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Tim
Tim

Posted on • Updated on

What happens when Amazon accidentally sends all of their support traffic your way?

Update: The issue has been resolved, but we still have no explanation as to what happened

A sudden massive spike in web traffic is something every tech startup dreams of (unless you’re on the SRE team). When it happened to us at Openbase, we were thrilled. While we already take in ~400k visitors per month, we wanted to be thorough and dive into our analytics in order to find the source of all this new traffic, in hopes that we could capitalize on it and keep the trend going.

A graph displaying a sudden increase in web traffic on GA

Unfortunately, this proved to be a little difficult to investigate. All of the traffic was direct, meaning that the sudden influx of users weren’t clicking on a viral tweet. Instead they were typing openbase.com directly into their browser URL bar - or so we thought. After a few mentions of this during our morning standup meetings, and a cursory glance at the horizon for unsolicited “Go to Openbase.com right now” billboards, the investigation took a backseat while we went back to the typical startup stuff. New features, improving the world of open source, building Yelp for package discovery, etc.

Then the strange support tickets started flowing in. “FireTV not working”. “My package came but it’s broken”. “We redeemed an Amazon gift card and wanted the money back on the card.” - Okay perhaps that last one (which is entirely real) was a bit of a helpful clue.

For some reason, Amazon support requests were coming to us.

Gif of Ryan Reynolds saying "But Why?"

At first glance, Openbase.com doesn't share any similarities with Amazon.com. To start, we’re not an ecommerce brand, we’re an open source package search and discovery platform. “A” and “O” are very far apart from each other on a standard QWERTY keyboard. Why then were we getting a 900% increase in direct traffic from angry Amazon.com customers?

After pouring through all of our analytics services, logs, and anything else we could think of, we still had nothing. Finally, through a third party SEO service, we found a new backlink - http://amazom.com - which redirects to https://openbase.com. Surprisingly, this link isn’t just the result of fat-fingering, a quick google search will reveal this typo exists all across the web.

A whois record showing Amazon ownership

Here’s where things get really strange - Amazon owns this domain. Why does it redirect to us at Openbase? Is it possible that the almighty DevOps at Amazon love Openbase SO MUCH? Why did the traffic start pouring in on December 4th? Why did one of Kaitlyn’s 2 pack color changing mugs arrive broken in the box? We don’t know. We’ve reached out to Amazon for clarification, and are excited for (but certainly not expecting) an explanation.

We’ve learned a few things from this ordeal:

  1. Always investigate traffic spikes thoroughly
  2. Angry users understandably don’t care that Openbase.com looks nothing like Amazon
  3. Double boxing, along with plenty of styrofoam and bubble wrap isn’t always enough to ensure mugs don’t break in transit. While we don’t do any shipping here at Openbase, we do care very deeply about open source packages, so be sure to start your search for tools, frameworks, and libraries at openbase.com

Discussion (2)

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johncarroll profile image
John Carroll • Edited on

This is very witty 😂

It also got me to look at openbase and I noticed a few issues. I publish the @rschedule/core package and there appear to be some bugs with the listing. E.g. it says "type definitions not found" but the @rschedule/core package root contains an index.d.ts file (I'm guessing you only search for a "typings" entry in the package.json file but that's not the only valid way to include typings in an npm package). The maintenance page indicates that the average time between major versions is 2 months, yet there has only been two major version published and they were several years apart. Etc.

Separately, I'll mention that one feature I've wanted for a while is the ability to perform an "advanced search" for NPM packages. E.g. "find all packages which depend on ("webpack" or "rollup") and which are tagged "typescript" and "plugin" and ("date" or "schedule") and which have the "MIT license" and which receive at least 1000 downloads a month and which has a bundle size less than 2kb gzipped, etc. A feature like this seems potentially within openbase's scope and could help draw people to the website.

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tevko profile image
Tim Author

Thanks John! This is all great feedback and I'd love to discuss a bit further - please reach out at tim.evko@openbase.com so we can chat a bit more!