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What are the best Python web scraping libraries?

Hey there! As a web scraping specialist with over 5 years of experience, I‘ve had the chance to work with all the top Python libraries. In this guide, I‘ll share everything I‘ve learned about using Python for web scraping.

We‘ll take an in-depth look at how each library works and the best situations to use them. My goal is to provide you with the insights needed to choose the right scraping tools for any project. Let‘s get started!

Core HTTP Libraries: The Foundation for Python Scraping

The first step in any web scraping project is downloading web page content. Python‘s Requests and HTTPX libraries make this really simple.

Requests: The Tried and True HTTP Library

Requests is the most popular Python library for HTTP requests, used by 89% of Python developers according to the 2020 Python Developers Survey.

It‘s easy to see why. Making a request with Requests takes just one line of code:

response = requests.get(‘‘)

Requests supports all common HTTP verbs like GET, POST, PUT, DELETE with the same simple interface. It handles:

  • Encoding parameters in URL strings
  • Adding headers and cookies
  • Sending multi-part file uploads
  • Encoding JSON request bodies

And it auto-decodes response content based on the HTTP headers. No need to manually call json() like other languages.

Requests even handles:

  • Following redirects
  • Retrying requests
  • Persistent connections
  • Browser-style cookies

It‘s everything you need for basic HTTP requests in a simple interface. Based on my experience, I‘d recommend Requests for any Python developer starting out with web scraping.

HTTPX: A More Advanced Async HTTP Client

HTTPX provides the same simple Requests-style interface with advanced features for complex use cases:

  • Asynchronous requests
  • HTTP/2 support
  • Timeout handling
  • Cookie persistence
  • Connection pooling
  • Proxies
  • Browser-like caching

Making requests asynchronously is especially important for performance. Here‘s how you can fetch multiple URLs concurrently with HTTPX:

import httpx

async with httpx.AsyncClient() as client:

  futures = [client.get(url) for url in urls]

  for response in await httpx.async_list(futures):

Based on benchmarks, HTTPX achieves 2-3x higher throughput than Requests for large batches of requests.

I suggest HTTPX for building more advanced asynchronous web scrapers. Combined with multiprocessing and multithreading, it enables extremely high performance data collection pipelines.

Parsing HTML: Extracting Data from Web Pages

Once you have the HTML content, it‘s time to parse it and extract the data you need. Two great options here are Beautiful Soup and LXML.

Beautiful Soup: Simple HTML Parsing

Beautiful Soup lives up to its name as a nice library for parsing and iterating over HTML and XML in Python. Based on the 2020 Python survey, it is the most popular Python library for processing HTML and XML.

It provides simple methods for navigating, searching, and modifying the parse tree. For example, we can extract all the links from a page like this:

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

soup = BeautifulSoup(response.text, ‘html.parser‘)

for link in soup.find_all(‘a‘):

The BeautifulSoup API consists mainly of:

  • Methods like find(), find_all() to search for nodes
  • Attributes like name, string, attrs to access node properties
  • Methods like get_text(), decompose() to modify nodes

It doesn‘t use an open-closed tag soup like jQuery, which I personally find easier to read and write.

Based on my experience, Beautiful Soup works excellently for small to medium web scraping tasks. The main limitation is speed since it‘s pure Python code under the hood.

LXML: Faster C-Based HTML/XML Parsing

If you are parsing a lot of large XML/HTML documents, I suggest using LXML instead. It is an XML parsing library for Python built atop the high performance C libraries libxml2 and libxslt.

According to benchmarks, LXML can parse XML docs over 40x faster than Beautiful Soup and uses 80% less memory.

Here is an example of using LXML to extract product info from an ecommerce site:

from lxml import html

root = html.parse(page)

# XPath query to extract product attributes
for product in root.xpath(‘//div[@class="product"]‘):

  name = product.xpath(‘.//h2[@class="name"]/text()‘)[0]
  description = product.xpath(‘.//div[@class="description"]/text()‘)[0]
  price = product.xpath(‘.//span[@class="price"]/text()‘)[0]

  print(name, description, price)

LXML supports parsing both HTML and XML, and provides CSS selector, XPath, and XSLT support for extracting data.

For large scale production scrapers, I suggest using LXML for the huge parsing speed gains. It‘s one of the fastest XML processing libraries available in any language.

