cover image Bots the Origin of New Species

Bots the Origin of New Species

Andrew Leonard. Wired Books, $21.95 (218pp) ISBN 978-1-888869-05-7

Bots are autonomous software programs that perform online grunt work. They forage out requested information or offer guidance, assistance and even companionship as they interact with users. There is a great variety of bots, including chatterbots, gamebots, cancelbots, mailbots and annoybots. The dark side of bots is that they can generate junk e-mail, invade Usenet groups and chat rooms with offensive or nonsensical postings and have the potential for online mischief, if not outright havoc. While some bots are mundane drones, others aspire to artificial intelligence, boasting anthropomorphic personalities. Regardless, they are not only here to stay but are rapidly evolving in terms of sophistication. According to Leonard, a journalist and erstwhile Wired contributor (this book grew out of an article he wrote for that magazine), the complexity of the Net and the demands that users place upon it make bots a virtual necessity. Leonard tells the story of bots in dramatic fashion as he speaks of ""attacks,"" ""invasions"" and ""botwars,"" but he never seems to lose sight that he is, after all, writing about code and applications. Leonard has captured vividly the hyper-Darwinian nature of the Internet and has provided portraits of the leaders in the field while outlining the growth and growing pains of the technology. He deserves kudos for raising a portion of fragmented online folklore to a level of history that is of interest to anyone who has ever logged on and used a search engine. (Sept.)