Nowadays, information has undeniably become the lifeblood of any business. After all, you need information about current and future trends and the market position. Similarly, you also need information on your competition. That is why web scraping has become a necessity for every business.
In this case, web scraping is done using web bots and user agents. Web bots are used to automate the process of web scraping while user agents are the information passed on to the website you want to get information from.
However, websites are not too keen to give information. This makes it necessary to have rotating user agents. With that said, read on to learn more about web scraping, user agents, and rotating user agents.
What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is the process of gathering information from the web to help you with decision-making. In this case, most people use web bots to scrape the web.
Web bots are tiny programs that crawl the web and search for the information that you want. After crawling the web, the bot collates and stores the information on your computer in a convenient format that you can use to compare data.
Is Web Scraping Legal?
In general, web scraping is considered legal. After all, the logic is that since the information is out there, it’s considered legal to collect it. However, despite this, businesses try to stop others from scraping their websites.
That is why web scrapers use different techniques for web scraping. In this case, one of the techniques is to use web bots with proxy servers.
What Is a Proxy Server?
A proxy server is like a go-between that transfers your query for information to a website. As a result, the queried website doesn’t know who sent the query and is convinced to give the requested information.
However, suppose you are not careful and use just one proxy server to gather information. In that case, you could be banned from websites, especially if they suspect you are using a bot or are scraping the web.
To overcome this, web scrapers use multiple proxies and rotate them so that it seems like information requests are coming from different web addresses and genuine users.
Of course, another technique is to use residential or mobile proxies. Residential and mobile proxies are actual physical devices and come across as genuine inquiries.
What Is a User Agent?
To overcome website restrictions and get the necessary information, web scraping bots use another trick – user agents.
A user agent is a small piece of text that a website receives when there’s a request for information. The user agent usually has details about the web browser used and the computer where it came from.
This helps the website to send information in the appropriate format for the user. Here is an example of a user agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:12.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/12.0
The example shows the Firefox browser user agent on a Windows 7 computer. The user agent tells the website that it wants information that the request has come from a computer running Windows 7 (Windows NT 6.1), a 64-bit Windows version (WOW64), using Firefox 12.
Rotating User Agents for Web Scraping
Nowadays, a web bot can change the user agent or the text header sent to a website. Using a combination of rotating proxy servers and the most common user agents makes it possible to give the impression that multiple requests are coming from different computers. Doing so helps a lot to avoid being detected and getting banned. Read this article to learn more about what most common user agents are.
In this case, web bots can create a list of the most common user agents using a programming language like Python.
However, suppose you’re creating the rotating user agents. In that case, you need to check the web for the latest user agent text strings that can be used to create your rotating user agents. Fortunately, these are readily available on the web.
So, if you’re someone who seriously wants to pursue web scraping, you need to search the web for sites that list some of the most common user agents.
Once you have them, you can store these user agents in your web scraper’s computer database. After this, your web bot can use them to request information from websites without being detected or flagged as suspicious activity.
With data being a valuable resource for many businesses, there’s no doubt that web scraping is here to stay. However, it can be challenging to conduct web scraping if a website bans your web bots from obtaining the data you need.
Because of this, using proxies and rotating user agents can be excellent ways to avoid detection and ensure a successful web scraping process.