How well do you know the Scrapy framework? If your answer is little, then the article below has been written for you. Among other things, we revealed an overview of the tool, a review in terms of pros and cons, and also its alternatives in the market.
The Scrapy framework is one of the popular web crawling frameworks available to Python developers. You can use this web-crawling framework to quickly build and run web scrapers. With the Zyte Scrapy Cloud platform, you can easily deploy your Scrapy-based web crawler to the cloud.
Even though the term web crawler is used for it the most, the tool is one of the best tools for web scraping. It provides you a framework for developing crawlers and web scrapers easily with fewer lines and code while helping you with modules and libraries to make the development easier, and faster for you.
Being a framework, it provides you with both the HTTP library and parsing library, as well as other important libraries to make web scraping easier. Scrapy is an open-source project developed and still being managed by Zyte, formerly known as Scrapinghub. The Scrapy project is free to use and available on Windows, Linux, Mac, and BSD.
It is one of the fastest scraping frameworks for Python. This tool is also extensible, making it possible for you to add new functionalities as you want. As with most tools, it does have its pros and cons and alternatives. That will be the focus of this article.
Pros and Cons of Using Scrapy for Web Scraping and Crawling
The Scrapy web crawling framework has proven to be one of the best scraping tools for Python developers today. Even with that, it still has its cons too. In this section, we would be taking a look at both the pros and cons of the Scrapy framework.
If you are looking for a fast Python framework for web scraping, then Scrapy is one of the best options. What makes it fast is its asynchronous support, which makes it make more than one request in parallel, thereby increasing its efficiency. In fact, if you have a big project where speed is important, Scrapy is a good option for you.
Another feature you will come to like especially if you develop for multiple platforms is its cross-platform support. You do not need to write a different code base for each of the popular Operating Systems. Scrapy does have support for Windows, Linux, Mac, and BSD.
In the developer community, one of the key details that determine whether a tool should be used or not is its community. For Scrapy, there is a healthy community around it that there is hardly any problem you will run into that a fix has not already been discussed. There are over 18K questions related to Scrapy on StackOverflow. In terms of its GitHub stats, there are over 43,100 stars, 9,600 forks, and 1,800 watchers.
Powerful and Extensible
Scrapy is powerful and can be used to crawl millions of pages in an efficient manner. It manages CPU and memory more efficiently compared to previous web scraping tools for Python developers. It is also extensible which makes it possible for you to add functionalities that are not supported by default.
Not Beginner Friendly
On a general note, the Scrapy tool is regarded as being easy to use and that is not a lie. However, when you compare its ease of use with that of other libraries and frameworks such as Requests plus Beautifulsoup, you will see that the Scrapy learning curve is steeper. To be frank with you, it took me a while to truly understand how to use it but that wasn’t the case when I was starting out with requests and BeautifulSoup.
Scrapy Alternatives for Web Scraping & Crawling
No doubt, Scrapy is a force to reckon with among the Python developer community for the development of scalable web scrapers and crawlers. However, it is still not the best tool for everyone.
If you are looking for an alternative to the Scrapy framework, then this section has been written for you as we would be describing some of the top Scrapy frameworks you can use below.
1. Requests + BeautifulSoup — Best Beginner Libraries for Web Scraping
The best alternative to the Scrapy web crawling framework for web scraping is not one tool but the combination of libraries. Web scraping entails sending web requests to download web pages and then parsing the document to extract the data point of interest. The Requests library is meant for handling HTTP requests and makes doing so easier and with fewer lines of code compared to the urllib.request module in the standard python library. It also handles exceptions better. This makes its usage and debugging better.
On the other hand, BeautifulSoup is meant for extracting data from pages you download using Requests. It is not a parsing library as others think. Instead, it depends on a parsing library such as html.parser or the html5 parser to traverse and locate the data point of interest. The duo of Requests and BeautifulSoup are the most popular libraries for web scraping and are used mostly in beginner tutorials for web scraping.
2. Selenium — Best for All Programming Languages
Selenium has what it calls the headless mode. In the headless mode, browsers are not launched in a visible mode. Instead, they are invisible and you wouldn’t know a browser is launched. The head mode or visible mode should be used only for debugging as it slows the system down more. Selenium is also free and has the advantage of being usable in popular programming languages such as Python, NodeJS, and Java, among others.
3. Puppeteer — Best Scrapy Alternative for NodeJS
The Puppeteer library runs Chrome in the headless mode by default — you will need to configure it if you need the head mode for debugging. Some of the things you can do with Puppeteer include taking screenshots and converting pages to PDF files. You can also test Chrome extensions using this library. Puppeteer downloads the latest version of Chrome by default for compatibility sake. If you do not want this, you should download the Puppeteer core alternative.
4. Apify — Already-made Scrapers Provided
Apify is a web scraping and automation platform you can utilize to extract data on the web. You can see it as a good alternative to the Scrapy tool. One thing you will come to like about the Apify platform is that it provides you with already-made web scrapers you can use to extract data from specific websites without inventing the wheel.
Apify web scrapers and automation tools are called actors and there are over 1000 actors in their store. Some of the popular ones include a scraper for scraping Google SERPs and Map and Amazon products. It also has a scraper for Twitter, Facebook, AliExpress, Instagram Facebook, and all other popular platforms.
