Are you aware that a user agent represents anyone who is browsing and using the web? User agents are similar to agent software, which function on the user’s behalf. It acts as a user’s representative on the web or the internet.
Technically, it is an application of a client that utilizes a specific network protocol. A user agent initiates when it runs in the network protocol such as SIP, NNTP, and HTTP; then, it recognizes itself and the software vendor and operating system. It takes place by yielding an identification string to the peer system.
But what does it represent? Basically, it serves as a link between the internet and the user. Internet browsing would be challenging, time-consuming, and complicated without the user agent. It will take a lot of effort to require detailed information regarding your browser, software, device type, and operating system every time you hit the internet. And this is the primary purpose of the user agent in every browser.
Web Scraping Explained
Web Scraping refers to the process of extracting public data on the internet and transferring the information into your computer’s local file. Nowadays, web scraping is a useful tool, especially for developing businesses.
However, the process of web scraping itself can be challenging and time-consuming. It also requires a lot of effort to undergo the process of extracting data through web scraping. For some, the information is difficult to interpret because it is in HTML code. Of course, there is software available to handle it.
For web scraping to properly work, it is essential to use the most common use agents to prevent being blocked by a web server. On the other hand, using an uncommon user agent may deem a web scraping suspicious and may eventually be blocked by a data resource server.
Why Use a Browser’s User Agent?
As mentioned, some servers block some user agents when web scraping. What happens when a web server identifies the source as bot scrapers or crawlers. More advanced websites do the opposite by only allowing valid and reliable user agents to execute crawling jobs. The highly advanced ones first examine the browser if its behavior matches the UA that you carry.
For that reason, you may believe and decide that you do not need an agent for your requests. Nonetheless, that will set tools to utilize a default user agent. In most cases, web servers who detect UA will block it and add it to their blocklist.
So, how will you avoid getting banned when web scraping? Below are some tips:
- Utilize a Real UA
If the user agent you use is not part of a known browser, some websites may hinder its requests. Note that several robot web scrapers do the shortcut and skip in defining its UA. As a result, websites will block and ban the web scraper for the absence of a default UA. You can prevent this from happening by using the most common user agents linked to your web scraper.
- Randomize Your Requests
When you are web scraping and making several requests, you must rotate your user agents. That is to lessen the chances of a web server recognizing and restricting your UAs.
So, how do you exactly do that? One thing you can do is to change the IP address by utilizing rotating proxies. In that way, you can send a distinct collection of headers in each attempt. The web server will then identify that the request comes from different browsers and different computers.
Note that a UA is also a header. However, headers comprise more than just UAs. What matters is that you ensure that the UA you claim goes with the header every time you send a request. You can try using online software applications to see if your headers match with what should be expected from your user agent.
Since several websites hinder requests without a reliable or identifiable user agent, using the most common user agents and learning to correctly randomize requests or rotate UA is a must to avoid site restrictions. Moreover, using a real UA will inform every website you encounter that a request comes from a reliable source.
With a valid user agent, you are free to extract data or do web scraping from any site you target. It will be more difficult to get public data from sites without one, especially when manually doing everything. Whether you decide to use a user agent or not, you will still end up with a default one, which sites, in the long run, will block.
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