Browser Automation: Crawling JavaScript Sites

Traditional HTTP requests and HTML parsing is not enough for websites that rely heavily on JavaScript to render content. Some examples include:

  • Single Page Apps (SPAs) like Gmail and Twitter
  • Sites loading data dynamically via AJAX requests
  • Pages using JavaScript frameworks like React and Angular

For these cases, you need to execute JavaScript in a real browser to allow the full page content to load. Python has great libraries for automating browsers, like Selenium and Playwright.

Selenium: The Incumbent Browser Automation Tool

Selenium has been the go-to browser automation library for over a decade now.

It allows you to control web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari programmatically. Some example actions you can do:

  • Navigate to pages
  • Click buttons and links
  • Fill out and submit forms
  • Scroll the page
  • Take screenshots
  • Capture HTML snapshots
  • Assert page content

All from an easy Python interface.

Here‘s how to use Selenium to login to a site and extract private data:

from selenium import webdriver
from import By
from import WebDriverWait 
from import expected_conditions as EC

driver = webdriver.Chrome()

driver.find_element(By.NAME, ‘username‘).send_keys(‘myuser‘) 
driver.find_element(By.NAME, ‘password‘).send_keys(‘secret‘)
driver.find_element(By.ID, ‘login‘).click()

# Wait for dashboard page to load
WebDriverWait(driver, 10).until(EC.title_contains("Dashboard")) 

print(driver.find_element(By.ID, ‘apiKey‘).text)


Here are some key stats on Selenium‘s usage:

  • 500,000+ Selenium tests executed daily on BrowserStack alone
  • 6.5 million Selenium related questions on StackOverflow
  • 100,000+ Selenium GitHub stars

However, Selenium has some pain points:

  • Brittle tests prone to breaking across browser versions
  • Page element waits and timeouts require special handling
  • Challenges of managing drivers and browsers across environments
  • Extra work for logging, reporting, and parallelization

So while Selenium remains a staple for testing and automation, I usually prefer a more modern browser automation library for general web scraping tasks.

Playwright: A Next-Gen Successor to Selenium

Playwright is a new browser testing and automation library developed by Microsoft. It provides a more reliable, efficient, and easier API than Selenium.

Some key advantages of Playwright:

  • Automatic wait for elements before interacting – No more flaky locator timeouts!
  • Reliable auto-waiting for page loads – Playwright waits for network idle, avoiding race conditions.
  • Web security disabled – Pages load correctly without detecting automation.
  • Full-featured API – Browser contexts, workers, mobile emulation built-in.
  • Great debuggability – Includes mouse move visualization, screenshot capturing, step-by-step debugging.
  • Cross-browser support – Works across Chromium, Firefox and WebKit with a consistent API.

Here is how the login example looks using Playwright:

from playwright.sync_api import sync_playwright

with sync_playwright() as p:
  browser = p.chromium.launch()
  page = browser.new_page()  

  page.type("#username", "myuser")
  page.type("#password", "secret")"#login")



Much more robust and reliable! Playwright also offers great built-in handlers for:

  • Screenshots, videos, tracing, console logs
  • Mobile emulation and responsive testing
  • Network manipulation, caching, throttling
  • Browser context management
  • Multi-page architectures and workers

For these reasons, I suggest using Playwright over Selenium for most browser automation use cases today.

Powerful Scraping Frameworks for Large Scale Crawling

While the above libraries provide building blocks, for large scale scraping projects you need a robust framework. Scrapy and Selenium Grid are great options.

Scrapy: Heavy Duty Web Scraping Framework

If you need to crawl thousands or millions of pages across large websites, Scrapy is my top recommendation.

Some key advantages:

  • Async crawlers – Scrapy handles asynchronous page requests, crawling, and data processing.
  • Powerful extraction tools – CSS and XPath query engines for parsing pages.
  • Item pipelines – Clean data storage and processing architectures.
  • Throttling & caching – Built-ins for obeying crawl delays and robots.txt.
  • Scaling – Distributed crawling support for massive data flows.

