APIs vs Screen Scraping: Differences and Applications in Open Finance

José Gonzalez Bell
Author
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March 9, 2024
5
min reading time

APIs vs Screen Scraping: Differences and Applications in Open Finance

APIs vs Web Scraping

In the tech world, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and screen scraping are essential tools for gathering and sharing data online. While both provide ways to access information on the web, they do so in different manners and serve distinct purposes. This blog post will explore what APIs and screen scraping are, their uses, key differences, and their significance in Open Finance.

What are APIs?

APIs are sets of rules and protocols that enable different applications to interact with each other. They serve as intermediaries, allowing two software programs to communicate and share data or functions in a structured and secure way. APIs are commonly used in software development to incorporate third-party services and features into an application.

What are APIs used for?

Service Integration

They allow applications to access services and data from other providers, such as social networks, payment systems, and geolocation services.

Automation

They facilitate task automation, enabling actions like sending emails, posting on social media, or accessing sensor data.

Faster Development

APIs accelerate application development by leveraging existing functionalities through the API.

What is Screen Scraping used for?

Data Collection

Screen scraping is used to gather data for analysis, market research, or price tracking.

Tracking & Monitoring

Track changes on websites, such as content updates or price fluctuations.

Database Creation

Screen scraping is also useful for creating databases from specific website information.

Task Automation

Screen scraping can facilitate task automation, such as extracting emails or generating reports.

What is the role of APIs and screen scraping in open banking?

Open banking refers to the secure and standardized way of sharing a consumer’s financial information. In other regions, like the European Union, rules and standards such as PSD2 have already been established. These regulations mandate banks to provide standardized APIs, enabling third parties to access users' bank accounts given their consent. Similar initiatives have been implemented in Latin America, beginning with Brazil, and are quickly advancing in Colombia, and other countries.

APIs allow financial institutions to grant controlled and secure access to particular data and services. This ensures that a third party, like a fintech or financial management app, can only access a user's financial information with their consent and by adhering to the necessary security protocols.

On the other hand, screen scraping is less reliable and susceptible to changes in website designs, requiring frequent updates to scraping scripts. Also, in certain situations, scraping could violate a website's terms of service, potentially resulting in legal consequences and exposing you to security, liability, and privacy risks.

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Key differences between APIs and Screen Scraping:

APIs vs Screen Scraping

Screen scraping is like a shortcut for financial institutions, providing a simpler but less secure and more unreliable approach. On the other hand, APIs represent genuine innovation, offering a more efficient, reliable, and secure method of sharing data.

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