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A Photo of a Purple Flower is Getting 90 Million Hits Per Day. India's Ban on TikTok May Be the Reason

By: Raka Mukherjee


Last Updated: February 11, 2021, 13:25 IST

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons.

The most common answer people figured was that some mobile app predominantly used in India that hotlinks the image for e.g. a splash screen.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or in this case, worth 90 million clicks.

The Aster amellus, or the European Michaelmas daisy, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the genus Aster of the family Asteraceae. It’s also the flower, a photo of which on Wikimedia gets 90 million clicks a day daily from India.

In a tweet posted by Chris Albon, director of Machine Learning at Wikimedia, he mentions that “20% of all requests to one of our data centers for media are for this image of a flower. Nobody knows why.”

He further posts a link to verify the data – which is public.

“We’ve noticed today that we get about 90M hits per day from various ISPs in India,” a post on Phabricator, Wikimedia’s collaboration platform, said. “These are very strange, as they come from wildly different IPs, follow a daily traffic pattern, so we are hypothesizing there is some mobile app predominantly used in india that hotlinks the above image for e.g. a splash screen. We need to investigate this further as this kind of request constitutes about 20 percent of all requests we get in EQSIN for media.”

The pageview graph shows, that for more than six months, 20 percent of the traffic to that server were requests to look at the daisy. Wikimedia’s data is public and a chart showing daily requests to access the picture of the flower show a clear trend. Before June 8, the flower had pretty low numbers. On average, the flower gets a few hundred views.

On June 9, the number jumps to 2,154. On June 10, it hit 15,037. By June 30, it had more than 15 million daily hits.

Several people on the Phabricator post replied with the that fact that the huge upsurge in requests to see the flower coincided with India banning TikTok and several other Chinese apps. After TikTok was banned in India, several people are speculating that one of these new apps is accessing the flower picture. “It is most likely an app, given the header information above and also based on some other connection attributes,” said “ssingh”. “The question is which app though as some of us have gone through the popular apps in India but haven’t been able to identify which app it is. It is also possible that the code was embedded in some app and that it requests the image but does not display it.”

While several people on Twitter pointed out the app may be ‘Josh,’ there hasn’t been any confirmation. One reply to the post mentions the Wikimedia team tracked down the app and confirmed that it was, indeed, a mobile app. “ I just wanted to share that we have identified the app and will update this task tomorrow,” an investigator said. “And yes, it was a mobile app.”

The app has not been revealed yet.

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first published:February 11, 2021, 07:15 IST
last updated:February 11, 2021, 13:25 IST