Web Scraping - The Quickest and Most Effective Way of Gathering Data

By Elizabeth L. Frye

Web data extraction, web harvesting or web scraping is one of the most important constituents of worldwide internet utility. Though web harvesting is actually a computer software based technique for the extraction of required information from various websites all over the internet, the need of this kind of software is eliminated if you are able to access web-based service of any reliable website. The use of such a technique of web data extraction stimulates the human exploration of the World Wide Web or WWW which is usually done by two ways: firstly, by the implementation of low level Hyper Text Transfer Protocol or HTTP, and secondly, by embedding a full-fledged web browser like that of Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Web scraping and web indexing are two closely associated terms but also involve difference in certain respects which needs to be visualized here. Web indexing is meant to index information on the web while using a bot and it is a universal technique widely adopted by most of the search engines in vogue today. In contrast to web indexing, however, data mining primarily focuses more on the transformation of the unstructured data on the web, which is particularly in HTML format. Thus unstructured data, after transformation, assumes the shape of structured data which can eventually be stored and subsequently analyzed in a spreadsheet or a central local database.

Moreover, web scraping also has a relation with another relevant term called web automation. Web automation is responsible for stimulating human browsing with the help of computer software. Concerning various uses and applications of web data extraction, there includes online price comparison, research, website change detection, weather data monitoring, web data integration as well as web mash-up. However, the primary goal of the process of web harvesting is to automatically collect required information from the World Wide Web.

The field of web scraping is characterized by active developments while sharing a common goal with the semantic web vision. This rather an ambitious initiative is still in the need of significant breakthroughs particularly in semantic understanding, text processing, human computer interactions as well as in the area of artificial intelligence. But instead, web data extraction technique is currently, actively engaged in providing practical solutions which are based on existing technologies which in most of the cases are completely ad hoc. As a result, in line with these peculiar desired and existing features of web harvesting, there have evolved different levels of automation which the existing such technologies can supply.

Various techniques have been developed, adopted and applied for the adequate accomplishment of the process of web scraping at different desired levels. Some of these techniques include human copy and paste, text grepping and regular expression matching, HTTP or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol programming, data mining algorithms, DOM parsing, HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language parsers, the use of web data extraction software, vertical aggregation platforms, semantic annotation recognizing, and so on. Anyhow, for your convenience and early achievement of the set target, various devoted individuals, teams, groups, companies and organizations have developed and successfully launched their web-based online services which can be easily accessed if you have an internet connection and subsequently find the best website concerned.

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