Best Websites to Practice Your Web Scraping Skills
Many connection requests coming from a single IP address might trigger the web page you’re targeting. But good news – some sites offer sandboxes to practice web scraping. This article will show you the best websites for scraping and what skills you can pick up.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is an automated process of extracting large amounts of data from the internet. So, instead of copying all the information by hand, your web scraper downloads the page’s HTML code and parses it (makes the data structured).
Choosing Your Web Scraping Tools
Web scraping can be done using scraping libraries (Requests, BeautifulSoup, Cheerio), frameworks like Scrapy and Selenium, custom-built scrapers (ScrapingBee API, Smartproxy’s SERP API), or ready-made scraping tools (ParseHub, Octoparse). Python is probably the most popular programming language for data collection; most web scrapers are python-based.
Various tools are used to cover different parts of the journey. Web scraping frameworks are complete scraping toolsets, whereas standalone libraries usually require other tools to complete your scraper. On the other hand, you don’t even have to know any programming for ready-made scrapers.
Which Websites Allow Web Scraping?
Data from different sites can get you useful insights about pricing changes of different products, emerging market trends, competitor activity, and more.
However, even though web scraping is legal, not all web pages allow bot-like activities because they burden web servers. You can always check whether the website allows such activity by typing /robots.txt after the URL.
Unfortunately, most websites you’ll want to scrape won’t be very friendly towards scrapers and will block you without mercy. That’s where proxies come in; they can help you bypass IP blocks.
Why Do You Need Proxies for Web Scraping?
When your IP gets throttled or blocked, a proxy server immediately changes it to a new one. It’s like a middleman between you and the internet, masking your own address and location.
Suppose you plan to scrape content that isn’t available in your country. With proxies, you can easily access geo-restricted web pages as your IP address will come from a targeted destination. Proxies are usually used for high-volume data collection where you make thousands of connection requests throughout the day.
Best Websites to Practice Web Scraping
Toscrape is a web scraping sandbox, ideal for both beginners and advanced scrapers. The website is divided into two parts. The first is a fictional bookstore that offers thousands of books to scrape. The second lists quotes from famous people. It’s one of the most popular websites to try out web scraping tools.
Books.toscrape.com allows you to practice many basic skills like extracting data – title, stock availability, price, and authors. It only includes static content, so you can use simple libraries like Requests and Beautiful Soup.
Another great sandbox for learning web scraping, Scrapethissite, strongly resembles Toscrape.
If you’re just a beginner, I’d say first cover static data collection with Python. You can learn some basics like scraping tables or titles.
Yahoo!Finance is a perfect place to start practicing web scraping in the real world. It’s a massive database with millions of up-to-date financial records offering the most recent data on the stock market and companies.
What skills can you pick up? The website’s design makes it easy to scrape text since all the elements are in tables and on separate pages. So, you could definitely practice scraping tables and charts.
You can pull stock and financial statement data, price changes, and do some number crunching. I’d recommend structuring web data into a CSV file format or an Excel Spreadsheet to calculate your stock returns in Python.
Wikipedia is ideal for practicing with large amounts of data readily available in standard HTML. You can learn how to deal with identifiers and properties under a specific content unit. Or, you can hone the basics by scraping tables, images and graphs.
However, your access might get blocked if your scraper goes too fast, so tread carefully.
If you’d like to go with forums, I’d say you roll up your sleeves and visit Reddit. The site follows a specific URL format so that users can post images, videos, links, and similar content. You can extract any comment, or image with the most upvotes, identify the most recurring keywords in a subreddit, or analyze the public sentiment behind a piece of news you find interesting.
Web scraping a forum might lead you to a successful business idea, and at the same time, you’ll practice some basics like extracting links, images, usernames, and comments.
However, scraping isn’t that simple after Reddit’s redesign – the website is somewhat tricky. That’s why I’d suggest using the old layout at old.reddit.com.