Have you ever heard of web scraping? It is possible that this term sounds like Chinese…
Web Scraping is as old as the web itself, it is a well-known term in the world of programming, and an online business in general. Scrape allows you to gather multiple data sources in one compact place, from within which you can make your own data queries and display information as you like.
In my personal experience, I have seen web scraping being used to build automated product websites, article directories and large-scale projects that involve a lot of interaction with the data. What do they all have in common? Money.
The average person looking for a web scraper will be thinking in terms of money.
What other uses are there for web scrapers and which are the most common? Funny to think about this, the first thing that came to mind when thinking of other uses to scrape was a tweet that was sent earlier this year by Matt Cutts, one of the people behind Google’s spam team.
“If you see a scraper URL outranking the original source of content in Google, please tell us about it.” – Matt told this to his Twitter followers.
Just a few moments later, Dan Barker – an online entrepreneur; made a pretty funny answer to show what the real problem with Google is:
I thought it was pretty hilarious, as did 30,000 other people who took the time to re-tweet that statement. The lesson here is that web scraping is all around us. Try to imagine a world where a price comparison website would need to have a separate set of employees, just to have them check the prices again, and again, for each new request. A nightmare!
Web Scraping has many sides to it, certainly there are many applications for that as well, here are some examples which I think defines what web scraping is and it probably shows that it is not always about stealing other people’s data.
Price comparison – As I said, one of the great uses for scraping is the ability to compare prices and data more efficiently. Instead of having to do all the controls manually, you can have a scraper in place; making all the requests from you.
Contact information – You might consider this type of web scraping as something in a thin line, but you may scrape it for the details of the villages; names, emails, phones, etc. by using a web scraper.
Social Analysis – I think this is getting less attention than it deserves, with modern technology – that we can really immerse ourselves in the lives of others, and by web scraping social websites like Twitter or Facebook, we can come to conclusions of what Different groups of people like it.
Research Data – Very similar to what I said above, large amounts of data can be scraped in one place and then used as a general database for incredible construction, and information websites or products.
All these were at the top of my head, having a quick look online led me to this blog post; you’ll find a few suggestions about the uses of the web scraped there.
Now imagine a fellow webmaster being frustrated more than a company that has stolen all your data, and is now making a huge profit out of it. The worst part? In many cases, it is almost impossible to prove that these people are doing what they know they are, web scraping, and using their data.
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