What is a bot

What is a bot #

A bot — short for robot and also called an internet bot — is a computer program that operates as an agent for a user or other program or to simulate human activity. Bots are normally used to automate certain tasks, meaning they can run without specific instructions from humans.

An organization or individual can use a bot to replace a repetitive task that a human would otherwise have to perform. Bots are also much faster at these tasks than humans. Although bots can carry out useful functions, they can be used maliciously as a form of malware.

How do bots work? #

Normally, bots operate over a network. They communicate with one another using internet-based services, such as instant messaging (IM); interfaces like Twitterbots; or Internet Relay Chat.

Bots are made from sets of algorithms that aid them in their designated tasks. These tasks include conversing with a human — which attempts to mimic human behaviors — or gathering content from other websites. Different types of bots are designed to accomplish a wide variety of tasks.

Types of bots #

There are numerous types of bots, all with unique goals and tasks. 

  • Chatbots – Programs can simulate conversations with a human being.  (i.e., Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant)
  • Social bots – often considered opinion bots, influence discussions with users on social media platforms.
  • Shopbots –  shop around the web and locate the best price for a product a user is interested in buying. 
  • Knowbots – collect knowledge for a user by automatically visiting websites to retrieve information that meets certain specified criteria. 
  • Spiders or crawlers – known as web crawlers, these bots access websites and gather content for indexes in search engines, such as Google and Bing.
  • Web scraping crawlers – similar to crawlers but are used for data harvesting and extracting relevant content from web pages.

TechTarget: Definition of a bot

Wikipedia: Internet bot