Reading User Agents to Identify Bot Traffic

by demtron on Monday, February 02, 2009 08:41 AM

Sometimes, it's a real pain to tell the difference between a human visitor and a bot when reviewing a Web server traffic log.  I recently had an acquiantance ask me for information on this topic.  I found a great resource at that catalogs nearly 3000 known user agents that are associated with bots.

In many cases, there are identifiers such as GoogleBot, msnbot and Slurp that are easy to spot as these are common bot user agent signatures.  Unfortunately, there's no common identifier among all of them.  I figure that this list could be pulled into a lookup table and used for matching against a server log.  What I wan't able to identify is how frequently this list is updated for new signatures.

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