In the 21st century, everything tends to circle back to technology. This has further resulted in an ample amount of data that needs to be researched, analyzed, and extracted. And that is exactly when two major data extraction tools—API (Application Programming Interface) scraping and web scraping—come into play.
They are often believed to be two sides of the same coin. They have been gaining ground among the data extraction community for quite a while now. While some believe API scraping to be superior to web scraping, others think of it as a factually incorrect statement.
Through this article, we will put both theories to the test and determine the better data extractor among these two.
What does API scraping mean?
It refers to the process of extracting and accessing data from different websites or operating systems using APIs (application programming interfaces). Unlike web scraping, it fetches the data from the website’s backend by using an application programming interface (API).
Furthermore, these tools present the data in a machine-readable format, making it an efficient and convenient source.
Some of the commonly used API scraping tools are mentioned below:
The extracted data can then be used to generate leads, monitor prices and trends for research, etc.
Workings of API scraping
- Initial Request: The initial step includes locating the API endpoints that provide the required data. Furthermore, it involves analyzing the processed data using API discovery tools.
- Authentication: Several authentication tools, like API keys, come into play to ensure secure communication between the requester and server.
- Acquiring data: After authenticating, the requested data is then processed and presented by the API server in JSON or XML format.
- Data Storage: The extracted data is then saved as CSV or JSON file, or in a database.
Pros and cons of API scraping
This tool offers several advantages over traditional scraping tools. Some of the key advantages are mentioned below:
- Maintainability: APIs used in the process of API scraping are comparatively more stable and less susceptible to changes. Thus, reducing the resources utilized in its maintenance.
- Real-time data: It extracts data via API directly from the websites, resulting in near-instantaneous access to the latest information. This further proves advantageous in market monitoring, financial trading, and news aggregation.
- Legality: APIs request permission beforehand from websites, thus avoiding any kind of legal trouble.
- Scalability: It uses various techniques to deal with the extraction of data. This makes it possible to handle large sets of data without much difficulty.
Like any other scraping tool that is out there, API scraping too has its fair share of disadvantages. Some of the main downsides are mentioned below:
- Limited access: It tends to have limited access in terms of the free features available. There is a great possibility of crucial data being omitted and made available only after further payments.
- Limited API requests: The API provider puts a limit on the number of API requests a server can make in a given period. This imposes a major hindrance, especially in the case of the scalability of data.
- Absence of API endpoints: Not all the websites contain API endpoints. The lack of these endpoints obstructs the process of API scraping.
- Quality of data: While using this tool, the quality of the data extracted depends on the API itself. Errors in the API can thus affect the data quality as well.
What does Web Scraping mean?
It refers to the process of extracting data from a given website or operating system, either manually or by using software tools. The software tools used to extract data are known as web scrapers.
Some commonly used web scrapers are mentioned below:
The extracted data can then be used for different purposes, such as research, market analysis, news monitoring, lead generation, etc.
Working on Web Scraping
The workings of web scraping can be summarized in the steps stated below:
- Requesting Data: Different HTTP commands like GET, POST, and PUT are used to extract, submit, and update data on a website.
- Data Parsing: The data obtained is then processed and presented in a more comprehensible and structured format to the user, known as data parsing. There are a wide variety of formats to choose from, like XML, JSON, etc.
- Data Storage: The data obtained is then stored in different formats (CSV, JSON, XML, and databases) depending on its size and type.
Pros and Cons of Web Scraping
There are several reasons why this tool is beneficial to the user, some of which are stated below:
- Cost-effective: It is considered to be cost-effective. These tools available extract the data from different websites free of charge, enabling users to avoid hiring people to do that manually.
- Time Efficiency: These tools extract, process, and present the data in a presentable manner within a record time, saving the user his efforts and time.
- Result Accuracy: These tools know and use the right tools and techniques to collect data that is up-to-date and highly accurate. This is something that can’t be ensured entirely when done manually.
- Lead Generation: These tools are known for analyzing trends and making effective future predictions. This feature, backed by accurate results, helps generate leads.
While there might be several facts as to how and why this method is beneficial for users, we can’t turn a blind eye to its impacts on users and digital words as well. Below are some of the drawbacks:
- Legality Issues: This method is considered illegal in cases where the websites prohibit it by stating the same in their terms of service agreements. Websites may also block these tools, making things difficult.
