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8 Best Languages for Smooth Web Scraping

What are the best languages for smooth web scraping? This guide explains why the most popular web scraping languages are used, and gives the pros and cons of each.

Best Languages For Web Scraping
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Live Proxies Editorial Team

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Proxy 101

5 May 2024

It’s crucial to choose the right programming language before you start web scraping. You want to choose a language that is appropriate for your experience level, available resources, and needs. Also consider the popularity of the language, its library ecosystem, and its community support. For example, according to World Wide Web Technology Surveys, over 98% of internet websites use Javascript in some fashion, and a 2023 Stack Overflow survey found Python and Javascript as two of the top five most popular languages amongst developers.

Overview of Web Scraping Applications

Every web scraping language has strengths and weaknesses. Python and Ruby are easy to learn, but slower than other languages. JavaScript is widespread and fast, but difficult to master. PHP is cost-efficient, but hard to scale. C# has the support of Microsoft, but challenging syntax. R has beautiful visuals, but eats memory. Golang has great memory management, but an under-developed ecosystem.

Luckily, most web scraping languages have third-party libraries (code written by others) and tools to assist you in your web scraping needs.

1. Python: The Premier Choice for Web Scraping

Python’s ease of learning, widespread use, and community support makes it far and away the best web scraping choice for beginners. Python doesn’t run as fast as some other languages, but more than makes up for it with high legibility of code, development speed, and sustainability.

Python’s syntax more closely resembles natural English, easing the process of understanding core programming concepts and implementing web scraping tasks. Python’s popularity means a robust ecosystem of community support, and extensive libraries of web scraping code written by other Python programmers.

Extensive Libraries: BeautifulSoup, Scrapy, and more

BeautifulSoup and Scrapy are two sizable and supremely helpful libraries for web scraping with Python. BeautifulSoup is focused on extracting pertinent data from HTML, which is the markup language websites are encoded with to structure and format content. Scrapy is a more comprehensive library that is specifically designed to help you write spiders (web scraping crawlers) for various tasks.

Other popular Python libraries are Selenium, which is a powerful library that is better for Javascript pages or more complex web scraping tasks, Requests, which is built for HTTP requests to retrieve pages, and XML, which is geared towards scraping non-Javascript websites quickly.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with Python

Pros:

  • Simplicity. Python is easy to read and understand, which is great for beginners and advanced web scrapers alike. Using natural language makes Python more accessible, intuitive, and enjoyable.
  • Popularity. Python has a large ecosystem of powerful support tools, libraries, and tutorials for web scraping, and a broad network of knowledgeable users. Developers large and small use Python, so help or advice is always just a forum away.
  • Versatility. Python is the swiss-army knife of web scraping languages. Not only is Python very forgiving and useful for many small web scraping tasks, but it’s also scalable for larger projects.

Cons:

  • Speed. Python is an interpreted language, which means it is translated line by line as it is being run. This makes Python slower than a compiled language, which is translated and completed before being run.
  • Dynamic content. Python has difficulty with dynamically loaded content such as sites using Javascript frameworks, and is much more efficient on static web pages.

2. JavaScript: Dynamic Scraping Expert

Dynamic scraping involves rendering the page in a browser, which JavaScript was built for. A JavaScript scraper is more efficient at scraping sites that are rendered in JavaScript, so using a JavaScript scrape gives you easier access to all that data. Using a JavaScript scraper along with dynamic scraping tools outperforms Python and other web scraping languages.

Tools for Dynamic Content: Puppeteer and Cheerio

Cheerio and Puppeteer are two indispensable tools for scraping with Javascript. Cheerio parses HTML, while Puppeteer automates web browsers to interact with JavaScript sites. Cheerio finds information in static HTML documents, such as H1 headers for SEO scraping. Puppeteer opens its own special browser to click, scroll, and navigate to scrape dynamic elements not in the HTML.

Cheerio is better for static sites such as blogs, while Puppeteer is geared towards modern applications.

