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Data Scraping

Normally, data transfer between programs is accomplished using data structures suited for automated processing by computers, not people. Such interchange formats and protocols are typically rigidly structured, well-documented, easily parsed, and keep ambiguity to a minimum. Very often, these transmissions are not human-readable at all.[1]

Thus, the key element that distinguishes data scraping from regular parsing is that the output being scraped was intended for display to an end-user, rather than as input to another program, and is therefore usually neither documented nor structured for convenient parsing. Data scraping often involves ignoring binary data (usually images or multimedia data), display formatting, redundant labels, superfluous commentary, and other information which is either irrelevant or hinders automated processing.

Data scraping is most often done either to interface to a legacy system which has no other mechanism which is compatible with current hardware, or to interface to a third-party system which does not provide a more convenient API. In the second case, the operator of the third-party system will often see screen scraping as unwanted, due to reasons such as increased system load, the loss of advertisement revenue, or the loss of control of the information content.

Data scraping is generally considered an ad hoc, inelegant technique, often used only as a "last resort" when no other mechanism for data interchange is available. Aside from the higher programming and processing overhead, output displays intended for human consumption often change structure frequently. Humans can cope with this easily, but a computer program may report nonsense, have been told to read data in a particular format or from a particular place, and with no knowledge of how to check its results for validity.
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