Bright Data is a premium proxy provider, established in 2014 in Israel. Up until recently, it went by the name of Luminati. But in early 2021, perhaps realizing the unfortunate associations the name carried (try googling “what is Luminati” – I dare you), it rebranded.
Name aside, Bright Data remains what it was – a dominant proxy service provider. Few companies are able to challenge it head-on, and for good reasons.
Over the years, this Israeli provider has grown an array of features and infrastructure around it. You won’t have trouble finding any kind of proxy or protocol, anywhere in the world. You’ll have a powerful dashboard to configure your proxies and 24/7 customer support in case things go wrong. You’ll also be assured that the company serves ‘Fortune 500 enterprises’ and leading universities.
You could even say that Bright Data is starting to outgrow proxies. It no longer positions as merely a proxy network but rather data collection infrastructure. The statement is backed by a variety of tools that either build upon proxies or help control them. (One even removes the need for coding altogether!) In fact, we were so impressed by the provider’s infrastructure that we gave it the Best Proxy Ecosystem award.
On the non-technical side, Bright Data has put great effort into promoting ethical proxy acquisition and use. This has required some sacrifices: saying no to resellers, emburdening clients with a draconian KYC process, and limiting viable use cases. But it’s also helping to shine light on the controversial proxy industry, even if that sometimes backfires.
So, is Bright Data a no-brainer? Not necessarily. Despite all it offers, the company can’t be the best for everyone – or everything. And that’s where cheaper or more specialized providers find their opportunity to slip through. In this review, we’ll try to identify those cracks and how they can impact your decision.
Let’s get started!
- Great infrastructure
- All proxy types
- Many features
- Powerful proxy controls
- Can be hard to use
- Strict KYC procedure
- Proxy types: Datacenter (dedicated, shared), residential, ISP, mobile
- Protocols: HTTP(S), SOCKS5
- Locations: Global
- Audience: Mid to large businesses
- Extras: API, browser extension, proxy manager, scraping tools
- Support: 24/7, account manager
- Payment options: PayPal, credit card, wire transfer, AliPay, Payoneer
- Trial: 7 days (businesses), 3-day refund (individuals)
Bright Data (Luminati) Proxies
Bright Data offers every kind of proxy network available. You’ll be able to choose from shared and dedicated datacenter IPs, static and rotating residential proxies, and mobile IPs. There are also two proxy-based tools: Data Unblocker and Search Engine Crawler; both return data with a 100% success rate.
How do these proxy types interact? The datacenter proxies are best suited for small tasks or accessing lenient targets. The residential proxies are much harder to block, so they work better with protected targets. The mobile proxies are harder still to identify, so you should use them with the most challenging websites. And the tools are for situations when you don’t want to deal with proxy management yourself.
Bright Data offers an interesting concept called Proxy Waterfall which automatically chooses the best IP type for the task. I’ll talk about it more later on.
Both shared and dedicated IPs.
Bright Data’s datacenter proxies include both shared and dedicated IPs. The provider boasts having around 770,000 addresses across 3,000+ subnets. They don’t seem to be the company’s focus, and least not when selling to customers.
As you might expect from Bright Data, its datacenter proxies are stacked. They’re located all around the world, so you shouldn’t have issues finding an IP pretty much anywhere.
The private datacenter proxies don’t rotate by default, but you can set up rules for rotation using Bright Data’s brilliant proxy manager. You can target them by country or city. The shared proxies can rotate if you buy them by bandwidth – you will then get access to a pool of 20,000 addresses spread out globally.
If you opt for private proxies, you’ll need to specify the domains you want to access. So, they won’t be exclusively yours, but rather exclusive for those few domains. You’ll also have an option to choose a cooling period – the number of days the IPs haven’t been used for that domain.
All the main protocols are available here, including SOCKS5.
A huge pool, many locations, and rich targeting options.
Residential proxies are Bright Data’s forte. With over 72 million IPs under its belt, the provider controls the second largest residential proxy pool in the world, following Oxylabs. The IPs cover all countries and thousands of cities, so location targeting won’t be an issue.
These proxies come from desktop and mobile devices of real users. Bright Data acquires the IPs by burying its code into popular apps with or without people’s knowledge (let’s be frank – who actually reads terms and conditions?). This means several things: the IP numbers fluctuate day by day; Bright Data can’t ensure their availability; the proxy pool is shared between all users. To counteract the last point, the provider has introduced exclusive IPs – 3 to 30 residential addresses for your exclusive use with a specific domain.
