What to Look at When Choosing a Web Scraping API — Examples Included

Having access to real-time relevant data can give any business or project the extra horsepower needed. One way to get this valuable data is through web scraping and using helpful tools that optimize the time or costs of those who use them.

An important topic on this subject is how you choose to scrape, building your own scraper, or just use one of the many performant tools available on the market? I will assume that you don’t want to make your work harder, so you’ll choose to do this with a web scraping API. ;)

You already know that not all APIs are equal, and probably you don’t have the time and the patience to do exhaustive research. That’s why I prepared the following lines to help you find out what to look at when choosing a web scraping API. Moreover, I’ve chosen some examples of service providers to have a more concrete overview.

In the following, you will discover:

The benefits of using a web scraping API
Criteria for choosing a web scraping API
Web Scraping API Providers
· 1. WebScrapingAPI
· 2. ScrapingBee
· 3. ScraperAPI
· 4. ZenScrape
· 5. ScrapingBot
· 6. ScrapingDog
· 7. ScrapingANT
· 8. Scrapestack

The benefits of using a web scraping API

As you may already know, there are multiple ways for web scraping, depending on the amount of data needed, the available budget, or the experience with coding in different languages. One thing is sure. There are a lot of variables to have in mind when choosing the right path.

If you have enough time and patience, you can even build your own web scraper that perfectly fits the current needs. The Internet is full of tutorials on how to. But of course, there will be many bumps on the road, mainly because webmasters don’t want bots on their websites, which means they put many traps that can make your web scraper fail its purpose.

Most common challenges like Captchas, bot detection, JavaScript rendering, and proxies can be easily counteracted by a professional already built web scraping API. This means more time saved and less money for you to spend.

Criteria for choosing a web scraping API

The Internet offers many solutions to any kind of possible problems, even more when talking about web scraping API providers. But some features and characteristics can differentiate the results, and that is crucial to have into consideration. Therefore, I have analyzed some web scraping service providers around four of the most important viewpoints.

There are three main features that make a web scraping API worth using:

  • JavaScript rendering: It refers to the ability to read and extract code from a website that uses Javascript. Without it, you’ll be limited in terms of web data extraction.
  • Bypassing Captchas: The ideal route when dealing with captchas is not to trigger them. To do that, you need good proxies that imitate normal user behavior. Still, the API can use plugins that help solve captchas when those appear, too.
  • Proxies number and quality: These have an immediate effect on how much data to scrape. Besides rotating them, a performant API will also have many geolocation options so you can access websites from all around the world without being blocked.

When looking for a web scraper API, you have to make sure the chosen one is compatible with your current tech stack and existing software.

One of the most important aspects when talking about compatibility is the programming language. Some available web scrapers are built with a single programming language in mind, so the user needs to know that particular programming language. Others are made to integrate with a wide array of systems, offering support and documentation for six to eight different languages.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that you can expect the data to be exported in CSV or JSON format. Other options exist and usually, converting from one format to another isn’t difficult. Ideally, the scraper offers you data in the exact form you need.

When assessing a web scraping API’s reliability, there are some essential aspects: uptime, bandwidth, bug frequency, and customer support. For the presented APIs below,

their uptime and bandwidth depend mostly on their server capacity and optimization. Cloud-based services may be preferable since the service provider allocates how much space you need for your activity.

You can also expect unlimited bandwidth and some very decent speeds, but you will probably deal with limitations from the website you’re scraping. Too many requests in too little time and the site might crash.

Bugs are a more uncertain subject because they can appear anytime and at any stage. The API owners would naturally work on fixing any known bugs as fast as they can. The best way to check is to use the API by using available free versions and trials.

When talking about customer support, make sure that the chosen API has a dedicated email address so you can solve any problems fast and efficiently. If they have a phone number, that is even better. Keep in mind that 24 hours support is not a rule, and different time zones might delay the response.

Or how to use manuals. Because like every product you buy, web scraping APIs must come with a set of instructions made to help you use it efficiently and at its best.

Documentation is crucial in helping users learn how to use the API, and it should be equally clear and exhaustive for all programming languages the interface supports.

The documentation is meant to take users step by step, from the setup to complex fringe cases and explain how the API can be used.

Web Scraping API Providers

The market provides multiple solutions to web scraping, usually making it hard for the end-user to choose between all of them. Considering the explained criteria, let’s see which are the web scraping service providers worth mentioning. Check the following list made of the 8 best web scraping tools available online.

1. WebScrapingAPI

WebScraping API is a user-centric API, focusing on developers’ needs and the businesses they support in the web scraping process.