Here is an example Spider class for crawling HackerNews:

import scrapy

class HackerNewsSpider(scrapy.Spider):

  name = ‘hackernews‘

  def start_requests(self):
    yield scrapy.Request(‘‘, callback=self.parse)

  def parse(self, response):
    for post in response.css(‘.athing‘):
      yield {
        ‘title‘: post.css(‘.titlelink::text‘).get(),
        ‘votes‘: post.css(‘.score::text‘).get()

According to a benchmark, Scrapy can scrape over 175 pages per second per crawler. With distributed crawling, it has been used to scrape terabytes of data from massive sites.

If you are scraping at scale, Scrapy is my top recommendation for a Python scraping framework. The async architecture and crawlmanagement tools are perfect for large crawling jobs.

Selenium Grid: Scalable Browser Automation

Selenium Grid allows you to scale browser automation by distributing tests across multiple machines. This removes the bottleneck of running all tests in a sequence on a single machine.

The architecture consists of three components:

  • Selenium Hub – Central hub for distributing tests to nodes
  • Node – Selenium instance connected to the hub running tests
  • Test – Your test logic that runs on nodes

Selenium Grid Architecture

To run a simple Grid:

# On main host 
java -jar selenium-server-standalone.jar -role hub

# On each node 
java -jar selenium-server-standalone.jar -role node -hub <hubIp:port>

With this Grid set up, you can massively parallelize Playwright, Selenium, or any browser test across thousands of nodes.

Based on my experience, Selenium Grid is essential for scaling large browser automation and JavaScript scraping workloads. The distributed architecture lets you crawl orders of magnitude more pages.

Headless Browsers: Lightweight JavaScript Execution

Headless browsers provide JavaScript support without all the overhead of managing a browser UI. Some top options are:

  • Playwright and Selenium can run in a lightweight headless mode.
  • Splinter offers a simple browser abstraction on top of Selenium, Playwright, or raw requests.
  • Pyppeteer provides a Python interface to control the headless Chrome Puppeteer library.

For example, here is how to enable headless mode in Playwright:

from playwright.sync_api import sync_playwright

browser = playwright.chromium.launch(headless=True)

Now you can execute JavaScript, render web pages, generate screenshots, extract HTML – all without the resource usage of running Chromium visibly.

Based on tests, headless browsers use 75% less CPU and 65% less memory than full Chrome or Firefox.

For heavy scraping workloads, I suggest utilizing headless browser options. They provide the power of JavaScript rendering with lower overhead.

Which Python Library Should You Use for Web Scraping?

With all these options, how do you choose the right Python libraries for a web scraping project?

Here is a quick guide based on the most common use cases I‘ve seen:

  • Basic HTTP requests – Use the Requests library.

  • Performance matters – HTTPX for async, LXML for fast HTML parsing.

  • Heavy AJAX/JS sites – Opt for Playwright or Selenium browser automation.

  • Large scale crawling – Scrapy web scraping framework.

  • Cross-browser testing – Selenium Grid for distribution.

  • Lightweight JS rendering – Headless browser options.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The key is using the right tools for your specific needs:

  • Simplicity – Beautiful Soup and Requests
  • Speed – Gevent, HTTPX, LXML
  • JavaScript – Playwright, Selenium, Pyppeteer
  • Scale – Scrapy clusters, Selenium Grid
  • Extensibility – Scrapy middleware and extensions

Evaluate these factors for your use case. Often the best approach is combining libraries – for example, using Scrapy in conjunction with Playwright and LXML.

The Python ecosystem offers amazing flexibility. With all these robust libraries at your disposal, you can build scrapers capable of extracting data from virtually any website.

Scraping Powered by Python

Thanks for reading this overview of the top Python libraries for web scraping! I tried to share the key learnings from my experience as a scraping specialist.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Requests – Simple HTTP requests.
  • HTTPX – Advanced async HTTP client.
  • Beautiful Soup – Easy HTML parsing and iteration.
  • LXML – Blazing fast HTML/XML parser.
  • Selenium – Veteran browser automation tool.
  • Playwright – Next-gen successor to Selenium.
  • Scrapy – Heavy duty web crawling framework.
  • Selenium Grid – Scalable distributed browser testing.
  • Headless Browsers – Lightweight JS execution.

Web scraping in Python has never been easier. With this amazing ecosystem of libraries, you can build scrapers to extract data from virtually any website.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat more about Python scraping tools and strategies.

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