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Do hackers eat turkey? And other Thanksgiving Internet trends


8 min read
Do hackers eat turkey? And other Thanksgiving Internet trends

Thanksgiving is a tradition celebrated by millions of Americans across six time zones and 50 states, usually involving travel and bringing families together. This year, it was celebrated yesterday, on November 23, 2023. With the Internet so deeply enmeshed into our daily lives, anything that changes how so many people behave is going to also have an impact on online traffic. But how big an impact, exactly?

At a high level: a 10% daily decrease in Internet traffic in the US (compared to the previous week). That happens to be the exact same percentage decrease we observed in 2022. So, Thanksgiving in the US, at least in the realm of Internet traffic, seems consistent with last year.

Let’s dig into more details about how people deal with cooking (or online ordering!) and whether family gatherings are less online, according to our Cloudflare Radar data. We’ll also touch on whether hackers stop for turkey, too.

The Thanksgiving hour: around 15:00 (local time)

While we can see a 10% overall daily drop in US traffic due to Thanksgiving, the drop is even more noticeable when examining traffic on an hour-by-hour basis. Internet activity began to decrease significantly after 12:00 EST, persisting until 19:00 EST (during those times, it was at least 15% lower compared to the previous week).

The peak drop for the entire country occurred around 21:00 UTC, which is 16:00 EST and 13:00 PST. That drop represented 22% less traffic than the previous week at the same hour. That’s also the same time and percentage of drop we’ve seen in 2022.

If we continue the country-wide comparison with the previous week, we also see how traffic really begins to pick up again during early Black Friday morning in the US (as much as 18% higher than in the previous week).

However, it’s also interesting to do an analysis of state by state looking at local time. One question we were curious about: from an Internet perspective, what time best represents the Thanksgiving hour? This would be the time when traffic dropped the most in each state.

We find that across states, it’s not exactly 4pm, as The Atlantic has made a case for!, but rather, most states experience the largest drop the hour before — 15:00 local time. But that’s not the only interesting trend! We observe that:

  • Central US states such as Kansas, Iowa, Alabama, or Mississippi apparently had an earlier Thanksgiving — given the biggest drop in traffic was at 13:00.
  • Coastal US states like Washington, California, Florida, Maryland, or Delaware had a later Thanksgiving, around 17:00. There’s also Hawaii, which had the latest of all — experiencing the biggest drop in traffic around 18:00 local time.

What surprised us the most when looking at these trends was how the “Thanksgiving time” was the same from our 2022 data in almost all the states, but also the hourly and daily drop in traffic across the US was mostly the same. It appears that when it comes to Thanksgiving, we are indeed creatures of habit.

The Thanksgiving effect: US states where traffic drop the most

To consider when traffic drops the most, we look between the local time of 13:00-18:00 and compare that to the week before.

This method allows us to observe clear differences between states, with more central US states showing larger drops in traffic compared to the previous week, while coastal states are not as significantly impacted. The exception along the US coast is Massachusetts, which experienced a 31% drop in traffic. East coast states also show a bigger drop in traffic compared to the West coast.

Here’s the ranking of the 50 states (plus DC or the District of Columbia), ordered by the biggest drops in traffic, for those who want to explore our data better:

U.S. State Drop in traffic % Peak Internet traffic drop (local time)
North Dakota -36% 15:00 (CST)
South Dakota -35% 14:00 (CST)
Mississippi -33% 13:00 (CST)
District of Columbia -32% 16:00 (EST)
Oklahoma -32% 14:00 (CST)
Massachusetts -31% 16:00 (EST)
Arkansas -30% 14:00 (CST)
Rhode Island -30% 16:00 (EST)
Kansas -28% 13:00 (CST)
Connecticut -27% 16:00 (EST)
Idaho -27% 16:00 (MST)
New Hampshire -27% 14:00 (EST)
Colorado -26% 16:00 (MST)
Louisiana -25% 14:00 (CST)
Maine -25% 15:00 (EST)
New Mexico -25% 14:00 (MST)
Pennsylvania -25% 16:00 (EST)
Utah -25% 15:00 (MST)
Arizona -24% 16:00 (MST)
Missouri -24% 15:00 (CST)
Maryland -23% 17:00 (EST)
Georgia -22% 16:00 (EST)
Tennessee -22% 14:00 (CST)
Vermont -22% 15:00 (EST)
Delaware -21% 17:00 (EST)
Indiana -21% 15:00 (EST)
Minnesota -21% 15:00 (CST)
New York -21% 16:00 (EST)
Alaska -20% 16:00 (AKST)
Florida -20% 17:00 (EST)
Iowa -20% 13:00 (CST)
Kentucky -20% 14:00 (EST)
Michigan -20% 16:00 (EST)
North Carolina -20% 16:00 (EST)
Texas -20% 15:00 (CST)
Wisconsin -20% 15:00 (CST)
Alabama -19% 13:00 (CST)
Ohio -18% 16:00 (EST)
South Carolina -18% 15:00 (EST)
New Jersey -17% 16:00 (EST)
West Virginia -17% 16:00 (EST)
Illinois -16% 16:00 (CST)
Nebraska -16% 15:00 (CST)
Montana -15% 16:00 (MST)
Washington -15% 17:00 (PST)
California -14% 17:00 (PST)
Nevada -12% 17:00 (PST)
Oregon -12% 15:00 (PST)
Wyoming -10% 16:00 (MST)
Hawaii -9% 18:00 (HST)
Virginia -9% 16:00 (EST)

