Web Scraping and APIs.
What do these terms mean? And more importantly, how are they different?
Today, we’ll break down both terms and get to the bottom of these questions.
What is Web Scraping?
Web Scraping refers to the process of extracting data from a website or specific webpage.
This can be done either manually or by using software tools called web scrapers. These software tools are usually preferred as they are faster, more powerful and therefore more convenient.
Once web scrapers extract the user’s desired data, they often also restructure the data into a more convenient format such as an Excel spreadsheet.
With web scraping, a user is able to select any website they’d want to extract data from, build their web scraping project and extract the data.
Want to learn more about web scraping? Check out our in-depth guide on web scraping and what it is.
What is an API?
An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of procedures and communication protocols that provide access to the data of an application, operating system or other services.
Generally, this is done to allow the development of other applications that use the same data.
For example, a weather forecast company could create an API to allow other developers to access their data set and create anything they’d want with it. Be it their own weather mobile app, weather website, research studies, etc.
As a result, APIs rely on the owner of the dataset in question. They might offer access to it for free, charge for access or just not offer and API at all. They might also limit the number of requests that a single user can make or the detail of the data they can access.
Web Scraping vs API: What’s the Difference?
At this point, you might be able to tell the differences between web scraping and an API. But let’s break them down.
The goal of both web scraping and APIs is to access web data.
Web scraping allows you to extract data from any website through the use of web scraping software. On the other hand, APIs give you direct access to the data you’d want.
As a result, you might find yourself in a scenario where there might not be an API to access the data you want, or the access to the API might be too limited or expensive.
In these scenarios, web scraping would allow you to access the data as long as it is available on a website.
For example, you could use a web scraper to extract product data information from Amazon since they do not provide an API for you to access this data.
As you can see, the uses of web scrapers and APIs change depending on the context of the situation you’re in.
You might be able to access all the data you need with the use of an API. But if access to the API is limited, or too expensive or just non-existent, a web scraper can allow you to essentially build your own API for any website.