Amazon has reversed, at least temporarily, its decision to yank its free list of the world’s most popular domains, after an outcry from researchers.
The daily Alexa list, which contains the company’s estimate of the world’s top 1 million domains by traffic, suddenly disappeared late last week.
The list was popular with researchers in fields such as internet security. Because it was free, it was widely used.
DI PRO uses the list every day to estimate the relative popularity of top-level domains.
After deleting the list, Amazon directed users to its Amazon Web Services portal, which had started offering the same data priced at $0.0025 per URL.
That’s not cheap. The cost of obtaining same data suddenly leaped from nothing to $912,500 per year, or $2,500 per day.
That’s beyond the wallets, I suspect, of almost every Alexa user, especially the many domain name tools providers (including yours truly) that relied on the data to estimate domain popularity.
Even scaling back usage to the top 100,000 URLs would be prohibitively expensive for most researchers.
While Amazon is of course free to price its data at whatever it thinks it is worth, no notice was given that the file was to be deleted, scuppering without warning goodness knows how many ongoing projects.
Some users spoke out on Twitter.
The quiet death of the @Alexa_Support top million sites is a grievous blow to internet researchers everywhere. $2500 per pull now.
— April King (@aprilmpls) November 21, 2016
Removing the top 1M list is a HUGE mistake. It was extremely useful to assess the impact of new security vulnerabilities. 🙁 @Alexa_Support
— Benjamin Beurdouche (@beurdouche) November 22, 2016
@Alexa_Support I'm disappointed, but I hope you reconsider. The Top 1M list is a standard reference in research. It's simply irreplaceable.
— Santiago Zanella (@xEFFFFFFF) November 22, 2016
I spent most of yesterday figuring out how to quickly rejigger DI PRO to cope with the new regime, but it seems I may have been wasting my time.
After an outcry from fellow researchers, Amazon has restored the free list. It said on Twitter:
Thanks to customer feedback, the top 1M sites is temporarily available again. We’ll provide notice before updating the file in the future
— Alexa Support (@Alexa_Support) November 22, 2016
It seems clear that the key word here is “temporarily”, and that the the restoration of the file may primarily be designed to give researchers more time to seek alternatives or wrap up their research.