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Monday, May 13, 2024

The OkCupid Dev Who Built a Hack to Get Taylor Swift Tickets

The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

On Tuesday morning, Ruben Martinez Jr. was staring at his computer screen, calculating his chances. He was on a group chat trying to strategize the best way to score Taylor Swift tickets, and it was looking bleak. Everyone seemed to have 2,000-plus people ahead of them in line. Martinez, a software engineer at OkCupid, checked the browser developer tools to see if he could figure out his actual place in the queue. He thought he could find a percentage for how far back he was. What he didn’t expect to see was the exact number he’d pulled when he got in line, 23,913, and the number of people in front of him who hadn’t bowed out or gotten tickets: 13,759. Soon, Ticketmaster sent a message to those waiting that it was pausing the queue.

“So I texted the group chat,” Martinez told me Wednesday night over email, “‘How long would it take me to make a Chrome extension to show your actual place in line? More or less than the amount of time it’ll take Ticketmaster to fix their bugs?”

Making the Chrome extension turned out to take less time. “Altogether it took about 40 minutes, which was, unfortunately, a small percentage of the time we were waiting in line,” he says. Martinez tweeted out his project, open sourced the extension on GitHub, and sent it to the Chrome Web Store for approval, hoping it would be there for the general on-sale that at the time was scheduled for Friday. (It landed approval on Thursday, the same day Ticketmaster announced it was canceling Friday's sale.) Once he was done, the Ticketmaster line finally started moving. He and his friends scored seats to the Eras Tour.

Other fans were not so lucky. “Eight billion people in the world, and every single one of them is ahead of me,” tweeted one fan. Someone else pointed out that Poland getting struck by a Russian-made missile was trending lower than Ticketmaster. The site reportedly crashed for some users. Soon, the whole fracas became known as the Hunger Games of Swift devotees.

As things began to wind down on Tuesday, Ticketmaster put out a statement saying that it had rescheduled some of the presales and thanking users for their patience while “we continue managing this huge demand.” Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that seats for Swift’s 52-date US tour were already on StubHub for upwards of $22,000 each. As a developer, Martinez understands that handling traffic from millions of users is a pain. As a fan, he’s frustrated that the concert ticket site is “charging exorbitant fees and evidently not investing sufficiently in their infrastructure.”

Martinez also notes that the debacle with Swift concert tickets shows what happens when one company dominates the industry, something that caught the eye of another observer: New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Late Tuesday the New York congressperson tweeted, “Daily reminder that Ticketmaster is a monopoly. Its merger with Live Nation should never have been approved, and they need to be reigned in.” 

During a Wednesday news conference, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said his office was looking into whether Ticketmaster violated any consumer protection laws. On Thursday, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota entered the chat by sending a letter to parent company Live Nation Entertainment to express “serious concern about the state of competition in the ticketing industry and its harmful impact on consumers.”

Truly, if any fandom could cause an overhaul of a ticket-selling monolith, it’s Swifties. And if that doesn’t work, there are rumors Beyoncé is planning a tour.

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