Want to scrape bulk data without getting blocked?
Web scraping has become crucial for businesses. And it is not easy to find or afford proper web scraping tools. So a lot of basic solutions have come up. One of them is web scraping Chrome extensions. Such extensions appear to be easy to use and are at times free. It gives us an impression that it is DIY and anybody can use it for web scraping.
Is it easy-to-use or effective?
Let’s find out. In this blog, we are going to talk about how effective web scraping Chrome extensions are. We will also talk about whether it is easy to set it up. We will discuss whether you can rely on it for large quantities of data. The blog will also talk about whether web scraping Chrome extensions can provide clean data.
Exactly your concerns?
Alright then. Let’s explore the way web scraping chrome extensions work and its limitations.
Unlocking the Limitations:
Technical Knowledge and Support:
Here’s what you think. Web scraping chrome extension is DIY.
Yes, it is. But can you do it yourself without the technical knowledge and support?
Let’s find out.
First of all, setting it up requires a bit of technical expertise. An average user may not have that.
What do you do then?
Watch a YouTube video on how to set it up? Yes, you can.
You can try and set it up. Wait a moment. What if you face any technical issues? Who will do the troubleshooting for you? 70% of web scraping Chrome extension users find it hard to set it up or do the troubleshooting. Can you rely on YouTube videos or web articles for all this?
Nope. You need robust technical support. Will web scraping Chrome extensions be able to replace that? Definitely not.
Ideal for One-time Scraping:
Web scraping is a continuous process. You need data all the time. Time and again. Sometimes, you need technical support. Remember, web scraping Chrome extensions are not designed for that.
Then what can web scraping Chrome extensions do for you?
All it can do is – a one-time kind of scraping task. Let’s say, you need some small quantity of data from some simple website. Then web scraping Chrome extensions might work. Even then, you can encounter technical issues. You may find the quality of data is not as good.
In all, you can rely on web scraping Chrome extensions for a one-time kind of web scraping task.
For each of the tasks, you will need to open the browser, open the extension and start the web scraping. Remember, this is going to be manual. You cannot automate this or outsource it.
This makes web scraping Chrome extensions less suited for regular scraping or scraping on a scale.
Let me ask you this. Were web scraping Chrome extensions designed primarily for an average user? Someone with no technical expertise?
The answer is no. Developers having technical skills can use them effectively. These are people who have technical expertise to set it up. They can use it to whatever capacity it can be used. One more thing- the Chrome extensions can help you with tiny little web scraping tasks. Yes, web scraping Chrome extensions come across as user-friendly and DIY. But it does not mean you can use it for large quantities of data and scale it up.
Browser Performance and Data Loss:
Ever wondered what will happen to your browser if you do web scraping using a Chrome extension?
Well, let me tell you. It can affect browser functionality. It can hang sometimes. It means you have to close it and start again. It results in loss of data.
You don’t want that, right?
So keep it in mind that doing web scraping using a Chrome extension can result in data loss. Particularly, if you want data on a regular basis, this is something you would like to avoid.
Ideal for Small-Scale and Educational Purposes:
They are meant for small little web scraping projects. At the most, they can help you understand the basics of web scraping. You can explore and learn how web scraping works. For educational purposes, web scraping Chrome extensions may hold some value.
But more complex web scraping projects, you need to think of a more reliable tool or mechanism.
Extension Developers and Commercial Interests:
Why do these companies provide web scraping Chrome extensions?
For helping out people with web scraping for free? Nope.
It is a trick to get you started. Once you start using them, you will eventually visit their website. They will get you to buy their cloud-based products or services. That’s how it works.
But remember, you were looking for something free or cheap. Cloud-based services will be way too expensive. Will it offer the same features and service like a proper web scraping agency? Nope.
So keep it in mind. Web scraping Chrome extensions have commercial interests behind them.
Learning Curve for Developers:
Let’s say, you are a developer. Will web scraping Chrome extensions help? Well, even for developers, web scraping Chrome extensions are not that great either. Even they will struggle with it at times.
