The Difference Between Web Scraping and Web Crawling – A Complete Breakdown
Web scraping and web crawling: Both terms go hand in hand with some slight differences. The majority of people are confused by these two terms as they seem identical since both have similarities to some extent. This article will bring you a clear picture of what these two terms are.
What is Web Scraping?
In simple terms, web scraping is the extraction of web data from websites or web pages. The extracted data is then saved into a specific file format. Web scraping can be done manually; however, web scrapers are used to automate this process.
As a critical aspect that can be pointed out, web scraping tools extract only specific data in a focused approach on target websites. The extracted web data is then stored for further analysis.
What is Web Crawling?
Web crawling or data crawling deals with large data sets and is not limited to small workloads. According to layman’s terms, web crawling (and indexing) is what search engines perform. Basically, it’s what you see on search results pages. The web crawler (also known as spiders or bots) crawls through the web to look for specific information by clicking on every available link.
Web Scraping vs. Web Crawling
Let’s break it down this way to get a general understanding of what scraping and crawling are.
Web crawling systematically browses and clicks on different targets of the web or any other source to detect changes and notify them, whereas web scraping is downloading the crawled content into your computer/database in a specific format.
Data scrapers know what to scrape, so they look for specific data to fetch. Most commonly, scrapers are looking for market data such as prices, data, descriptions, and titles. The data can be used for future analysis and making business decisions that could help grow your business.
Significant differences in web scraping and web crawling will be discussed under separate sections from here on.
Web Scraping process
The web scraping process can be explained in three steps as follows;
• First, you are required to request the target website to obtain the content of the specific URL.
• In response, the scraper obtains the data in HTML format.
2. Parse and Extract
• Parsing applies to any computer language. This process involves taking the code as a text format and producing a structure that the computer can understand and work with.
3. Download Data
• As the final part, the downloaded data will be saved in a JSON, CSV, or a database and used for later analysis.
Web Crawling Process
1. Select a starting seed URL.
2. Add it to the frontier
3. Select the URL from the frontier
4. Get the web page corresponding to the particular URL
5. Parse the web page to get new URLs
6. All the newly found URLs being added to the frontier
7. Repeat step 3 until the frontier is empty
• Web scraping – Only scrapes the data (gets only the specific data and downloads it).