Introduction

The digital age has brought many advancements that optimizes how we use the internet. We can use some of the best programming languages to build a program that performs automated, repetitive, and predefined tasks. Also known as bots, these programs are useful for many situations including web scraping, chatbots for optimizing customer support, sneaker bots for purchase of limited editions, and more.

However, these bots can engage a website aggressively which can cause it to slow down or even crash. One of the best ways to limit the effect of bots on a website is to implement a delay in the coding script but this is often overlooked. Therefore, many websites use the rate limiting technique to ensure they are not vulnerable to the effects of these bots.

This article will examine everything you need to know about rate limiting, how it works, its benefits, common challenges and how to bypass limits with NetNut proxies. 

What Is Rate Limiting?What Is Rate Limiting?

This refers to controlling or restricting the number of requests a client or an application can make to a website or service. This process is designed to keep websites or services operating at maximum capacity and improve usage for all its users. To achieve this, a user is limited to a certain number of requests in a given period. This process is achieved through the use of rate limiters.

With limits, overuse by certain individuals or systems is controlled, and fair use for all users is guaranteed. The flow of traffic on the website and its servers is limited to a manageable level, and overloading and possibly crashing are avoided. Anyone can access a website as much as they like without rate limiting, including bots and hackers. It serves as a way to boost your online security by protecting your website from bots.

How Does Rate Limiting Work?

Rate limiting works by regulating the number of requests a single device or IP address can make in a given timeframe. There are three possible ways to achieve this, which also determines how it works:

Request rate limit

This method involves tracking a particular user’s request and denying access to the website once they reach the limit. In most cases, the limit resets after the time limit elapses, but in some cases, there may be a separate reset time. Subsequently, this rate limiting is all about the request. 

Therefore, surfing the website may not trigger any limits, allowing you to continue browsing. However, if you do trigger this limit, the best solution is to wait for the time limit and resume when it expires. You may also want to take note of the number of requests you can make before the system maxes out. 

Traffic rate limit

In this method, the limit is placed on the amount of traffic that one device or IP address uses in a specified period. Limits can be placed on upload, download, or both and once the limit is reached or exceeded, the user loses access to the website. 

This type of rate limit can also be used to give priority to certain types of traffic like downloads, especially in situations like online gaming, with real-time responses. Other forms of traffic are restricted, allowing resources to be diverted to where they are most needed. Here, the users’ needs take priority with a little attention paid to other details. 

Resource-based rate limiting

This type of limiting is targeted at getting the best out of resources like servers, by limiting how many requests each can handle. It is similar to allocating the number of people that can enter a room and at what point the door needs to be shot. This way, no server or any other valuable resource has to handle more work than it can.

 Errors in this instance are usually temporary and will be cleared once a different resource is available. You can keep your website functioning optimally for as long as possible by simply limiting or managing resources.

What are the Benefits of Rate Limiting?What are the Benefits of Rate Limiting?

Websites implement rate limiting for several purposes with the aim of ensuring positive user experience. Here are some of the benefits of using this technique on a website:

User experience

The most important benefit of rate limiting is that it guarantees an improved experience when users visit your website. Subsequently, the user experience is optimized by minimizing delays and increasing the responsiveness of a server. Some users, especially those with stronger bandwidths will monopolize the use of the website or service. However, limiting ensures that other users can also access the website.

In addition, limiting requests is a critical strategy for apps and websites that require real-time responses. Therefore, users won’t have to deal with delays or interruptions that will possibly limit their experience especially when streaming HD videos or playing online games.. You will instead have a website running as smoothly as possible, with satisfied users.

Avoid DoS attacks

DoS attacks are a common problem on the internet today but can be easily handled by limiting requests. Denial Of Service attacks are high-volume, repetitive requests to a website or service, usually overwhelming the server. This scenario renders the server unavailable when legitimate users want or need access, proving to be a pitfall for the website. 