But if you want residential proxies all to yourself, there’s a better alternative. Bright Data now offers over 110 thousand ISP proxies – datacenter IPs registered with internet service providers. They don’t have to rotate and are almost as good at tricking websites that a real user is accessing them. There are some nuances concerning prior IP usage, which can result in easier bans, but such proxies are valued for sneakers and especially social media tasks.
Both kinds of residential proxies have no connection limits, and Bright Data even encourages putting them under as much stress as you can. That’s because the company uses so-called Super Proxies to balance the load. They make your requests go through the most suitable load balancing server for that IP address.
Bright Data’s residential proxies cover all the main protocols: HTTP, HTTPS & SOCKS5, so you’ll have no trouble using them for any task. Aside from the usual country, state, and city targeting options, you’ll be able to target IPs by ASN as well. The latter option applies only to the rotating proxies and is a rare find.
Many locations and good targeting options.
If you have particularly sophisticated needs – or particularly hard targets (ehem, Instagram), Bright Data can offer you around 7 million IPs from 3G & 4G powered mobile devices.
Just like the other two types, Bright Data’s mobile proxies will leave you spoiled. They cover most of the world, and you can freely target the countries and cities you like. Not only that, but you also have the option to select a particular ASN and even carrier. You’ll find few providers offering such granular controls.
The mobile proxies come from devices of end users, so they invariably rotate. You can specify the session time you like. Bright Data also offers an option to get private mobile proxies – these are 3-30 IP addresses reserved for your exclusive use.
All three protocols are available, including SOCKS5. To enable the latter, you’ll have to use Bright Data’s Proxy Manager.
Proxies on steroids.
Bright Data’s Unblocker is one of those tools I mentioned. It builds upon the provider’s proxy infrastructure to provide extra features – while still keeping the same format.
In short, you basically get a good deal of a web scraper. With this tool, your main tasks become sending requests and storing the data. Bright Data will do everything else for you.
Data Unblocker isn’t the only such tool in the market. Other similar options are Zyte’s Smart Proxy Manager and Oxylabs’ Next-Gen Residential Proxies.
Search Engine Crawler
For scraping search engines without fail.
Search Engine Crawler is another tool mounted on top of Bright Data’s proxies. It’s a bona fide SERP API that returns any data from any search engine. The crawler is highly customizable, allows granular location targeting, and most importantly – charges by successful requests.
I’d say that Search Engine Crawler’s primary use case is mid to high volume Google scraping when you don’t have (or don’t want to have) all the web scraping infrastructure in-house.
In late 2020, Bright Data released a tool called Data Collector. It tries to remove the need for coding and in-house infrastructure altogether.
A no-code web scraper.
Data Collector is a complete web scraper hosted by Bright Data. At its simplest, the tool asks you to choose from one of the pre-set templates, enter your URLs, and then returns the data in neat Excel sheets. There’s no coding involved, and you don’t need to build anything by yourself.
For example, let’s say I want to collect Instagram posts with a certain hashtag. Here’s what my workflow would be:
- I’d first select Instagram from the list of templates and then the “Instagram Hashtag” preset.
- I’d choose when to get the data: in real-time or after the job’s completed; its format: .json, .csv, or .xslx; and how it’ll be delivered: by email, webhook, Amazon, etc.
- I’d specify which fields are relevant for me: bio, likes, URL, and so on.
- Finally, I’d select how I want to run the request. The options are via an API, manually, or scheduling the task to run at a certain time or interval.
If the presets don’t quite fit your needs, Bright Data offers a browser extension. It allows creating new presets by going to websites and manually selecting elements you find relevant. The selector is pretty smart, and you can see a preview before running your tasks.
If that’s not enough, Bright Data pulls out the big guns: a virtual IDE where you can get your hands dirty with the code.
All in all, Data Collector is Bright Data’s attempt to provide a complete web scraping service, akin to some visual web scrapers like Octoparse and ParseHub. The difference is that here the service integrates with the provider’s proxy networks by default.
Bright Data (Luminati) Pricing
Bright Data’s proxies aren’t cheap. Shared, dedicated, residential, or mobile, they’ll always cost above the industry average. It doesn’t help that the pricing structure can be convoluted at times, and the pricing plans on the website don’t fully reflect the real situation. The true numbers reveal themselves in the pricing calculator.
The company’s pricing is based on a credit model. In other words, you’ll need to add money into your account and pay for proxies as you go. The plans require minimum monthly commitment. You can always pay for what you use. But if you fail to spend enough to reach a certain plan, the rates will be very expensive.
