The importance of data in today’s hyperconnected world is unquestionable. Acquiring accurate information is paramount to solving various business and research needs. One can use many ways to obtain data. Surveys, interviews, forms, and questionnaires – these are all data collection methods that, although practical, don’t tap into one of the biggest data resources available around, the internet.
The internet contains vast amounts of data on every plausible subject you can imagine. However, tapping into this massive reservoir of information can be tricky as most websites don’t allow users the option to save and collect data from them.
Web scraping sorts out this problem by enabling users to obtain large quantities of the data they need. In this short article, we’ll learn about web scraping, the roles Selenium and Python play, and how you can use proxies alongside Selenium for your data acquisition needs.
Understanding Web Scraping
Web scraping is an automated gathering of data and content from websites on the internet. It involves extracting a webpage’s HTML code to allow users to perform data gathering, manipulation, and analysis operations. These are important for businesses, as they can help them better understand their user base and competitors. Information is power, and staying on top of it is a guaranteed way to be successful. Since the need for data analysis has an immense significance, it has led to the development of tailor-made Python packages that maximize these web scraping operations.
Selenium refers to open-source software that includes several tools and libraries that can help with browser automation. It was one of the pioneers in the testing automation landscape, dating back to 2004.
Its universal nature and expert toolchain have made it the go-to choice for data analysis.
The Selenium API uses the WebDriver protocol to work in tandem with popular web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. Selenium can control either a locally-installed browser or operate one on a remote machine over a network. Selenium allows users to interact with websites in a variety of ways, including:
- Scrolling pages and clicking buttons
- Taking screenshots
- Filling out forms with data
- Managing prompts and cookies
- Testing sites
- Collecting and scraping data
The Role of Selenium and Python in Web Scraping
Python is, without a doubt, one of the most popular programming languages worldwide, especially when it comes to web scraping. It has lots of flexibility, its coding is easy to learn, it allows for dynamic typing, and it has an extensive collection of libraries that can be helpful in handling data. Additionally, it has outstanding support for scraping tools such as Selenium and Python-based tools like Scrapy and Beautiful Soup.
Proxies Make Your Data-Retrieval Operations Easier
As great as Selenium is, the main issue you’d want to protect yourself from when using it to retrieve data from websites is blacklisting. It’s not uncommon for web admins to think of Selenium-powered crawlers as threats, therefore, blocking their access if they perceive an issue with the performance of their website. Due to this, choosing a suitable proxy to tackle your data-gathering tasks can make a huge difference and extend the life of your web crawler.
Web admins tend to restrict crawlers based on their IP address. Clever admins use tools to know the pool of IP addresses used to access their website and then block them altogether. As such, choosing the right proxy provider that can help you bypass these blockades is paramount.
Selenium is insanely customizable. Your coding skills and imagination are your only limits when building a web crawler with it. It’s important to mention that Selenium proxy handling is quite basic. Additionally, it doesn’t handle authentication right out of the box. You’ll need to get Selenium Wire to solve this issue.
The Final Word
Selenium and Python come in handy when acquiring data from websites. Selenium is an excellent tool to automate almost any action on the web.
When web scraping with Selenium, it’s essential to remember that you need to use top-shelf proxies. This way, you’ll seamlessly obtain data from anywhere online without facing any IP blocks.