8 Best Languages for Web Scraping

best language for web scraping
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Professionals and amateurs all over the world utilize web scraping to harvest the endless data resources publicly available on the Internet. Whenever embarking on a web scraping project one is faced with multiple choices, such as what kind of software to use. Among the most important of such choices is picking the programming language for web scraping. 

 

The syntax and features of the programming language can make or break the efficiency and final results of your web scraping project. Thus, here are 8 popular and best programming languages to choose from for any web scraping project.

Table of Contents
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1. Python

Python is widely accepted as probably the best language for web scraping out there due to its two main web scraping frameworks – BeautifulSoup and Scrapy. BeautifulSoup is a python library meant to quickly and efficiently extract the specific information the user wants from particular web pages. Meanwhile, Scrapy provides the framework for all web scraping needs and can be used to build a spider for web crawling.

Pros

The broad scraping libraries in Python come with some elegant features. For example, Python supports popular parsers like lxml and html5lib, thus providing multiple options when choosing your parsing method. BeautifulSoup can convert documents to Unicode and UTF-8. Meanwhile, Scrapy supports various tools, like XPath leading to enhanced performance.

Cons

BeautifulSoup is able to get specific elements from websites but not the websites themselves, thus it is not enough on its own for crawling web pages. This is easily solved, however, by other Python features. Other than that, only paid web scraping services can offer more than Python.

2. Node.JS

NodeJS is a JavaScript runtime that works as a dynamic language for web scraping, which is especially good for crawling. While it is primarily used for indexing web pages, NodeJS also supports distributed web crawling practices. It is considered one of the best programming languages for APIs, socket-based implementation, and streaming.

Pros

NodeJs has a built-in web scraping library and a helpful parsing tool Cheerio, making parsing HTML and XML quite simple. Additionally, it is able to conduct basic data extraction activities quite efficiently. Finally, NodeJs is flexible and compatible with many web and mobile applications.

Cons

While well-suited for small web scraping projects, it is not very good for extracting data on a large scale. It is not the best for long-running processes and the stability of its communication leaves room to want more.

3. Ruby

No search for the best programming language for web scraping would be complete without mentioning Ruby. It is known as a “language of careful balance” as it sprung from the idea of taking the best elements from various other programming languages to create a flexible and easy-to-use syntax. Ruby is productive and flexible, balancing the tenets of both functional and imperative programming.

Pros

With Ruby one needs to write less code, especially when utilizing the Ruby on Rails framework, which prevents repetition. Additionally, NokoGir is an open-source Ruby library that provides HTML, XML, SAX, and Reader parsers with XPath and CSS selector support. This makes parsing and extracting data all the easier. Ruby also has Pry – a feature that allows for debugging various web programs for smoother web scraping.

Cons

Ruby is slower than other programming languages and might use more resources. Additionally, Ruby is basically supported by a community of users. Also, locating good documentation for less known libraries might be hard.

4. Golang

Golang, often referred to simply as Go, also has many features making it one of the best programming languages for web scraping. The most popular Go framework for creating web crawlers and scrapers is Colly. It is a fast and functional framework, offering all one needs to write a good web scraper, suitable for all kinds of projects.

Pros

Golang supports many different frameworks for web scraping, from the most basic to highly advanced ones. Thus, one has plenty to choose from when fitting the framework for the particular needs of the project at hand.  Go is also highly customizable further down the line, making it especially user-friendly, even for advanced users. And the speed and efficiency of web scraping with Golang can challenge any programming language out there.

Cons

Golang does not support generic functions and is not well-suited for error handling. It is also not as versatile as many other programming languages on the list. The fact that Go is not as popular at the moment and has a smaller user community might also be an issue when looking for support when a problem with web scraping is encountered.

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5. C#

C# is a c-like object-oriented language developed by Microsoft. As such it is primarily considered the best alternative to more common C and C ++  programming languages. It has been designed to be portable, thus it is easily compatible with different platforms. C# works best when combined with the .NET framework, also created by Microsoft for developing various software.

