What is a web robot?

Internet bots, also known as web robotsWWW 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, analyzes 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 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.

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