Limited Website Compatibility:
Now let’s say you want to use web scraping Chrome extensions in real time. Will websites allow you to scrape using Chrome extensions? Nope. They have a lot of anti-scraping mechanisms. Bypassing them is not easy.
So what will happen then?
After a few pages or attempts, they might block you. Or you can only get data from a few pages.
So as you can see, this does not work for you if you need regular scraping done on a scale.
Page Scraping Time and Success Rate:
Let’s talk about the time it will take.
If you use a web scraping Chrome extension, it will take maybe 10-20 seconds or even 1 minute to scrape one page. This is if the website is easy to scrape.
Pause for a moment. Imagine the time it is going to take if you were to scrape 1000 pages or more. Will that even be viable for the kind of urgency you have for data?
Let’s say even if you were to try. Will the web scraping be successful each time? Oh no! The success rate is 60% to 90%. In other words, you may end up getting 600 pages out of 1000 pages mentioned earlier.
First of all, it takes a lot of time. So it is not viable. The success rate is also not something that will work for you. You need a much higher success rate for the quality of web scraping you are looking for.
Dependency on Website Structure:
Chrome extensions are not quite adaptive. If a website changes its HTML structure or CSS classes, Chrome extensions can struggle to function optimally. The fact is, all good websites keep changing and improving their webpages. Take eCommerce websites for example. They keep changing their website structure every now and then. Maybe up to 30% changes in HTML structure in a year.
Web scraping Chrome extensions cannot adapt to that.
Data Cleaning and Manipulation:
Let’s say, you are able to extract the data using web scraping Chrome extension. Is that the end of the process? Nope.
Typically, you need data cleaning and manipulation done. Web scraping Chrome extensions cannot provide you that.
What then? Then you need other tools for cleaning the data. Web scraping Chrome extensions can only give you the data. Cleaning and transformation steps cannot be performed by them.
So data extracted using web scraping Chrome extensions is not usable as it is. For cleaning it, you need more tools. At times, you may need programming knowledge to deal with the data.
Does it sound like something an average user can do? Unfortunately not.
Dependency on Browser and Extension Updates:
And then, what about browser versions which keep changing? Updates in Chrome extensions itself can make it difficult for you. It can result in functionality or compatibility issues.
So you need to either update or adapt to the changes in browser or Chrome extension updates.
Commonly asked questions about web scraping chrome extensions
You may not need in-depth technical knowledge but you need to have a degree of technical skills to navigate a Chrome extension. You need to have an understanding of HTML and CSS, XPATH or CSS selectors, basic programming knowledge, troubleshooting skills and browser developer tools.
They are not ideal for you if you have large scale web scraping requirements. It is ideal for developers and those individuals looking for small-scale web scraping to be done. At best, it is a good way to learn and explore web scraping. For more extensive data extraction needs, you need to explore alternative web scraping solutions.
Chrome extensions are elementary tools designed for simple and straightforward web scraping tasks. For one time, you can afford to spare the time and energy to set up the scraper and run the scraper. For ongoing web scraping work, you can’t open the browser every time, run the scraper and monitor it. So it works for one-time web scraping requirement. For ongoing data extraction requirements, you need to look for a robust, automated alternative solution.
Chrome extensions can only extract data from simple web pages. But web scraping is not only about data extraction. You need to carry out cleaning and manipulation of data after extracting it. However, Chrome extensions do not offer any functionality for data cleaning and manipulation. So you need to rely on other tools and manage it on your own.
As the first tools that you use, web scraping Chrome extensions are great. They give you experience and exposure to web scraping. For a small task here and there, you can use it too. You also need to understand the complexities associated with using a Chrome extension. You should also be ready to do some troubleshooting yourself.
So Chrome extensions are a great first tool for getting started. It will give you a learning experience. But they have various limitations or shortcomings as discussed earlier.
These limitations make Chrome extensions a decent tool. They are not the ultimate solution you are looking for.
So imbibe these insights and make an informed decision for your web scraping needs!