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TWITTER: THE DARK SIDE – Twitter’s URL Shortener of Choice is Twitter's URL shortener of choice since the summer of 2009 and they had one billion clicks served in august!

Clicks or Click Fraud? Clicks Animation

Check out animation about millions of bots clicks show at as "statistics"

Twitter: The Dark Side Study

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Twitter: The Dark Side | - Twitter's URL Shortener of Choice

We are not going to deal with specific security vulnerabilities now and will focus only on its reporting accuracy and real-time tracking. is Twitter's URL shortener of choice since the summer of 2009 and they had one billion clicks served in august! This development is also an interesting story, because's CEO is John Borthwick, who is also CEO of Betaworks.

Betaworks builds companies in the social-messaging space. It incubated Summize that’s now the Twitter search engine Twitter acquired last year, and through that deal Betaworks remained connected to Twitter. Betaworks has also worked with Tweetdeck -- which also uses as the default link shortener. The company has several other Twitter (and Facebook) projects running right now. Beware developers, it suffice to say that if you're in Betaworks' network, you've got great access to Twitter.

So you opened a Twitter account and twinked it with a link in your first tweet. What happens next? Our Experiments searched for the Value of a Tweet and Twink on Twitter. Using various analytics tools and metrics. This raises one more question, what analytic tools in fact are and how all this works.


Tricky Analytics


Many on the Internet were confused with a puzzle called - Says Potato (1,000 clicks), Google Says Tomato (200 clicks) and now? – and as such it, partially, prompted us search for an answer for that question.

Look at this frightening example from I’m Not Actually a Geek blog:


Bitly Clicks









Bitly statisticis say his page received 125 clicks but WordPress analytics only 11!? 125 from Bitly - 11 from Wordpress = 114 or 91.20% difference! Does this means that’s statistics show a bit of garbage, useless, non human traffic? This intriqued and prompted us to perform a set of through experiments examining the value of’s traffic delivered.


There are numerous reasons, some of them specific for Twitter generated traffic that could create such an uneasy difference in a number of clicks. Some of these are:


  • the visitor has disabled JS (JavaScript) in a browser so a visit won't trigger Google Analytics, therefore the visit of such unique user is lost for Google but registered at Do not discount this number - there is about 5% of all Internet users that have their JS disabled, so here are the first 5% of real vistors potentially lost for tracking tools,
  • Page tagging (JavaScript that GA uses) relies on the client (visitor) browser voluntarily providing the analytical information requested. Some browsers disable data collection for security reasons, some individuals purposely configure their browser settings to block web analytics tools from tracking and collecting data; others have no idea that their browser settings are configured in a fashion that would block or interfere with the data collection process. So here we might lost track of about 1% to 2% more human visitors,
  • Most website visitors using mobile phones simply do not have the technical capabilities to be tracked by conventional web analytics programs, which affects mobile phone users in a big way - since the browsers on a lot of mobile phone platforms cannot execute or understand JavaScript, they cannot be tracked by default. About 19% of all U.S. net users are using mobile phones to access the Internet, "Over the course of the past year, we have seen use of mobile Internet evolve from an occasional activity to being a daily part of people's lives," observed Mark Donovan, senior vice president, mobile, comScore. "This underscores the growing importance of the mobile medium as consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to access time-sensitive and utilitarian information." Among the audience of 63.2 million people who accessed news and information on their mobile devices in January 2009, 22.4 million (35 percent) did so daily, so here you are, losing all people coming to your website from mobile units,
  • Moreover, about 50% of ALL Twitter users come from platform similar to mobile devices that lack capability to execute or understand JavaScript, and here we are, well above 60% of ALL your visitors are most likely not going to be counted in Google Analytics,
  • Is it also possible for a visitor to visit a page and leave before the JavaScript reports the visit, thus not being counted. That happens if your page loading time is over 2 to 3 seconds; people have no time to wait and leave. You had a visitor but she or he has not been tracked or recorded. If your code on a slower page is in the upper part of the code, just below <body> tag as oppposed to the bottem of the code, just above of the </body> code the difference coming from such event – a vistor leaving the page before tracking is loaded is another 4.3%,
  • Some ISPs (in fact, most) use proxy servers to cache pages. This means user A requests your home page. Ten minutes later, person B requests your home page, but it is delivered by the proxy server, not website’s tracking tool, so there is no record of this event on your logfile.


No analytics is perfect. Weblogs have problems with cookies, tags with loading times, JavaScript with mobile devices etc., etc. so all that poses an enormous chalenge for our Experiments.

There were quite a few suprises comign out of our experiments. IOHO (In Our Humble Opinion) two are worth a brief mentioning in our narrative:

  • Twitter’s Eco Footprint ,
  • Twitter’s sociological and psychological impacts.


PART VIII: Twitter's ECO Footprint


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