Scientia potentia est – knowledge is power. This ancient saying has been gaining its importance throughout the ages. In the age of Information, when all the major human activities are transferred into the Internet and web-sites seem to be main platforms for interaction between people and businesses, data analysis is crucial. Nowadays web-scraping as a web data analysis method is widely used by salesmen, politicians, news agencies, gambling lovers and anyone, who is informed about its benefits.

WHAT IS A WEB-SCRAPER?

Web-scraper is a general name for a piece of software used for web-sites’ data extraction and analysis. Web-scrapers can be implemented as browser extensions, desktop programs or cloud solutions. The range of their applications is as wide as all human activity on the Internet. A custom web-scraper is a web-program that collects some specific chosen data from a chosen web-site, organises it and saves in a readable for people format, so it could be used by the user manually. It consists of the analysed web-site’s HTML, the web-scraper’s soft itself (it can be implemented via different platforms) and a data-base for the scraped data.

HOW WEB-SCRAPERS WORK

Web-scrapers use HTTP or access sites directly via web-browsers. So what do web-scrapers do? Basically, they do the same work a human user can do manually, but faster and more effectively. Web-scraping involves fetching, crawling, parsing and storing.

Fetching

Fetching is a process similar to what human users do, when they simply download, watch and scroll a web-page. Web-scrapes, however, do fetching automatically via HTML, this process is quite fast and furious.

Crawling

Web-crawling is a process of searching some particular information from a chosen web-site or web-sites. Web-crawling is used by numerous web-sites for copying data and easing the web-search. To do crawling you need a web-crawler or a web-spider. A crawler starts with seeds – special URLs list. As the crawler visits these URLs, it identifies all the web-pages’ hyperlinks  and includes them to the list of the URLs to visit. A web-crawler is a special Internet-bot, it has many purposes and is an essential part of a web-scraper.

Parsing

Once, your web-scraper has approached the web-site’s data it has to match and compare it either with some preset data or with previously gathered information in order to stay updated. Parsing is probably the most important stage of scraping.

Storing

After your scraper has collected all the data it needs to organize and store it in the way, allowing a human user to read the data manually. This can be done in many different ways. Some web-scrapers create files with information on your device, while others keep all the data on the servers.

WHAT YOU CAN PARSE

The amount of information to parse is countles just like the list of human activities. 

Prices

Comparing prices and purchasing huge numbers of items cheaper and selling them for a higher price is a simple, yet effective way to exploit web-scraping in e-commerce. Even a few cents of price difference make such transactions really profitable if you’re purchasing and selling millions of items to thousands of customers in the same time. 

Bets

Betting analysis is also an interesting way to use web-scraping. Web-scrapers are able to analyse betting services, giving you profit if you bet much enough.  

Market’s demand and offer

By analysing customers’ feedback web-scrapers can find gaps in the market’s offer, which you can fill with your own business ideas. Example: you analyse the biggest web-sites selling kitchenware. The web-scraper’s analysis shows that the market doesn’t offer enough forks. You start selling forks and voila – your business gets successful. 

News

Why would you parse news? For millions of reasons actually. You may be a news agency, trying to figure out which articles are the most popular, or a politician, who wants to know what topics he should pay special attention to. 

Older web-sites

Most web-scrapers are used to parse someone else’s web-sites, but you can also use them to parse…your own web-site. Why would you do that? Well, if you want to update your site or create a new one instead of your outdated web-page you have to transfer all the data from an older site to a newer one. Thereby you ought to know that web-scrapers allow you to copy all the relevant information from the older web-page and put it to a new one with a different design and architecture. 

WHAT PREREQUISITIES DO WE NEED TO BUILD A WEB-SCRAPER? TECHNOLOGIES TO BUILD A WEB-SCRAPER

You want to build a web-scraper? If you are making any kind of software you always start with choosing the programming language. Here are the programming languages you can choose from if you want to create a web-scraper:

C++

C++ is not just one of the basic programming languages to learn, it also provides a great basement to build your scraper. Although this language isn’t really suitable for building a web-crawler. A web-scraper development company won’t be using it, yet it is used by single developers and amateur programmers.

Node.js

It is a great web-platform for web scraping and data crawling. Based on JavaScript, Node.js is mostly used for web-pages indexing and can simultaneously support both distributed crawling and data scraping. Nevertheless, this language is only suitable for some basic web-scraping projects and doesn’t cope well with complex large-scale tasks.

