Daniel - March 21, 2021
In this post, we will show you the bout of Scrapy vs Selenium vs Beautiful Soup. In the end, we will reveal the best web scraping tool.
Before I proceed, let’s talk about web scraping.
Web scraping involves extracting data (usually huge amounts) from websites. This can be needed for data mining, data monitoring, data integration, research, etc. It’s an automated task which means you can’t do it manually. You need a web scraping tool.
There are many web scraping tools out there and in this post, we’ll be looking at three of them – Scrapy, Selenium, and Beautiful Soup.
Formerly known as ScrapingHub, Scrapy is an open-source software for data extraction on about any website. As an open-source software, many people have contributed to its development, but it is currently being managed by Zyte. Scrapy is the data extraction tool of choice for many because it is fast, powerful, and easily extensible.
With this web scraping tool, you can build and launch web spiders to crawl websites. You can host these spiders on your own server or host them on the Zyte Scrapy Cloud. Being easily extensible means you can add more functionality without it affecting any of the already existing features. The software was written in Python.
Web requests you send using Scrapy are scheduled and processed asynchronously; while one request is sent, another can be sent even if the former is yet to be completely processed. This is one of the major advantages of the software. Scrapy can be used on multiple operating systems including Windows, Mac, Linux, and BSD.
This tool was developed for testing web applications. However, its use has far exceeded that as it can handle several automation tasks. Selenium is of three types – the Selenium WebDriver, Selenium IDE, and Selenium Grid. For web scraping, you can use the Selenium WebDriver with the featured browser automation APIs.
As a web scraping tool, Selenium has a few challenges. This includes difficulties in bypassing CAPTCHA, 2FA, downloading files, performance testing, link spidering, test dependency, and HTTP response codes. Furthermore, Selenium users might have trouble with automating platforms such as Gmail, Facebook, and other email platforms.
Selenium is a browser-based web automation tool. It’s not available as an application for you to install on your PC. Nevertheless, it will work with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and Safari browsers. Selenium also features a native browser – the Selenium Internet Explorer – and it’ll work with specialized browsers like the HtmlUnitDriver.
Beautiful Soup was developed solely for data scraping. It is a Python web scraping library with very powerful features for not just fast but efficient data scraping. This web scraping tool works with a parser and it comes with an HTML parser in the library. However, you can use it with several other Python parsers as well.
In addition, Beautiful Soup is great for extracting data out of HTML and XML web pages and also a few other markup languages. Using the software to scrape data requires knowledge of Python programming but the procedures involved aren’t very complex. Fortunately, there is well-detailed documentation on how to use the software and they even include Python scripts and codes.
Although the software was developed as a Python 2 library, it is automatically converted into Python 3 once the installation is complete. You can install Beautiful Soup on Linux and Windows computers. However, since it’s not a standard Python library, installation is very technical and might not be very easy for beginners.
Each of the three web scraping platforms has its pros and cons. They also have similarities and differences. To start with, Scrapy, Selenium, and Beautiful soup were all free web scraping tools; you don’t pay to use them. Also, they are all open-source which means you can always increase their functionalities.
Comparing their performances, Scrapy is the best out of the three for handling complex tasks. Thanks to its asynchronous system, Scrapy works very fast and extracts data in record time. Beautiful Soup is reliable but it’s slow compared to Scrappy. On the other hand, Selenium, cannot handle some data scraping tasks.
Beautiful Soup is the easiest to use out of the three tools. Hence, if you’re a web scraping beginner, you’ll fare better with Beautiful Soup than with Scrapy or Selenium. Aside from the fact that the execution codes are simple, Beautiful Soup features comprehensive documentation that covers all about using the tool.
For integrations with proxies and VPNs, Scrapy is once again the best. Scrapy has a flexible ecosystem. Since you can send multiple web requests asynchronously, you can assign multiple IP addresses to each request. Beautiful Soup and Selenium also support proxies and VPNs, but the process of integrating them isn’t as easy.
The best proxies for Scrapy, Selenium, and Beautiful Soup are residential, mobile, and datacenter proxies. These proxies provide online anonymity for you while scraping websites for data.
On the other hand, you can check out our dedicated posts for Scrapy, Selenium, and Beautiful Soup.
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