Scraping refers to the process of automatically extracting information or data from websites and web pages. Scraping is done by building custom software or using software from the market. Ideal cost-effective scraping is when a software program runs automatically without human intervention and users.
Scraping is not always possible from the beginning or could stop in between without notice. Sometimes, it is possible but not a fully automatic process and involves human intervention or monitoring. Here are the reasons:
- Since scraping is not an official way to retrieve data, data source companies are not obligated to inform when they stop supplying the data. Missing data is the worst-case scenario; nobody other than the data source company can fix this.
- Another possibility is a change in data format, which will cause temporary issues and delays as the software developer will need to adjust the software code to match the new data format.
- A data source company might block the server IP addresses from where these scrapper programs run, making 100% automation difficult. In this case, scraping software needs to be run from laptops. This software mimics human interaction with the data source website. It opens a page, chooses values from a dropdown button, types text where needed, and clicks a button to retrieve data. This semi-automation also has risks since data source companies could add a CAPTCHA or user-id/password to stop even the semi-automation.
If scraping carries so many risks, then why is it done?
Such data under consideration is often essential to running the business. The data source company knows it. They are the only source of the data. The data is public data, and it is available on their public domain website. Even in such cases, the data source company leaves no reasonable alternative but scraping from its website. It is as if they want you to scrape the data!