Web Scraping with C++ & ChatGPT

Sep 25, 2023 ยท 4 min read

C++ is a powerful language for web scraping thanks to its speed, flexibility and wide library support. ChatGPT is an AI assistant that can provide explanations and generate code for web scraping tasks. This article covers web scraping in C++ with help from ChatGPT.

Setting Up C++ for Web Scraping

You'll need a C++ compiler and these libraries installed:

// libcurl for HTTP requests
// libxml2 for XML/HTML parsing
// csv for CSV parsing

Introduction to Web Scraping in C++

Web scraping involves sending HTTP requests to websites and extracting data from the HTML, JSON or XML responses. Useful C++ libraries:

  • libcurl - Sending HTTP requests
  • libxml2 - XML/HTML parsing
  • Boost.Regex - Parsing with regular expressions
  • Typical web scraping workflow:

  • Send HTTP request to download a page
  • Parse response and extract relevant data
  • Store scraped data
  • Repeat for other pages
  • Using ChatGPT for Web Scraping Help

    ChatGPT is an AI assistant created by OpenAI to be helpful, harmless, and honest. It can provide explanations and generate code snippets for web scraping:

    Getting Explanations

    Ask ChatGPT to explain web scraping concepts or specifics:

  • How to use libxml2 to extract text from paragraph tags
  • Strategies for scraping content spread across pagination
  • Generating Code Snippets

    Give a description of what you want to scrape and have ChatGPT provide starter C++ code:

  • Scrape product listings into a CSV file
  • Parse date strings into std::chrono::time_point when extracting
  • Validate any code before using.

    Improving Prompts

    Ask ChatGPT to suggest ways to improve your prompt if it doesn't provide helpful responses.

    Asking Follow-up Questions

    Chat with ChatGPT to get explanations for any other questions you have.

    Explaining Errors

    Share any errors and ask ChatGPT to debug and explain the problem.

    Web Scraping Example Using ChatGPT

    Let's walk through scraping a Wikipedia page with ChatGPT's help.

    Goal

    Extract the chronology table from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe

    Step 1: Download page

    ChatGPT: C++ code to download this page:
    <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe>
    
    // ChatGPT provides this code
    #include <curl/curl.h>
    
    CURL* curl = curl_easy_init();
    if(curl) {
      curl_easy_setopt(curl, CURLOPT_URL, "<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronology_of_the_universe>");
    
      // Set options and perform request
    
      curl_easy_cleanup(curl);
    }
    

    Step 2: Inspect HTML, table has class wikitable

    Step 3: Extract table data to CSV

    ChatGPT: C++ code to extract wikitable table to CSV
    
    // ChatGPT provides this code
    #include <libxml/HTMLparser.h>
    
    htmlDocPtr doc = htmlReadMemory(html.c_str(), html.size(), "", NULL, HTML_PARSE_NOBLANKS | HTML_PARSE_NOERROR | HTML_PARSE_NOWARNING | HTML_PARSE_NONET);
    
    xmlNodePtr table = get_element_by_class(doc, "wikitable");
    
    // Extract headers
    vector<string> headers;
    
    // Extract rows
    vector<vector<string>> rows;
    
    // Write rows to CSV
    // ...
    
    xmlFreeDoc(doc);
    

    This demonstrates using ChatGPT to get C++ scraping code quickly.

    Conclusion

    Key points:

  • C++ provides speed, control for web scraping
  • ChatGPT can explain concepts and provide C++ code
  • Inspect HTML to understand how to extract data
  • Follow best practices like throttling requests, randomizing user agents
  • Web scraping allows gathering data from websites at scale with C++
  • ChatGPT + C++ is a powerful combo for building web scrapers.

    However, some limitations:

  • Handling anti-scraping measures like CAPTCHAs
  • Avoiding IP blocks when running locally
  • Rendering complex JavaScript pages
  • A more robust solution is using a web scraping API like Proxies API

    Proxies API provides:

  • Millions of proxy IPs to prevent blocks
  • Automated solving of CAPTCHAs
  • JavaScript rendering with headless browsing
  • Simple API instead of running your own scrapers
  • Easily scrape any site:

    // HTTP request to Proxies API endpoint
    #include <curl/curl.h>
    
    CURL* curl = curl_easy_init();
    curl_easy_setopt(curl, CURLOPT_URL, "https://api.proxiesapi.com/?url=example.com&key=XXX");
    
    // Set options and perform request
    
    curl_easy_cleanup(curl);

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