WebScrapingAPI provides a pool of more than a hundred million rotating proxies available. Clients can use datacenter, residential or mobile IPs, from hundreds of ISPs, with 12 geographical locations to choose from. 195 additional locations are available for enterprise customers.

Also, the API uses the latest tech to prevent bot detection tools. It can handle Javascript and AJAX rendering, captchas, fingerprinting, and automatically retries if it encounters any blocks.

With these built-in functionalities, the API enables you to execute mass crawling on any website with the highest possible success rate.

The WebScrapingAPI allows users to start scraping, with no coding involved instantly. Alternatively, they can customize requests and target specific snippets of code on the website.

The API supports the following programming languages:

  • Javascript
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • PHP
  • Java
  • C#
  • Go
  • Shell

In terms of extracted data, WebScrapingAPI generates JSON files for the user.

WebScrapingAPI uses UptimeRobot to monitor the API and dashboard. All visitors can check their records by going to the Status Page. The team performs frequent uptime checks to ensure that any possible bug or problem is solved before it affects the API’s performance or users’ experience.

WebScrapingAPI uses Amazon Web Services to minimize wait time during scraping and offers unlimited bandwidth to users. Only successful requests are counted.

In terms of customer support, WebScrapingAPI offers access to an email address to all customers. For enterprise customers, a dedicated account manager and custom scraper services are provided.

WebScrapingAPI offers documentation for the supported programming languages and covers all areas relevant for users, including the error codes they could run into.

You can find explanations and sample code for:

  • Request parameters
  • Rendering Javascript
  • Custom Headers
  • Proxy setup
  • Geolocation
  • Setting sessions for IP reuse

2. ScrapingBee

This API focuses on automatically rotating servers and handling headless browsers, two of the essential features for an effective web scraping tool.

RAM or CPU will not be eaten up because ScrapingBee uses the latest Chrome headless browser. This also means that Javascript or Single Page Applications, using libraries like React, shouldn’t be a problem for the API.

The proxy pool size is not disclosed, but this tool comes with automatic IP rotation and a headless browser to avoid bot detection tools.

You can easily integrate the ScrapingBee API with the following programming languages:

  • Python
  • Javascript
  • Java
  • Ruby
  • PHP
  • Go
  • Curl

Integrating ScrapingBee with almost any existing script is an easy process, and all the data you get will be available in JSON format.

The status page can be found in the footer, under the Product category. There you can see the uptime and response time for their API and dashboard. At the moment of this research, their API uptime is at 99.998% over the last three months.

There are two documented APIs: one for ScrapingBee API and one for ScrapingBee’s Google Search API, where for the first one, they offer more details on the tech side.

They offer plenty of explanations on using the tool, accompanied by sample code in whichever programming language one prefers. Also, they have useful articles on writing code for scraping the web.

3. ScraperAPI

ScraperAPI is a complex data extraction application programming interface that comes with all the features that make APIs the best option for developers.

ScraperAPI comes with a proxy pool of 40M+ addresses and the options of choosing from datacenter, mobile and residential IPs. Users have access to 12 different geolocations, with 50 more available for custom plans.

The API can also handle captchas and uses a headless browser to render Javascript. For paying customers, it can be customized on request.

This tool is easy to integrate with NodeJS, Python, Ruby, and PHP existing software.

You can also find sample code in a multitude of programming languages on their website, mainly in Bash, Javascript, Python, PHP, and Ruby, but also Java and C# for certain parts.

The standard export format of web scraped data is JSON.

The ScraperAPI promises 99.9% uptime as well as unlimited bandwidth, with speeds that can reach 100Mb/s.

You can also find several links to a form on the website and an email address dedicated to customer support. We can assume that the API developers are invested in helping their users.

As mentioned above, ScraperAPI has sample code for several programming languages.

Their documentation covers all the significant points for users:

  • Getting Started
  • Basic usage
  • Headless browsers
  • Custom headers
  • Sessions
  • Setting geographical locations
  • Proxy usage
  • POST/PUT requests
  • Personal account information

4. ZenScrape

ZenScrape is also a good service for those in need of a performant web scraping API for a large amount of data extraction, without thinking about IP blockages and other monsters.

Unfortunately, we can’t estimate the size of the ZenScrape proxy pool. Still, it has millions of IPs, offering both standard and premium proxies, with global geotargeting options and the promise of the fastest API in the industry.

The API supports Javascript rendering and handles all its popular frontend libraries so that users can extract data regardless of the website.

The ZenScrape team offers an extensive range of possibilities, the product being compatible with any programming language that their customers know. From JavaScript to C and Python, even Ruby, they have them all.

On the ZenScrape website, you can check their API endpoints’ status over the last three months. This one is powered by Freshstatus. When writing this article, they hadn’t encountered any operational problems in the previous 90 days.

