September 23, 2022
5 min.

Web scraping vs API

Web scraping is a special technique for automatically obtaining specific data from the Internet. Scraping allows you to collect raw data in the form of HTML code from websites and turn it into a usable organized version. Companies typically use the collected data for things like gathering consumer information, doing market research, monitoring finance and investment activities, and keeping the company's worth increasing and stable. 

Application Programming Interface, or API for short, serves as an intermediate point for data and information transmission between websites and applications. You must make a request in order to interact with the API. For the request to be properly processed, the client needs to provide the URL and HTTP method. Depending on the method, you can add headers, body, and request parameters. The API will handle the request and send the web server's answer in turn.

How Do They Work?

Web scraping software extracts all the data from a publicly accessible website, including the text, photos, and videos, and saves it as a data file. 

Between a website and the requester, an API creates an automated data pipeline that is designed for certain parts of the website's content. Data can be obtained automatically or manually on demand. It is comparable to a subscription where you receive new content automatically on a regular schedule.

Similarities 

Web scraping and API scraping are the two most popular techniques among data developers. Even though the two techniques operate differently, they ultimately serve the same purpose — provide the user with data.

A user can get previously unattainable customer information and insight using these new methods of information acquisition. 

Differences + Advantages & Disadvantages

  • The web scraping technique includes manually or with the use of software tools extracting data from one or more websites. Data extraction with software is often favored since it is far more effective and takes considerably less time than data extraction manually.
  • For the API, the situation is a bit different. You may access the data of a program or operating system via an API. As a result, APIs have a direct connection to the dataset's owner. As long as the owner of the data permits, the user may receive this data for free or at a cost, depending upon their preferences. The previously mentioned restriction is one of the drawbacks that the API technique causes for its consumers, setting it apart from web scraping.
  • One benefit that APIs give their customers over the web scraping technique is the ability to directly access the necessary data type, whereas the web scraping method provides the option of extracting data through web scraping tools.
  • The API technique of data extraction typically requires only a website. The web scraping technique, however, allows you to work on many websites at once, which saves you time.
  • The scraped data is organized in a structured format by web scraping programs. The data retrieved through the API technique, on the other hand, has to be modified additionally. The API technique is less beneficial for its consumers in this sense than the web scraping method.
  • Web scraping makes it possible to do an action that is not supported by the API. Data is being automatically stored using this technique. In addition, compared to the web scraping API, it has a structure that is far more complicated and adjustable.

As you can see, both techniques have their advantages and disadvantages. However, the web scraping technique is more innovative and approachable than the API method, to summarize. It is unrestricted and free unlike API.

Which option demands a lower level of technical effort?

There is a significant distinction between web scraping and APIs in terms of the accessibility of tools. When using APIs, the user is frequently required to create a customized application for the particular data query. The vast majority of external web scraping solutions, on the other hand, don't involve coding. Some of them are paid service providers that use easily accessible templates to scrape data from your target websites, while others are free browser extensions that scrape the website you are now on.

The legal implications

Legally speaking, the websites whose data you want provide APIs. So long as you follow the API rules, pulling data through the API is permitted. Web scraping is acceptable as long as you abide by the rules provided in the "robot.txt" file of the website from which you plan to collect data. It is crucial that you explore the pertinent sections of the website you wish to scrape data from in order to determine whether the web scraping technique is lawful.

The best approach: Web scraping + API

Websites are rich with information that might be beneficial to businesses, and it could be any information. Based on how the business wishes to contact information to stock prices, the retrieved data is used.

The most prevalent method of data collecting used nowadays is web scraping. However, in some circumstances, the web scraping + API method can be used if web scraping is not possible or sufficient data cannot be obtained by web scraping.

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