Ever since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, humans have realized the potential of machines to improve our lives and increase efficiency. Today, we are seeing the same potential in internet bots, or bots. With many processes shifting to the digital world, bots play a crucial role in automating laborious activities that would otherwise require human attention.
But what exactly are internet bots? How do they work, and how have they been integrated with artificial intelligence (AI)? This blog post will explore the various aspects of internet bots and discuss their relationship to AI.
Table of contents
- What is a bot?
- How do bots work?
- Is a bot AI?
- Types of bots
- Applications and Uses of Bots
- Malicious bots
- How to detect malicious bots
- How to prevent malicious bot activity
- Advantages and disadvantages of bots
- What is an AI chatbot?
- What are the benefits of AI chatbots?
- Choosing Between Rule-Based Bots And AI Bots
- Advantages of rule-based bots
- Disadvantages of rule-based bots
What is a bot?
Simply put, an internet bot is a software application that runs scripts over the Internet. These scripts are automated tasks used for a wide range of repetitive online tasks, which we’ll delve into in more detail below.
The term “bot” is derived from the word “robot.” Like robots, bots can be programmed to perform simple tasks autonomously. Bots are incredibly versatile and can range from simple task-based programs to complex ones capable of making decisions based on variables within their environment.
How do bots work?
Depending on the type of bot, they can be programmed to perform various tasks. They may be rule-based, meaning they are designed to respond to certain commands or keywords. They can also be programmed to complete specific tasks like harvesting data from websites, filtering content, and even engaging in conversations with users.
Is a bot AI?
Not all bots fall under the artificial intelligence category. The most advanced type of bots, however, are powered by AI. AI aims to mimic human intelligence and behavior, and the same applies to certain bots. AI-powered bots can interact with users in a natural language, have conversations, and be taught new skills.
By integrating AI into their core functionality, these bots become intelligent agents that can generate their own responses and complete tasks autonomously. To do this successfully, they apply machine learning algorithms and natural language processing to interpret data and identify patterns.
Types of bots
In order to grasp the concept of a bot, it helps to understand the different types of bots available. Different bot names are given to different types of bots according to their function.
Perhaps the most well-known type of bot is the chatbot. Chatbots are computer programs that use natural language processing (NLP) to interact with users conversationally. They can be used for customer service, marketing, sales, and other activities.
While they began as basic rule-based bots, many chatbots now utilize AI technology to understand user intent/emotion and respond accordingly. Some can even be trained to recognize a voice command to accurately answer a customer query.
Social Media Bots
Social media bots automatically post content or interact with users on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. They can be programmed to follow users, like posts, comment on posts, and even create their own content. You may have interacted with bots on Facebook Messenger that can suggest products and services.
Since the bots’ names match their function, you can guess what a shopbot is. Shopbots are bots designed to assist shoppers in their online shopping experience. They can provide customers with product recommendations. But they also compare prices from different websites and even help find the best deals. Shopbots are common in the eCommerce industry for their ability to streamline the shopping process.
One lesser-known chatbot platform is the knowbot. These bots are designed to search for and retrieve data from a website or online database. They can be used to crawl websites, find information on products, retrieve customer support information, and help with research tasks. Think of them as virtual librarians who can answer questions quickly and accurately.
Finally, some bots can be used to collect data from websites. These bots, sometimes called spiders, are automated programs that “crawl” through web pages and collect data. This collected data can be used to create detailed reports. Companies use them to conduct analytics or provide insights into a website’s content.
For instance, a crawler may visit a blog post and extract the data from it, such as the keywords used and any images. Google also uses crawlers to index websites and provide the most relevant search results.
Applications and Uses of Bots
A bot with the capacity for human language, conversation, and decision-making can be used for many different tasks. From sales to marketing, bots have become invaluable tools in many industries.
One use of bots is to provide customer service 24/7. Customers can get quick answers to their queries without waiting on the phone or wading through a long list of options. Instead, virtual agents can handle customer service inquiries and provide accurate, timely responses. Bots can also be used to schedule meetings, book appointments, and send reminders. They can collect customer feedback and provide insights into the user experience.
Unfortunately, the power of bots can also be used for nefarious purposes. Spam bots are designed to send unsolicited messages or post spam comments on social media posts. There are also malicious “bots,” which are actually networks of computers infected with malware and controlled from a remote computer. This type of botnet is commonly used to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against websites.
How to detect malicious bots
It’s important to remember that bots from humans can be detected by humans. There are a few simple techniques you can use to detect malicious bots. A console command can provide information on all active IPs and their source. You can also check for suspicious user agent strings or access patterns on your website.
A list of commands can also be used to detect bot activity, such as checking for IPs accessing more than one page at a time. Random names or characters in the URL can also be a red flag for malicious bots.
