Automating Web navigation with the WebVCR

  • Anupam V
  • Freire J
  • Kumar B
 et al. 
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Abstract

Recent developments in Web technology such as the inclusion of scripting languages, frames, and the growth of dynamic content, have made the process of retrieving Web content more complicated, and sometimes tedious. For example, Web browsers do not provide a method for a user to bookmark a frame-based Web site once the user navigates within the initial frameset. Also, some sites, such as travel sites and online classifieds, require users to go through a sequence of steps and fill out a sequence of forms in order to access their data. Using the bookmark facilities implemented in all popular browsers, often it is not possible to create a shortcut to access such data, and these steps must be manually repeated every time the data is needed. However, hard-to-reach pages are often the best candidates for a shortcut, because significantly more effort is required to reach them than to reach a standard page with a well-defined URL. The WebVCR system addresses this problem by letting users record and replay a series of browsing steps in smart bookmarks-shortcuts to Web content that require multiple steps to be retrieved. It provides a VCR-style interface to transparently record and replay users' actions. Creating and updating smart bookmarks is a simple process involving only the usual browsing actions and requiring no programming by the user. In addition to saving users time by providing shortcuts to hard-to-reach Web content, smart bookmarks can be used as building blocks for many interesting Web applications and new e-commerce services. In this paper, we describe the WebVCR and the techniques it uses to record and replay smart bookmarks, as well as our experiences in building the system. We also discuss some applications that are simplified/enabled by smart bookmarks.

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Authors

  • Vinod Anupam

  • Juliana Freire

  • Bharat Kumar

  • Daniel Lieuwen

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