Web Scraping Benefits

Without web scraping, the Internet as you know it really wouldn’t exist. That’s because Google and other major search engines rely upon a sophisticated web scraper to pull the content that will get included in their index. These tools are what makes search engines possible.

Of course, crawling software is used for many other applications. These include article extraction for websites that curate content, business listings extraction for companies that build databases of leads, and many different types of data extraction, sometimes called data mining. For example, one popular and sometimes controversial use of a web scraper is for pulling prices off of airlines to publish on airfare comparison sites.

An Illustration of the Power of Web Scraping

Some people criticize certain uses of scraping software, but there is nothing inherently good or bad about it. Still, this technology can be very powerful and impactful. One commonly cited example is the accidental leak of Twitter earnings early in 2015 by NASDAQ. A web crawler found the leak and posted the information to Twitter by 3 PM.

The company had intended to post a press release after the market closed that day, but sadly and ironically for Twitter, their stock had dropped by 18 percent by the end of the day. NASDAQ, the organization that accidentally released the data admitted that it was a mistake to release this information early. The company that used the website scraping software did not violate any terms by scraping publicly available data.

Typical Web Crawling Software Issues

There is little doubt that a web scraper can be a powerful business tool. However, typical web crawling software can be incredibly difficult to maintain and fraught with problems. These are some traditional scraping and extraction tools and issues that users have with them:

  • RSS scrapers: These are generally the easiest to program and maintain. The problem is that many feeds only contain a small sample of information from pages. This solution often fails when sites move their feeds, stop updating them, or update feeds infrequently.
  • HTML parsers: The problem with these is that they rely upon pages keeping the same format. Every time a website layout changes, whether it’s an A/B test or a redesign, the scraper will fail and have to be manually reprogrammed.

In other words, an old-fashioned web scraper will rely upon programming or rules. Most of all, they rely upon an assumption that Internet files will stay static. Since the Internet is very dynamic, this assumption is inherently risky. When scrapers fail, they cause downtime and require expensive and time-consuming maintenance.

Crawlbot - An Alternative Web Crawler and Scraper

After struggling with typical Internet crawlers, many businesses come to Diffbot for a faster, more reliable, and easier solution. Crawlbot offers a smarter solution for a dynamic and expanding web. Users don’t have to be concerned about the way a site is structured nor do they have to specify rules using CSS Selectors or XPaths. This data extraction technology offers a suite of tools for automatically extracting web content as structured data, either through a UI or programatically. This tool is capable of crawling millions of distinct URLs at surprisingly rapid speeds. Learn more about the best data extraction and website scraping software.