- Error Prone: It comes with its fair share of risk. These tools on a large number of websites increase the risk of errors and require a lot of computing power and bandwidth.
- Maintenance issues: For these tools to operate properly, regular maintenance and updates are a must. This turns out to be tiresome and exhausting, making it difficult to operate effectively.
- Input costs: Even though this method is cost-effective as compared to manual data collection, it isn’t exactly cheap. Input costs in the form of hardware, software, and staffing still need to be made.
Web Scraping and API Scraping: Similarities
The first and foremost fact is that both the tools are widely known for efficient data extraction. They are proving to be beneficial for the economy as a whole. Both methods require technical knowledge for efficient working and require input costs to be made.
Furthermore, despite following different processes, both tools extract useful data.
Web Scraping and API Scraping: Differences
Both web and API scraping are the best tools that the market has to offer, and their differences only make them better than the rest.
The most significant difference between both the tools is the process of extracting data. Web scraping extracts data from various websites or software, either manually or by using software tools. On the other hand, API scraping extracts data from different sources using API endpoints.
The access to information in both tools differs. While the web scraping tool accesses data from all websites, API scraping faces some difficulty, especially when a website restricts API exposure.
Furthermore, web scraping would be deemed illegal if the terms of the website condemned it. But it isn’t the same for API scraping.
What does Web Scraping API mean?
With the vast variety of data available on the market, a tool with the combined benefits of both the tools discussed above was the need of the hour.
Web scraping API is a tool that extracts data from various platforms using API calls. This tool can work its way through several difficulties faced by tools mentioned above.
Some of the commonly sought-out Web scraping API tools are:
- Charles Proxy
This tool can be used for the purpose of lead generation, sentiment analysis, content marketing, research purposes, etc.
Workings of web scraping API
The basic process involves the following steps:
- Data Request: The desired data is requested using base API endpoints, where the URL to be scraped can be added as a body parameter.
- Processing the data: The extracted data can then be processed in the user’s choice of language.
- Storage: The data can then be stored in the database.
Pros and cons of web scraping API
With any scraping tool come its benefits and drawbacks, both of which are relatively crucial.
Some of the perks of using Web scraping API include the following:
- Stability: The stability of the data extracted by APIs is further enhanced in the context of this tool.
- Legality: The data extracted using web scraping API tools is legal as these tools use their proxy cluster.
- Adaptability:These tools are much more adaptable and easy to use in comparison to web scraping tools and API scraping tools.
- Real-time capability: These tools ensure highly optimized data.
Top 5 web scraping API tools
Given below are the top 5 web scraping API tools:
- Charles Proxy
- RESTful Client(Node.js)
Whatever differences both tools might have, they are equally popular among their peers. And to make things even more interesting Web Scraping API is giving the other two tools a run for its money. The combined perks of API and Web Scraping with features overcoming their shortcomings is what makes Web Scraping API unbeatable.
Thus, if a user is to decide going with Web Scraping API tools would be the best alternative.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: How do you differentiate between the tools?
The most significant difference between web and API scraping is that one of them extracts data from various platforms manually or using software tools. On the other hand, API scraping uses APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
Q2: Is web and API scraping legal?
Web scraping would be considered in that particular case when websites condemn the action in their terms of service. Other than that, both web and API scraping are legal.
Q3: Which one is better: Web or API scraping?
API scraping would be deemed better due to its flexibility, reliability, and ability to extract real-time data.
Q4: What are the key factors to be considered when choosing between the given tools?
The key factors to be considered are data quality, legality, data access, and maintenance among many others.
Q5: What are the free APIs to scrape data from websites?
ScrapingBee, ScrapingAnt and Scraper’s Proxy are among the free APIs to scrape data from websites. For more free web scraping tools click here.
Hello, Curious Minds!
Welcome to my corner of the digital world, a space brimming with words and woven with ideas. Fresh out of the rigorous trenches of an Economics honors degree at the esteemed University of Delhi, I know a thing or two about crunching numbers and dissecting trends. But beyond the world of graphs and equations, lies my love for reading and writing. Admittedly, I’m a newbie in the content writing scene, still tasting the ink of fresh beginnings. I believe every corner of life holds a story waiting to be told, and I’m eager to be your storyteller. So, strap yourselves in, dear readers, and let’s dive into the captivating world of words together!
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