‘Technological cheating’ shadows online ticket sales for Spring Festival rush
As the Spring Festival travel season, also known as the largest annual human migration in the world, approaches, the vexing and taxing battle for a train ticket home starts. This year, a new problem occurs: tech-savvy Chinese ticket buyers have been using plug-ins, add-ons and other software applications, which causes a surge in traffic that overwhelms 12306.cn, Railway Ministry’s official ticket-booking website.
The plug-ins, provided by a number of Chinese software companies such as Kingsoft, 360 and Sogou, can be installed onto web browsers to create a fully automated process that combines refreshing the page and placing the order and replaces the manual process. It is said that since the travel season started, the website has been seeing as many as 1.5 billion hits per day, a lot of which were contributed by these apps.
“Use 360 browser to snatch train tickets. Has successfully helped three million people buy train tickets,” the ad reads
Queuing in the virtual world
Some argue that the unfair advantage given to plug-in users makes them effectively ‘queue-jumpers’ in the digital world.
In response, the Ministry of Railways first tried to talk the domestic software companies out of providing such apps. On January 18, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the real boss of China’s web giants, even stepped in and ordered them to put an end to the situation.