Web scraping is a valuable skill you can perfect within a few months – if you put in some time and stay committed to the task.
To get you started, we have compiled a list of the five easiest programming languages for various web scraping projects, from Python to cURL proxy.
Here’s a brief overview of each of them, along with their advantages and disadvantages for web scraping beginners and the different types of projects they could be involved in.
As you already know, the easiest way to describe web scraping is with another commonly used term – data extraction. Web scraping is the process of extracting data – typically in significant amounts – from the web using a specialized automation tool or a programming language.
In theory, web scraping is pretty simple. In practice, not so much.
After identifying the website pages you want to scrape and making a list of their URLs, you send an HTML request and hope for the best. After you’re granted access, you locate the data you want in HTML, scrape it, and save it in a structured format for further use.
Dynamic websites and antibots present the biggest challenge to web scraping, especially when data extraction is performed at scale. While automation tools and proxies are of great help, gaining the experience needed to leverage their full potential takes a lot of time.
And, of course, programming languages play a central role in all this.
If you are a beginner at web scraping, you don’t have to worry so much about speed and performance – at least not until you’ve grasped the concept and covered the basics. With that in mind, we present the five simplest programming languages for easy web scraping.
Web scraping can be intimidating when you start out, especially if you’re not fluid in code. cURL makes that easier because it is not technically a programming language. Nevertheless, you can use it to send and receive data using the URL, which is web scraping 101.
What is cURL if not a programming language? cURL is a command line, so you’ll have to use it with other languages on this list. Since it doesn’t get much simpler than this, cURL is suitable only for easy web requests and simple proxy implementation.
Python is the language of choice for many aspiring programmers. It is easy to learn and execute because it uses simple syntax and new lines for commands. It is used by some 15 million developers worldwide, so it comes with a massive community and learning support. Should you choose Python, you’ll have tons of web scraping libraries to choose from, like Requests and Scrappy.
Are there any downsides to using Python for web scraping? Well, it depends on your needs. Although it is good enough for larger projects, it is not the fastest of the bunch.
Like Python, PHP is dynamically typed and is liked for its versatility. It is a server-side scripting language that is easy to learn thanks to its simple syntax and supportive community. It is also light, making it one of the best performers for large-scale web scraping.
Is there something that makes PHP less suitable for beginners? For starters, this programming language comes with surprisingly few libraries for web scraping. Also, it has limited capabilities for parallel programming, and it can’t help you scrape dynamic content.
Many developers begin their web scraping journey using Java, one of the most popular and widely used open-source programming languages ever. It is a platform-independence but highly-compatible and reliable language with excellent stability and multithreading capabilities.
In terms of drawbacks, one of the possible disadvantages to using Java for web scraping is that it is not as great for scraping large amounts of data as it requires a lot of resources and tends to be slower. On top of that, beginners might have a hard time getting used to Java syntax.
Ruby is a smart choice for a web scraper beginner with zero coding knowledge. It is an object-oriented programming language with a very straightforward and readable syntax that could be easily mastered. In addition, Ruby has parallel processing and multithreading capabilities.
However, Ruby is a slow performer, even more so than Java. Another disadvantage is that it is a relatively old programming language, so it doesn’t have a big community and many learning resources. If you run into a problem, it might take days to figure out the solution.
A few other programming languages are suitable for web scraping beginners, such as C++, Golang, Go, R, and Node.js. Don’t worry – learning different languages, both simple and complex, will get easier as you become more experienced at extracting data from the web.