Node.js for Asynchronous Data Handling

Node.js is a popular open-source JavaScript runtime environment. Node.js is popular due to its non-blocking architecture, which means it doesn’t wait for I/O (input/output) operations or HTTP requests to complete before running non-JavaScript related tasks. Non-JavaScript related tasks instead run in the background and execute after the main JavaScript scraping program is finished.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with JavaScript

Pros:

  • Widely used. JavaScript has been in use on the modern internet for almost three decades, and is still the most commonly encountered programming language on websites. Web scraping with JavaScript opens up a massive trove of data to scrape.
  • Speed. JavaScript is also an interpreted language, but is implemented client-side and thus is a faster “scripting” language than Python, which is implemented server-side. When run with Node.js’s non-blocking parallel processing, JavaScript is even faster.
  • Libraries. Similar to Python, JavaScript’s popularity means there are lots of web scraping libraries and tools at your disposal. Apify, Axios, Cheerio, Puppeteer, Playwright, and requests-html are some well-regarded JavaScript scraping libraries for different needs.

Cons:

  • Difficulty. JavaScript is asynchronous, which means processing is done in parallel with other tasks, as opposed to synchronous languages that are processed sequentially in order. This makes JavaScript more difficult for beginner programmers to use for web scraping.
  • CPU-heavy tasks. JavaScript is single-threaded meaning all requests are bound to the CPU. Other languages are multi-threaded meaning they split the CPU between tasks. Node.js has hidden threads, but can’t multi-thread CPU-intensive tasks like video compression or image resizing. So, each CPU-intensive task needs to be completed before the next is processed.
  • Legibility. Node.js’s asynchronous, non-blocking method results in code that is hard to read, and lots of callback functions that are difficult to understand for inexperienced programmers.

3. Java: For Complex and Large-Scale Scraping Needs

Java is one of the most widely-used programming languages today, and has perhaps the richest ecosystem of tools and libraries of any web scraping language. Java is a compiled language, meaning it’s converted into machine code before running, and thus much faster and more stable than interpreted languages, which execute each command line by line. Java is famous for running stably on nearly any machine.

Robustness in programming refers to how a language deals with execution and input errors. Java handles exceptions well, manages memory automatically, and checks and enforces variable types at compile time, all contributing to its robustness. Java also distributes its workload among multiple processors with parallel processing, making it scalable. Webmagic is an easy to use Java scraping tool that makes large-scale web scraping even easier.

Popular Libraries: Jsoup and HtmlUnit

Jsoup are and HtmlUnit are two powerful libraries for Java web scraping. Jsoup is actively developed and has an intuitive API to scrape data into XML and HTML documents with ease. Jsoup handles HTML with errors efficiently, so you can even scrape malformed HTML. HtmlUnit is a browser without a graphical user interface (GUI) that mimics interactive browser elements such as clicking and scrolling to scrape more dynamic elements.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with Java

Pros:

  • Performance and Stability. Java’s static typing and strict rules ensure the scraper runs smoothly. Error-checking during compilation prevents bugs, so large-scale web scraping tasks are not interrupted. Java also excels at package management, such as binaries, tools, scripts, modules, or other packages, especially when used with Maven and Gradle build automation tools.
  • Cross-platform. Java is famously compatible with just about any device, allowing reliable scraping no matter your data source. After you write a JavaScript web scraper, you no longer need to modify it, saving you valuable time and frustration.
  • Extensive ecosystem. Along with libraries JSoup and HtmlUnit, and WebMagic, Java is compatible with Selenium. GitHub is filled with Java development tools, and open source automation server Jenkins offers plugins for building and deploying web scrapers.

Cons:

  • Learning curve. Java’s complex syntax and stricter strong typing rules are barriers for less disciplined programmers. Data types for variables and all your expressions must be explicitly stated. Java also uses a lot of boilerplate code, which are sections of code repeated with no variation. This sometimes means lots of physical typing for minor functions.
  • Speed. Java code is compiled into bytecode before executing, which is a whole extra step that slows down the process. Java also has strict memory limits, and allocates a lot of memory upfront. Java continually monitors for objects no longer in use, known as garbage collection, which hogs memory. If Java doesn’t have enough RAM, it slows down considerably.

