According to the Michael Schrenk, the internet is bigger and better than what a mere browser allows. Webbots, Spiders and Screen Scrapers was written to show you how to take advantage of the vast resources available on the internet. When you are regulated to the world of a browser, you are limited in what is available to you. Webbots, Spiders and Screen Scrapers goal is to open up the Web and enhance you online experience.
What is the problem with browsers? It is a manual tool that downloads and renders websites. You still need to decide if the website is relevant to you. Your browser cannot think. It cannot anticipate your actions and won't notify you when something important happens. To accomplish this, you will need the automation and intelligence only available in a webbot; also known as a web robot.
Webbots, Spiders and Screen Scrapers contains 28 chapters that break down into four sections. I will focus on the four sections highlighting the chapters as needed. What you will need to work with this book is a fundamental understanding of HTML, and how the internet works. It should be known that this book is not going to teach you how to program, or how things like TCP/IP; the protocol of the internet work. Pretty much any kind of Pentium computer running Windows, Linux or Mac operating system will do. You will also want to get PHP, cURL and MySQL, all of which are free on the internet. Again, this book will not teach you how to use these products, but rather use these products to teach you how to create webbots, spiders and screen scrapers.
Part one, "Fundamental Concepts and Techniques," introduces the concepts of web automation and explores the elementary techniques that will allow you to harness the resources of the web. It begins by explaining why it is fun to write webbots and how writing webbots can be a rewarding career. It tells where you can get ideas for webbot projects and talks about existing as well as potential webbot projects. You will learn how to download web pages, parse those pages, automatically submit forms, and how to manage large amounts of data. All of these topics will set you up for the rest of the book.