Web scraping Vs Screen scraping websites: Which one is better in today's Digital World
WebscrapingAPI on Nov 01 2022
With so much data being available online, various businesses have grown over time. How is this done? Simple. In today's digital era, scraping data has become necessary and has become essential for business growth.
There are various tools available to scrape data, and a screen scraper is one of them. The best use of screen scraping websites is that it helps fetch information from websites where other scrapers cannot.
In this article, we will look at precisely what screen scraping is and the benefits of using screen scraping in today's digital world.
Screen scraping is a process where screen display data is collected from one application and translated in such a way that another application can display it successfully.
Why is it done? It is usually done to successfully collect data from a legacy application source to display it, using a more modern user interface.
What is Screen Scraping?
Screen scraping is a legitimate technique used in translating screen data/visual data from one application to another. This is sometimes confused with content scraping.
However, it is essential to note that there is a huge difference between screen scraping and content scraping. Content scraping is the process of manually or automatically harvesting content from any website without the approval of its owner.
Screen scraping is even called terminal emulation. Let's understand screen scraping with an example.
Under normal circumstances, a legacy/old application is either updated by writing the source code again or is replaced by a new program.
But, in a few other cases, the legacy application is continued due to a lack of programmers' unavailability of source code and documentation.
In the cases mentioned above, the only way of continuing with the legacy application may be required to write screen scraping software and let them translate it to a more updated version with an up-to-date user interface, UI.
Therefore, it can be said that screen scraping is used when all other options are out of the question.
However, a screen scraping application must do two things.
- It is able to capture screen input information and transfer it to the legacy application.
- Once processing is done, data must be returned from the application to the user and displayed appropriately on the user screen.
Screen scrapers are an essential part of integration scenarios and data migration. If there is no API-application program interface even after integrating legacy applications into modern apps, then screen scrapers are known to come to the rescue in various business scenarios.
It is much more convenient and less prone to errors to directly visit the transfer database from legacy to modern app through a user interface using a screen scraper.
Let's now look at the uses of screen-scraping websites
Uses of screen scraping websites
Screen scraping websites help copy information from one digital display to another to use it for a different purpose. Visual data is collected from raw text that appears on the screen including images and texts to an application or website.
Screen scraping has varied uses, such as
- Banking sector; banking applications and financial services
- Meaningful data to be saved for future use
- Translating data from a legacy application to a modern application
- To aggregate data such as comparison of prices for websites
- Tracking user profiles too see online activities
- Performing actions that a user would on an online website
- Ensuring user interface UI quality
- Analysis of social media sentiments
- Competitive market analysis of eCommerce
- Analyzing competitor websites
- Specific search engine results using geography
The most extensive use of screen scraping websites is seen in the banking sector. Banks would want to know the information regarding customers' financial data.
Finance-based applications also use screen scraping to access multiple accounts and hence aggregate all information in one place.
However, users will have to trust the application with their data and information, such as accounts, passwords, customer data etc.
Even in mortgage applications, screen scraping is seen to be used.
What is Web Scraping?
Many websites contain large amounts of invaluable data. This invaluable data includes product details, company contact details, sports stats, stock prices and so on and so forth.
For you to access this information, you have the option of either copy-pasting the information/data manually into a new document. This is where web scraping comes in handy.
Web scraping is the extraction of data from a website and then exporting this data into a format, more useful to the user.
For web scraping, automated tools are preferred, it can also be done manually though. In most of the cases, web scraping isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Websites come in various forms and shapes and as a result of this web scrapers(used for web scraping) also vary in features and functionality.
It is important to note that while attempting to web scrape some websites, you may encounter captchas, so you should avoid and bypass captchas.
Difference between Screen Scraping and Web Scraping
Both the techniques of screen scraping and web scraping are used for data collection. Both of these can be used at the same time to gather the correct data properly.
In web scraping, extraction of data is done from a website. This information is collected and exported into such a format that is more useful to the user. The exported format can either be spreadsheet or API- Application Programming Interface. Web scraping can be done manually, but there are automated scraping tools available as they are less expensive and work at a better speed.
Screen scraping on the other hand is similar to web scraping. It refers to the action of collecting the displayed data on screen. Screen scraping gathers the screen display data from one application and transfers it to another application. It is mainly used to extract visual data to recover it from legacy system, and for research purposes. Screen scraping can also be done both, manually and automatically.
