What would you say if someone asked you how much data you think is uploaded on the internet every minute? Unless you’ve recently seen the mind-blowing internet stats, you’d probably be way off.
For example, did you know that almost 350,000 tweets happen every minute? What about emails, text messages, or Google searches? How many of those do you think are there in just 60 seconds?
The amount of data uploaded on the internet every minute is simply astonishing, but why should you care about that data?
That data can be valuable not just to big organizations but to individuals as well. That’s why web scraping exists. Its purpose is to gather data from various websites for further analysis and use for many different purposes.
Today, bots and other web scraping tools automate and speed up web scraping. One of those tools is Beautiful Soup, a Python web scraping library, and it’s what we’ll discuss here.
What is web scraping?
The process of extracting information from websites is web scraping. You typically do it by making HTTP requests to a server, retrieving the HTML code, and then parsing it using a web scraping framework or library. The parsing part makes data easily navigable and allows you to extract the specific information you need.
A while ago, people did web scraping manually. You’d go on a website and use the “Inspect element” to access the source code before copying and pasting the needed data. It was a tediously slow and labor-intensive task. However, after a while, web scrapers started using web scraping tools and bots, making the process much faster and easier.
What Beautiful Soup is and how it works
Beautiful Soup is a part of the Python programming language and Python web scraping world. It’s one of the most well-known web scraping libraries or frameworks. When Python web scraping came onto the scene, it made the data extraction process incredibly easier (read more).
It makes HTTP requests to the server, pulling the HTML or XML code from the website. Even with poorly written source code, which is quite common on many websites, Beautiful Soup deals with it by converting documents to Unicode or UTF-8.
The library then parses the pulled HTML source code, dividing it into smaller units and making it easier to navigate and search for further extraction and analysis. It’s a lightweight web scraping library that programmers can easily integrate into different Python projects.
Beautiful Soup is a powerful tool that simplifies data extraction from web pages. The whole library or framework is easy to use and understand, making it accessible to everyone. That’s why junior developers and people new to scraping often use it, as it’s an excellent choice for small web scraping projects.
The role of Beautiful Soup in scraping
Beautiful Soup makes web scraping a lot easier. It can automate almost the entire process. All you have to do is program it how you want to use it. The framework can make HTTP requests and retrieve the HTML source code of the webpage for you. Then, it parses the code, divides it, and creates parse trees, making it easier to search and navigate.
That is what Beautiful Soup’s role is; parsing the code and making it easier to extract.
However, its advanced search options allow you to search for specific HTML tags and extract certain content. Moreover, after harvesting the data, you can save and store it in a database, further analyze it, or convert it into a CSV file.
An important thing to note is that web scraping can often be against a website’s terms of service. It puts a massive load on the website, especially if you do it with web scraping bots, and it can often crash the website. That’s why proxy servers are essential in addition to web scraping bots and frameworks. If you’re web scraping, be respectful and don’t overload the website.
Web scraping is one of the methods of extracting website data and using it for various purposes. Although it was once a slow and tedious manual process, it’s a different story today. Both individuals and big companies do it.
Various web scraping bots and tools make web scraping much easier than it once was. For example, there’s Beautiful Soup. Beautiful Soup is a Python web scraping library that helps automate web scraping and deals with source code parsing, making it easier to navigate, search, and extract.