The answer is ‘yes.’ Apple itself says the company is trolling the web with an automated web crawler, a spider that works much like Google’s famous Googlebot to search for information.
Wait. What? Apple is copying Google by doing what Google does to track websites? So it seems. Apple acknowledges the Applebot web crawler and what it does online. Is this part of a larger plan for Apple to enhance it’s own search engine efforts? The answer is obvious. But how far is the enhancement?
New Kid In Town
Google’s Googlebot surveys the web, top to bottom, by scouring website pages, and storing the data in the company’s massive server farms. When you search for a topic or use keywords to search Google, results are displayed based upon what the Googlebot found when visiting many millions of websites.
It looks like Apple is doing much the same thing, on a smaller scale– but seemingly for similar reasons. Apple’s acknowledgement is somewhat under the radar, contained in a support document.
Learn about Applebot, the web crawler for Apple.
Applebot is the web crawler for Apple, used by products including Siri and Spotlight Suggestions. It respects customary robots.txt rules and robots meta tags. It originates in the 126.96.36.199 net block.
User-agent strings will contain “Applebot” together with additional agent information.
What does all this mean?
It would appear that Apple merely wants to enhance information used by Siri and Spotlight, rather than the beginnings of an Apple search engine. While Google copies much of the worldwide web’s webpage contents, Apple seems more selective, limiting Applebot’s searches to match with queries to Siri and Spotlight.
Then again, Apple did much the same thing with Apple Maps; first by hiring people and buying up a few companies with mapping experience– all in a prelude to dumping Google Maps data from iPhone. Today, Apple Maps dominates usage on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Is it a stretch to think Apple may be laying the groundwork for a custom-built search engine that could compete with Google?