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200-Plus Bot Programs and Millions of Fake Customers Are Ruining Sneaker Releases

Last week, 2.4 million raffle entries were reportedly placed on Travis Scott’s web store ahead of the release of his anticipated Air Jordan 1 Low ‘Reverse Mocha’, plus countless more across global retailers. The resulting carnage was at the merciless hands of bots, who seemed to sweep up the lion’s share of available stock. EQL co-founder and chief technology officer Patrick Donelan has analysed the current state of hype releases with brutal honesty.

Penning a lengthy LinkedIn post, Donelan asks, ‘Why does everything fall apart at the crucial moment? Why is this still happening?’ With this latest TS drop just another exemplar of consumer disappointment due to the technological tug ‘o’ war between bots and retailers, one of most telling observations is that ‘the infrastructure that retailers have in place for hype drops hasn’t changed since Travis’s first Jordan Low in 2019’, meaning ‘retailers haven't had access to solutions that were designed for these moments.'

This infrastructure (or perhaps lack thereof) falters when ‘half the internet is sending you traffic all at once’, causing a spike on ‘most systems [that] are simply not designed to handle such extremes.’ And in the event the website can handle that load, there’s the question of separating the bot traffic from real users. According to Donelan, there are over 200 different bot programs on the market capable of wreaking havoc on releases. Even EQL, the platform he helped create in a bid to make getting the W fairer, deals with about 34 per cent bot raffle entries. He says retailers who have switched to their system have prevented a ‘feeding frenzy’ and seen a tenfold decrease in traffic as bots go elsewhere.

Donelan believes that ‘we’re quickly approaching a tipping point in hype commerce—things need to change.’ His proposed solution is to build ‘the solution, an end-to-end platform that prevents sites from crashing, filters out bots and fraud, processes payments, and ensures releases are easier to manage for retailers and and fairer for customers.’ After all, the scene has to accept ‘the next big record-smashing hype launch is always just around the corner.’

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