Since the invention of the internet, web scraping, is also known as data harvesting or data crawling. Although most people today identify web scraping with obtaining large quantities of data from websites, web scraping was originally designed to make the World Wide Web easier to use.
The History of Web Scraping
Though web scraping is a new concept, its history can be dated back to 1989, when Tim-Berners Lee created the World Wide Web.
The First Website and WWW
The World Wide Web was founded by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 as a mechanism for university lecturers and researchers to share information. Despite being far less visually appealing and much smaller than today's internet, it contained three key qualities that web scraping technologies continue to employ today:
Users can navigate around web pages using embedded hyperlinks.
We still employ Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) to assign a scraper to a certain source site.
Text, images, videos, and audio files can all be found on websites that include various forms of data.
Berners-Lee produced the world's first web browser two years after developing the World Wide Web. This was an HTTP:// web page hosted on his computer's server.
Soon after, in 1993, the World Wide Web Wanderer, the first web robot, was born.
The Wanderer was a Perl-based web crawler created by Matthew Gray at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that assessed the extent of the World Wide Web. The Wanderer was later utilized to generate the Wandex index later that year.
Gray does not suggest that the Wanderer can become a World Wide Web search engine. The Wanderer was also never intended to be a search engine, according to its creators.
A crawler-based online search engine was created in 1993. This bot, known as JumpStation, indexed millions of online pages, transforming the internet into a massive open-source platform unlike anything the world has ever seen. Websites used to rely on human website managers to collect and update links legibly before JumpStation.
It was created by Jonathon Fletcher, a systems administrator at the University of Stirling in Scotland, from Scarborough, England. He utilized JumpStation to index 275,000 entries across 1,500 servers while he was there. When Fletcher departed the University in late 1994, JumpStation was unfortunately stopped. This was due to Fletcher's inability to get financing for his concept, which included the University of Stirling.
BeautifulSoup was published in 2004. BeautifulSoup is a collection of commonly used script modules and algorithms that may be utilized without having to rewrite them. BeautifulSoup, which is written in Python, also aids programmers in understanding site architecture and parsing text within HTML containers, saving those hours of tiresome effort. It is still one of the most advanced and complex web scraping libraries available.
By this time, the internet had evolved into a much more open-source of knowledge, available to anybody with an internet connection. As a result, many individuals began to use BeautifulSoup to extract text, images, and other data from the internet. Web scrapers, didn't offer graphic user interfaces for non-programmers, thus you still needed to know how to code.
The Growth of Visual Web Scrapers
Modern web scraping was born a few years after the introduction of BeautifulSoup.
Several firms released visual web scraping software platforms that allowed users to manually highlight and scrape information from websites into an Excel spreadsheet or database. These applications offered easy-to-use user interfaces that allowed non-programmers to readily retrieve data from the internet.
Rather than typing instructions in Python, Ruby, or other programming languages, just type:
Choose the elements you want to remove.
Choose an extraction order, such as extracting JPEG files before the text.
To begin the scraping operation, press the "Extract" or "Start" button. The scraped data will be immediately populated into the specified Excel spreadsheet or database by the visual web scraper.
Flexibility, usability, affordability, added features, and the level to which they assist you to detect and fix scraping problems vary widely across visual web scrapers. Although some open-source visual web scrapers are free, most of them demand you to subscribe to their services. They might also:
Make it tough for you to export scraped data to specific database types.
To scrape some types of websites, such as dynamic webpages, you'll need to acquire additional applications and tools.
You must create distinct parsers to handle metadata.
Unlike other visual scrapers, iWeb Scraping allows you to scrape data directly from any website without the need to download additional apps or programs. It also parses metadata to deliver the data you desire, eliminating the need for separate metadata parsers. Scraping Robot also allows users to request new modules and features, as well as get regular updates and module changes.
The Growth in Demand of Web Scraping for Small Business
Many small companies have flocked to web scraping like bees to honey as a result of its meteoric growth. This is because online scraping has several benefits for small enterprises, including:
Manual data extraction is being phased out. Visual web scrapers can perform all of the tasks that a human scraper can, but better, faster, and for less money.
iWeb Scraping can gather data from hundreds of pages every hour, which implies humans would never be able to compete with them. iWeb Scraping may also be programmed to operate continuously and at different times of the day. This implies that investing in a data scraping bot will save you a lot of money.
Scraping the web might also help you keep ahead of the competition. Here are some of the things you can track using a web scraper:
Price fluctuations and competitors' prices
Examine your competitors' marketing strategies and services to find out what they're good at and what they're not so good at.
Competitor items that have been introduced to their shops
Products that have been phased out of rivals' storefronts
"What is the most popular headset in Spring 2022?" is an example of an industry trend.
Public Opinion Monitoring
Data scraping can show you what the public thinks about your brand, what impacts their ideas, and how their opinions have evolved over time. Scraping online communities, forums, boards, and your competitors review sites may help you figure out how different demographics feel about a product, marketing plan, or service. This wealth of data may aid in the development and refinement of goods, corporate strategies, and marketing initiatives.
Web scraping can also assist you in making predictions by collecting historical data in a digestible manner that can be used for additional research and testing. Advanced analytics techniques such as predictive analytics and machine learning can then be used to forecast future outcomes.
Predictive analytics on scraped datasets is used by many HR departments to forecast how workers will behave in the future.
Extending Our Reach
Finally, data scraping can help you expand your reach and improve your SEO. You may establish better links and make more connections in your sector by scraping rivals' webpages for keywords and links.
Let's imagine you want to increase the sales of gaming headphones. To draw leads to your rivals' websites, you might employ a web scraper to capture all of their keywords and links. To generate additional leads, you may then include the most popular keywords and links to your product pages and blogs.
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