Web crawlers emanating from Apple's IP address range have been spotted trawling sites for many months, leading some to think Apple's been secretly creating its own little search engine. And yes, it is -- Applebot is already indexing the web.
Apple's support page for Applebot says it's currently generating search responses to be used exclusively by its own services, explaining: "Applebot is the web crawler for Apple, used by products including Siri and Spotlight Suggestions."
Which is quite a big thing for the tech giant to admit to having a hand in, as it would appear the move lays the groundwork for a full, in-house Apple search engine to appear at some point in the future, letting the company move away from the Bing and WolframAlpha web search results it currently relies upon to keep its users informed about pizza houses in the local area.
It's been rumoured for some time that the deal that sees Google sitting as the default search option inside Safari is set to come to an end soon, and surely Apple sees how much money Google makes from flogging paid slots on its results pages and would, we imagine, quite like to have some of that mobile ad traffic money hitting its network of offshore accounts.
It would be an enormous new launch for Apple, albeit one most users probably wouldn't notice. Who actually cares what algorithm powers the search results that pop up on their mobile phone? Switching to unfashionable underdog Bing instead of using Google for some search tools hasn't harmed the popularity of Apple's mobile devices, nor has binning Google Maps in favour of its own in-house mapping tools. So who, outside of a few nerds, would mind if Apple put together its own search engine and installed it as king of Safari?
We might even get a rerun of the amazing Apple Maps shaming of 2012, when the internet came together to mock the faltering service as one, if it launches in a half-broken state.
But would you use it if Apple did create its own search engine? We're all used to the Google way of doing things now, familiar with its results and using it as an external memory for things we can't be bothered to remember. An unfamiliar search results page would be weird, wouldn't it? Like you've woken up in an alternative timeline where nothing's quite the same and you don't know why.
Apple would have to make it easy to switch search provider away from its own option too, lest it anger the EU competition police. And we've all tried Bing once, then gone back to Google and its more familiar results. It'd be the same for anyone that tried to beat Google now, wouldn't it, even the unstoppable Apple? [Applebot via Apple Insider]