Saturday, February 13, 2010

Web Scraping Software

Web scraping software is an innovative tool that makes gathering lots of information relatively easy. The program has numerous implications for anyone who has the need to search for comparable information from various locations and put it into usable context. This method of finding extensive information in a short period of time is cost effective. Applications are used everyday for business, medicine, meteorology, government, and law enforcement.

The software is user friendly and can be operated by anyone from non-tech data collectors to experienced Web designers. Programs are available for purchase in stores or online. Certain online sites, such as Visual Web Ripper, provide video guides to go along with their products. Tutorials on how to create a project, navigating the software, and extracting data are provided. There are websites that allow users to establish an account, start a monthly membership and access software that way. There are websites tutorials providing step by step instructions to users which demonstrate how to make their own screen scraper using various programs.

A user enters the software and begins by programming an “agent”, this is the tool that will retrieve any and all information. A desired list is made of pertinent information pertaining to the search. Parameters are set as to how extensive the search must be and in what locations. A user has full control over which pages are crawled and how elements are mapped. Visual and/or textual information may be retrieved. Web pages or hard disk files can be searched. Once the information is obtained, it can be saved as CSV, TSV, XML, or RSS, spreadsheets or databases. The data can be formatted into chunks, such as names and addresses, for easy retrieval. After data is received it can be analyzed. Agents start gathering data with the click of the run button or when programmed to start at specific scheduled times. The program can also alert users to changes it encounters within scheduled search fields.

Web scraping software provides customer information, marketing information, and competitor information. Businesses develop a closer relationship with their customers by discovering what products are selling, what product defects have been encountered, what consumers like or dislike about a product, or what particular group of customers favor a product. The software directs companies as to which decisions to make as it analyzes how they stand in relation to their competitors or they gain knowledge of current or upcoming trends. Price comparisons, buying and selling trends, and consumer logistics are all data options that can be gathered, stored, analyzed and implemented into profitable business platforms.

There have been legal ramifications as some have complained about intrusion and copyright infringement. Legal boundaries and guidelines may become established in the future. Some have implemented software to prohibit or block webcrawlers.

Visual Web Ripper, Irobot, and Happy Harvester are a few of the top rated Web scraper programs currently available. There are many others on the market. This tool is sure to gain popularity as it makes data research and monitoring quick and effective.

Screen Scraper


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