When you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras.
I vaguely remember hearing the buzz about “dark social” networking a while back but it didn’t really register (due, in no small part, to my complete inability to give a rat’s posterior about anything to do with social networking). Turns out it was all down to a lack of understanding about how the web works. The house of cards the original reporter builds on his false premise is pretty funny in hindsight and worth reading for the pure schadenfreude. Then consider it took 2 years to realize the mistake.
Although there is no standard referrer data sent by the app, what Chartbeat and a number of media companies noticed when they looked more closely was that these apps sent “user agent” strings unique to the app, which made it easier to track down what was coming from where.
So Chartbeat didn’t know what a “user agent” string is until quite recently. How can you claim to do web analytics without knowing that? Yet another reminder how low the bar truly is in some businesses.