February 11, 2021 1:22:40 pm
Wikimedia recently revealed a strange mystery. The site’s data centres were getting about 90 million daily ticket requests from India for the image of a particular flower. This flower, with seemingly nothing extraordinary about it, had no reason to get these 90 million fetch requests daily.
This number accounted for roughly 20% of Wikimedia’s requests, shared Chris Albon, Director of Machine Learning (ML), Wikimedia, in a recent tweet. “Check out this actual, live ticket about an ongoing mystery. 20% of all requests to one of our data centres for media are for this image of a flower. Nobody knows why,” Albon wrote.
Check out the tweet below
How transparent is Wikimedia?
Check out this actual, live ticket about an ongoing mystery. 20% of all requests to one of our data centers for media are for this image of a flower. Nobody knows why.https://t.co/IHrzpKGVbj pic.twitter.com/Cbw6pC9txd
— Chris Albon (@chrisalbon) February 8, 2021
The WikiFlower Mystery
The weird digital phenomenon began what came to quickly be known as the WikiFlower Mystery. Albon also shared that the analytics for the revelation was public for people to check for themselves.
The strange numbers associated with the image of the flower came from various ISPs in India and followed a daily traffic pattern. This led Wikimedia to believe that there was some app with a predominantly Indian user base that was using the image somewhere in the code, perhaps as a splash screen.
Netizens and enthusiasts from across the globe began to investigate the matter further, coming to various conclusions that can be found on the page shared in Albon’s Twitter thread.
Albon later ended the mystery himself in a subsequent tweet in the thread. He shared that Wikimedia has confirmed that the daily requests come from an Indian app. While the name of the app was not revealed, Wikimedia had already initiated contact with the app developers and are waiting to hear back from them.
TL;DR A mobile app was loading the image on startup (but not displaying it). pic.twitter.com/mGg5aHoM3v
— Chris Albon (@chrisalbon) February 9, 2021
Interestingly despite the daily requests numbering in the millions, the app did not display the flower image anywhere throughout its interface. Meanwhile, until the issue is resolved with the app developers, Wikimedia has banned those specific requests linking to the flower image.
Wikimedia shared that the app was likely a communication-based platform that was widely used throughout India. Wikimedia also noted that this app rose to popularity around the same time many Chinese applications were banned in the country. It revealed that the app had consistent usage across the day also peaking on December 31, 2020, during which many people often send Happy New Year wishes and greetings to their contacts.
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