Subsequently, rate limiting eliminates this problem by limiting how many requests can come from a single user. This way, the server remains active when it is needed, and requests are kept to a manageable level. DoS attacks can be caused unintentionally, but limiting access can help call such users to order. 

Cost management

Cost is always a major factor where technology is concerned. Although it may not be obvious at the moment, rate limiting helps reduce costs in the long run. By keeping resource use to a manageable level, you can avoid burnout which ensures your website remains functional for a long time. 

The website resources like services and other equipment will not only last longer, but function optimally, eliminating the need for replacements. Any replacements can be made to upgrade or improve performance, but will not be because of damage. By getting the best value for equipment, you inadvertently save costs, thanks to rate limiting.  

Eliminates abuse

Abuse in this situation refers to one user getting a better use of a website or service than others. Some users will make repetitive and unnecessary requests, putting too much pressure on the server, and causing performance issues. All users get equal access to the servers and can carry out a certain number of requests in a stipulated time frame. 

Subsequently, each user on the website can’t intentionally or unknowingly impair the activities of others thanks to limits. Instead, everyone has the potential for a limited number of requests or access, making the entire system fair to all users. Not only does it make it more appealing to users, but it also helps you preserve a valuable resource, your users. 

Challenges Of Rate Limiting

There are several challenges that you may have to deal with when implementing rate limiting. Luckily, there are also possible solutions that can help minimize or eliminate these challenges.

Appropriate rate limit

One of the biggest challenges to limiting requests is determining an appropriate limit for users on the websites. Several factors need to be considered before choosing the variable to limit request. Bear in mind that different sets of problems may arise when the outcome is too low or too high. 

Subsequently, each system has what it can handle and that is what the limit needs to be. When buying or building a server, it often has limits clearly stated concerning traffic and the number of users it can handle. These are the things you need to consider and will ultimately decide what limits you should apply.  

Busy traffic

Busy traffic is a challenge associated with rate limiting. Traffic is sometimes unpredictable and can fluctuate without warning, causing the system to adjust accordingly. Traffic can be incorrectly cut off even when the system can still handle a lot more simply cause the incoming traffic is high. 

Therefore, traffic can be limited but should be designated appropriately. You can limit traffic only when the server has reached a certain capacity or when it needs a reprieve. In addition, you can also observe the times when traffic is at its peak and adjust limits accordingly. 

False positives

False positives are more common than you would think when dealing with rate limiting. Traffic can sometimes be designated as malicious, even when this isn’t the case. In such scenarios, innocent users can be cut off from accessing a website or service because their traffic is believed to be malicious. 

You need the right algorithm to avoid false positives, but most importantly, you’ll need to monitor what goes on in the system. If the system is having false positives, then you may need to make changes to the algorithm. Luckily, with the proper algorithm, you minimize the risk of false positives and avoid having too many concerned users. 

Large traffic volumes

As a website or service progresses, it is sure to see new traffic and rate limits need to be adjusted accordingly. The more traffic the website gets, the higher the limits need to be which could often be problematic if a hardware change is necessary. The technology in place just may not be sufficient to handle what is currently available.

How To Avoid Rate LimitingHow To Avoid Rate Limiting

If you are a normal user tired of dealing with rate limits, you will probably want a way around it. There are a few ways to avoid rate limits and enjoy uninterrupted web sessions. 

IP rotation

Websites can identify and track your online activities via the IP address. Therefore, when there are too many requests within a short period from the same IP address, it is flagged and the IP is banned or blocked. 

IP rotation allows you to enjoy unlimited access to the website or service without any interruptions, even when you exceed the preset limits. One way to get different IP addresses is through the use of proxies. Different types of proxies could be perfectly suited to your needs in this capacity. A rotating residential proxy can help change your IP address while maintaining your active web sessions, while a mobile proxy is perfect for handheld devices. 

