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8 Best Programming Languages for Web Scraping

Building a web scraper requires extensive knowledge and research. One of the first steps is to decide which programming language to use for your scraper. This step can even define the success of your web scraping tool.

 

If you’re already closely familiar with one or more programming languages, the best advice is to use a language you already know. Web scraping requires an extensive understanding of a language so you can navigate it easily and adjust the code when needed. For this reason, the best programming language for web scraping is the one you are familiar with.

 

If you’re just getting to know different languages, then choose the one that has an online community and various resources. Learning a language is a lengthy process, and you’ll need as much support as you can get.

 

When it comes to more general features, the best programming language for data extraction should ensure flexibility, be scalable, easy to code and maintain. With these features in mind, we listed eight best programming languages for web scraping. We named their pros and cons to make sure that this article gives you a good overview of what different languages have to offer when it comes to web scraping.

 

1. Best Web Scraping Language - Python

 

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If you’re looking for the most popular programming language for web scraping, that’s Python. One of the main advantages of this language is its ability to smoothly handle most processes related to web scraping and crawling. 

 

This language is popular among beginners since it’s easy to understand and has loads of tutorials and open-source guides. Python also has various third-party libraries that can be applied to different web scraping projects.

 

Python is often used with Beautiful Soup, a Python library, which works well with various parsers, such as html5lib and lxml. Another popular framework for web scraping with Python is Scrapy. Many programmers also choose Selenium for automating web scraping tasks.

 

Pros:

  • Broadly used, has loads of online resources and a large user community 
  • Has pythonic idioms for navigating, searching, and modifying a parsing tree
  • Many third-party libraries
  • Easy to understand, great for beginners

 

Cons:

  • May be slower than some other languages, but in web scraping, the speed can also depend on many other factors, such as the target website, etc
  • Weak protocols in database access, which may require extra layers, especially for business use cases

 

2. JavaScript

 

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JavaScript was originally built for developing the front-end of websites. However, it’s now one of the most popular programming languages. In the Node.js environment, JavaScript can be used for developing web applications and web crawling. For web scraping in JavaScript, developers use Puppeteer and Nightmare libraries. 

 

It’s often more experienced programmers who choose to build web scrapers in JavaScript. Node.js can effectively crawl websites that have implemented dynamic coding practices, which is a significant advantage compared to other languages.

 

Pros:

  • Large online community for support
  • Great for scraping websites with dynamic coding
  • Can minimize a user’s waiting time during constant input/output tasks

 

Cons: 

  • Harder to understand for new users
  • Not great for large-scale web scraping projects

 

3. Golang

 

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While slightly less popular than Python, Golang is an effective language for building web scrapers. Go can be used with the Goquery library, which is similar to jQuery. Developers also use the Colly framework for building scrapers, crawlers, or web spiders in Golang. One of Colly's main benefits is that it allows easy traversing of parent and child elements.

 

For scraping at intervals, Golang can be used with Cron. It helps with task scheduling in case you want your scraper to extract data at different times.

 

Pros:

  • Easy to read language with simple syntax
  • Concurrency support
  • Relatively fast

 

Cons:

  • Doesn’t automatically handle errors
  • Small online community with a lengthy response rate

 

4. Ruby

 

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One of the main advantages of Ruby is that it has certain features helpful in web scraping. For example, Nokogiri is a Ruby library that provides ways to parse HTML and XML, two common web scraping output formats.

 

Ruby’s syntax is easy to follow and doesn't take too much time to write. For example, the Ruby on Rails framework allows writing less code and avoiding repetition. HTTParty library sends an HTTP request to your target site and returns the page’s HTML as a string.

 

Pros:

  • Same functionalities can be written with fewer lines of codes compared to other popular languages
  • Ruby Bundler allows deploying existing packages from GitHub, which saves time
  • Supports multithreading

 

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have great documentation, especially for less popular libraries
  • Slower than other popular languages

 

5. C#

 

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C and C++ programming languages offer great execution. However, building a web scraping solution in these languages can end up being more expensive compared to other languages. 

 

Because of the cost, C# is not the top choice for building a scraper unless you have a web scraping project in mind that requires extracting precise data.

 

Pros:

  • Able to write an HTML parsing library based on your requirements
  • Can be suitable for web scraping when paired with dynamic coding
  • Great for parallelizing a web scraper

 

Cons:

  • Can get very expensive
  • Only good for extracting very specific data and not for building crawlers

 

6. Java

 

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If you’re a Java developer, you’ll be happy to learn that this programming language can be used for building a web scraping solution. It can be done by utilizing two Java libraries - JSoup and HtmlUnit. Using these libraries enables connecting to a website and offers various methods for data extraction. 

 

The best way to scrape with Java is by selecting HTML elements with either CSS selectors or XPath. Just keep in mind that not all the libraries support the latter option. 

 

Pros:

  • It’s an open-source language with loads of helpful documentation online
  • Java has a variety of APIs
  • XPath and CSS selector support

 

Cons:

  • Not the best option for beginners, as building a scraper in Java requires an advanced understanding of the language

 

7. R

 

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R is a good option for building a web scraper. This language is easy to use, has a rich library, and can be dynamically typed. One of the most popular web scraping tools for the R language is the rvest package. With this package, you can scrape with just a few lines of code. For web crawling in R, developers use the Rcrawler package. 

 

Knowing HTML and CSS is a helpful advantage when it comes to scraping in R. 

 

Pros:

  • R is cross-platform, which means it can run on any OS
  • Open-source
  • Has loads of packages for different use cases

 

Cons:

  • Relatively slow, especially for web scraping operations
  • Has poor security, which can be a large issue

 

8. PHP

 

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While we’re talking about the best programming languages for web scraping, it’s important to mention another language, PHP, even though it’s probably the least favorable for data gathering. 

 

This language has weak multithreading and asynchronous model support, which is a big drawback when it comes to web scraping. These limitations can affect task scheduling and queuing, which are important elements when building a web scraping solution.

 

An alternative to PHP for web scraping would be using a cURL library. It can help extract data such as images, videos, graphics, etc. cURL can be used to create a web spider and extract needed data.

 

Pros:

  • Extensive database support that can handle a wide range of data types
  • It’s a widely-used language for various tasks with a large online community
  • Using cURL can easily download images and other content

 

Cons:

  • Weak multithreading and async
  • Poor error-handling
  • May cause security issues

 

Conclusion

 

If you’re looking for the best programming language for web scraping, you’ll have to consider a few factors. The best choice may depend on your specific goal and skills. Since web scraping is possible with nearly any language, you should consider using the language you already know. 

 

If you’re just about to learn a new language with the goal of web scraping, then pick a language that has extensive documentation and support. This can make your learning process smoother.

 

There are a few more things that the best web scraping languages should entail. These include flexibility, ease of coding, scalability, how much maintenance it needs, and its ability to feed extracted data to the database. 

 

We considered all these factors and listed eight programming languages that can be used for web scraping. We also named their pros and cons so you can better understand which language is the best option for your case. 

 

Based on our findings, the three best programming languages for web scraping are Python, JavaScript and Ruby, but the rest are not falling far behind.
 

By Oliver Jones
Oliver is someone you would call a tech-wizard. Fascinated with everything computer and machine related, he has been involved in the industry for ages. Proxies and data are his two newest interests that have carried him to the field of writing. Oliver believes that all the knowledge in the world is worth nothing if it can’t be shared!