Apple is notoriously tight-lipped. Nobody ever really knows what the company is going to announce until it actually does. Apple stuck to this trend when it recently announced the launch of “Applebot”, a web crawling service similar to Google Bot.
The computer program scans the internet, visiting the links of all the different pages it can find. These bots, commonly called spiders, pick up information such as the content of a site, its topic, how fast the page loads and lots more useful information about the site.
People who run websites noticed these hits before the official announcement and just figured that Apple would use the information to provide extra data to Siri and Spotlight, two apps that would benefit from knowing more about sites on the world wide web.
Apple's confirmation of the bot doesn't come from a press release but through recent technical documentation about it that was published by Apple. The document contained information that if the Apple bot doesn't find instructions on a website’s robot.txt file for it specifically, it will follow the instructions written for Google's bot.
With the official recognition of the Apple Bot and some key information about just how it is looking at the pages it crawls, it seems likely that Apple may actually be working on creating their own search engine to compete with Google and Bing. Apple currently relies on Google, Bing or other search engines to provide Apple users with the search results.
While Apple gets current best of breed technology, it also loses control, revenue and gives important customer information away to rivals. Knowing Apple and its penchant for controlling all aspects of its product experience, it seems likely it would want to change that.
It also seems likely that Apple may have reverse engineered rival search engines, whos patent filings and key intellectual property date back over 15 years now. That's plenty of time for bright and highly paid Apple engineers, many who may have even worked at Google or Microsoft, to figure out how to build a market leading search engine.
While it could just be that Apple is just looking to get more information to supplement what they get from Google & Bing, it seems likely that Apple wants to enter the search engine market.
It would provide them a quick and lucrative potential income stream and help further keep their users trapped in their ecosystem, or in apple speak "provide a seamless experience."
The new reports also fit with previous reports that Apple was hiring search engineers, indicating it has the talent needed to mount such a challenge. And it certainly has the cash to do battle with even the biggest of tech titans.