Screen Scraping Vs Web Scraping
The major differences between screen scraping Vs web scraping are
- While both these techniques of data scraping involve extracting data of some sort from a website or application for the purpose of research; the biggest difference between screen scraping and web scraping is the goal for each of these techniques.
- Screen scraping’s focus is more on visual data that appears/ displays on a screen instead of an individual element. Web scraping can extract individual data on a website and helps target specific data or individual elements.
- Think of extracting big data from a website. Web scraping can easily extract individual elements such as texts, stats, URL and even HTML code
Screen cramping on the other hand is used to grab visual data present on the screen such as graphs, charts etc.
Fact: People assume that data extraction is supposed to be for people with a technical field/background, but the process of screen scraping can actually be done without coding.
There are multiple scraping tools to choose from without the need to be familiar with coding.
Screen scraping is not meant to target information like website scraping. It's more related to visuals and acts as a visual detector to extract visual information from the computer.
Converting data from the screen to pass it on to a more modernized user interface for display is the central role of screen scraping.
Both the techniques mentioned above are valuable for data scraping. They can both be used at the same time. This is done to ensure to gather the correct and right type of data to do research properly.
Web scraping will allow you to grab specific elements of a website and further export them into an excel or JSON file. Later on, a screen scraper is used to extract visual data which is not extracted by web scraping.
Screen scraping Vs Web scraping; which one is better?
Screen scraping software helps collect data in the form of visuals from hundreds of websites and convert it to an easy-to-use excel format. The screen scraper application will mine the data online, and you can sit and relax.
Simply put, screen scraping is a process involving the translation of screen data from one application to another.
What is screen scraping good for?
- Transferring data
Every business runs on data. But, with ever changing technology the technique of collecting data becomes obsolete. So, how would it be possible to constantly upgrade to the latest application and interfaces? It can be easily done with screen scraping. It allows new interfaces to help interact with outdated devices which are known as legacy applications. This helps in making it possible to make precious data accessible to latest applications.
- Desktop analytics
Desktop analytics is the process which involves capturing, sharing, monitoring and storing information/data across various platforms. By analyzing, extracting and visualizing data using screen scraping tools. Businesses can identify and improve at processing business, compliance and training of the business.
- Banking and financial transactions
Another classical use of screen scraping is use in financial transactions. Screen scraping even happens when you make online payments. You must've noticed third party applications or payment services asking you for your credentials, including the unique bank account codes. This helps the third party to enable screen scraping technology to copy transactional information/data. Through automation, the third party mimics human interaction with the digital system and accesses your bank account on your behalf.
Screen scraping services aren't just quick but also exact in their calculations. There is no scope for data errors in screen scraping.
What is web scraping good for?
Web scraping is good for various things such as
Web scraping helps you in finding potential customers. You can collect data about these customers at a large scale. On social media, by following meta data tags, you can identify customers or find information/data about the existing ones. Even gathering feedback from various social media platforms to optimize the marketing strategies in the best way possible.
- Tracking price and monitoring competition
Web scraping is an excellent way of collecting information about the competitor products in the market. With a web scraping software, you can constantly watch the data and instantly react to their change in prices. It helps you gather information regarding your competition and the industry at large by the vast amounts of data on the web. Extracting data about products from e-commerce websites, for example Amazon. Information/ data regarding prices, ratings, reviews, testimonies etc can be easily extracted by web scraping.
- Investment opportunities and real estate
Web scraping can provide real estate investors with valuable data/information about various agents, properties and owners. These real estate agencies use the data collected by scraping the web and make predictions and decisions regarding the market. Investors can even scrape real estate prices/ listings on the various websites and decide which areas have the best properties that are worth putting their money into.
Web scraping or screen scraping?
Now that we know all tha major differences and the various reasons for which screen scraping and web scraping are used we can draw a conclusion. Both these forms of data extraction are great at what they do. Screen scraping can only extract data from a desktop and web scraping on the other hand is able to extract data from a browser.
In reality, however both these terms overlap. They are often used interchangeably by a lot of users online. But, the key difference is that sceen scraping is the older term and with changing digital technology, the legacy applications seek to modernize and hence, web scraping is the better alternative in this digital era.
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