A bot is a piece of software designed to complete a minor but repetitive task, either automatically or when commanded. They work at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human.
The bot-master can give it a set of instructions and it will bring back answers.
There are millions of reasons bots are used, but probably the reason you’ve searched ‘what is a bot?‘ would be because you’ve heard about a search engine bot. They are also known as a search engine spider/spider bot.
Google’s spider is called Googlebot. Yahoo’s is called the Yahoo Slurp bot. Moz has two called Rogerbot and Dotbot that do different jobs.
The software performs precise searches to find information and interacts with web pages; they trawl through data.
Think how a web page would look before the browser turns it into a legible page for you. All web pages are coded.
The bot reads code line by line, which looks more like the below snippet (there be much more to code a whole web page). This is known as trawling.
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What is the job of a search engine bot?
Bots follow links on web pages, known as crawling. This is the way a bot discovers new or updated pages that can be added to the search engine index.
As the bot visits each website it detects links on pages and adds them to its list of pages to crawl.
New sites, changes to existing sites, and dud links are noted. These are used to update the search engine index.
Other names for used for a bot
Bots are also known as an internet bots, web robots or sometimes, WWW robots.
The word BOT is actually short for robot which comes from the word robota, meaning “hard work” in Czech.
Unfortunately, they don’t look like the cute robot in the photo I’ve used here, they are computer programmes. Let’s call this one Benbot.
Other varieties of bots on the internet
Bots have a wide variety of uses on the internet. They can be used for commercial as well as malicious purposes.
Trading Bots: A programme used to automatically get the best deal, bet online etc. It will execute certain command/s when a specific criteria is met. Bots can bid at a specific price, or a sell too. It automates a task that is repetitive for a human.
SpamBots: Spambots are bots that spread content and advertising links all over the internet. Like those that post comments on blogs and forums. These spambots also collect email addresses, phone numbers, etc
Hacker Bots: Bots that will browse the internet looking for systems with vulnerabilities, that can then be exploited by hackers to access and manipulate the victim’s files and folders.
Spybots: Collects data and information from a person (like surfing habits), website or company. Marketing firms or rival company may purchase this information.
Downloader Bots: A malicious bot that interferes with a user’s internet connection by automatically downloading entire web pages.
Website Scraper Bots: Website scraper bots reprint content from all over the internet without permission from the copyright owner.
Copyright Bots: On the other hand, copyright bots search the internet for copied or plagiarized materials in the hopes of getting monetary compensation from the guilty party/parties.
I hope this helps you to understand what a bot is and how they are used on the internet, especially when we refer to search engine bots.