Certain mobile apps serve contents just the same way websites do, some content based websites are moving totally from having a website to just a native mobile app that serves same content as their website was doing. This move or switch from websites to mobile apps is as a result of the increase in the use of mobile phones, more people now use mobile phones(smartphones from here) than ever,. In recent times, there are more smartphones accessing the internet today than there was say 10 years ago. Because of this increase in the appreciation of smartphones and what they’re capable of doing there’s been series of predictions suggesting that the total number of smartphone users in the world would grow to 2.5 billion the coming year.
All the above should let you know that more and more mobile apps would be created and some websites that offer content would add native apps for their users as one of their list platforms. This means different things for different people, for we here at Crawlbase (formerly ProxyCrawl) all we are concerned about is how to crawl and scrape the web effectively, as such it’s better we get you up to date with information on the web and how things work with respect to web crawling and scraping. At the end of this post you would know what your chances are with scraping mobile apps for content or data, you’d know if it’s possible and how feasible it is, does it worth it really?
Mobile apps work quite different from the way websites do, basically, a website that is live and running only needs you to access it with the use of any web browser of your choice on any internet enabled device, this proves that websites are platform independent. This makes things a lot easier, since you can pick up any smartphone, tablet, handheld console etc. that meets the earlier stated criteria (internet access and web browser) and just type in the address of the website and boom! You have it all displayed on your screen. Due to the simplicity of things here, a bot can be made to simulate a browser and also simulate the activities a human could do on a site, hence it’ll be viewed as though a person is accessing the site. The bot can then extract and save the contents and data from the site.
A mobile app doesn’t work in like manner, a mobile app can’t be accessed with any smartphone unless it is the platform the app was built for because mobile apps aren’t platform independent like websites. This makes the whole process of crawling and scraping mobile apps practically impossible mainly for two reasons the one explained above and smartphones are not great machines for web scraping.
But an attempt could be made to scrape mobile apps by installing the app on your computer using either an emulator or ARC Welder on Google chrome these two options are applicable on Windows machines and for android apps. There’s no guarantee that after installing the app the process of extracting and scraping of data would be successful. This is all theoretical.
Once you have the app installed say on Chrome(the best option here) using ARC Welder, you can monitor your HTTP/HTTPS traffic on your computer using either of Fidler or WireShark these two apps monitor your internet traffic on your computer. But know that they monitor all of the traffic coming in and out of your computer, this will result in impure data. Another problem is many apps today encrypt the data that flows in and out hence you won’t be able to see the data unless through the apps because only the app would have the decryption key.
From the long epistles up above you can tell, it is almost impossible to scrape mobile apps, best say it’s not worth the stress and everything involved. Your best bet is to move to the web version of these apps, most mobile apps like Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn, Amazon all have web versions from whence they started, this is good news because scraping these websites only needs the service of a good web scraper like what we have; Crawlbase. Even mobile only apps are now including web versions example is Instagram, so be rest assured more and more would introduce websites to cater to those who love doing things on their computers rather than on their tiny smartphones, one of such persons is myself I love it all on my computer with larger screen.