Mobile traffic percentage goes up

Another, perhaps unsurprising, trend is the rise of mobile devices over the Thanksgiving week in the US. Yesterday, on November 23, mobile traffic accounted for 54.5% of the Internet traffic in the US (the graph below rounds the percentages). It followed a similar trend in 2021 — we published a blog about it — and in 2022, although last year it was at 53.8%.

Looking at the past few weeks, the growth in mobile use in US Internet traffic is more evident. The average percentage of mobile traffic during the first week of November was 47% in the US; during this Thanksgiving week, it reached 51%, with the previously mentioned 54.5% peak on Thanksgiving Day (even higher than the typical weekend, which usually demonstrates more mobile usage).

It’s not just mobile usage that’s going up, though. Over the next few days, we’re expecting to see a surge in traffic to make up for the Thanksgiving lull.

The following chart presents the 2022 perspective on HTTP requests in the US, illustrating how the peak traffic of the year was reached on November 28, Cyber Monday. It's also notable how Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, followed by January 1, 2023, exhibit the most significant drops in traffic in the US.

Now, let’s explore whether there was an increase in late food delivery or online grocery shopping related to Thanksgiving. Traditionally, this is a time for cooking with family, but not everyone enjoys cooking. DNS traffic (from our resolver) to food delivery sites was higher than the previous week on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 21 and 22, 2023, respectively, but notably dropped in the early morning on Thanksgiving Day.

Daily DNS traffic to food delivery services indicates a gradual increase throughout this month leading up to Thanksgiving Day, followed by a clear drop on the day itself, as much as 12%.

How about online grocery shopping services, catering to those last minute ingredients? DNS traffic to those sites was noticeably higher than the previous week on Tuesday but decreased on Wednesday, experiencing a distinct drop on Thanksgiving Day.

And do hackers stop for turkey, too?

To answer that, let’s examine DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, which remain one of the most common methods to disrupt or take down Internet properties. Our data indicates that in November 2023, Thanksgiving had the lowest percentage of traffic classified as DDoS attacks targeting the US.

Email messages slow down

Cloudflare Area 1 also enables us to analyze email messages sent from the US perspective. Unsurprisingly, our data reveals a 43% drop in email messages sent on Thanksgiving Day compared to the previous week. However, the spam percentage of all emails originating from the US increased to 4%, significantly higher than the 2% recorded on the same day of the previous week.

On the flip side, messages considered malicious stayed consistent in their percentage of all messages.


"The more you practice the art of thankfulness, the more you have to be thankful for." — Norman Vincent Peale, American author

Thanksgiving Day in the United States still holds as a strong tradition in 2023, celebrating family, togetherness, and feasting that go beyond state borders and screens. Yet, notable differences exist among states, especially between the coastal and the central areas of the country.

Our data also hints at a slowdown in food deliveries and cyber threats during this time. Perhaps hackers are taking a day off. But, just wait for the story to change on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We'll keep an eye out.

Thanksgiving 2023 was also the day we announced that Stable Diffusion and Code Llama AI models are now available as part of Workers AI, running in over 100 cities across Cloudflare’s global network. If you’re looking to tinker with some new technology over this holiday weekend, we think you’ll enjoy these!

And finally — don't forget, you can check Cloudflare Radar to track global and country-specific Internet traffic trends.

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João Tomé|@emot

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