Daniel - June 8, 2021
User agents are used for various online activities. In this article, we will answer the question – what is a user agent? – Also, we will show you how best to use them.
Simply put, a user agent is a software that works on your behalf. Such a software will send, receive, and render web content on your behalf. A basic example of this is a web browser.
A web browser is a user agent that makes accessing the internet easier. You enter a web address and it fetches the content of the web page for you. While you’re the one browsing, it’s your browser that’s doing the interaction.
Another example is email software. An email software will help you send and receive messages from others. The internet works as a client-server system. While you as the client browse, the web contents are downloaded from a server. Hence, there are client and server user agents.
Nevertheless, when people reference User Agents, they refer to the User-agent field contained in HTTP headers. This is the primary endpoint for communication between browsers, email software, and other apps and web servers.
Web browsers include the User-agent field in their HTTP header before connecting to any website. Every browser has a unique user agent, so the content is different for different browsers. Notably, the UA content will tell the website what type of browser and device you’re using.
With this detail, the web server will serve you the best web pages. This is why you get mobile responsive web pages when you load your webpages with a mobile device and a different webpage size when you use a computer. It’s also how websites know if your browser isn’t fitted for a particular web content.
As mentioned earlier, a user agent is a software that works on your behalf. Therefore, web scraping bots or any other bot are also user agents as they execute tasks on your behalf. Nevertheless, what’s most important is the string included in request headers.
Browser user agents are important if you’re performing a task like web scraping. Most websites block scraping bots from accessing their content. Your browser user-agent may trace its origin to a bot and thus the website you’re visiting can detect it.
Some websites allow only specific user-agents to crawl their websites. Search engine servers are an example. If you don’t set a UA, a default user-agent will be used and as stated earlier, it can be traced to your bot server which can get you blacklisted.
Most people exclusively use user-agents to scrape data off websites. While this sometimes works, it’s not as reliable as using a proxy. Normally, if you’re going to use multiple UA, you have to define a different IP address for all.
You can get as many IP addresses as you want from a proxy. Furthermore, you can skip defining individual IP addresses for different user agents by simply using a rotating proxy. Many proxies natively support user agent string rotation.
If set up, your browsing traffic will appear like they’re from different web browsers. Hence, you’re less likely to be detected and you won’t get blocked.
If you’re going to use a user agent along with a proxy, it’s important that you go for the best ones. ProxyRack is a renowned proxy provider from which you can purchase the best user agent proxies.
From ProxyRack you can purchase residential or datacenter proxy. The best one to go for depends on what you want to do online. However, if you want to scrape data, residential proxies are your best option.
The ProxyRack proxy network is a massive one with over 5 million residential IPs and more than 20,000 datacenter IP addresses. You can go for specific protocols like HTTP, HTTPS, SOCKS4, SOCKS4A and SOCKS5 proxies. Check out the pricing options below.
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Mixed Rotating Datacenter Proxies: Starting at $120
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If you’re wondering what user agents are, how they work, and what they’re used for, I’m sure you found this article helpful.
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