Web scraping has become an essential technique for collecting large amounts of structured data from the web. As the volume and complexity of data extraction needs grow, developers are increasingly turning to web scraping APIs to simplify and streamline the process.
Web scraping APIs provide a programmatic interface for extracting data from websites. They encapsulate the underlying scraping logic and infrastructure, allowing developers to focus on getting the data they need through simple API calls.
In this comprehensive guide, we evaluate the top web scraping APIs available in 2024 based on key criteria like features, pricing, compliance and more. Let‘s dive in to discover which options best suit different use cases and requirements.
How Do Web Scraping APIs Work?
Before reviewing specific web scraping APIs, let‘s briefly examine how they work at a high level:
The developer makes API requests pointing to the target URLs they want to extract data from. Additional parameters like selectors and filters can be specified to customize the data extraction.
The web scraping API handles all the underlying scraping work including:
- Sending HTTP requests to the URLs
- Parsing and extracting data from the HTML
- Managing proxies and rotations to avoid blocks
- Retrying failed requests
- Handling pagination and scrolling to get all data
The extracted structured data is returned to the developer in a consistent format like JSON, CSV or Excel.
The developer uses the extracted data to power applications, analytics, machine learning models and more.
So in essence, web scraping APIs remove the need to build and maintain custom scrapers. They provide a scalable and reliable means to extract large amounts of data through a developer-friendly interface.
Key Evaluation Criteria for Web Scraping APIs
When assessing web scraping APIs, here are some of the most important criteria to evaluate:
Flexibility & Customization: The ability to customize extraction logic like selectors and filters is key for advanced use cases. APIs with limited customization can handle simple data extraction but struggle with complex sites.
Supported Languages & Libraries: APIs that only support specific languages limit what developers can do. The best scraping APIs offer multiple language SDKs like Python, Node.js, Java etc.
Proxy Management & Rotation: Rotating proxies is essential to avoid getting blocked while scraping at scale. APIs should provide robust proxy management.
Pricing & Plans: Cost can be a major factor. APIs should ideally offer both affordable plans for smaller workloads and enterprise options for large-scale scraping.
Limits & Quotas: Generous rate limits allow extracting more data per month. Restrictive limits can impact large scraping projects.
Data Formatting & Export: APIs should support outputting scraped data in multiple formats like JSON, CSV or Excel for easy analysis.
Documentation & Ease of Use: Extensive docs, client libraries, and code samples make it easier to integrate the API.
Compliance with Ethics: Lawful data collection through respecting robots.txt, reasonable crawl rates etc. ensures ethical scraping.
Customer Support: Timely support is needed to resolve issues quickly during scraping projects.
Keeping these criteria in mind, let‘s review some of the top web scraping API options available in 2024.
Apify provides a robust and flexible web scraping API optimized for large-scale data extraction. It‘s built on a serverless cloud infrastructure enabling it to scale to massive workloads.
Support for all major languages/libraries – Python, Node.js, Puppeteer, Playwright etc.
Smart proxy rotation with millions of IPs to avoid blocks.
Actor ecosystem – a library of ready-made scrapers for popular sites.
Broad dataset storage and export options including CSV, JSON, Excel etc.
Schedule, monitor and manage scrapers remotely.
Enterprise-grade scalability to handle large scraping volumes.
Very flexible and customizable extraction logic.
Huge proxy network with intelligent rotation to minimize blocks.
Generous free tier and affordable pricing.
Can have a learning curve for developers new to web scraping.
Does not offer phone support, but provides chat and email channels.
Apify has a forever free plan with $5 monthly platform usage credit. Paid plans start at $49/month for the Team plan supporting higher scrape volumes. Custom enterprise pricing is also available.
Verdict: With robust features and scalable pricing, Apify is a top choice for demanding enterprise-scale web scraping projects.
Oxylabs provides a suite of specific web scraping APIs tailored to different verticals – general web scraping, ecommerce sites, SERPs etc. It leverages a large global proxy network for scrapers.
Range of vertical-specific scraping APIs – SERP, ecommerce, web, real estate etc.
Large proxy network with millions of IPs based across residential and datacenter sources.
Automatically solves CAPTCHAs encountered while scraping.
Scraper debugging capabilities for troubleshooting.
Integrates with BI tools like Tableau for data analytics.
Very large proxy network across 195+ countries to prevent blocks.
APIs tailored for vertical-specific scraping use cases.
Strong support for handling CAPTCHAs during scraping.
Integrates well with business intelligence and analytics tools.
Customization capability varies across their different APIs.
Proxy plans are not cheap and add to the overall cost.
Limited free tier with only 500 API calls allowed.
Oxylabs has a free tier with 500 API calls. After that their Web Scraper API starts at €149/month for 15,000 API calls and 250 GB proxy traffic. More expensive plans have higher allowances.
Verdict: A solid option for large proxy volumes and vertical-specific web scraping through mature APIs.
ScrapingBee is a popular general-purpose web scraping API suitable for businesses and individuals. It abstracts away the complexities of managing proxies and infrastructure.
Scrape data from any web page with a simple API request.
Automatically rotates proxies during scraping helping avoid blocks.
Built-in support for bypassing common anti-bot protections like Cloudflare.
CAPTCHA solving functionality.
Simplifies web scraping with an easy-to-use and integrate API interface.
Affordable pricing suitable for small businesses and developers.
Proxy management abstracted away from the user.
Generous free tier to get started.
Not as customizable for advanced scraping logic as other APIs.
Lacks some advanced features like browser automation.
Data exports limited to JSON currently.
ScrapingBee has a free plan allowing 50,000 API requests/month. The starter paid plan is $39/month for 500K requests. More expensive tiers allow higher request volumes.
