The picture of a New York aster flower hits 90 million hits per day in India

The New York Aster is going to be a big sensation in India. Photo: Chris Albon

Gulf Today Report

“For the idle flowers I have brought with me; Every aster in my hand / Goes home laden with a thought.”

The American essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson could well have added “on the Internet” to his statement.

That’s because a photo of a pretty but otherwise inconspicuous aster flower mysteriously scores 90 million hits a day – all from India.

The Wikipedia image of a New York aster seems to have become a big sensation in India – and the reason could have something to do with the TikTok ban in the country.

The image in question is hosted on Wikimedia Commons, an online repository for freely usable images, sounds, and other media that are freely used and reproduced. It depicts a purple flower that is commonly found in the meadows of Northeast America.

According to a report on NDTV, a post on Phabricator – a collaboration platform open to all Wikimedia contributors – highlights that the image is viewed around 90 million times a day by various ISPs in India.

Chris Albon, director of machine learning at Wikimedia, tweeted Tuesday about the unusual surge in traffic. “Check out this latest live ticket over an ongoing puzzle. 20% of all requests to any of our media data centers are related to this image of a flower,” he wrote.

“Nobody knows why,” added Albon.

The Phabricator post rated the increase in traffic as “very strange” and wrote: “These are very strange as they come from very different IPs and follow a daily traffic pattern. We therefore assume that in India mainly mobile apps are used which Hotlinks use the above image for a welcome screen, for example. “

A pageview graph shows the flower received a few hundred hits every day before June 8th. According to The Vice, the numbers rose to 2,154 on June 9th. By June 30, the flower picture received more than 15 million hits a day.

It is noteworthy that the increase in traffic occurred after the TikTok ban in India.

TikTok and several other Chinese apps were banned on June 29, 2020.

People researching the mystery of the purple flower hypothesized that the image was being used by one of the various apps that popped up in India after the TikTok ban.

Albon later confirmed that the traffic was coming from a popular mobile app in India.

“We found that the image / app grew in popularity sometime around the time India was blocking Chinese internet services and websites,” said a statement he shared. Investigators began downloading and running various applications to see if they could identify the image and found the specific app that made the request by matching when the image was opened and when the image was requested from the Wikimedia servers .

The name of the app was not disclosed.

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