Bright Data obviously targets customers with large needs: the cheapest rotating residential proxy plan starts from $500 ($12.50/GB); spending less will cost you $17.50/GB. The static proxies have the same traffic plans but also charge by IPs. The price gradually decreases to $3/GB, though at that point you’ll be committing to pay $30,000 monthly. Advanced features like ASN or city targeting double the rate.
The shared datacenter proxies can be bought by IPs or traffic. The latter will give you access to a backconnect proxy pool, but you’ll have less control over the IPs. These proxies are actually quite affordable and cost $0.65-1.15 depending on your choices. The dedicated proxy plans include both traffic and IPs into calculations. You have further options for target domains and a cooling period. Each modifies the end price.
As the best and most exclusive proxy type, Bright Data’s mobile IPs are extremely expensive. The smallest plan starts at $500/30GB ($30/GB). You can go lower by choosing to pay as you go, but can you really afford to dish out $42 per gigabyte? The pricing is traffic based.
Surprisingly, Data Unblocker costs exactly the same as rotating residential proxies. I’m not sure if that’s Bright Data’s plan to promote the tool, but it makes no sense to use regular IPs where the Unblocker is available. Go for it if you can.
If you want to try out the service before committing, you can get a 3-day refund… or a 7-day trial if you’re representing a business.
Bright Data (Luminati) Performance Tests
We tested Bright Data’s rotating residential proxies for this year’s Proxy Market Research. This involved making more than 2 million connection requests over a period of three weeks. Our target was a Cloudflare server in the US. Results with individual websites might differ, depending on your web scraper’s configuration and other factors.
We found the proxies to be excellent performers. On average, more than 99% of the requests we made were successful, and they had a response time of 1.2 seconds. That’s almost as good as it gets; only Oxylabs and Smartproxy had Bright Data beat in speed by a small margin. Running 500 requests per second failed to impact the results in any meaningful way.
The IPs themselves predominantly came from landline or mobile devices (92.6%), and almost all of them (99.9%) used the IPv4 protocol – a great result. Out of the 2.1 million requests we made, 51% returned a unique IP address, which demonstrates a large proxy pool.
Overall, we couldn’t really fault these proxies. They should work perfectly fine for any use, whether it’s ad verification, web scraping, or price comparison. Your only issue might be that Bright Data actually blocks quite a few domains, funneling clients toward specialized tools instead. So, remember to contact Bright Data beforehand and ask about your use case.
How to Use Bright Data
You can sign up with Bright Data by entering your name, surname, and work email. After registering, you’ll be able to access the dashboard.
Bright Data’s dashboard is full of options. While there are instructions at every corner, the first exposure can be a little overwhelming. The good news is that compared to a year before, it has been cleaned up into a multi-level hierarchy, making things less cluttered.
The dashboard supports full self-service: you’ll be able to do everything from adding money to your account, setting up & authorizing proxies to viewing usage statistics and contacting support.
Naturally, the most real estate is assigned to managing Bright Data’s tools. This includes not only the proxy networks but supporting services as well, such as the browser extension or Proxy Manager. The dashboard also lets you collect data directly, using the templates of Bright Data’s Collector tool.
Bright Data has put a lot of effort into statistics. The visual graph supports very granular filtering, both in time periods and metrics. You can see your usage anywhere between one hour to two years, for all or separate products. The metrics include not only bandwidth use but also requests, IPs used, error rate, and more. My one pet peeve is that you can’t really choose specific days from the calendar but rather have the current time as the reference point. That said, Bright Data allows you to plug in its Proxy Manager, which enables even more granular tracking.
Security is another priority. Bright Data not only shows a list of events involving logins and zones but even allows setting up 2FA authentication to safeguard the account. You can get automated alerts for unidentified logins.
The final feature worth mentioning is network status. It shows the uptime of each service in real time and can send you notifications via emails if something goes down.
The dashboard is available in six languages, including Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.
To set up the proxies, you first have to create something called Zones. A zone is a combination of plan and sub-user. To create one, you’ll need to select a proxy type, pricing plan, and add additional permissions, if any. The configuration wizard will show you an estimated cost based on your choices. The final step is to name the zone and confirm its creation.
For example, suppose I wanted rotating residential proxies for a small project. I’d choose a Residential zone and the pay-as-you-go plan. Under Permissions, country targeting would be enough for me; otherwise, I could enable states, cities, and ASNs as extras. Then, I’d choose shared IPs, as I don’t need them for my exclusive use. At last, I’d press Add Zone.
To simplify the choice between proxy networks, Bright Data offers a special suggestion box. You can enter your domain in it, and the box will recommend the best proxy type for that website. My anecdotal evidence shows that you’re most likely to be guided toward the Data Unblocker.
