Daniel - June 8, 2021
When talking about getting information from websites and web platforms, web crawling and web scraping are some of the terms used. While they are very different, most people interchange them. In this article, we’ll be discussing web crawling vs web scraping to know how they’re different.
Web crawling involves automatically accessing every part of a website to identify all the data they contain. This data is indexed so it can be retrieved whenever it is needed. Web crawling is done using web crawlers and web spider bots.
A practical example is search engines. Search engines like Google and Bing have spider bots that scouts the entire internet. The bots will identify web pages and index them on the search engine’s database. That way, whenever a user makes a keyword search, the search engine will retrieve web pages that are relevant to the keyword.
Therefore, you can say web crawling is for searching data online. If you want to perform research, for example, you can program a spider bot to crawl websites and retrieve data and information relevant to your research. Then, you can easily go to any of the data you want. Going through every web page on your own will only waste your time and energy.
Web scraping involves data extraction. You use a web scraping bot to download a particular data or set of data from a website. When you scrape data, you don’t just go through every part of a website. You’re instead focused on a particular detail on the website.
This is similar to you visiting a webpage to copy all the text and download all media files. Hence, you can extract data manually but when there are many web pages to copy text and download files from, a web scraping bot is more ideal.
For example, you might see a web design you like and want to extract the design codes. It’s possible to inspect the page from your browser and manually start copying the codes one after the other. Also, you may want to extract the names of your friends on Facebook.
You can go through your friend list and write down their names from first to last. However, why waste time doing all of that manually when you can do it faster and automatically with a web scraping bot?
The main similarity between web scraping and web crawling is that both deal with data. Also, they are both done automatically using bots. However, while web scraping involves downloading a specific data set from websites, web crawling involves going through all data sets on websites to identify and index them.
When you work with a web crawler, you work with links. The spider bot will identify data via the URL of the page they appear. This is why when you search Google, Bing, and other search engines; you get a list of URLs that takes you to a web page when you click.
On the other hand, when you work with a web scraper, you work with raw data. If there are images on the web page, they’ll be saved in JPG, PNG, or whatever format they are. The same goes for text and videos amongst other files.
Web crawling and web scraping are often used simultaneously. When you use a web crawler to locate a web page, you use a web scraper to download the content to the web page.
Crawling and scraping data with bots is not welcomed on many websites. To these websites, bots create spam traffic which can affect the experience of real users. Hence, you can get blacklisted if the website detects you’re using a bot. Take Facebook for example, if you’re downloading your friend list using a web scraper and you are detected; you could lose your account.
To crawl and scrape data off the web safely, you need proxies. Normally, people do not crawl or scrape without using proxies as they are a requirement to use bots. A reliable proxy will mimic real users by rotating IPs. When you rotate IPs, you won’t send too many requests from the same IP address which is typical with bots.
Furthermore, if a website bans your IP address, you can easily switch to a different one and continue your tasks. If you’re wondering where you can get the best proxies for web scraping and crawling, ProxyRack is ideal.
Web crawling and web scraping work hand in hand but they are different operations. The former involves locating and indexing data while the latter involves extracting data.
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