Contents are created and published on the internet on a daily basis, and this makes getting the right data needed at a certain point in time a really difficult task. To avoid this and make data readily available when it’s needed is the central idea behind web scraping.
Web scraping is becoming a vital ingredient in business and marketing planning regardless of the industry.
There are several ways to scrape the web for useful data depending on your requirements and budget and adding proxies to your scraping software offers several benefits.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is a technique used to crawl the world wide web or a specific website to extract data from it. The data/information displayed by most websites can only be accessed by a web browser hence if you wish to save that to a local file in your computer, you need to copy-paste the information one website at a time.
“Also, if you wish to use the data collected to perform analysis using tools like Tableau or Microsoft Power BI, then it has been collected in a structured format adding more manual labor to the already mundane task, says Comfort, professional SEO expert and research representative at SEOorNothing.
That is why businesses have been developing custom and generic data scraping tools to collect the data from the world wide web. A web scraping software will automatically load and extract data from multiple pages for websites based on your requirements.
There are many reasons why a business should use web scraping, some of which are discussed below.
Web scraping has enabled businesses to innovate at the speed of light, providing them real-time access to data from the world wide web. Take the example of websites like Kayak, providing the cheapest flight options just by the virtue of having real-time access to information/data available on hundreds if not thousands of websites.
Even your favorite web browser could also act as a great web scraping tool. You can install the Web Scraper extension from the chrome web store to make it easy to use the data scraping tool.
Web scraping provides better access to company data and many governments across the globe are opening doors to government data with the possibility of API integrations. Legal industries across the globe are leveraging the court data made available in the public domain, exponentially increasing access to the law for its citizens.
There are many other benefits of web scraping, such as using it for lead generation, market research, brand monitoring, anti-counterfeiting activities, machine learning using large data sets, and so on.
The problem arises when web scrappers have to tackle with the already strict norms of the world wide web and plan for the tough days ahead. One of the most prominent? Proxies.
Proxy and its importance in Web Scraping
Before dwelling into the proxies, lets first lay the foundation by discussing IP address. An IP address is nothing but a numerical label to each device connected to a computer network that is using internet protocol to connect with the world wide web. An IP address generally look like 289.9.879.15
A proxy is often a third party service that allows you to send and receive notification using their IP address to mask your IP address. The main reason why you need a proxy IP address while scrapping data from the world wide web is to avoid getting blacklisted.
How IP Proxies are helpful in Web Scraping
1. Proxies mask your IP address: While your scrapping tool/software extracts the data, the proxy server will mask your machine’s IP address protecting it from any potential blacklisting. Since the proxy servers will be using their credentials to access the world wide web, your machine stays protected all the time. IP masking is the most important reason in proxy servers, enabling you to remain anonymous while doing the heavy activity on the world wide web.
2. Access to inaccessible websites: In recent times many countries have come forward by creating geographical restrictions to access the websites hosted in their countries. One of the most prominent examples here is China. With proxy servers, the scraping software can mask their IP address with residential IP proxies from China, enabling the software to access all the websites which might not have been available without a proxy.
3. Proxies help bypass limiting internet protocols: To maintain the service standards and data protection, websites deploy tools to restrict the access of IP addresses which they might find spammy to their websites. In such circumstances, the data scraping would remain incomplete if the website blocks your scraping tool. If a proxy server is deployed, however, then the IP address that gets blocked belongs to your service provider rather than your machine, enabling you to easily scrap the data.
Artificial Intelligence in Web Scraping
The worldwide web is a giant repository where data is vast and abundant, thereby creating endless opportunities.
The challenging task for any human or machine is to navigate through this unstructured pile of data that can be extracted from the world wide web. It would take a tremendous amount of effort to get insights out of these huge piles of data even if one deploys advanced web scraping technologies.
Many on-going types of research suggest that Artificial Intelligence can be the answer to this unstructured problem. The researches have introduced a mechanism of information extraction that can extract structured data from unstructured sources automatically. The mechanism powered by artificial intelligence is similar to what a human thinks while looking at a piece of document.
The worldwide- web is vast and abundant with information.
Web scraping has been enabling innovation and helping pioneers perform groundbreaking research accessing the information from the worldwide web.
However, web scraping comes with its own unique challenges which can hinder the possibilities and as a result make it a harder technique to perform. The proxy server is coming up as an essential tool highly accepted by the web scraping tools simply because of how it protects and enables the system to be more comprehensive.
Many types of research suggest that in the last decade humans have created information more than in the entire history of the human race. This calls for the latest innovations like Artificial Intelligence to help in the structuring of this highly unstructured data landscape.