You can also use it generic web scraper to collect data from other web pages on the Internet. For you to make use of this too, you need to have the SDK installed which is available for both NodeJS and Python. Apify is a paid tool with some free offerings depending on the actors in use.
5. ScraperAPI — Best Scraping API Alternative
ScraperAPI is another paid alternative to the Scrapy tool. However, this tool is completely different from Scrapy and takes ease of use to another different level. With this tool, you do not need to install any tool to access the data on the Internet nor do you need to worry about blocks.
In fact, ScraperAPI is the easiest for developers. All you have to do is send a web request and get the content of the page as a response. It also does have support for a parsing function. It has auto-parsing support too for Amazon, Google Search, and Google Shopping.
ScraperAPI helps you handle proxies and headless browsers so you do not have to. It has over 40 million IP addresses through which it routes your requests to avoid detection. In terms of location support, about 50 locations are supported, making it usable for collecting geo-targeted data from 50 countries. Interestingly, it also does have support for handling captchas.
6. Octoparse — Best Scrape Alternatives for Non-coders
The Octoparse scraping tool is quite different from the Scrapy framework. Unlike Scrapy which is meant for coders, the Octoparse tool does not require you to write a single line of code in other to make use of it.
It provides a point-and-click interface through which you can select some of the important data points while it automatically identifies similar data points. With this tool, you can convert structured web pages into spreadsheets with just a few clicks.
7. ParseHub — Free Octoparse Alternative
ParseHub is also a web scraper for non-coders. This app is also one of the best alternatives to the Scrapy tool especially if you are a non-coder. However, this does not mean it is not suitable for coders.
As with Octoparse, ParseHub does have an API that you can use to interact with the bot programmatically from your code. One of the advantages of the ParseHub tool is that it does have a free plan which you can use for small scraping jobs without paying for it.
The process of using it is similar if not the same as that of Octoparse. All you need to know how to use is the mouse to use this tool. Open the website using the in-browser, interact with the page and click on the data point of interest and allow the tool to scrape the data for you.
8. Data Collector — Easiest to Use Web Scraper
Another web scraper of choice especially among non-technical Internet users is the Data Collector tool developed and managed by Bright Data. This web scraper is available as a cloud-based web scraper. You will not even need to use make use of a point-and-click interface to use this tool. Data Collector manages a list of specialized web scrapers for the popular websites on the Internet. All you need to do is select a target website and the data type, provide the required information and choose a data format.
Take, for instance, to scrape a Twitter profile, all you need is to choose Twitter and then the profile scraper tool and provide the usernames of the profiles of interest to you. Data Collector is completely a paid tool that might seems expensive. However, the pay-as-you-go option makes it affordable.
9. Helium Scraper — One-Time Payment Offer
Helium Scraper is the software you can use to scrape data without writing a single line of code. It can be likened to Octoparse and ParseHub as you need to make use of a point-and-click interface to identify data of interest. One thing you will come to like about the Helium Scraper is that payment for it is one-time. Once you pay, you can use it for as long as you want. The scraper is one of the best in the market right now and can be said to be one of the fastest too. There are two reasons why it is fast.
One is because of its multithreaded nature, which delegates the scraping tasks to multiple browsers. The other reason is that it does not load unwanted images, thereby requiring fewer resources to be requested. It has got support for similar element detection as well as list and table detection, among others. It has the most extensive support for export data format.
10. WebScraper Extension — Best Browser Extension Alternative to Scrapy
Are you a non-coder and you are looking for a lightweight web scraper you can use? Then the Chrome extension provided by WebScraper.io is one of the best options for you. This web scraper is available as a web browser extension which you can use from your browser without using any other application. Currently, there are over 400K users making use of this tool, making it one of the most popular options available.
Q. What is Scrapy?
Scrapy is a web crawling framework developed for web scraping and crawling using the Python programming language. This web framework has been developed to be scalable and make it easier for python developers to develop complex web crawlers and scrapers without reinventing the wheel as it provides the core requirements for web data extraction including a HTTP library and a library for parsing data. It is also extensible and can be said to be one of the most powerful and fastest when compared to other options available to Python developers.
Q. Why Use a Scrapy Alternative?
Even though the Scrapy tool can’t be ignored, it is still not the tool for everyone. For starters, the framework is meant for only Python programming and as such, developers in other languages can’t make use of it.
Q. Is Web Scraping Legal?
One of the issues data extractors face on the web is the issue of blocks as many websites do not allow the use of web scrapers. But does this make it illegal?
As it turns out, there have been several rulings that make web scraping legal provided the data of the target is publicly available on the Internet and your actions do not cause any damage to the web server of target. Even with this, you should do well by making sure you protect your web scraper from anti-scraping systems.
Q. What is the Best Alternative to Scrapy?
From the above, you can see that Scrapy is only one of the options available for web scraping. If for any reason you do not want to make use of it, there are other tools you can use to extract data of interest publicly available on the Internet.
Interestingly, web scraping is no longer restricted to only coders as there are some alternatives that you can use without writing a single line of code.