Screen scraper, pseudo-screen scraper, super-screen scraper, or what?
Strategy| by Jerry Rackley

It’s a good idea to periodically ask customers how we’re doing, and what value they are getting from HostBridge. Even though we’ve been helping companies integrate and modernize CICS applications for almost 20 years, requirements and priorities can change. We brought an outside marketing researcher to do some Voice of the Customer (VOC) research learn how customers get value from HostBridge, so we can clearly communicate our value proposition. I was quite sure that when reading the report, I would not hear customers liken HostBridge to screen scraping. After all, we have emphatically communicated from the day the company was founded that HostBridge does not scrape screens as an integration method.

I eagerly read the write up of the first interview and was shocked to see a customer describe HostBridge as a “pseudo screen scraper”.  How can that be?  Then a couple days later, a long-time customer said their management’s perception of HostBridge is a super-screen scraper!  What?

The Problem with Screen Scrapers

Since joining the HostBridge team, referring to our solution as a “screen scraper” is anathema: like scraping (no pun intended) finger nails down a chalkboard!  I mean, “them there are fightin’ words”…and a dog whistle to immediately explain HostBridge IS NOT a screen scraper. We totally disrespect screen scrapers, and HostBridge was specifically developed to eliminate the problems with screen scrapers: they are complex, perform poorly, scale poorly, and integrations based on this technology break easily.


I went to bed that night fretting over how to break the news to our technical team. Some of our customers think of HostBridge as a screen scraper!  To say our tech team takes our product seriously is an understatement.  They do stuff like go into plan, code, test, and repeat “huddles” for days and nights at a time just trying to shave a few milliseconds off this process or that one.  It tells you something that they actually measure performance and latency in microseconds. When it comes to HostBridge, they are obsessive. If you’ve ever attended a webcast with James or been in a white board session with Russ, you have some idea about how passionate they are about our products. Telling them that some of our customers refer to HostBridge as a screen scraper may necessitate putting Russ, Scott, James, John, and Dan on suicide watch!

CICS Link Bridge API

In the midst of the tossing and turning, a light bulb moment occurred. Many customers came to us to replace screen scraping solutions that became problematic as transaction volume grew. HostBridge doesn’t rely on row/column coordinates (screen scraping).  Instead, it leverages the CICS Link Bridge API to intercept CICS data before terminal data streams are generated.  This allows HostBridge to use program field names as metadata for interaction, navigation, and orchestration.  We’re not screen scraping, but we are manipulating applications originally meant for terminal input/output.  Perhaps this is why customers sometimes describe HostBridge as a “type” of screen scraper. Technically speaking we aren’t a screen scraper, but if you stretch the definition to include a product that web service enables terminal oriented (visual) applications, I’m all in.

Pilot HostBridge on Your Mainframe

Despite the many drawbacks of screen scraping, it does enjoy a lot of mindshare. If you have a requirement to create a architecturally sound, high-performing, standards-based integration to CICS applications, give HostBridge a try. We make it easy through our HostBridge Pilot Application Workshop program – and free!

I’ve decided the next time a client describes HostBridge as a screen scraper, I’m not going to launch in a “no were not” speech.  Instead, will respond that HostBridge is more of a screen scraper on steroids.  Just don’t tell anyone in our technical team!

Got questions about CICS integration or creating mainframe web services? Just reach out using the contact information found at the bottom of this page.

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