Dark social traffic in the mobile app era


About two years ago, I wrote a story about a strange phenomenon on the web: in a medium known for its ability to track people—following them around with Zappo’s ads and such—it turns out that websites don’t know where a substantial percentage of their visitors come from. That is to say, when a visitor arrives at Fusion.net, we often don’t know how they got there or what link they followed. In my story, I called this kind of traffic dark social, and the name stuck. Dark social became a rallying cry for people who wanted the old, pre-Facebook web to thrive! Now, there are hundreds of thousands of references to the phrase across the Internet.

I think I was mostly right in the original story: people do and did send many links privately, which were not being counted as “social” by the web beancounters. But over the last two years, the Internet landscape has been changing…

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