Why does a Wikipedia flower have 90 million hits per day?

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A mysterious movement that has been happening on the internet since 2020 has caught the attention of professionals responsible for Wikipedia servers in recent weeks. Since TikTok was banned in India in June last year, the image of a flower has accounted for 20% of traffic in one of the data centers in the virtual encyclopedia.

The flower in question is Michaelmas daisy, which in Brazil is generally known for its botanical genus, called Aster. An image of the purple plant gets 90 million hits per day on a Wikimedia server, a nonprofit organization that hosts Wikipedia on the internet.

Located in Singapore, the Wikimedia data center where access to the flower has been happening is called EQSIN. For more than six months, about 20% of all data traffic in the center corresponded to the image of Michaelmas daisy.

Before June 8, 2020, access to the photo was very low. As of June 9, 2020, accesses have jumped to another 2,000 per day. On June 30, daily accesses reached 15 million.

And what is the correlation with the ban on TikTok in India?

Wikimedia’s Director of Machine Learning, Chris Albon, posted this whole story on Twitter this week. He asked for help from the community to try to find out why so many people were wanting to see the photo of the flower.

In the middle of the debate on the subject, which reached Phabricator, a site that cooperates with Wikimedia, a response pointed to the coincidence that accesses pumped after the Indian government’s ban on TikTok.

“They are very strange (the accesses), because they come from totally different IPs, but they follow a daily traffic pattern, so we have a hypothesis that it is an application used predominantly in India that has a link to the image, which can be, for example, a home screen, ”says a post on Phabricator.

In investigating this mystery, it was discovered that several clones of the short video app emerged in India to replace TikTok. From that central point, the Phabricator count managed to find the culprit for the abnormal interest in Michaelmas daisy.

“Mystery solved! An application was loading the image at startup (but it wasn’t showing), ”said Chris Albon on Twitter. He and the team did not publish the name of the mobile software that was responsible for the big puzzle, but said they had contacted the developers to resolve the issue.

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