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