The first web robot – Wanderer
The first web robot was the creation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) physics student Matthew Gray in 1993. Gray’s World Wide Web Wanderer was designed to track the growth of the then-infant Web.
“I wrote the Wanderer to systematically traverse the Web and collect sites,” Gray wrote of his invention. “I was initially motivated primarily to discover new sites, as the Web was still a relatively small place. The Wanderer was the primary tool for collection of data to measure the growth of the Web. It was the first automated Web agent or “spider.” The Wanderer was first functional in spring of 1993 and performed regular traversals of the Web from June 1993 to January 1996.”
During its three-year run, the Wanderer tracked the growth in web sites from 130 in June 1993, to more than 100,000 in January 1996 and an estimated 230,000 just six months later.
Gray extended the scope of the Wanderer from tracking the Web’s size to capturing individual URLs into Wandex, the first web database. Gray’s good intentions also created controversy as early versions of the Wanderer were also known to not just crawl the Web, but slow traffic on the Web to a crawl as the program repeatedly accessed the same pages hundreds of times a day. The problem was fixed in later versions.
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