Types of Bots

Types of Bots that Are Active on the Internet

A bot is a software that is created to increase the speed and scale of operations - both legitimate and malicious - on the internet

Think automation and the first thing to strike is the use of bots. A bot is a script or code that is used to run automated tasks on the internet. The speed and scale at which bots operate is far higher than any human, which makes bots efficient in doing repetitive tasks with great efficiency. Therefore, users and businesses considering automation are aware of the key role that different types of bots have come to play in automation.

Broadly bots can be categorised as generalist bots and specialist bots. Most large technology companies, today, are focusing on generalist bots as they can be programmed to understand what is being expected of them. That said, generalist bots cannot ‘hold’ a conversation as they lack the domain expertise. This is where specialist bots are used that have been trained with domain-specific knowledge.

Common bots

Further, bots are also classified according to the activity they perform. It is pertinent to mention that bots are used to perform both legitimate and malicious activities on the internet. In this post, however, we will look at benevolent bots that help with business productivity and new business opportunities.

The most common types of bots active on the internet today include:

  • Chatbots: These bots are generally used to strengthen the customer services department of a business. Chatbots are trained with appropriate business data to ‘converse’ with the customers and assist them in addressing their grievances. While chatbots have come a long way in terms of technical finesse and businesses also see a lot of potential in their use, they are still not widely adopted due to the inherent limitations such as the inability to interact beyond the data they have been trained on when consumers expect human-like interaction.
  • Spider bots: Also known as crawlers, the friendly spider bots follow hyperlinks to crawl the web for indexing and retrieval of web content. They are coded to run non-stop in the background and fetch data continuously from websites and APIs. They help download images, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to enable processing the retrieved contents. The best example of a spider bot is the Googlebot which crawls the web to make content search easy and convenient.
  • Scraper bots: These bots are also similar to spider bots as they crawl the web to read data off of web pages for the purpose of data harvesting. These types of bots are coded in a way that specifies the data to be scraped—from specific data points to entire web pages. Scraper bots serve a variety of users ranging from researchers, journalists, web developers to businesses as they help compare information including product pricing, specifications, reviews, etc.
  • Text-reading bots: These bots are especially useful in browsing and analyzing content for specific keywords and then taking appropriate action, as defined—for example, flagging the content as spam or offensive—especially on social media platforms. Another use of text-reading bots is to translate foreign language to a language known to a user.
  • Transactional bots: These bots interact with endpoints that have APIs to enable the movement of data from one platform to another. To this end, they communicate with external systems and help complete transactions. Due to their versatility and productivity, transactional bots are used on multiple fronts including robotic business process automation.
  • Social media bots: These bots are used on social media platforms for a variety of activities including creating accounts to increase follower base of select accounts. For instance, they are programmed to automatically respond to certain words and phrases in social media posts, either by reposting the selected messages or replying to them en-masse. As a result, they are useful in influencing public sentiment and to advocate a certain line of thought. Such bots are widely used on Twitter.
  • Video bots: As the name suggests, these bots are used in videos and video games. These are usually based on artificial intelligence and are programmed to assume vivid characters in a video game that a human player would play off with. The life-like characters enable gamers to have more fun and realistic gaming experience.
  • Download bots: Automated scripts that cause the automatic download of software or apps on smartphones are collectively called download bots. These are especially used by app developers and businesses to bloat their download numbers on popular app stores and rise to the top. These bots also have a downside in that they can facilitate Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.

In the next post, we will look at how bots are used for malicious activities.

The article has been written by Neetu Katyal, Content and Marketing Consultant

She can be reached on LinkedIn.

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