Internet bot

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Internet bots, also known as web robots, WWW robots or simply bots, are software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering, in which an automated script fetches, analyses and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. Each server can have a file called robots.txt, containing rules for the spidering of that server that the bot is supposed to obey.

In addition to their uses outlined above, bots may also be implemented where a response speed faster than that of humans is required (e.g., gaming bots and auction-site robots) or less commonly in situations where the emulation of human activity is required, for example chat bots.

These chatterbots may allow people to ask questions in plain English and then formulate a proper response. These bots can often handle many tasks, including reporting weather, zip-code information, sports scores, converting currency or other units, etc. Others are used for entertainment, such as SmarterChild on AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger and Jabberwacky on Yahoo! Messenger.

An additional role of IRC bots may be to lurk in the background of a conversation channel, commenting on certain phrases uttered by the participants (based on pattern matching). This is sometimes used as a help service for new users, or for censorship of profanity.

AOL Instant Messenger has now introduced a feature that allows you to make a screen name into a bot. This new feature removes the rate limit on the screen name, however it is now limited in the amount of instant messages that can be sent and received.


[edit] Commercial purposes

There has been a great deal of controversy about the use of bots in an automated trading function. Auction website eBay has been to court in an attempt to suppress a third-party company from using bots to traverse their site looking for bargains; this approach backfired on eBay and attracted the attention of further bots. The United Kingdom-based bet exchange Betfair saw such a large amount of traffic coming from bots they launched a WebService API aimed at bot programmers through which Betfair can actively manage these bots.

[edit] Charitable purposes

Bots have also been known to fast-track the purposes of charities, one of whom is FreeRice.

[edit] On FreeRice

Since FreeRice became well-known through and other news sources,[1] many programming-adept users created scripts to automatically play the game for them. The scripts operate far faster than humans alone and run for 24 hours a day. At first, the scripts got only ≈1/4 of the words correct by random chance. Eventually, these bots were adapted with automated online dictionary search, dictionary files, and word database dumps so the programs can choose the correct answers the first time more often. The word database dumps were created so when the incorrect answer was chosen, the bots would record the correct answer the next page would show. Thus, the bot would choose the correct answer whenever it happened upon the same words later. Due to the growing number of scripts used on FreeRice, the number of rice donated has remarkably risen. Currently there are no rules governing "ricebots", as they are called. Until those rules are formed, anyone is free to program and use the scripts. With a delay of about 3 seconds between iterations, it is estimated that a script can feed about 8 people per day, if running 24/7.[2] The idea was taken even further to create a multi-threaded bot which can run fifty or more browser instances at a time, enough to produce as much as 600,000 grains of rice per hour or to feed 720 people per day.[3] One script with 1,000 threads was able to donate over 3,000,000 grains in just a few hours.

Donated rice comes from the advertisements from sponsors, therefore abuse of scripts will likely lead to catastrophe, as advertisers prefer that actual people view their advertisements. Knowing the existence of the bots, FreeRice updated their FAQ explaining the potential damage of botting.[4] Some bots have made changes to make sure they won't spoil the FreeRice spirit.[5]

[edit] Malicious purposes

Another, more malicious use of bots is the coordination and operation of an automated attack on networked computers, such as a denial-of-service attack by a botnet. Internet bots can also be used to commit click fraud and more recently have seen usage around MMORPG games as computer game bots. A spambot is an internet bot that attempts to spam large amounts of content on the Internet, usually adding advertising links.

  • There are malicious bots (and botnets) of the following types:
  1. Spambots that harvest email addresses from contact forms or guestbook pages
  2. Downloader programs that suck bandwidth by downloading entire web sites
  3. Web site scrapers that grab the content of web sites and re-use it without permission on automatically generated doorway pages
  4. Viruses and worms
  5. DDoS attacks
  6. Botnets / zombie computers; etc.
  • Bots are also used to buy up good seats for concerts, particularly by ticket brokers who resell the tickets. Bots are employed against entertainment event-ticketing sites, like The bots are used by ticket brokers to unfairly obtain the best seats for themselves while depriving the general public from also having a chance to obtain the good seats. The bot runs through the purchase process and obtains better seats by pulling as many seats back as it can.
  • Bots are often used in Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games to farm for resources that would otherwise take significant time or effort to obtain; this is a concern for most online in-game economies.

The most widely used anti-bot technique is the use of CAPTCHA, which is a form of Turing test used to distinguish between a human user and a less-sophisticated AI-powered bot, by the use of graphically encoded human-readable text.

[edit] Bots in popular culture

  • The Basshunter song Boten Anna makes many references to IRC Bots, but confusingly also features the singer riding a boat.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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