There are lots of pieces of information floating around, waiting to be found. What if there was a way to find and collect these pieces automatically without copy-pasting the content? Well, there is, and it’s called web scraping!
Using the Ruby programming language, we can write small programs to do this job for us, gathering the data we want quickly and easily.
In this article, we will explore the basics of web scraping with Ruby, helping you get started on your path to becoming a data-gathering wizard.
If you want to see a direct Ruby code sample, read ruby web scraping for beginner
Tools we need
We need two tools: HTTP Client and HTML parser. We load the website content with HTTP Client and parse the information with HTML parser.
An HTTP client is a tool or library that sends requests to web servers and receives responses from them. It’s a way for software to communicate with web servers using the HTTP protocol, which is the protocol most commonly used on the web.
HTTP Client tools example:
An “HTML/XML parser” is a tool or library that helps you read and extract information from HTML or XML documents. When you are web scraping, you use it to sift through the complex structure of a webpage (which is written in HTML and possibly incorporating XML) to find and collect the specific pieces of data that you are interested in.
HTML tools example:
Ruby scraping example
- Ruby web scraping for beginner
- Scrape Google search result with Ruby
- Faster web scraping in Ruby with Thread
Is Ruby good for web scraping?
Ruby is a versatile programming language that is quite capable of web scraping tasks, and it offers several advantages if you’re looking to extract data from websites:
Ruby has a robust ecosystem with libraries that are specifically designed for web scraping. The most notable one is Nokogiri, which provides an easy-to-use interface for parsing and navigating HTML and XML documents.
Ruby’s community is known for its helpfulness and the culture of open source. As a result, there are numerous tutorials, guides, and resources available for those new to web scraping or even to Ruby itself.
Ease of Use
Ruby’s syntax is clear and concise, making the code easier to write and understand. This can speed up the development process and reduce the chance of errors.
Ruby can easily integrate with databases, API endpoints, and other systems. This is beneficial when storing or further processing the scraped data.
Why Ruby might be not the best option for scraping
Web scraping can be resource-intensive, and while Ruby is efficient, it might not always be the fastest option compared to languages like Go or Rust. However, for many tasks, the difference in speed might be negligible.
Ruby keeps evolving as well, there are already libraries/tools to perform async and parallel request, which suitable in I/O heavy task like web scraping.
For AI, machine learning, and data analysis, Python is the top choice due to its wide range of tools and libraries.
Which is better for Web scraping, Ruby or Python ?
Both Ruby and Python are excellent choices for web scraping. Your decision might be influenced by:
If you’re already proficient in one language, it might make sense to stick with it.
For larger, more complex scraping projects, Python’s Scrapy and Beautifulsoup might be more suitable. For simpler tasks or integration with a Rails app, Ruby might be preferable.
AI and Machine Learning
Python is the de facto language for most AI and machine learning applications. Libraries such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, and scikit-learn are industry-standard tools that are predominantly Python-based.
Python’s data analysis capabilities are unparalleled thanks to libraries like Pandas, NumPy, and Matplotlib. This makes it easier to process, analyze, and visualize the scraped data.
Community and Resources
If you rely heavily on tutorials, third-party tools, and community support, the larger Python community might be an advantage.
In the end, the best choice depends on individual preferences, the specific requirements of the task, and the tools you’re most comfortable using
About HTTP Client
When you enter a URL in a web browser and hit enter, the browser (acting as an HTTP client) sends an HTTP request to the web server hosting the site associated with that URL. The web server processes the request and then sends an HTTP response back to the browser, which includes the content of the webpage and some other information about the response, such as the status code. The browser then displays the webpage content to you.
In the context of programming, an HTTP client allows a program to send HTTP requests to web servers and handle the responses, much like a browser does, but it will be used to interact with APIs, fetch data, submit data, and more programmatically.