What Is Web Scraping and Why Is It Important?

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Web scraping can improve the efficiency of business practices, increase productivity, or even offer a completely new direction in business.

In today’s digital world data are becoming more valuable than ever. If we look around, we will see a huge number of services that are supposed to make our lives better and easier. They try to help us by giving us a piece of advice or finding the necessary information. From giants like Google to startups and small pilot projects, all of these services work with data. At the heart of any task that is to be solved today by a machine or a person is data.

On the other hand, there is no reason to complain about the lack of data in the modern world. Data are generated and accumulated by companies and devices and their storage volumes are growing exponentially. But, of course, the most promising source is the Internet. Formerly, the Internet was a small American network for several hundred people, in which almost everyone knew each other. Now it is a giant information structure. It is almost impossible to control the flow of information.

All of this information is now actively used not only by people but by companies for increasing the efficiency of their activities. People’s lives are now changing so rapidly that traditional personal data are simply not enough to assess, for example, the behavior of a borrower (if it is a bank), or a buyer (in the case of a retail network).

As the flow of information grows, so too the possibilities for applying this information to relevant tasks and to develop technical approaches – united by the general term, web-scraping.

Web scraping tools are designed to extract and collect public information from websites. These tools are useful when you need to quickly access and save, in a structured form, any data from the Internet. Web scraping is a new data entry method that does not require re-entry or copy-pasting.

What Is Web Scraping?

If the only way to access the Internet is through the browser, you lose a huge range of options. Although browsers are convenient for executing JavaScript, displaying images and representing objects in a more readable format (among other things), web scrapers are used for collecting and processing large amounts of data. Instead of viewing a single page once on the monitor display, you can view databases that already contain thousands or even millions of pages. Also, web scrapers can penetrate places where traditional search engines cannot access.

Web Scraping Goals

  1. Data collection for market research. Web-based data extraction services help to monitor the situation in which the company or the industry will seek in the next six months, providing a powerful foundation for market research. Web scraping software is capable of receiving data from a variety of data analytics providers and market research firms, and then gather this information into one place for reference and analysis.
  2. Extracting contact information. Web scraping tools can be used to collect and organize data such as email addresses and contact information from various sites and social networks. This allows you to create convenient lists of contacts and all related information for business – data about customers, suppliers or manufacturers.
  3. Downloading solutions with StackOverflow. With web scraping tools, you can create solutions for offline use and storage, collecting data from a large number of web resources (including StackOverflow). This way, you can avoid dependence on active Internet connections, since the data will be available regardless of whether it is possible to connect to the Internet or not.
  4. Search for work or employees. For an employer who is actively looking for candidates to work in their company, or for a job seeker who is looking for a specific position, web scraping tools will also become indispensable: they can be used to set up data sampling based on the various attached filters and effectively receive information without a routine manual search.
  5. Tracking prices in different stores. Such tools will be useful for those who actively use online shopping services, for example, to track the prices of products or when looking for items in several stores at once.

There are many areas where access to data of practically unlimited volume is required. Market forecasting, machine translation, and even medical diagnostics have already gained tremendous benefits, taking advantage of the opportunity to collect and analyze data from news sites, translated content, and messages in medical forums. Regardless of your subject area, there is almost always a way that web scraping can improve the efficiency of business practices, increase productivity, or even offer a completely new direction in business.