Discover the fundamental components of an Internet bot.
Internet bot is a term that refers to a computer programme that operates over a network. Bots are computer programmes that are programmed to perform certain tasks automatically, such as crawling websites, chatting with users, or attempting to break into user accounts.
Unlike manufacturing robots used in factories or “battle bots” created by robotics enthusiasts, a bot is really just a few lines of code connected to a database. Another way of putting it is that an Internet bot is a collection of computer instructions and data. While the majority of bots are relatively simple in design, some are more complex and employ artificial intelligence (AI) to attempt to mimic human behaviour.
Writing a bot is relatively simple for the majority of developers, and occasionally even for non-developers. This is partly why bots are so prevalent on the Internet. In some cases, no lines of code are required to create a bot – for example, Twitter provides a visual interface for users to create bots that tweet, retweet, like, and perform other social network actions.
Typically, a bot’s architecture consists of the following:
The application logic is composed of executable, machine-readable code that is written by the bot developer and executed by a computer. This category includes the chatbot code example above.
The database is a collection of data from which the bot derives its knowledge of which actions to take. Additional information can be saved to a bot’s database, for example, when a web scraper bot downloads content from a website.
APIs enable the bot to access external functionality without requiring the developer to write it. All the developer needs to do is include the appropriate commands in the code, and the bot will invoke the appropriate API.
(An API is a method for incorporating complex software functionality that has already been developed by someone else. Consider an API as a tool that enables you to avoid “reinventing the wheel” when developing an application. For instance, a chatbot could use the API of a weather app to provide detailed weather information to users who request it. Thus, the chatbot does not need to keep track of the weather on its own; instead, it makes API calls to an external weather app.)
Unlike applications with which users are more familiar, most bots lack a user interface. This is because bots on the Internet typically interact with webpages, apps, and application programming interfaces (APIs), not with humans (although they can interact with users via chat, social media, and other channels).
Due to the ease with which bots can be created, they are extremely prevalent on the Internet – approximately half of all Internet traffic is generated by bots, both good and bad.
Certain bots, such as web crawler bots and chatbots, are necessary for the Internet to function properly and for users to find the information they need. However, excessive bot traffic can overwhelm the origin servers of a web property, and malicious bots are capable of launching a variety of cyberattacks. To avoid these occurrences, websites and web apps can employ strategic use of robots.txt files, rate limiting, and bot management solutions.
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