2012 was a great year for Herdict during which we saw substantial growth in user reporting. I thought I’d kick off 2013 by highlighting our year through facts and figures. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the project, Herdict is a crowdsourced platform for collecting reports about accessible and inaccessible websites, regardless of the root cause of the issue—from filtering to server problems to any other Web blockage.
As a crowdsourced project, Herdict data reflects the Internet usage of “the Herd” – the people who report to us through our website, Twitter, e-mail, or our browser add-ons. Because it is crowdsourced, a significant level of inaccessible reports from a particular region or about a particular site at a given time serves as a real-time proxy for where filtering is taking place and what is being filtered, as experienced by the Herd. The more users report on Herdict, the more robust and accurate of a proxy the platform becomes.
Substantial Increase in Reports in 2012:
In 2012, we saw a large increase in reporting, which is critical for building an informative and useful database of site accessibility.
Total Number of Reports for 2012: 97,931
Total Inaccessible Reports for 2012: 57,262
Total Accessible Reports for 2012: 39,538
By comparison, in 2011, we received 43,481 reports, of which 12,567 were inaccessible reports. Herdict’s 2012 reporting represents a 125% increase in total reports compared to 2011 and a 358% increase in inaccessible reports. The increase brings our cumulative number of inaccessible reports to 140,323 and total reports to 311,804.
Many New Inaccessible domains in 2012:
In 2012 we collected 19,631 reports on unique domains. Of those, 15,499 were domains that were new to Herdict. This brings the total number of domains in our database to 26,636.
Among the top domains reported to Herdict in 2012, the most inaccessible site globally was Facebook.com (853 inaccessible reports), mostly coming from Vietnam and China. This is not surprising given Facebook’s widespread popularity and the aggressive stances that Vietnam and China have taken to restrict access to the site within their borders.
Top 10 inaccessible domains in 2012 by reports:
- facebook.com (853)
- viet.rfi.fr (826)
- viettan.org (815)
- steves-digicams.com (772)
- voanews.com (680)
- bbc.co.uk (632)
- danlambaovn.blogspot.com (503)
- rfa.org (463)
- x-cafevn.org (456)
- danchimviet.info (437)
Also high on the list were the domains for YouTube (#12), Scribd (#18), and Twitter (#19). With the exception of steves-digicams.com, Herdict’s top domains are all sites that we might expect to be filtered—domains for newspapers, social networking tools, and activist organizations. When Herdict first began, some critics feared that spammers would overwhelm the site with meaningless data; however, our experience proves otherwise.
Among the sites with the largest increases in inaccessibility from 2011 was viettan.org, which had 781 more inaccessible reports this year than last. This increase reflects a large growth in reporting from Vietnam in 2012. In contrast, Facebook.com was relatively steady, with inaccessible reports declining slightly from 987 reports in 2011. Among other sites with significant increases in inaccessible reports were Radio Free Asia, Human Rights Watch, Scribd, Freedom House, and the New York Times.
Among sites for which we have categories, in 2012 we received by far the most inaccessible reports for political sites (16,505 reports), which had more inaccessible reports than social sites (5,685 reports) and Internet tools (3,713 reports) combined. That said, we received 30,817 reports for uncategorized sites, suggesting that we need to find a better way to assign categories to domains—a challenge given the increase in new URLs this year.
Most Reports from China in 2012:
In 2012 we received 30,831 inaccessible reports from China and 10,931 accessible reports. A large part of this influx is due to our partnership with GreatFire.org. This data-sharing agreement has granted us greater insight into what sites are and are not accessible in China.
Top 10 countries by inaccessible reports in 2012:
- China (30,831)
- Vietnam (20,639)
- Thailand (1,333)
- India (1,259)
- United States (1,134)
- France (206)
- Iran (198)
- Germany (195)
- United Kingdom (193)
- Cambodia (158)
The substantial difference between the number of reports coming from the first five countries when compared to the rest shows that we must do more work to increase awareness about Herdict. I hope that you will help us in this effort, whether by reporting yourself or by encouraging others to help us.
Looking to 2013:
Both in terms of data and site functionality, Herdict saw great improvements in 2012. In 2013 we will be adding a few more important features, including customizable lists that will allow you to create and share sets of sites that you care about. These queues will allow users to focus on particular countries; you will be able to designate a few countries in which you are interested, and when we get visitors from those countries, we will encourage them to test the sites on your list. This will strengthen the Herdict community around the world.
While this was a year of significant growth, we have much more to do. We are dependent upon users’ reports, and we need more reports from more places. I encourage all of you to help spread the word about Herdict to your friends, family, and followers. With more reports from even more locations, we will be able to provide ever more useful data about inaccessible sites in 2013!