Extracting data from Java applets, ActiveX controls, and Adobe Flash movies

This is a question we get from time to time, so I finally decided to add it to our FAQ. If anyone else has experience with this kind of thing feel free to post a comment. I’m unaware of many packages that can do this.

Here’s the posting from the FAQ:

The short answer to this one is, “Sometimes.” Most all widgets (applets, etc.) that communicate with their server via HTTP can be sccraped by screen-scraper. Oftentimes, however, they’ll use a proprietary protocol. Most of the time Adobe Flash movies use HTTP when they need to communicate with a server, but Java applets and ActiveX controls don’t always. The easiest way to find out is to use screen-scraper’s proxy server when interacting with a page containing one of these elements. Take a close look at the HTTP requests and responses passing between the web browser and the server. If you see text in there (often XML or URL-encoded lists of parameters) then the chances are good that screen-scraper can extract the information being passed between the client and server. Note, however, that there may be text that the widget is displaying that doesn’t get passed between the client and server. Unfortunately, in such cases, screen-scraper is unable to extract that information. The only utility we’re aware of that may allow for scraping that type of information would be IBM’s Rational Robot software.

2 thoughts on “Extracting data from Java applets, ActiveX controls, and Adobe Flash movies”

  1. It’s actually been quite some time since we worked with a Java applet, so, unfortunately, I can’t provide a specific example. Here’s a tip, though–try going to the site with Java disabled. Sometimes sites will provide an alternate login for browsers that don’t have Java enabled.

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