My Take on the Wall Street Journal Article

As Scott pointed out, we were featured in a Wall Street Journal article yesterday.  I thought it might be worthwhile to share my point of view on what information it presents.

On the whole, I think the article largely misrepresents the type of work we do.  The tone of the article seems to be fairly sensationalistic, and I believe even resorts to scare tactics.  There’s no question that information is programmatically extracted from web sites on a regular basis.  It’s also true that this is a technology that can be (and is) abused by some users of it.  The flip-side is also true, however.  Sites like Zillow, Pricegrabber, and, yes, even Google make heavy use of screen-scraping, yet also provide completely legitimate and very valuable services to users.  Technology (including ours) is simply a tool–it can be used in both positive and negative ways.

The article also makes it sound as though one of the primary purposes of screen-scraping is to extract private and sensitive information about people, then sell that information to the highest bidder.  This definitely isn’t the type of thing we do.  It’s true that people may be using our software for nefarious ends.  When we look at taking on contract work, we simply refuse obviously shady dealings.  We’ve turned away many potential contracts because of this, and will continue to do so.

All of that said, I suppose this is the type of journalism that sells, so perhaps I can’t fault the authors.  Hopefully those who read the article, though, will take the time to read up a bit more on the type of thing we do instead of making assumptions based on the skewed tone of the article.  Along those lines, you might take a look at this part of our web site for a bit more explanation.

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