Data lies in the heart of any business, even more if it is technology-related. With all the open standards of today, like RSS feeds or APIs, sharing data across systems has become much easier than it ever was.
For example, if you want to read today’s financial news directly from your email inbox, you could simply subscribe to the providers’ (such as Google News or BBC) RSS feeds. Similarly, your system or application could also use a provider’s API to get up-to-date stock market prices. Feeds and XML make data sharing extremely easy, which is the whole reason they exist in the first place.
What about unstructured data?
If the data is unstructured, or does not have RSS feeds for you to consume, how will you go about fetching them? You could always hire people to manually log on and save the info into an Excel sheet – but the process quickly gets tedious and impractical.
Let’s take a simple example.
You have a shopping site and have 1,000 products. You want to make sure your prices are competitive. In order to do that, you will need to monitor your competitors’ sites and their prices for the same products. If there are a lot of products and competitors, it is going to be next to impossible if you try to do this without some automated process.
This is where Web Crawling (aka web scraping, data extraction) comes into picture. There is a good chance you or your business will feel the need for automated web crawling to gather data which will be processed to gather insights and make business decisions.
Web sc technology was made popular by Google for its use in their search engine. They were the first to see the importance of immense amount of data on the web which was then not crawled and indexed. They capitalized on that – sending out thousands of crawlers to the web, and indexing everything they could possibly find!
Let’s scale down a bit, and think just about your business. What would web crawling do for you? Here are a few things that come to mind:
- Gather data for business intelligence
- Market research about the product or service you are offering
- Monitor competitor’s products or solutions 24/7
- Gather user behavior data to make your product perform better
- Simply make your product more relevant with more content
- … and much, much more!
Can you think of a few? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment, or write to us at email@example.com.