Web Scraping Myths & Truths

web scraping myths

In the field of various companies, organizations, the media, and professional associations linked to business, there is more and more talk about Web Scraping. However, beyond the popularity it is gaining, there are different myths or erroneous beliefs regarding the “benefits”, “magic solutions” or “harms” generated by this new service. In this post we will explore a bit about all of it, we will understand the essence of what this innovative solution really is and we will demystify these mistaken beliefs about Web Scraping.

Web Scraping is revolutionizing the way of extracting information in companies and the market. In today’s competitive world, everyone is looking for ways to innovate and make use of new technologies. Web Scraping, also called “web data extraction”, is an automated process with enormous added value for the business.

Some of the top use cases for Web Scraping include price monitoring and intelligence, news monitoring, lead generation, competitive intelligence, and market research, and credit scoring, among many others.

However, there are certain web scraping myths or erroneous beliefs installed in the community about this technique, the solutions it provides, as well as its limits or technological scope.

In this article, we are going to detail 10 main Web Scraping myths and the truths about web scraping (demystification) associated with each of them:

  • MYTH #1 Web Scraping is a magic problem solver: Although this service can automate the extraction of data from websites, it does not guarantee immediate solutions to all data-related problems. Web Scraping requires careful planning, analysis, and customization to suit specific requirements. Therefore, it is not a magical solution.
  • MYTH #2 Web Scraping is a universal solution: By no means is it since each site has its own structure, code, HTML layout, and data organization. For that reason, Web Scraping solutions must be tailored to each site individually, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for all sites.
  • MYTH #3 Web Scraping is not a legal practice: Many people have the misconception that Web Scraping is illegal. The truth, it’s perfectly legal as long as no password-protected information or personally identifiable data is collected. The other thing you should pay attention to is the Terms of Service of the destination websites, and to ensure that regulations are followed when collecting information from a specific website. Some websites may have anti-scraping measures, so it is important to check their terms of use. In this previous post, we detailed why Web Scraping is a legal practice.
  • MYTH #4 To scrap is to hack: This is linked to the previous point about legality since it is not true. Hacking consists of illegal activities that generally result in the exploitation of private networks or computer systems. The objective of taking control of these is to carry out illegal activities such as stealing private information or manipulating systems for personal gain.

On the other hand, Web Scraping is the practice of accessing publicly available information from target websites. Companies often use this information to be more competitive and make better business decisions.

This translates into better services and fairer market prices for consumers. Let’s take a look at some of the pros of using Web Scraping.

  • MYTH #5 Web Scraping guarantees data availability and stability: Websites often undergo changes in their structure, design, or data format. These changes may break existing Web Scraping scripts and require updates to ensure continued data extraction. At this point, it is necessary to require custom solutions, rather than canned software, to keep up with changes in the structure of websites.
  • MYTH #6 Web Scraping guarantees the accuracy or quality of the data: It is important to clarify that while Web Scraping automates data extraction, it does not guarantee the accuracy or quality of the extracted data. It is important to carefully validate and clean the scraped data to ensure its reliability. For this reason, the truth is that the processing and enrichment of data are very necessary to prevent the lack of reliability of the data and that the data is always of high quality.
  • MYTH #7 Web Scraping manages data storage or analysis in advance: Once the data is scraped, additional steps are required to store, manage, and analyze the extracted data. This may involve further use of databases, data processing tools, or custom scripts to obtain insights from the extracted data. So the main benefit of Web Scraping is the delivery of personalized data to the client and the possibility of integration (later) for faster access to data and informed decision-making.
  • MYTH #8 Scraping is easy: Many people mistakenly believe that “scraping is a piece of cake” and that all one needs to do is enter the intended website and retrieve the destination information. Conceptually, this seems correct. But in practice, scraping is a highly technical, coordinated, and resource-intensive effort. It must have a technical team specialized in the problem to be solved from the point of view of programming.

In this sense, many times the destination sites have complex architectures and blocking mechanisms that are constantly changing. Once those hurdles are overcome, data sets typically need to be cleaned, synthesized, and structured so that algorithms can analyze them and gain valuable insights.

The bottom line is that scraping is anything but easy.

  • MYTH #9 API and Web Scraping are the same: Many people tend to think of the API as a direct means to get all the data they need. This is utter confusion and the result of overestimating an API. Web scraping can visualize the process as it allows you to interact with websites. But professionals who are not in the field, will not be able to solve their problems with only an API, whether it needs the keywords or the URLs to extract. For this, we recommend reading this post on “Web Scraping versus API: Making the Right Choice”.
  • MYTH #10 You can scrape any website on the WWW: It often happens that people ask to scrape things like email addresses, Facebook posts, or LinkedIn information. It is important to note that private data requires a username and password that cannot be deleted. It is compliance with the ToS (Terms of Service) that explicitly prohibits the action of Web Scraping. This means that you should not copy data that is copyrighted. But that doesn’t mean you can’t scrape social media channels, blogs, news, or public opinion sites.

Are you interested in knowing more about the particularities of Web Scraping? We invite you to contact us and read our upcoming articles on automating and simplifying your data extraction with Scraping Pros.

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