Why Python Requests Get() Doesn't Refresh The Web Page

Feb 3, 2024 ยท 2 min read

When working with the Python Requests library to scrape web pages or interact with APIs, it's important to understand that the requests.get() method only downloads the content - it does not actually load or render the web page like a browser does. This means that each call to requests.get() will retrieve the same content from the server, regardless of any changes that may have occurred on the live page.

Here is a quick example:

import requests

response = requests.get('http://example.com')
print(response.text) 

# Wait a few minutes for the page to update

response2 = requests.get('http://example.com') 
print(response2.text) # The same content is printed again

So why doesn't requests.get() refresh like a normal web browser? There are a few reasons:

  • Requests operates on a lower level than a browser. It just downloads raw content. It does not execute JavaScript or render HTML.
  • Refreshing requires maintaining browser state (cookies, local storage, etc). Requests handles cookies but does not maintain state between requests.
  • Refresh semantics are tied to the concept of a loaded web page. Requests just gets raw data that could be used to load a page.
  • So in summary, requests.get() gives you a static snapshot of a page's content at a point in time. It does not monitor that page for changes or refresh like a web browser does.

    If you need to check for updates, you have to explicitly make additional requests calls, likely in some sort of loop with time delays. For example:

    while True:
      response = requests.get('http://example.com')
      # Check if page needs to be refreshed
      time.sleep(60) 

    I hope this gives some clarity on why Python Requests does not automatically refresh web pages!

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