Difference between web scraping and API

Any business that intends to survive in the XXI century, has to go through the online marketing process as well. Even if offline sales are good, they could be better when you reach internet users. However, before that, it is necessary to get some info, or most would call it, make market research.

If you need to gather vast amounts of data from some pages, there are a couple of options to prefer. You can do it manually, which is too exhausting. Or use either web scraping or API scraping. They are not exactly similar, and here we try to determine their differences.

What is Web Scraping?

What is data scraping - web scraping - image explaining
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According to Mydataprovider, gathering information from a specific site is known as web parsing or web scraping. Doing this process manually takes too much time and generally preferred for small projects.

So, collecting large amounts of data tools or services that offer web scraping is preferred. You can easily find websites that provide web scraping services. Those services collect the info you request and can deliver the final result in the desired format. Generally, you provide a URL to the scrapper and then select all the data formats you need to be collected.

Those automated scrappers then compile them into one file that is easily readable. Mostly those are Excel, JSON, or CSV type files. Here is a nuance that should be taken into consideration. Every business has different needs, different demands. Therefore, when choosing a web scraping service know your needs and choose a service wisely.

What is an API (Application Programming Interface)?

Application Programming Interface or API - image
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API stands as an acronym for Application Programming Interface. We can refer to the API as a protocol with some specific techniques that grant access to the information source. In most cases, API is a kind of code integrated into another application. For instance, there are a lot of crypto exchange markets, and all offer different cryptocurrencies at different prices.

A developer that wants to build a widget about cryptocurrency prices, or a crypto savvy person interested in this, may use their API to get data about cryptocurrency offered by the exchange and its price. Because of this, some people refer to the API as the medium between two platforms.

How API and Web Scraping Services Differ?

Even though different needs may require different solutions, it is better to know their pros and cons. For routine data scraping, you can prefer API. Also, working with API is a little simpler than web scraping. Nevertheless, it does not come without limitations. If you use API scraping, you are limited to the info given by the owner of the product.

Most companies may share one aspect while limiting another one. Therefore, when it comes to customization, web scrape definitely beats API scraping. Another advantage of web scraping over API is its anonymity. Since you have to buy the API service from the business owner, you are not anonymous anymore. If you seek anonymity, web scraping services are your number one choice. You may wonder why anybody would need anonymity with data scraping. The answer is simple, legality issues.

Not every website is fond when their site is used for data gathering as it is a load for their servers. Therefore, API is limited in that sense while web scraping services use various tactics to avoid such issues. One other privilege of web scraping compared to API is the data is always updated. Not every API provider continually updates its database and therefore with API services, there is still a chance to get slightly outdated information.

Verdict: API or Web Scraping

The verdict may sound like a cliche, but indeed you should choose either API or web scraping according to your needs. Knowing their differences, their prices, and what they can bring to your business, let’s you choose one over the other. Just a side note, in general, web scraping has a little more advantage. There is one point not covered above: price. While API is mostly business centered and maybe costlier, web scraping is for general use and therefore cheaper.


Interesting related article: “What is Online Marketing?