Pros

C# is a fast and multi-paradigm programming language. Thus, it is versatile and easily adjusted for different projects, so one can choose how to use it when building a scraper. When combined with the .NET framework it becomes a highly interoperable language. Using C# also allows writing your own HTML parsing library to suit your parsing needs.

Cons

C# is usually not for beginners and takes longer to learn than most of the other languages on this list. It is a statically typed language and uses a lot of resources when run on a regular computer. Its ability to perform best is highly dependent on whether one is using Windows OS as one needs to be able to utilize the .NET framework.

6. PHP

PHP is by far the most widely-used server-side programming language for websites. It naturally makes one interested in its abilities to scrape those websites. PHP has everything one needs to build a scraper, but the process might sometimes get complicated. So, it is advisable to use third-party libraries to make it more simple. The client-URL or cURL library is a good choice when building a web crawler or scraper with PHP.

Pros

PHP is a popular language and many find the basics of it intuitive. Thus, it is not that hard to master and might be a good choice for beginners, trying to develop their first web scraper. PHP is better for scraping data from particular websites than crawling the internet.

Cons

Due to weak support for multi-threading and async, issues with task scheduling and queueing arise when scraping with PHP. Code written in PHP might easily break if the website developer makes changes to the HTML code as PHP can only obtain information contained in one HTML. This poses serious issues for the speed and efficiency of web scraping with PHP.

7. Java

Java was constantly developed since its inception to reduce its platform dependency and make it more accessible. The two main options for libraries to be used for Java web scraping are JSoup and HtmlUnit. JSoup can handle malformed HTML, while with HtmlUnit one can easily turn off features when they are no longer required to increase the resource-efficiency of web scraping.

Pros

Along with the aforementioned accessibility, Java can offer great versatility. It is a cross-platform programming language built on the idea of WORA (write once, run anywhere). Java also provides a variety of APIs to choose from. With its broad community and detailed documentation, it is easy for anyone to figure out how to use it for web scraping.

Cons

Java is slower than some other programming languages on this list. It is also considered complex and verbose, thus it might take longer to familiarize oneself with it when learning to write a scraper. Finally, it also requires a lot of memory space and gives the programmer no control over garbage collection.

8. Rust

For many years now, Rust has consistently been named the most beloved programming language among those who are already using it. Thus, one cannot overlook it when considering programming languages for web scraping. Rust is general-purpose, multi-paradigm programming language, thus although not as often used for web scraping as other languages on this list, it certainly gets the job done.

Pros

Rust is robust against errors at runtimes and, by itself, fast, which goes far to enhance its performance when web scraping. It retains high performance while ensuring memory safety, as one can change even the smallest pieces of code without risking undetected bugs.

Cons

As Rust is primarily used for more complicated applications than web scraping, it is sometimes considered to be a bit of an overkill for building scrapers. Additionally, Rust is statically typed and requires more management. This makes it harder to learn and might slow down the process of developing web scraping software.

Proxies for Web Scraping

As we have the candidates for the best programming languages covered, there is one more thing to consider before starting your web scraping project – proxies. In order to make sure that your scraper is not blocked and everything goes smoothly, you are going to want to use a proxy service. 

 

When looking among the trustworthy proxy providers, it is advisable to look for rotating proxies. These will be able to efficiently change the IP address as seen by the websites you are scraping. Dedicated datacenter proxies might be the best choice, as they will provide all one can ask from a proxy for web scraping.

 

Residential proxies are also an option, but they will usually be more costly than datacenter proxies. A dedicated datacenter proxy will often be just as hard to detect and will have stable performance thus there is no need to overpay for something else.

To sum up

Web scraping needs two things more than anything else – a good programming language and a reliable proxy service. The first will ensure the quality of the web scraper and the latter – the smoothness of the scraping procedure itself. 

 

Everyone needs to find their own best programming language with which they feel the most comfortable. The list above should help as many have found these programming languages to be among the best for web scraping.

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