What is the difference between web scraping and data scraping?

Feb 5, 2024 ยท 2 min read

When people talk about extracting or collecting data from the internet or databases, the terms "web scraping" and "data scraping" often get used interchangeably. However, while related, these two data extraction techniques have some distinct differences.

Defining the Terms

Web scraping refers specifically to extracting data from websites. This usually involves writing a script or program to crawl through web pages, parse their HTML/CSS code, and extract relevant information like text, images, links or files into a structured format like a spreadsheet.

Data scraping is a more general term for systematically extracting data from any online source - whether a database, API or yes - even websites. The key difference is data scraping targets more varied data sources beyond just websites.

Key Differences

Here are some other notable ways web scraping and data scraping differ:

  • Data Access: Web scraping always extracts data from surface web pages. Data scraping may access databases, APIs or other sources not viewable in a browser.
  • Permission: Web scraping typically doesn't require permission as it accesses public websites. Data scraping from non-public sources often needs credentials or API keys.
  • Difficulty: Web scraping has to handle more inconsistencies like changes to website layouts. Data scraping APIs tends to be more structured and predictable.
  • Volume: Web scraping usually extracts smaller, page-by-page data sets. Data scraping systems can query and extract data in much larger volumes.
  • Overlapping Use Cases

    There are many cases like scraping company directories, ecommerce sites or social media where techniques and tools used for web scraping and data scraping overlap significantly. The core difference lies in whether the target data source is specifically a website or a database/API.

    In summary, web scraping focuses just on extracting data from web pages while data scraping has a broader definition - any systematic extraction of data from an online source. But in practice these advanced data collection techniques share many methods and use cases.

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