PHP

PHP is known to be one of the best and most efficient web-software development languages. Unlike Node.js and C++, PHP perfectly suits developers, who want to create advanced scrapers and crawlers. PHP developers may count on a great tool, while working: Gouette. Gouette is a great open source framework for web-scrapers. This platform deals with web-crawling, making it essential, when creating a complex scraper.

Python

Python is probably the most efficient and comfortable language to build a web-scraper. Just like PHP it provides you a great set of tools to make the most advanced scraping and crawling software. Such great frameworks like Scrapy and BeautifulSoup are available. Bothe are probably the best and most used libraries for web-scrapers. Scrapy is one of the most well-known scraping frameworks today and offers many useful tools for the most advanced projects, while BeautifulSoup is simpler in use and works out for less demanding projects.

WEB-SCRAPING CHALLENGES

Counteraction

While web-scrapers are developing rapidly, the targeted web-sites are constantly improving their own countermeasures. You can call it a web-arms race! Usually web-scraper development teams do a great job just like their counterparts. This ongoing web-developing doesn’t let any side to rest on their laurels and being updated all the time is totally one of the most important challenges of web-scraping. 

Diversity

Web-sites may differ, so do the approaches of scraping them. What does it mean in practice? Well, due to this you’ll have to develop personal unique scrapers for every single side separately. This also doesn’t make web-scraper developers’ task easier, though ensures they will always have work of this kind. Some huge commercial companies’ web-sites, of course, have better protection than smaller ones. Targeted web-sites also may be designed in different ways, using varied tools and technologies. Due to this, most of the web-scraper development companies focus on single-site web-scrapers. A software that can scrap several web-sites simultaneously will cost significantly more for the developers ergo for clients.

Variability

Even if you focus your software on one single web-site it doesn’t mean you can have it forever. It doesn’t mean that the web-site you regularly scrap is actively developing anti-scraping countermeasures against your particular scraper. Perhaps, the web-site just updates generally or moves to another e-address. This may cause inconveniences anyway.

Dynamic web-sites

The way dynamic web-sites are built is itself a great obstacle for web-scraping. The inability to access the demanded data via HTML will force you to develop more complicated scrapers and extend your project’s timing and budget.

COSTS OF WEB-SCRAPERS' DEVELOPMENT

Since web-scrapers differ significantly costs for their development will also vary and will highly depend on the number of web-sites you want to scrape as far as on the web-sites’ bot-protection protocols. For a single site web-scraper the project may consume as much as 2,000-10, 000$; in case if you want to simultaneously parse several web-sites and to get a deep, relevant analysis of their data, you will have to spend 5,000-200,000$, depending on the number and quality of the web-sites being scraped, their anti-scraping protection and the amount of the data you want to obtain. By smartly choosing the platform for your scraper you can save some money. Also if you are short on budget you can start your scraping project as an MVP, dealing with lesser numbers of goods and customers. You will thus gain additional resources for expanding your web-scraper to a new scale.

KEEP UP

Importance

Businesses, relying on web-scraping work better, faster and with higher effectiveness. Despite the costs of web-scrapers, they prove to be paid off. Advanced systems designed for trading can pay themselves off after the very first use. Cost effectiveness, however, highly depends on the exact software and its purpose. 

Our experience and advice

SapientPro has tremendous experience in web-scrapers development, we have effectively designed many kinds of web-scrapers for commercial needs. Our team is constantly seeking for new web-scraping technologies and improving them on our own. We have already developed scrapers powerful enough to parse 25 million different goods every 36 hours, checking changes in both text and media descriptions of the products. Our systems are able to simultaneously purchase high-demand goods within seconds for thousands of users. We deeply analyse all the software the market can offer, our developers are doing their best to find the weaknesses in existing systems in order not to have them in our own samples. SapientPro also keeps checking the newest anti-scraping protective measures on the biggest commercial web-sites, so rest-assured: any scraper you order will be a piece of cutting-edge software, capable of breaking through any defensive lines! Today SapientPro can deal with ANY kind of anti-scraping protection, overcoming captcha and other web-Maginot lines, working with third party services for more effective parsing.

The final word

As a web-developing company we can provide any software and services, including all the types of web-scrapers for any existing platforms. However, there’s our professional piece of advice regarding commercial web-scraping: if you need an advanced web-scraper, cloud solutions are the best. We will gladly create an up-to-date piece of software for you, additionally providing all the necessary web-scraper development services! The parsed data will be maintained and processed on our servers, while you will be getting precisely what you need – relevant information. So don’t hesitate! Contact us and we will discuss your project together!