Apple’s “Intelligent Search” Will Summarize Webpages

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Apple Intelligent Search

A report based on independently verified accounts notes that Apple’s Safari 18 will come with an Intelligent Search feature that summarize webpages in response to search queries and there may be a new feature called Web Eraser that allows users to permanently remove text, images, advertisements from webpages.

The Potential For Disruption By Apple AI Search

Apple has been gathering website data for years through its Internet crawler that uses the user agent, Applebot. The harvested data has in the past been used in the context of Siri and Apple’s Spotlight Suggestions feature.

Many in the search community have been aware of Applebot and have welcomed the prospect of a new search engine from Apple but despite constant crawling Apple has not released a search engine. A reason Apple has not released a standalone search engine may be that it’s become apparent that the best way to challenge Google Search is with a technology that replaces search engines altogether, much like how the Apple iPhone made digital cameras obsolete.

The latest news coming out about Safari 18 appears to confirm that supplanting Google is the strategy that Apple is pursuing.

Duane Forrester, formerly of Bing and now at Yext, commented on the potentially disruptive quality of Apple’s new technology:

“Intelligent Search could change how iOS consumers get, see and interact with content and answers. We are likely to see Apple taking a big step forward, into the consumer-accessible AI conversation which has been dominated by OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google et al to this point. Our phones are about to become AI-enabled and that could be ground zero for AI Agents. It’s going to impact and potentially change consumer behavior and be the gateway to new experiences.“

The approach Apple is taking has the potential to disrupt not just search engines but also the search optimization and publishing industry, who have have been waiting years for an Apple search engine. But the extent of that disruption depends on how Apple implements their AI web search summarizer.

Webpage Summarization

Although news reports didn’t provide details as to how the new search result summaries will appear, it seems reasonable to speculate that Apple will provide attribution in the form of a link to websites so that users can click through to the website.

Duane Forrester speculated:

“Apple was just in court for Google’s anti-trust trial and likely isn’t keen to dive into “monopoly” waters themselves. My guess is that any “result” will have a source.”

This is what was reported:

“With the release of Safari 18, Apple is expected to introduce article summarization through a new Intelligent Search feature — meaning users will have the option to generate a brief summary of any webpage currently on screen.

Apple’s built-in AI software can analyze the keywords and phrases within a webpage or document and generate a short summary containing only the most important information.”

SEOs have been giddy about the prospect of an Apple search engine for years. It now appears that the Google Killer they’ve been waiting for could possibly result in less traffic from search queries but to what extent it’s impossible to tell at this point.

One search marketing expert mused in a private chat that if Intelligent Search summarizes more than it links out then that may signal it’s time to start selling off the domain names they’ve invested in.

On-Device Processing

An interesting feature of the text summarization is that the technology that creates the summary (called Ajax) resides on the mobile device itself. What Ajax does is extract keywords, entities, and use the data to identify the topic and a loose summary of a webpage which is then turned into a text summary for the user.

This is how the functionality is described:

“In analyzing texts, the software takes into account all relevant information available. It can recognize and classify entities such as companies, people, and locations. For instance, if a name appears at the top of a text, the software will likely recognize the name as belonging to the text’s author.”

Apple Also Plans A Web Eraser

As if an Apple search summarizer isn’t bad enough Apple reportedly has a “Web Eraser” functionality planned for Safari. Web Eraser is a feature that removes content from webpages so that site visitors don’t have to look at it anymore. Things like advertising, videos, comments, suggested reading and maybe even popups could be permanently blocked by the Web Eraser.  Once a user “erases” a block of content from a webpage that block stays erased for the site visitor on subsequent visits.

According to the a report about the Apple Web Eraser:

“The feature is expected to build upon existing privacy features within Safari and will allow users to erase unwanted content from any webpage of their choosing. Users will have the option to erase banner ads, images, text or even entire page sections, all with relative ease.”

Technological Disruptions

It’s a natural response to experience anxiety in the face of changes. For many, the dawning of AI Search is their first experience of a major change. But for those of us who have been in search for 25+ years we have experienced and grown accustomed to sudden and transformative changes that alter publishing and SEO. Like Duane, I tend to feel that Apple’s implementation of an AI search engine that summarizes websites will be disruptive but not to the point that it harms websites. It’s in Apple’s self-interest to not disrupt the Internet to the point of extinction.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/frantic00

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