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What is the recommended way to extract the relevant (non-ad, non-navigation) text pieces of an arbitrary website (say that beside the URL nothing is known) and what tools or APIs are available?

I know of the Google operators inurl:example.com and info:example.com, but would like to get a bit more information, optimally a text abstract of 3-4 sentences.

For a good example of the extracted text that is a nice preview: http://www.dzone.com/links/interview_with_cedric_beust_about_testng_android.html

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Does tldr.it interest you? –  Jaywalker Oct 25 '10 at 12:06
The problem with that is that the feeds aren't updating on a regular basis. I tried it with TechCrunch and the feed was over a week old. Plus it simply stripped most of the articles to the first couple sentences of the first paragraph. If bloggers followed the professional journalist's way of writing articles that would be helpful, but almost none do. –  Agent_9191 Oct 25 '10 at 14:28
Thanks, Jaywalker, yes, in general that is the kind of tool I am looking for. I tried it for some URLs and wasn't really convinced of the summary quality. –  ngeek Oct 26 '10 at 5:59

3 Answers 3

I think you are looking for something like Readability, a bookmarklet which will (try to) present only the stuff you want to read on a webpage. That is, it tries to present only the important content of a page.

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Even I thought so at first, but I think what he wants is more of an abstract than a stripped off, text-only version of the site. Maybe a concise summary of the page in 3-4 lines. –  thunderror Oct 24 '10 at 12:19
If the first relevant 3-4 sentences are returned I am also fine, I think delivering an abstract without any domain knowledge is quite a difficult task. –  ngeek Oct 24 '10 at 15:52
Thanks, Senseful, Readability is quite a nice tool, but actually I am looking for a tool which I can embed into my webapp, so either a webservice or an smart text extraction tool would be preferred. @thunderror more ideas on what could be of help? –  ngeek Oct 24 '10 at 15:55

In the meantime I found an interesting article by Sujit Pal called "Extracting Useful Text from HTML" (based on a earlier published work by alexjc). This extraction method is based on the two following principles:

  • For each line of input HTML, compute the text density and discard the ones whose densities are below some predefined threshold value. This has the effect of removing heavily marked up text.
  • To the text that remains, train and apply a neural network to remove boiler-plate text such as disclaimers, etc


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If the website have RSS or other feed you can take the texts from there.

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That's true, but I am truly looking for a more generic way for any imaginable URL, get back the first paragraph which contains relevant content (no navigation, no linkbar, no ads). –  ngeek Oct 27 '10 at 10:06

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