Best HTML Parsing Libraries for Web Scraping

Discover the best HTML parsers for web scraping and data extraction, including httpx, AIOHTTP, and urllib.
7 min read
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In this comparison article, you will learn:

  • The definition of an HTML parser and why you need one
  • What to consider when comparing the best HTML parsers
  • What the best HTML parsing libraries are

Let’s dive in!

What Is an HTML Parser?

An HTML parser is a library designed to parse HTML documents. Usually, it can also parse XML. In other words, HTML parsers process the HTML code and convert it into a structured data format that can easily be navigated and manipulated. What they produce is an easier-to-explore representation of the DOM associated with the HTML page.

HTML parsers typically take local files, URLs, or raw HTML strings as input. Then, they start analyzing the HTML code character by character, identifying different elements such as tags, attributes, and content. As they parse the XML/HTML document, they build a tree-like structure that contains the hierarchical representation of the HTML document.

One of the most important use case for an HTML parsing library is web scraping. For example, assume that you want to retrieve product information from an online shopping website. You can use an HTTP client to retrieve the HTML document associated with the target page. Next, feed that HTML content to the HTML parser. Use its API to navigate the parse tree to locate and extract relevant information such as product names, prices, and more.

To target specific HTML elements on the DOM, HTML parsers generally support node selector strategies based on CSS selectors or XPath expressions. Given an HTML node, they usually provide methods to extract its text content or read its attribute values.

Elements to Consider When Evaluating the Best HTML Parsing Libraries

Here are the list of the most important aspects to consider when comparing the best HTML parsers available:

  • Pros and cons: The main benefits and drawbacks of the library.
  • Programming language: The programming language the package is written in.
  • GitHub stars: The number of stars the repository associated with the HTML parsing library has on GitHub.
  • CSS selector support: Whether the HTML parser comes with built-in support for CSS selectors.
  • XPath support: Whether the library has built-in support for XPath expressions.

Let’s now apply these criteria to evaluate the best HTML parsers in the IT world!

Top 7 HTML Parsers

Time to explore the best HTML parsing libraries. 

1. jsoup 

jsoup is a robust Java library designed for parsing HTML documents. On top of that, it comes with a complete API for HTML manipulation and data extraction via CSS selectors or XPath expressions. As an all-in-one scraping library, it also provides an easy-to-use method for HTML fetching from a URL. Become an expert with our jsoup web scraping guide 

👍 Pros:

  • Implements the WHATWG HTML specification
  • HTTP client included in the library
  • Vast API with a lot of methods and utilities
  • Full API documentation available online

👎 Cons:

  • Not the fastest HTML parser

💻 Programming language: Java  

GitHub stars: 10.5k  

🔎 CSS selector support: Yes  

🔎 XPath support: Yes 

2. Nokogiri 

Nokogiri provides an easy-to-understand API for reading, writing, modifying, and querying XML and HTML documents in Ruby. It is fast and standards-compliant, which makes it not the best HTML parsers. Under the hood, it relies on native parsers like libxml2, libgumbo, and xerces.  

👍 Pros:

  • Secure by default as it treats all documents as untrusted
  • CSS3 selectors, with some jQuery-like extensions
  • Full API documentation
  • Community-maintained cheat sheet

👎 Cons:

  • Not the most used HTML parsing library

💻 Programming language: Ruby  

GitHub stars: 6.1k  

🔎 CSS selector support: Yes  

🔎 XPath support: Yes 

3. Beautiful Soup 

Beautiful Soup is a Python library for parsing HTML and XML documents and files to extract data from them. It provides intuitive ways to navigate, search, and modify the parse tree. It supports several underlying parsers and has a number of advanced features, such as the HTML code prettifier. Find out more in our tutorial on Beautiful Soup web scraping 

👍 Pros:

  • Different underlying parsers
  • One of the most widely used HTML parsing libraries
  • HTML and XML code formatting capabilities
  • Fast releases

👎 Cons:

  • No API documentation
  • No native support for XPath

💻 Programming language: Python  

GitHub stars: — (not on GitHub)  

🔎 CSS selector support: Yes  

🔎 XPath support: Not natively, but possible with the lxml package 

4. Cheerio 

Cheerio provides a comprehensive jQuery-inspired API for parsing HTML in JavaScript. If you are already familiar with jQuery, you can get the best of this library right out of the box. Cheerio has made performance a top priority, working with a very simple and consistent DOM representation model. Learn more in our step-by-step tutorial on Cheerio web scraping 

👍 Pros:

👎 Cons:

  • Still in beta
  • No XPath native support

💻 Programming language: JavaScript (Node.js)  

GitHub stars: 27.6k 

🔎 CSS selector support: Yes  

🔎 XPath support: No 

5. Html Agility Pack 

Html Agility Pack, also known as “HAP,” is an HTML parser written in C# to read and write HTML documents. It supports plain XPATH and XSLT, but not CSS selectors. Most developers consider it the go-to .NET library to parse “out of the web” HTML. While it is not the most popular, it is still one of the best HTML parsers. See the parser in action in our Html Agility Pack scraping tutorial 

👍 Pros:

  • Works with any .NET-compatible language
  • XSLT support
  • Frequent releases

👎 Cons:

  • Little documentation
  • No native support for CSS selectors

💻 Programming language: C#  

GitHub stars: 2.5k  

🔎 CSS selector support: Not natively, but possible via the HtmlAgilityPack.CssSelector extension  

🔎 XPath support: Yes 

6. libxml2 

libxml2 is a C library originally developed as part of the GNOME project to parse XML. Like most C libraries, it provides extremely high performance by working with low-level data structures. Here is why many other high-level HTML parsers use it behind the scenes.  

👍 Pros:

  • Used by many other parsing libraries
  • Extreme performance

👎 Cons:

  • Complex API
  • Not for beginners
  • Limited to XPath

💻 Programming language: C  

GitHub stars: — (not on GitHub)  

🔎 CSS selector support: No  

🔎 XPath support: Yes 

7. PHPHtmlParser 

PHPHtmlParser is a simple and flexible HTML parser written in PHP to select nodes in the DOM using CSS selectors. Its main goal is to assist in the development of PHP scraping scripts. It works well also with non-standard and broken HTML.  

👍 Pros:

  • Can parse broken HTML
  • Complete API for web scraping

👎 Cons:

  • Not actively maintained
  • No documentation
  • No XPath native support

💻 Programming language: PHP  

GitHub stars: 2.3k  

🔎 CSS selector support: Yes  

🔎 XPath support: No

Best HTML Parser: Summary Table

Compare the best HTML parsers with the summary table below:

HTML Parser Programming Language GitHub stars CSS Selector XPath
jsoup Java 10.5k
Nokogiri Ruby 6.1k
Beautiful Soup Python Possible via an extra dependency
Cheerio JavaScript 27.6k
Html Agility Pack C# 2.5k Possible via an extension
libxml2 C
PHPHtmlParser PHP 2.3k

Great! You are now an HTML parsing library expert!


In this guide, you took a look at some of the best HTML parsing libraries for different technologies. Finding the best tool for your needs depends on the programming language you want to use and the unique requirements of your project. Here, you had the opportunity to find some of the best HTML parsers.

Regardless of your choice, keep in mind that websites can stop you with their anti-bot technologies. Thankfully, Bright Data has you covered! Our rotating proxies are available in over 195 countries and work with any HTTP client to retrieve the HTML to parse. If are instead looking for a full-featured solution, Scraping Browser has a built-in HTML parser and can also solve CAPTCHAs, IP bans, and rate limits for you. Parse any HTML document without any problems!

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