The customer support service is available via email, but they also provide a FAQ section.

As usual, the ZenScrape API documentation covers standard customization options that a developer might be interested in. They explain setting up location parameters, using premium proxies, rendering Javascript, custom headers, and blocking unimportant resources to boost speed.

5. ScrapingBot

When searching for a specific API for a particular industry you want to scrape for, ScrapingBot can be a real help.

ScrapingBot offers specific APIs that match particular needs like real estate APIs or retail APIs, but the customers can also use raw HTML pack or Prestashop Module. All these manage to locate the information and then parse it into a JSON file, ready to be used.

This tool can be integrated with multiple software programming languages like:

  • NodeJS
  • Bash
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Java
  • C#

There are multiple customer support options for users — a chatbot and a contact page, but unfortunately, you can’t use any email address. Also, there is no API status monitoring available on the website.

You can find exhaustive documentation and code examples for the programming languages mentioned above. Some of the topics included in the documentation are:

  • Basic Usage HTML Raw
  • Advanced Options
  • Retail API
  • Real estate API
  • Build a web crawler

6. ScrapingDog

Scraping has the main focus on helping developers, and data scientists scrape on a large scale.

This API offers over 7 million residential and 40.000 datacenter proxies, which are rotated automatically for the user. In terms of geotargeting, this is limited to the US for two of the three pricing plans, the third one offering 12 additional countries to choose from.

The API also uses a headless Chrome browser to render Javascript.

One disadvantage of this API, compared to the others, is its lack of compatibility options. The sample code in the documentation is only in cURL, so it falls on the user to integrate API calls into any code they’re using.

Users can contact the support team through a form or a real-time chat function on the website.

We couldn’t find any monitoring tool that keeps track of the API status but didn’t encounter any problems when testing it.

As we’ve mentioned, the documentation doesn’t offer programming language variety with their sample code. Still, it covers all steps a user would go through, from authentication and basic usage to specific cases, like scraping Linkedin pages.

7. ScrapingANT

At this point, it’s almost impossible to reinvent the wheel, so all the magic features that are going to help developers scrape the best out of the website pages are available here, too: Java rendering, headless browser updates, and maintenance proxy diversity and rotation.

They are also offering a free proxy list that their customers can use.

When talking about encoding query parameters, this can be done in multiple programming languages:

  • Go
  • Java
  • NodeJS
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Another great feature is that you can easily integrate this product with Javascript and Python APIs.

Customer support is guaranteed through a contact form and an available email address for customers. Also, there is a FAQ page that can come to help when needed.

There is no API status monitor available on their website.

The documentation section covers basic and advanced situations that need to be solved by developers, with code examples and relevant information.

Some of the topics that can be found in this section include:

  • API Basics
  • Request and response format
  • Proxy settings
  • Errors
  • Custom cookies
  • Javascript execution
  • CAPTCHA and Cloudflare

8. Scrapestack

Scrapestack offers an extensive pool of more than 35 million datacenter and residential IP addresses and the possibility to choose from more than 100 supported global locations to send web scraping API requests.

Advanced features like concurrent API requests, CAPTCHA solving, browser support, and JS rendering are also available with this tool.

This tool can be integrated with multiple software programming languages like:

  • PHP
  • Python
  • NodeJS
  • jQuery
  • Go
  • Ruby

Scrapestack offers access to API status by using UptimeRobot. For the last 90 days, the percentage of API uptime was 99,704% at the research moment.

Regarding the customer support part, they offer an extensive FAQ page and the possibility to contact them via a form.

On the documentation page, developers can find sample scraping requests in the following programming languages: PHP, Python, Nodejs, jQuery, Go, and Ruby.

Also, there are multiple topics covered in this section like:

  • Basic Requests
  • Javascript rendering
  • HTTP Headers
  • Proxy Locations
  • Premium Proxies
  • POST/PUT Requests

Final thoughts on web scraping APIs

So how did you find this article?

Let’s conclude some aspects. So, when looking for a web scraping tool, especially an API, check all four criteria and the most important aspects for each:

  • Number of features
  • Ability to read and extract code from a website
  • Great anti-block protection
  • Proxies number and quality
  • Compatible with your current tech
  • Compatible with existing software
  • Data export format
  • Uptime
  • Bandwidth
  • Bug frequency
  • Customer support
  • Existence of documentation
  • Quantity and quality of information

I am sure that after analyzing every aspect you will be able to make the best decision for you, your projects, and, why not, your business. Otherwise, do some extract research on the presented service providers and start web scraping. Find more related articles on my profile.

Passionate content writer and creative marketer 🖊️

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