4. PHP: Budget-Friendly and Efficient

PHP is a dynamically-typed, server-side programming language that is completely free to use, distribute, and modify. It has a simple syntax that is easy to learn, and is compatible with most platforms. PHP is already natively efficient at HTML parsing and requests, but becomes even more efficient when used with tools like PhantomJS, Goutte,and Simple HTML DOM Parser, and PhantomJS. Simple Integration with Web-Based Projects

PHP is simple to integrate with databases, and is one reason it gained wide support from web servers and hosting providers. On the scraping side, a PHP scraper also gets into databases effectively, especially with the help of libraries and tools. Goutte is screen scraper with a clean API that also web crawls and extracts data from HTML and XML responses, while Simple HTML DOM Parser allows you to find and manipulate HTML to extract just the data you want. Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with PHP

Pros:

  • Low resource use. PHP doesn't use any CPU or RAM when not serving requests, making it a great choice for low-end machines. Its low-resource use also translates into a faster processing speed than many other languages.
  • Longevity. PHP was one of the first widely used web application languages, so there is no shortage of helpful information on how to build a good PHP scraper. The PHP community is always creating new web scraping tools and libraries, and improving upon existing ones.
  • Access. PHP is easy to integrate with databases like MySQL, MariaDB, Db2, PostgreSQL, SQLite, Oracle, and MongoDB. So if you scrape with PHP, it’s also easy to find dynamic or static content stored in a database.

Cons:

  • Scalability. PHP is weakly typed, meaning it doesn’t require variable types to be defined before use. If there are mistakes in the code, it is often hard to refactor. As you scale, any errors are even more difficult to identify and correct.
  • Bad reputation. Earlier versions of PHP had design flaws and security issues. Many developers found the language frustrating to work with, and the reputation stuck, despite those issues being ironed out in newer versions with frameworks like Laravel. Some programmers think PHP is on the decline.

5. Ruby: Elegant Syntax Meets Powerful Scraping

Ruby is a language known for its simple yet flexible syntax, with the ability to write powerful scraping scripts quickly. Adding the revolutionary Ruby on Rails gives you a full-stack web application framework to make building web scraping applications a breeze Ruby’s syntax is readable for beginners, as it resembles spoken language. Repetitive boilerplate code is minimized, reducing physical typing time.

Ruby is also open-source, with a dedicated community of fans improving Ruby, and building web scraping libraries such as Nokogiri.

Nokogiri for Parsing HTML

Nokogiri is an open source software library that parses broken XML or HTML fragments in Ruby. Nokogiri has a user-friendly API that lets you navigate, read, write, edit, or query document trees efficiently. With extensions Sanitize and Loofah, the scraping process is even easier.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with Ruby

Pros:

  • Ease. Reading Ruby is like reading English, so the logic is clear and you are able to quickly solve problems and build. Ruby on Rails’s inclusion of both front and back end lets you build complete apps in one go. Many programmers believe Ruby is even better than Python for beginners to get started, and genuinely fun to program with
  • Dedicated community. Ruby has an enthusiastic and passionate community, so new libraries are always being developed, and advice is only a forum away.
  • Development. Ruby on Rails is famous for eliminating the tedious and repetitive parts of coding, so developers can focus on productivity. Developing web scrapers for any task is time-efficient.

Cons:

  • Speed. Ruby is also an interpreted language, but is slower than Python, Node.js, PHP, and Go. On the other hand, it is better to web scrape at a slower pace so as to not trigger a site’s anti-scraping measures.
  • Corporate support. Ruby is not a popular programming language, making large Ruby developers scarce. Outside of your own independent programming projects, you won’t find much use for Ruby.

6. R: The Data Scientist’s Choice for Web Scraping

R is an open-source language designed by statisticians specifically for data science, and is the programming language of choice for data miners, statisticians, and academic researchers. R visualizes complex data such as deep learning algorithms and machine translations into clean, aesthetically pleasing, and informative linear and non-linear models.

Direct Data Analysis and Visualization

R uses a grammar of graphics framework, turning complex data into detailed maps, interactive plots, and graphs for the more visually oriented. Whether you want bar graphs, histograms, scatterplots, box plots, venn diagrams, or virtually any other kind of data visualization, R has you covered. You're also able to customize and fine-tune data visualizations for deep-dives into the data you scrape.

R library ggplot2 is a complete suite of visualization tools, and lattice is a speedy, high-level visualization tool for large datasets. Rvest is an R library with an advanced API that converts data found with R into usable formats.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with R

Pros:

  • Visuals. High-quality visuals are where R excels, converting complex data sets into elegant and interactive charts, plots, and graphs. You’re able to see all the data you scrape in a highly-specific and intuitive format, and then tweak your scraper to get exactly the data you desire.
  • Open source. R is freely available so you don't have to pay a fee or get a license. Users are also able to freely modify R with packages as they see fit, and share it with other data scientists and researchers.
  • Community Support. R is used by data scientists everywhere, and has a large ecosystem of packages, libraries, documentation, and other tools available. There are over 1,000 packages available in the Comprehensive R Archive Network (CRAN).

