E-commerce websites are a hub of information, info about pricing, available products, and the stock that a retailer has, etc. To competing vendors, this information is vital. Thus, web scraping tools exist.
But e-commerce websites, having also recognized the importance of data stored in their servers, have come up with anti-scraping tools to thwart the extraction of data from their websites. The detection techniques constitute the main challenges of web scraping.
Challenges of Web Scraping
The anti-scraping tools work by detecting any IP address that makes multiple web requests. Since scraping mainly entails making numerous requests to obtain the requisite data, then the anti-scraping tools automatically flag the IP address behind this. In severe cases, the website bans the IP address, but in most cases, it just displays CAPTCHAs. CAPTCHAs stop basic web scraping software dead in their tracks.
Other anti-scraping tools you’re likely to encounter include:
- Use of headers that identify your browser, operating system, and version, type of CPU, etc. These headers are known as User Agents (UA)
- Log-in requirements (mostly used in social media platforms)
- AJAX: a website written in AJAX updates content dynamically without having to load the entire webpage. AJAX is convenient for human users but not web scrapers.
What if there existed a solution that could circumvent the various restrictions brought by the usage of anti-scraping tools on e-commerce websites? Luckily, such solutions exist in the form of proxy servers.
Nonetheless, not all proxy servers do the work effectively – there are several types of proxies, e.g., residential, data center, high anonymity, mobile proxies, etc. each of which can either be a static proxy or a rotating proxy. The rotating proxy stands out as the most effective type for web scraping, and we’ll detail why this is so by comparing its characteristics with static proxies’.
Static Proxies vs. Rotating Proxies
A proxy server redirects web traffic from your computer, assigns you (your computer) a new IP address before connecting to your desired web server/website. By definition, a static proxy doesn’t give a unique IP address with every web request or once some time-lapses. The IP address is the same throughout.
Rotating proxies – also known as dynamic proxy servers – are the exact opposite of static proxies. They assign new IP addresses either with every new web request (rotating IP address sessions) or upon the expiry of a session whose time is predefined (sticky IP address sessions). Nonetheless, regardless of whether you opt for a rotating IP address session or sticky IP address sessions, you’ll still experience all the benefits of rotating proxies.
Static proxies vs. Rotating Proxies
As detailed earlier, e-commerce websites thwart web scraping by monitoring the visitor’s IP address. If it so happens that you’re the visitor – or, more realistically, your computer or the proxy server you’ve chosen – but the website observes that you’re making too many web requests, it’ll flag your IP address for suspicious activities.
Imagine that you’re using a static proxy that has assigned you a single IP address for all your scraping needs. It follows that you won’t go far since the website will block you after just a few web requests.
This makes rotating proxies the ideal tool to circumvent websites’ restrictions whose operations revolve around monitoring IP addresses.
Why Rotating Proxies are a must
Rotating proxies, whether those using rotating IP address sessions or sticky IP address sessions are a must-have for all your large-scale product pages scraping projects.
It’s important to point out that choosing a trustful rotating proxy server provider (e.g., Oxylabs) that offers rotating IP sessions instead of sticky IP address sessions would be your best bet if you are to achieve success in data extraction applications.
Rotating proxies offer the following benefits:
They change the IP address
Rotating proxies that use rotating IP sessions will assign a user/you a new IP address with each web request. Given that web scraping is all about making numerous web requests, then the target website’s server will always perceive every request as coming from a different and genuine user. It won’t flag any of your IP addresses, thereby stopping your web scraping prematurely.
They enhance speed
If the many web requests come from a single computer or server, then a speed problem arises. With a single IP address, you’re essentially utilizing a single server’s allocated bandwidth for all your web requests. However, with rotating proxies, you’ll use multiple servers, each of which processes a single request. The result is breakneck speeds and, therefore, smooth web scraping.
They provide anonymity, security, and privacy
These three are the hallmarks of advanced proxy servers. Rotating proxies are no exception.
With all this being said, successful web scraping doesn’t solely rely on rotating proxies. Instead, it involves using rotating proxies with other tools that circumvent the additional restrictions placed by the e-commerce websites’ anti-scraping measures.