Verdict: A cost-effective and easy-to-use API for low-moderate scraping needs, although advanced users may find it limiting.
4. Zyte (formerly Scrapinghub)
Zyte emphasizes reach, simplicity, and reliability in its web scraping API service. It‘s built on top of the popular Scrapy web scraping framework for Python.
Integration with the powerful open-source Scrapy framework.
Automatically extracts structured data from pages with ML.
Cloud-based infrastructure removes need to host scrapers.
Managed proxy pools for each customer to avoid blocks.
Tools for visually building and debugging scrapers.
Tight integration with the highly capable Scrapy framework.
Data extraction automation through machine learning/AI.
Cloud infrastructure simplifies scraper hosting.
Per-customer proxy pools for blocking avoidance.
Prices tend to be higher than competitors for large-scale projects.
Some learning curve involved in leveraging Scrapy framework.
Proxy management less customizable than other APIs.
Zyte has a free plan for up to 20K monthly page visits. The starter paid plan supporting 300K page visits starts at $79/month. Enterprise pricing available for higher volumes.
Verdict: A great fit for existing Scrapy users, although the framework learning curve may deter some new users.
BrightData offers a web scraping API tailored towards market research use cases. It provides pre-built datasets and the ability to generate custom datasets.
Ready-made datasets for ecommerce, finance, travel and other verticals.
Custom API for generating datasets by scraping any site.
Scrape through Yarnold CLI or plugins for Python,Node.js etc.
Millions of residential and mobile proxies to avoid blocks.
Configurable via YAML files for advanced customization.
Instant access to vast ready-made datasets.
Highly customizable scraping through YAML configs.
Massive proxy network across 130M+ IPs globally.
Broad language support including Python, Node.js, Java etc.
Pre-built datasets may not match specific needs.
Custom scraping requires some YAML config knowledge.
One of the more expensive API services.
BrightData has a free plan for 5K page visits monthly. The starter paid plan begins at $500/month for 500K page visits. Enterprise pricing available for higher volumes.
Verdict: A uniquely valuable service for market research use cases due to massive datasets, albeit at a significant cost.
Diffbot provides a set of AI-powered APIs that automatically structure and extract data from web pages. This removes much of the manual work involved.
Auto-detects page structure and applicable data extraction API.
Pre-built scrapers for articles, products, images, discussions and more.
Custom API for building scrapers tailored to specific sites.
Supported languages include Python, Node.js, Java, PHP and more.
Handles pagination automatically during data extraction.
AI removes much of the manual work in structuring unstructured data.
AUTO extraction minimizes custom coding for many use cases.
Custom API provides flexibility when pre-built APIs are insufficient.
Broad language SDK support.
AUTO APIs may not handle some complex site structures properly.
Custom API requires building extractors for maximum control.
Can be more expensive for large-scale scraping compared to some alternatives.
Diffbot starts with a free tier for development. For production, the starter plan is $499/month for 100K API calls and 100K page visits included. Higher tiers have increased allowances.
Verdict: Diffbot‘s AUTO extraction excels for many basic scraping tasks, but custom work may be needed for complex sites.
ParseHub emphasizes simplicity in creating and running web scrapers via its visual web interface. This allows non-developers to manage scraping workflows.
Visual web interface to configure scrapers without coding.
Pre-built scrapers for some common sites.
Scrapers can be scheduled and orchestrated within the UI.
Whistle markup language for advanced logic and scraping customization.
Integrates with Zapier to connect with apps like Google Sheets.
Low-code configuration through visual interface.
Pre-built scrapers reduce development time.
Easy orchestration of scrapers and scheduling.
Affordable pricing and free-tier.
Advanced logic customization requires learning proprietary Whistle markup.
Less control compared to coding custom scrapers.
The free plan allows 5000 page visits monthly. The starter paid plan is $99/month for 50K page visits. More expensive plans allow more page visits.
Verdict: A usable option for simple scraping tasks, especially for non-developers. But could struggle with complex sites.
ScraperAPI provides developer-focused APIs for web scraping, proxies, browsers and CAPTCHAs. It aims to provide robust tools for custom scraping projects.
General Web Scraper API for custom data extraction.
Specific APIs for Google, LinkedIn, Instagram and more.
Integrates with Puppeteer, Playwright, and Selenium for browser automation.
Millions of fast residential proxies with automatic rotation.
CAPTCHA solving functionality.
Broad API capabilities beyond just web scraping.
Tight integration with popular browser testing/automation tools.
Huge proxy network across 195+ countries to avoid blocks.
Generous free tier.
Requires more technical expertise compared to low/no-code services.
Prices can add up quickly if multiple services are needed.
Less customized business intelligence and analytics integrations compared to some alternatives.
ScraperAPI has a generous free tier with 1,000 API requests per month. The Starter plan begins at $39/month for 100k requests. More expensive plans allow more requests.
Verdict: Excellent capabilities for developing customized and automated browser-based scrapers, albeit at a moderately higher cost.
In summary, today‘s top web scraping APIs provide a powerful blend of robust features, generous pricing, and ethical data practices:
Apify leads for large-scale customized scraping with enterprise infrastructure.
Oxylabs dominates in proxy volume for niche vertical APIs.
ScrapingBee delivers simplicity and affordability for basic scraping.
Zyte shines for existing Scrapy devs wanting cloud infrastructure.
BrightData unlocks immense pre-built datasets alongside custom API access.
Diffbot automates data extraction where its AI matches page structure.
ParseHub opens scraping to non-developers through visual configuration.
For virtually any web scraping need, there exists a capable API service to simplify extracting large volumes of quality data. Carefully evaluate your use case, technical expertise, budget and compliance requirements when choosing a solution.
Hopefully this guide has provided a helpful starting point for identifying the web scraping API that best suits your next project‘s data collection needs.