Cons:

  • Learning curve. R is geared towards those with programming knowledge, or a background in math or computer science. Basic operations in R are confusing for the inexperienced.
  • Memory. R’s graphical approach and highly-detailed visualizations take up a lot of memory in comparison to Python or more resource-friendly languages, so it's more suitable for higher-end machines. If you lack the hardware, scraping with R is a slog.

7. Go: High-Performance Scraping

Golang, or Go, was designed by Google, and was created to be as scalable as possible while maintaining performance. Golang is an open source, strongly typed, compiled language that achieves a balance between simplicity and power. Concurrency

Concurrency for Faster Scraping

Go executes multiple tasks concurrently, in what is known as concurrency, using goroutines and subchannels. Goroutines are small concurrent threads that are sometimes only kilobytes in size, and so able to handle tons of requests. Subchannels are data flow pipelines to share data between different threads. Go runs multiple computations independently, but not at the same time, making the most of modern multi-core processors.

Taking advantage of Golang’s concurrency, the Colly framework is a highly structured, quick, and orderly way to navigate web pages and extract specific data from the HTML. Colly automatically handles cookies and sessions, caches visited URLs, and manages request delays through a clean API.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with Golang

Pros:

  • Memory use. Go uses memory efficiently, and executes tasks quickly and reliably. Go is often referenced as one of the fastest programming languages bar-none.
  • Large projects. Go was built with modern computing in mind, such as cloud applications that must handle multiple users. Large projects that require fast processing are no problem with multi-core utilization that assigns threads to idle CPUs while waiting for other threads to resolve.
  • Speed. Go is often referenced as one of the fastest programming languages bar-none. Along with concurrency, Go is a compiled language, and is directly compiled from the binary file as opposed to a virtual machine. Go also has automatic garbage collection to speed it up further.

Cons:

  • Library support. As one of the newest languages around, Go’s library ecosystem hasn't gotten off the ground yet. Though strong libraries like Colly, Goquery, Phoclus, and Scrape-it exist, specialized tools are lacking in comparison with older and more popular web scraping languages.
  • Flexibility. Go is statically typed, so if there are errors it is sometimes difficult to debug. Complex errors can befuddle less experienced programmers, hampering development speed.

8. C#: A Strong Contender for Windows-Based Scraping

C# is an open-source, general-purpose compiled language developed by Microsoft, and was designed to be productive and high-performing. C# started as a strong typing language, but since C# 4.0 integrates aspects of dynamic typing, functional programming, and partial inference as well. Combined with Microsoft support, this makes C# a powerful and versatile web scraping language. Since C# is proprietary, you can start compiling with C# on any version of Windows.

.NET Compatibility

.NET is an open-source application platform released by Microsoft for C#, with integrated concurrency and automatic memory management. Microsoft collaborates with developers creating libraries and tools for .NET, ensuring long-lasting and robust support. Working with .NET is secure and reliable, whether you’re working on Android, Apple, Linux, or Windows operating systems.

C# doesn't have the broad ecosystem of Python or Java, but the backing of Microsoft makes up for it. The NuGet package manager has over 300,000 packages for .NET, such as the hugely popular Html Agility Pack. Html Agility pack is an HTML parser that can handle malformed HTML and downloads web pages directly, while Puppeteer Sharp and ScrapySharp are versions of the popular libraries tweaked for C#.

Pros and Cons of Web Scraping with C#

Pros:

  • Microsoft. Microsoft collaborates with developers creating libraries and tools for .NET, ensuring long-lasting and robust support. Like Golang, C# has the express assistance of a tech giant, but with the advantage of over 20 years of ecosystem development.
  • Community Support. Being an official Microsoft product means C# maintains a steady and enthusiastic fan base of both large developers and regular users. C# is also one of the most popular game development languages, so the gaming community is full of forums, tutorials, and documents to aid in your projects.
  • Scalability and performance. C#’s basis in strong typing allows you as you maintain responsiveness as you scrape larger and larger datasets. C# is also faster than interpreted languages like Python, saving you precious time when scaling up.

