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Social proof service that generates fake data to create social proof. It offers apps for Shopify and other ecommerce platforms

published: 10 Apr 2019

– Everything you say is contradictory. You can’t have been in one place and another at the same time. Of all those lives, which one is the right one?

– Each of these lives is the right one! Every path is the right path. Everything could have been anything else and it would have just as much meaning.

© Mr. Nobody

Recently I stumbled upon a Shopify store. For some reason, which I don’t remember, I decided to check what data it sent to and received from a server. I opened the Firefox deveoper tools panel. Thus, among multiple urls, I discovered that the shop used a social proof service .

fake social proof service

I’m sceptical about social proof services.

“Sara A from London has just bought t-shirt”. And you should also, hurry up. Who is Sara A, how can I know that she’s from London, how can I know she’s really bought a t-shirt a little while ago? Does she even exist? Let alone the fact that she’s bought a t-shirt from a store you’re currently browsing.

Part 1

I go to . On the main page they have a counter that displays how much additional revenue they’ve generated to their customers and gets incremented with a high speed in real time.

fake social proof service

To a developer the counter will look suspicious: it’s too fast to send requests to the server and receive them, in real time and with such speed. Yes, it’s possible technically, if a server returns data with a number once in, say, 10-30 seconds. And if the timer was coded in such a way that it incremented itself from number to number one by one, or dollar by dollar, rather than showing an actual static number and updating itself once in 10-30 seconds.

For this website data turned out to be fake, nonetheless.

I check the html code, find the javascript files, check the obfuscated javascript code as well and find out that data that represents the counter is fake. It comes not from the server - no ajax and websocket requests are sent to the server.

fake social proof service

Instead it’s generated on a client by javascript. The function is Math.random(). And it’s incremented with different speed, sometimes slower, sometimes faster, which allows it to look more authentic.

fake social proof service

This counter that shows a made up number is meant to persuade prospects to sign up and subscribe to a paid tariff.

Part 2

Now I return to the Shopify store I can see what data is exchanged between it and via AJAX. JSON data contains an email of the owner of the store in plain text, as well as the api key:

fake social proof service

Email is private information. The API key is too, in a different sense.

More interestengly, JSON contains the keys titled “random_N”.

fake social proof service

These are used to generate those pop ups of social proof “N people saw this products X minutes ago”, “M people purchased this products Y minutes ago”, like this:

fake social proof service

A random number. To boost sales. By deceiving customers.

Theoretically, a key titled as such could still contain real data, couldn’t? Logically - unlikely. The opposite is true: if it’d been named “real_number_of_customers”, this wouldn’t have meant that a number it contains is real. No?

Part 3

I return to and sign up. In my dashboard the same parameters I’ve seen before are present: “random_time_ago” and “random_number”.

fake social proof service

Interestingly, there’s no Shopify app in the Shopify Marketstore at anymore:

Sales Pop by Beeketing - Recent Sales Notification Popup is not currently published in the Shopify App Store. If you have support questions, contact Sales Pop by Beeketing - Recent Sales Notification Popup directly.

The app used to be on Shopify, however. Google still shows it as such:

fake social proof service

16000 votes, 4.8 stars.

Nonetheless, the app can still be installed directly from the website to one’s Shopify store.

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