How to prevent malicious bot activity
Most companies use a bot manager to protect their websites from malicious bot activity. Bot managers use various techniques to detect and mitigate bots, such as deploying rate-limiting algorithms or detecting and stopping known bad IPs. CAPTCHAs, which require users to prove they are not robots, can also prevent malicious bot activity.
The app security platform provided by companies like Cloudflare and ShieldSquare can identify and block malicious bots before they even reach the website.
Advantages and disadvantages of bots
The main advantages of bots rely on their powers of automation. By removing the human operator from a task, bots can save time and money. As they become increasingly sophisticated, they can provide accurate human-like responses to customer inquiries. For example, mobile apps like Lyft or Uber are powered by bots that help customers through the entire booking process.
Another benefit of bots is their ability to be customized for a particular task. Deploying custom bots can help companies increase efficiency and gain insights that can be used to improve their various operations.
However, there are also some disadvantages to using bots. Rule-based bots still require some level of oversight and maintenance. AI bots can be expensive to deploy. Additionally, bots are still subject to errors and mistakes.
The main disadvantage of bots is the potential for abuse. As mentioned earlier, malicious bots can be used to launch cyberattacks and spread spam. Bots are also vulnerable to being hacked, potentially leading to sensitive data being leaked. Finally, bots may not always understand context, so users may receive inaccurate or inappropriate responses to their inquiries.
What is an AI chatbot?
An AI-powered chatbot is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence to converse with people in natural language with human-like qualities. AI chatbots use natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to understand human speech and interpret it into actionable data.
As a cognitive chatbot, it can learn from previous interactions and adapt its responses accordingly. This makes the bot more useful over time and allows it to better understand the customer’s needs.
What are the benefits of AI chatbots?
Artificial intelligence chatbots come with a host of benefits that don’t apply to traditional bots. For one, they can operate without human intervention. They fully free up customer service representatives to focus on more complex tasks and no longer require them to monitor inquiries and respond manually.
In addition, AI chatbots can provide personalized responses in real time, allowing customers to get the answers they need quickly. This can lead to a better customer experience and higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Also Read: How Can We Make Chatbots Intelligent?
Choosing Between Rule-Based Bots And AI Bots
One of the main dilemmas companies face is choosing a rule-based bot or an AI bot. The decision often depends on the level of sophistication and complexity needed by the organization. Rule-based bots are best suited for simple queries that require basic automation. That’s because the same requests by humans can be asked in a variety of ways.
For example, a rule-based bot may be able to answer a question like “What is the current price of gold?” But if a customer asks, “What’s the current value of gold?” the bot may not be able to recognize it. It all depends if it was pre-programmed with the answer. An AI bot, however, can understand both questions and provide accurate answers.
Prospective students at colleges or customers at businesses now expect more from companies, and AI chatbots can meet those expectations.
Advantages of rule-based bots
Rule-based bots are typically more cost-effective to build and maintain. They also require less processing power, which makes them ideal for low-volume applications. Rule-based bots can also be quickly implemented. In addition, they can be programmed to provide specific answers, which makes them extremely useful for particular cases.
For example, a rule-based chatbot can provide information about specific products, services, or promotions. There is no room for creativity or improvisation with a rule-based bot, but this can also be an advantage as it ensures customers are always given the same consistent answers.
Disadvantages of rule-based bots
Rule-based bots can be limited in terms of functionality and easily become outdated. As customer queries and preferences change, the rules must be periodically updated—which can be time-consuming. An AI chatbot may be a better option for those needing a broader range of language comprehension.
Rule-based bots also work strictly within the confines of what they are programmed to do. If a customer asks a question outside of the bot’s parameters, it won’t be able to provide an answer. It will refer the customer to a human representative, which defies the purpose of having a chatbot in the first place.
Finally, the lack of personalization may impact customer satisfaction during complex queries. After all, it is frustrating to have a rule-based bot provide the same generic answer to every question, regardless of the context.
According to recent research, roughly 64% of all Internet traffic now consists of bots (including AI-powered and malicious bots). This figure is expected to rise as companies continue to embrace this technology. As such, it is imperative to familiarize yourself with this technology. Everybody should learn the distinction between malicious, rule-based, and AI bots, as well as their respective benefits and drawbacks.
Akhil, Mittal. Getting Started with Chatbots. BPB Publications, 2019.
Dunham, Ken, et al. Malicious Bots: An Inside Look Into the Cyber-Criminal Underground of the Internet. Auerbach Publications, 2019.
Mittal, Akhil. Getting Started with Chatbots: Learn and Create Your Own Chatbot with Deep Understanding of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. BPB Publications, 2019.