After creating a zone, you’ll need to integrate the proxies. You’ll be able to do this using the usual hostname:port format. But Bright Data’s dashboard also provides dynamic code samples for all the major programming languages, including Python, PHP, and node.JS. Some examples have advanced toggles, such as adding a user agent or choosing where to resolve DNS.
For some, this can be enough. But most likely, you’ll want to use Bright Data’s Proxy Manager.
Proxy Manager is an open-source tool for managing Bright Data’s proxy networks. It’s available on all major operating systems: Windows, macOS, and Linux distros. Installing extra software just for proxies might sound like a hassle, but it’s worth it.
In a nutshell, Proxy Manager makes every aspect of your work with the proxies better. It replaces the (still somewhat limited) usage statistics with detailed live logs; it allows better management of rotation settings (the dashboard is pretty meh in this regard); and it enables SOCKS5 for those who need it. These are just the basics.
One interesting feature is the Proxy Waterfall. Basically, whenever you make a request to a website, it first goes via the least effective (and cheapest) proxy network. If that fails, the system tries again with another proxy type, until you succeed. While that does sound nice in theory, I can see a few caveats: first, you’ll need to subscribe to multiple IP networks at once; second, this approach can be slower, so it could make sense to use the waterfall for gauging the tolerance level of a domain.
The breadth of features Proxy Manager offers is truly huge. They might help you, or simply confuse you, but they’re there. I’m just not sure how I feel about the fact that you need this tool for such simple things as adjusting the rotation time.
Bright Data offers an API for managing the proxy servers programmatically. It’s the most comprehensive and granular API I’ve seen in this industry, and you might have to get a new degree to make full use of it.
Another tool is a browser extension for Google Chrome. It’s pretty customizable and lets you change your IP address based on a Zone or a location. You can set up sticky sessions and even modify the request headers. Luminati advertises the extension as a tool for manual scraping, but I think it’s better suited for viewing content rather than extracting it.
Overall, Bright Data is complex to use, especially if you’re coming from a simpler proxy provider (so, all of them) or are new to proxy servers. On the other hand, it can be very powerful in experienced hands.
With such a complex service, Bright Data needs to have appropriate documentation to make sense of it. And it does. You’ll find answers and instructions both in text and video formats.
Perhaps your first resource should be Bright Data’s FAQ page. It’s large enough to crash some slower computers and answers all the basic questions about using the service. Then, there are webinars – they cover narrower concerns, such as reCAPTCHA avoidance and browser automation. There’s also a video-based learning hub, though it looks pretty much outdated and abandoned in comparison.
If, by any chance, you won’t find your answer – or simply get lost looking for one – there’s the hands-on support.
Bright Data offers live chat support and a ticket system in the dashboard. Larger clients get an account manager, as well.
The answering time in the live chat isn’t ideal but still acceptable: a reply came within 25 minutes. I tried asking technical questions and got a detailed explanation every time. Due to its nature, the ticketing system might work less efficiently.
Bright Data has all the features you would ever need from a proxy provider, but they do come with a high price. Even though the starting price point is agreeable, every choice you make to improve the proxies will add up and your wallet might suffer.
The proxies we’ve tested are very stable and fast. They were consistently among the top performers in our tests. However, Bright Data deliberately limits the domains you can access, so you should discuss your needs with an account manager in advance.
The infrastructure surrounding the proxies is top-notch. I really liked the Proxy Manager – especially the fact that it’s open source. Bright Data has also made a lot of instructional material over the years and is very active in educating and promoting ethical proxy use. However, I did feel that parts of the experience were over-engineered and have become unwieldy. This inevitably happens to many established companies.
Looking at the recent trends, it’s obvious that Bright Data is trying to move away from proxies-as-a-resource to proxy-based data collection tools. This works in our favor for now – when Data Unblocker costs the same as regular residential IPs, there’s little sense not to use it.
Overall, Bright Data is a good choice for any use case. It attempts to cover every customer as well, but unavoidably fails – the entry threshold is high, and the pay-as-you-go plans cost too much. It’s really a better option for large business clients.
So, the ultimate question should be not, “can Bright Data do that for me?” but rather, “can Bright Data do it better than other providers?”. If you have the technical chops, need all the features, and don’t mind paying extra, then it most likely can. But otherwise, the competition is tough, and the answer isn’t always as obvious as it could be.
Bright Data Alternatives
Bright Data’s closest competitor in the premium segment. It offers all the main proxy types and multiple APIs for web scraping, coupled with personalized customer service.
Smartproxy is a great choice if you want to save some money on rotating proxies. It offers multiple IP types, better prices, and is easier to use in exchange for fewer features.