You and I are the fortunate humans that grew up in the age of digitalization. The development of internet technologies has brought us a time of exponential growth and innovation. While many factors play a part in stimulating growth and prosperity, none of it would be possible without the free movement of information.
Look at it this way – the web gives us access to more information than any of our ancestors could ever possess. Connections with people around the world, distribution of public data, and exchange of ideas create an ideal environment for talented individuals to absorb knowledge, seek out opportunities for cooperation, and strive for a common goal. In the past, most people would live out their entire lives without opportunities for education and improvement. Individuals could never seek out knowledge and fulfill their potential due to a lack of efficient data transmission, as well as gatekeeping from high-class citizens and institutions.
When these factors are eliminated, we have better conditions for fair competition which is necessary to produce the best products and services. The development of information technologies evens out the playing field by granting tools for data extraction and education.
The internet gives us the tools that we take for granted. Just by using a search engine, you can find sufficient information on any subject. When we can access such masses of data at any given moment, we can harness ideas and solutions for progress faster than ever before.
But while the web gives us tons of tools that speed up our lives and bring incredible convenience, it creates unique problems. Just to keep up with the fast-paced world, businesses and individuals need to modernize every aspect of their activity and perform tasks just to keep up, let alone contribute to innovation. In a digitalized society, data is the most important resource. Just like we have technological solutions to transmit, distribute, and present information, we need inhuman efficiency for data extraction and analysis.
In this article, we will talk about web scraping and its applicability. To utilize collected information, we need to reorganize it into an understandable format with data parsing. Click here if you want to learn more about this process. For now, let’s focus on the initial step of data extraction – web scraping.
How web scrapers collect data
While anyone could use a browser to manually read and acquire knowledge from competitors or websites of interest, everyone wants to minimize time and resource consumption and maximize efficiency. Web scrapers are robots that automatically extract HTML code from targeted pages, and they do it very quickly.
Once we extract the desired files, data parsing restructures the code for render browsing, into understandable segments of information. While web scraping is an automatable process that gives us the raw, initial product, data parsing procedures need adjustments when websites have differences in their structure. While changing the functionality of parsers is a simple task and a good opportunity for young programmers to build experience, the process is a thorn up our side. It consumes a lot of time and resources because the unpredictability of web pages makes it very hard to automate.
Is web scraping legal?
Some beginner coders that are interested in data analytics wonder about the legality of web scraping. Legitimate information extraction procedures should not cause you any trouble, but there are some exceptions worth mentioning.
Most businesses that need or even depend on web scraping only collect public data. Information extraction is legal if data is not private and copyrighted. Also, aggregated data cannot be used for commercial purposes.
Competitor websites can rate limit connections to recognize scrapers and ban your IP. A beginner data analyst also needs to familiarize themselves with tools that protect and assist the initial step of data extraction – residential proxies, to avoid these restrictions. Web owners have a right to protect their websites from scraping and blacklisting their addresses, but such extraction of public data is perfectly legal.
Web scraping applications
The most basic way to use data extraction is to apply it to your projects. Even if you think your goal is silly and its only purpose is to satisfy you, applying web scraping to get information for analysis is a great way to learn and build basic programming knowledge.
The collected information can be used in many ways. Successful retailers track other competitor prices to compare and make adjustments in their strategy. Customer opinions, information on social media platforms will give you the necessary information to keep an eye on important aspects of the market and make crucial changes in other departments. Aggregated data is often used to improve products and services, but it can improve and modernize every aspect of your business. Keep an open mind, and you might discover unique ways to apply extracted data!