Cons:

  • Difficulty. Though still readable and elegant, C#’s syntax is not as beginner-friendly as languages like Python, Ruby, or Golang. Strong rules mean fewer mistakes are forgiven, so discipline and diligence are needed when programming with C#.
  • Efficiency. C# has a more verbose syntax than languages like Python, Ruby, or JavaScript, meaning C# often takes more lines of code to accomplish the same task. Development is slower at the ground level than more character-efficient languages.

How to Choose the Best Language for Your Web Scraping Project

The best language for web scraping is the language you know best, with hardware that matches, that extracts the data you want. Think about your project requirements and language capabilities, the community support you’ll need, and the learning curve you’ll have to get over.

If you are new at programming and want to start web scraping right away, choosing a language with a smaller learning curve like Python, Golang, or Ruby is best. If you have some programming under your belt, more intricate languages like Java or C# offer deep robustness and scalability.

A strong community is the backbone of any data extracting endeavor. Fellow web scrapers are always willing to help a hand or point you towards a useful library or tool for your specific needs. If you aren't confident in your programming skills, it's best to pick a popular language with a large community. But whatever web scraping language you choose, there is a community out there to support you.

No matter your level of programming mastery, your learning curve is lessened by leveraging the available tools and libraries.

Leveraging Tools and Libraries

A strong ecosystem of tools and libraries is indispensable for efficient web scraping. There is a tool or library available for every web scraping need. Think about exactly the type of data you are targeting, and if there are tools out there that do well at scraping this type of data. If you are unsure what tool is best for what data, or what language, don’t be afraid to ask around.

No-code scrapers are available if you don't want to code at all, or are unable. You can buy a pre-built web scraper that extracts data through a URL or point-and-click interface, or you can pay a company to build a customized web scraper for you. Either way, a no-code scraper is going to cost you cash, but it's a good way to get your foot in the door.

Apify is a platform with loads of ready-made web scrapers available for purchase or subscription. Parsehub and RTILA are powerful no-code web scraper tools aimed at non-programmers, with limited free models for anyone who wants to give web scraping a try.

Whether you prioritize speed or anonymity for your web scraper, Live Proxies has you covered. Rent a lightning-quick live server to scrape at scale, or rotate residential proxies to scrape from real homeowner IPs, bypass CAPTCHAs more easily, and keep anti-scraping bots off your tail.

FAQ

Is web scraping better in Java or Python?

Whether Java or Python is better for web scraping depends on how much you value ease of use, what help you need, and what your project entails. Python is better for beginners, with simple syntax and a strong ecosystem of libraries like BeautifulSoup and Scrapy. Java excels in performance and scalability, suiting large-scale projects, aided by libraries such as Jsoup.

Is Golang or Python better for web scraping?

Python is often favored over Golang for web scraping due to its rich ecosystem of libraries like BeautifulSoup, Scrapy, and Requests, which offer powerful tools for extracting data from websites. While Golang can be used for scraping, Python's extensive support and ease of use make it a more popular choice, especially for beginners or projects requiring rapid development.

Is Python or R better for data scraping?

Python is better for extensive data scraping due to its healthy libraries like BeautifulSoup and Scrapy. While R also has scraping capabilities, Python's ecosystem and community support make it more popular. R is better for fine-grained data analysis, or for simpler scraping tasks with R packages like rvest.

Is Python good for web scraping?

Yes, Python is good for web scraping. Python has many tools like BeautifulSoup, Scrapy, Requests, and Selenium, which make it easy to extract data from websites. Python's simplicity and extensive libraries make it popular for this task, even for beginners. With Python, you can quickly and efficiently scrape data from the web for various purposes.

Is Java good for scraping?

Java can be used for web scraping, but it's less popular than languages like Python due to a smaller ecosystem of dedicated scraping libraries. However, Java's robustness and performance make it suitable for large-scale scraping projects. Libraries like Jsoup offer effective HTML parsing capabilities. Overall, while Java is capable of scraping, it may require more effort compared to Python.

Can I web scrape with Java?

Yes, you can web scrape with Java. While Java may not have as many dedicated libraries for web scraping as Python, it offers libraries like Jsoup, which provides powerful HTML parsing capabilities. Additionally, Java's robustness and performance make it suitable for scraping tasks, especially for larger-scale projects or within enterprise environments where Java is commonly used.

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