In the spirit of leveraging the internet as a database, we can think about acquiring data from web pages either by scraping content or by interfacing with web APIs. Generally, scraping content means getting the computer to read data that was intended to be displayed in a human-readable format. This is in contradistinction to web APIs, where data is delivered in machine-readable formats – the most common being JSON.
In this topic, we will focus on web scraping. The exact process for doing this will depend on the page and desired content. However, as we will see, it's quite easy to scrape anything we need from an HTML page so long as we have an understanding of the underlying concepts and tools. In this topic, we'll use Wikipedia as an example and scrape tabular content from an article. Then, we'll apply the same techniques to scrape data from a page on an entirely separate domain. But first, we'll take some time to introduce HTTP requests.