Moving Up the Information Food Chain: Deploying Softbots on the World Wide Web

Oren Etzioni


I view the World Wide Web as an information food chain. The maze of pages and hyperlinks that comprise the Web are at the very bottom of the chain. The WEBCRAWLERs and ALTAVISTAs of the world are information herbivores; they graze on Web pages and regurgitate them as searchable indices. Today, most Web users feed near the bottom of the information food chain, but the time is ripe to move up. Since 1991, we have been building information carnivores, which intelligently hunt and feast on herbivores in UNIX, on the Internet, and on the Web. Information carnivores will become increasingly critical as the Web continues to grow and as more naive users are exposed to its chaotic jumble.

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