Chapter 12. Crawling Through APIs

JavaScript has traditionally been the bane of web crawlers everywhere. At one point in the ancient history of the internet, you could be guaranteed that the request you made to the web server would fetch the same data that the user saw in their web browser when they made that same request.

As JavaScript and Ajax content generation and loading become more ubiquitous, this situation is becoming less common. In Chapter 11, you looked at one way of solving this: using Selenium to automate a browser and fetch the data. This is an easy thing to do. It works almost all of the time.

The problem is that, when you have a “hammer” as powerful and effective as Selenium, every web scraping problem starts to look a lot like a nail.

In this chapter, you’ll look at cutting through the JavaScript entirely (no need to execute it or even load it!) and getting straight to the source of the data: the APIs that generate it.

A Brief Introduction to APIs

Although countless books, talks, and guides have been written about the intricacies of REST, GraphQL, JSON, and XML APIs, at their core they are based on a simple concept. An API defines a standardized syntax that allows one piece of software to communicate with another piece of software, even though they might be written in different languages or otherwise structured differently.

This section focuses on web APIs (in particular, APIs that allow a web server to communicate to a browser) and uses the term API

Get Web Scraping with Python, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.