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Speculation Over an Apple Search Engine Resurfaces, But Apple Likely Remains Focused on Siri and Spotlight

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Multiple developers have seen increased activity from Apple's web crawler Applebot in their website logs recently, reigniting speculation that Apple could be planning to launch a full-fledged search engine eventually. However, it's more likely that any possible uptick relates to Apple's efforts to improve Siri and Spotlight search results.


Jon Henshaw, founder of digital marketing insights firm Coywolf, kicked off the speculation with a blog post this week in which he said that Applebot had begun regularly crawling his websites on a daily basis, something he had not noticed previously. And on Twitter, Stack Overflow engineer Nick Craver and digital marketing consultant Michael James Field also noted spikes in Applebot crawling on websites they oversee in recent days.


Like other web crawlers, Applebot scans the web to help determine how search results should be ranked based on several factors, including user engagement, the relevancy and matching of search terms to a page's topics and content, the number of links that a page has received from other websites, and a page's design characteristics.

As noted by Henshaw, Apple updated its Applebot support document in July with new details:
• Added how to verify traffic from Applebot
• Expanded details on the Applebot user agent, including differences between its desktop and mobile version
• Expanded robots.txt rules
• Added a section stating that they don't just crawl HTML, but also render pages similar to Google
• Added a section on search rankings and the factors that affect how it ranks web search results
Given that Apple promotes itself as a privacy-focused company without an ad- or data-driven business model like Google or Facebook, it is uncertain if it would ever want to go down the avenue of launching a full-fledged search engine, although DuckDuckGo has at least shown that it can be accomplished with privacy in mind.

The idea of an Apple search engine has been speculated since at least 2015, when Apple first confirmed its Applebot and posted a series of search-related job listings.

For now, Applebot likely remains dedicated to improving Siri and Spotlight search results, as Apple states in its support document. During its WWDC keynote in June, for example, Apple said that Siri can provide over 20 times as many facts as three years prior.

Article Link: Speculation Over an Apple Search Engine Resurfaces, But Apple Likely Remains Focused on Siri and Spotlight
 
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GeoStructural

macrumors 6502a
Oct 8, 2016
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I would like to see this, actually. And would give it a try in a heartbeat.

In typical Apple fashion I expect it to suck a little bit at the beginning and then slowly become great. Finally this year I was able to switch to Apple Maps, it is still not perfect but it is good enough... Although as soon as I am out of the US I have to switch back to Google Maps.
 
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JeffPerrin

macrumors 6502
Jul 21, 2014
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Didn't I read somewhere Apple is looking to expand Apple Search Ads beyond the app store? ;)

Search ad revenue, after all, IS a part of Apple's services business.
 
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Apple Knowledge Navigator

macrumors 68000
Mar 28, 2010
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Perhaps Apple is looking to rethink how we 'search' for things on the internet.

It's become second nature that we just click on a box, type something, and then a bunch of text results appear - so perhaps Apple wants to try a different take on this. Maybe they would reorganise how all the information relating to that result appears, so as to adapt to how relevant the content is in relation to the results?

Either way I'd try it an a heartbeat. I think the whole concept of searching for something is ripe for change, given it really hasn't fundamentally altered since the birth of the search engine.
 
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Rogifan

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Nov 14, 2011
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People laugh at Apple trying to compete with Google in maps but think they’d be able to do it with search? Seriously?
 
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V.K.

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Dec 5, 2007
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Toronto, Canada
Apple is getting yearly multi billion dollar payments from Google to keep Google the default search engine on iOS. There is absolutely no chance they will give that up unless they can somehow replace that revenue. And they won't be able to do that with a privacy oriented search engine. So an Apple search engine is not happening any time soon.
 
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NotTooLate

macrumors member
Jun 9, 2020
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Apple is getting yearly multi billion dollar payments from Google to keep Google the default search engine on iOS. There is absolutely no chance they will give that up unless they can somehow replace that revenue. And they won't be able to do that with a privacy oriented search engine. So an Apple search engine is not happening any time soon.
Maybe having their own search engine will raise the price that they will get from Google ?
 
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xnsys

macrumors regular
Aug 20, 2018
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I think this could be a possibility - I run a small car forum in the UK and have been seeing quite a bit of activity from a 17.x.x.x IP address, viewing all pages on the forum.

What else would it be doing apart from indexing?
 
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centauratlas

macrumors 65816
Jan 29, 2003
1,294
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I would like to see this actually. And would give it a try in a heartbeat.

In typical Apple fashion I expect it to suck a little bit at the beginning and then slowly become great. Finally this year I was able to switch to Apple Maps, it is still not perfect but it is good enough... Although as soon as I am out of the US I have to switch back to Google Maps.

I agree, competition is good.

I started seeing a spike (80-100k hits per day) from the Apple bot back in May on both Halloween.com and hurricane.com and emailed with one of the engineers about it.

Nothing relevant re a search engine from the conversation, but they were very nice and very accessible. (Kind of like Google was in 1998 and 1999 when we were hosting some images on a different server and used a CNAME to alias it and Google reindexed the entire site under the CNAME so we had several million extra pages tied to that name. )
 
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citysnaps

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Oct 10, 2011
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People laugh at Apple trying to compete with Google in maps but think they’d be able to do it with search? Seriously?

Sure, I can see it. Especially if new search premises, ideas and architectures are explored, along with acquiring the right talent. Mapping, especially combined with world-wide street view seems more resource intensive.
 
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V.K.

macrumors 6502a
Dec 5, 2007
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Maybe having their own search engine will raise the price that they will get from Google ?
If Apple makes their own search engine they will for sure make it the default search engine on iOS. Why would Google pay them anything then?

People laugh at Apple trying to compete with Google in maps but think they’d be able to do it with search? Seriously?
This is false analogy. Apple Maps sucked for a long time because making a good maps app required a LOT of physical world scanning. Apple learned that there are no shortcuts here. Getting good map data requires a lot of time and effort.
This is not the case with search. Scanning the web is a software problem. Apple can get good search data quickly if they wanted to. Microsoft did. Bing is a good search engine, just as good as Google if you just want to find stuff.
 
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JimmyBanks6

macrumors 6502
Oct 4, 2017
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Remember when Bing was marketed as the Sound of Found?

Well Apple can do the same and just name the search Ping!

/s
 
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McKodiak

macrumors regular
Oct 20, 2014
129
320
Apple already provides insights to advertisers without giving personal information and tracking of consumers. With the search engine, they can have additional consumer insights to sell following the same privacy plan. This would replace and exceed the loss of the 9 billion dollar contract.
 
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