Poor robots. The really good ones just can’t seem to keep up with the growing number of humans and bad robots on the web.
That was the main finding of a new report by the security firm Imperva, which is set to release its annual survey of Internet-bot traffic on Thursday. Good robots are the helpers: They’re designed to crawl the web for archiving purposes, to populate RSS feeds and search engines, and to help with other automated tasks that assist humans. Bad bots, by contrast, are the impersonators, data thieves, and other rogue agents.
Up until now, in the four years that Imperva (formerly Incapsula) has been studying web traffic, bots had always driven the majority of web activity. But this year, there was a surprise. “We saw a changing of the guard, with humans stepping in to become the Internet’s new majority,” the companyinc wrote. In 2015, humans were responsible for nearly 52 percent of all online traffic. Two years ago, humans drove less than 39 percent of overall web traffic.
This apparent reversal turns out to be more nuanced than it appears at first. The volume of Internet activity by good bots, relative to humans and bad bots, declined—but did so in part because human online activity grew in 2015, and bad bot traffic stayed steady compared with last year. “Basically, what we had here was a case of good bots collectively not keeping up with growth of human and bad bot traffic,” Imperva wrote.