Ubiquity and danger: The web scraping economy

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Web scraping is a technique of extracting information from web sites, and often includes transforming unstructured web site data into a database for analysis or repurposing content into the web scraper’s own website and business operations. In most cases, bots, which make up 46 percent of web traffic, are implemented by individuals to perform web scraping at a much faster rate than humans alone.

web scraping

Diverse actors leverage web scraping bots, including nefarious competitors, internet upstarts, hedge funds, fraudsters, hackers, and spammers, to effortlessly steal whatever pieces of content they are programmed to find, and often mimic regular user behavior, making them hard to detect and even harder to block. Roughly two percent of online revenue is lost as a result of web scraping.

Through analysis of top web scraping platforms and services, Distil Networks outlined how the democratization of web scraping allows users to effortlessly steal sensitive information on the web.

“If your content can be viewed on the web, it can be scraped,” said Rami Essaid, CEO of Distil Networks. “Not only does web scraping pose a critical challenge to a website’s brand, it can threaten sales and conversions, lower SEO rankings, or undermine the integrity of content that took considerable time and resources to produce. Understanding the pervasive nature of today’s web scraping economy not only raises awareness about this growing challenge, it also allows website owners to take action in the protection of their proprietary information.”

38% of companies who engage in web scraping do so to obtain content – Web scraping is also used for research, contact scraping, price comparison, weather data monitoring, and website change detection.

Real estate sites are the number one victim of web scraping – Other industries plagued by web scraping include digital publishing, travel, online directories, e-commerce, and marketplace and classifieds.

Web scraping services cost as little as $3.33 per hour – The average web scraping project costs roughly $135.

The average web scraper makes $58,000 annually – When working for a large company specializing in web scraping, individuals can earn up to $128,000 per year for their work.