REVIEWED BY
Eric Kleppen | Jan 09, 2023

You can accomplish web scraping through many methods, but many prefer Python due to its ease of use, large collection of libraries and easily understandable syntax. Web scraping is enormously valuable for data science, business intelligence and investigative reporting. Popular Python libraries used for web scraping include Beautiful Soup and Selenium.

What Is Python Web Scraping Used For?

Some tasks you can automate through the use of web scraping include comparing financial reports, gathering email addresses, statistical research, price comparison, finding job listings and more. 

Related Reading From Built In Experts6 Free Web Scraping Tools That Make Data Collection a Breeze

 

Is Python Good for Web Scraping?

Yes. There are many tools you can use for web scraping, including APIs and online services, but Python is one of the most efficient methods for many reasons. Using a Python library like Beautiful Soup to read and collect web data from HTML or XML is possible with just a few lines of code. Python’s understandable syntax and simple code make it easy to write and review web scraping scripts. Perhaps most importantly, Python’s code is compact, meaning you’ll never spend more time writing code than you otherwise would by manually searching for data.

We use web scraping to parse HTML and XML, while also automating the retrieval of large volumes of data from websites. Web scraping can be an invaluable process for acquiring volumes of data from multiple sources and arranging them to be stored in relational databases like MySQL or NoSQL databases like MongoDB. 

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How Does Web Scraping Work?

To begin the web scraping process, you’ll first load URLs into a web scraping tool, such as Python. The tool will then crawl and extract data from the URL. You can then parse the returned, structured data using string methods, regular expressions, HTML and additional methods. You’d use HTML if you’re interested in data between certain HTML tags in the website’s structure. For example, if you wanted to collect all the links from a website, a web scraping tool could be set to look for “href” tags.

Web Scraping With Python 101. | Video: Hallden

 

Is Web Scraping Legal?

Web scraping in itself is completely legal, though websites can set specific rules regarding the practice on its domain.

While web scraping is not explicitly outlawed, aside from specific terms-of-service violations, some websites choose not to allow the practice on their platform or may have specific rules dictating how scraping and crawling may be done. These rules are generally laid out in a site’s “robots.txt” file, which explains how and which kinds of bots may crawl and scrape the site. It’s important to understand how to safely use scraped data if it’s protected by copyright. For example, while scraping data is legal, displaying that data for commercial use might not be.

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