Monitor your frequency and timing

Without looking to circumvent the rate limits, you can still get the best browsing experience. By monitoring your request in the allotted time, you consciously avoid being flagged and exceeding the limit. With modern analytical tools, you can keep track of your activity on a website or service. 

More so, you can implement limits of your own, which prevents you from exceeding those defined by the target website. In addition, randomizing the frequency of your requests makes your activities seem more human. Bots tend to maintain a certain consistency when making requests, which the system will flag. 

Use and rotate real user agent

Similar to an IP address, the user agent can be used to track your online activities. User agents are identifiers that help websites get information about the device you use to send the request. Therefore, when all your requests are made with one user agent, it is easy for the website to either judge you as malicious or track your requests. Using a different user agent, on the other hand, makes identifying your device more difficult. 

Avoiding Rate Limiting With NetNut

With proxies being one of the best ways to avoid rate limiting, you will need a reputable provider. NetNut is an industry-leading proxy provider that caters to all your proxy needs, making web data extraction and browsing the internet limitless. You can say goodbye to all rate limits, while still enjoying an optimal internet experience without any delays or connection loss. 

NetNut provides you with different proxy solutions ranging from ISP proxies to static residential proxies, to US residential proxies. Static residential proxies allow you to maintain one IP address forever, regardless of where you are. ISP proxies, on the other hand, come in handy to bypass captcha and geo-restrictions. Whatever you need in a proxy, it is all available at NetNut.

In addition, NetNut has a large pool of residential IPs that offers unlimited concurrency for infinite scalability. Moreso, you can leverage the power of 250K+ mobile IPs, amplifying your web coverage exponentially. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have examined rate limiting, how it works, and its benefits and common challenges. Rate limiting may not be considered the most important feature by many websites, but it certainly is a must-have. With rate-limiting, you can improve user experience and minimize security threats from DoS attacks. Additionally, you can also circumvent the menace of bots, and possibly eliminate captcha on your website. 

Without limits, your website could potentially lose a lot of consumers, and potentially money. You can always contact us at NetNut if you have any questions or need proxies to say goodbye to rate-limiting woes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does rate limiting last?

Rate limiting is often defined by the owner of a website based on the limits they wish to establish. There are predefined limits that go along with whichever authentication method is applied on a website. Usually, fifteen minutes is the most popular limit employed, with a maximum of 900 queries.

The rate limit is time-based, but the trigger is usually action-based. In a 15-minute, 900-queries limit, the rate limit isn’t exceeded until more than 900 queries have been made in that time. After the time limit has elapsed, you have a new 15 minutes for which another 900 query limit is applied.  

What happens when the rate limit is exceeded?

When the rate limit on a website is exceeded, access to the website in question is terminated. You will no longer be able to perform regular functions on the site, but already-established feeds may remain. In social media, for example, you can see old posts that have already been loaded but will be unable to see new posts. 

The rate limit comes with a time limit, after which restrictions are usually removed and normal service is restored. Rate limit is mostly used by websites to limit how much information a particular user can access in a specific period, which could pose problems to processes like data scraping. 

What triggers the rate limit?

The determining factor of a rate limit is the IP address of a computer or a website user. Every device connected to the internet has a unique IP address and websites have access to this information. When too many requests have been sent from a particular address in a specified period, that address’ access to the website is limited. 

The idea is to improve the web experience for users, eliminating bots and limiting the possibility of threats. If you need access beyond the limits set forth by a website, you can always try one of our above-listed solutions like static residential proxies

Rate Limiting- Everything You Need To Know
QA Specialist
Daniel Halperin is a seasoned QA Engineer with a strong background in software quality assurance. He is currently working at NetNut Proxy Network in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he specializes in test planning, stress testing, and Bash scripting. Previously, he contributed to the success of many projects, where he designed and executed manual and automated test strategies, improved product stability with automated API testing, and implemented CI for API tests. With a solid foundation in software testing and a passion for ensuring product reliability, Daniel is a valuable asset to any development team.