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User agent

User agent

User agent definition

A user agent is a type of software that acts as an intermediary between a user and a network service, like a website. It sends requests for data or resources on behalf of the user and communicates with servers to accomplish this task. Any client-side software that interacts with servers over a network can be considered a user agent.

See also: application client, application program, application layer

User agent types

  • Web browsers. The most common type of user agent, web browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, interact with web servers to display web pages to the users.
  • Email clients. Applications like Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail act as user agents by communicating with email servers to send and receive emails on behalf of the user.
  • News readers. Services like Feedly or NewsBlur fetch news feeds from various sources and present them in a user-friendly format.
  • Web crawlers or bots. These user agents are operated by search engines like Google or Bing. They scour the internet, indexing web content to make it searchable.
  • API clients. These are software applications that communicate with servers via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). These can include mobile apps, desktop apps, and server applications.
  • Accessibility tools. User agents such as screen readers are designed to help people with disabilities browse the web.
  • Download managers. These user agents, like Internet Download Manager, help users download files from servers, often providing features like pause and resume and faster download speeds.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security