Web crawling and web scraping are two frequently used words. They look similar, but what do they mean? There’s a subtle difference between web crawling and web scraping. The two are interrelated but have lots of variations.
When you are browsing the internet, there’s usually a lot going on behind the scenes. Different companies are doing a lot of scraping, crawling, and data aggregation. Search engines, on the other hand, are working hard to ensure that your search is easy, relevant, and fast by optimizing content.
Crawlers or bots are used to browse continuously through different pages to give up-to-date data, crucial index information, and cache data to provide the best user experience. This is what crawling is all about. Scraping targets some particular information for purposes of extracting it. The process requires crawlers or bots.
Scraping and crawling are in most times used interchangeably. It is prudent to think web scraping as being a much more focused process. With scraping, specific data is obtained for some further processing. This makes scraping ideal for anyone who is looking to get data from a particular source to use it in innovative and surprising ways.
In a simple explanation, web crawling is the process of fetching and finding hyperlinks for indexing purposes. Web scraping, on the other hand, is an automatic process of requesting a web document and in turn collecting information from it. Oxylabs is a good example where a tool does both scraping and crawling. but now, let’s have an in-depth look at scraping vs crawling.
Scraping Vs Crawling | Web crawling
A web crawler is an individual software program (web spider) that visits websites, accessing their pages and information to build different entries for a search engine index. Crawlers fetch and find web links from seed URLs. They will go through website pages, find new pages, follow different links indiscriminately extracting data. Web crawling is simply what fuels the various engines available.
Scraping Vs Crawling | Web Scraping
Web scraping is the process of obtaining information that is structured from a web page. In most cases, the process takes place using means that have been specially crafted for a target website. Did you know that you can scrape without crawling? That’s right; you can scrap without having to crawl, especially when you have a list of URLs to scrape from.
Scraping targets structured data such as a scraper intended to collect company emails, names, phone numbers, scrapers for price comparison, and URLs. Once such information has been received, it can be searched, formatted, parsed, and copied into a database.
Scraping Vs Crawling: The Differences
There are several differences between a crawler and scraper. Let’s have a look at the significant differences to have a comprehensive picture of the two.
- Crawling is too generic as compared to specific scraping
- A scraper will take and download selected data… it will only “scrape” data. On the other hand, a crawler will go through the chosen targets without downloading (“crawl”)
- Scraping can be conducted manually while crawling has to be done using a crawling agent or a spider bot
- With web scraping, deduplication is done in smaller scales and not all the time necessary since it can be done manually. For web crawling, lots of information online can get duplicated. To avoid gathering excessive duplicate content, a crawler will always filter out this kind of content.
Web scraping uses
Our world today is full of information, and experts are still looking for ways to make use of it all. That’s why scraping has become very popular over the years to deal with massive aggregate sets of data. The skill has been useful in e-commerce, big data, machine learning, analytics, and artificial intelligence.
Here are some of the most common uses of web scraping.
- Price comparison – Companies that are looking to do in-depth data analysis for some particular use make use of scrapers. Once they have obtained the information, they use it to compare prices in different locations and markets.
- Brand protection – Scrapers, in this case, are used to protect brands by making sure that they make proper use of their insignia, trademarks, and intellectual content.
- Research – data mining is used for academic, scientific, marketing research, etc.
It is worth noting that proxies can be used while scraping to obtain different IP addresses to scrape from any geolocation without any restrictions.
From the content above web scraping vs crawling differences are plain. A crawler will indeed crawl like a spider through different internet targets. Once it has reached the intended target, it will get scraped. What this means is that the target’s data will be put together and downloaded.