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.. and then they gradually vanish over the next 4 weeks!

Can anyone tell me why this sawtooth pattern has appeared in the Tor relay metrics since August? On the 2nd August, 2nd Sep and 2nd Oct, about 500 new relays have appeared; the total number of relays then slowly declines during the rest of each month to the original (1st of the month) level. There are also downticks in the relay totals on the 1st of the month. Presumably this is some bug in the statistics gathering? Or have hackers found a new way to distract us?

  • A link to the graph would be nice. But you might have better luck with the question on the #tor IRC channel on OFTC. – Steve Oct 23 at 17:02
  • Thanks Steve. Here is a link to the last 3 months' relay counts. I'm new to Tor, so the fluctuating numbers looked really odd to me. When I look at a longer time period (e.g. last 12 months) it's not particularly unusual. Would still like to know who is doing what! May try IRC. – mr.lark Oct 25 at 11:30
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If I were to guess I would say this is AccountingMax and its counterparts at work.

Many VPS servers (where some individuals run tor relays) limit transfer per accounting period (usually month). This is where AccountingMax comes handy - once the relay hits the limit specified there - it hibernates for the remaining time in accounting period.

Assuming many relays need to do the limitation and still follow the guidance not to limit the speed - their number will gradually decrease over accounting period. Which usually starts at the beginning of the month and lasts till the end of it.

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  • Thanks for your suggestion. AccountingMax must have been a feature of VPS vendors for some time? and so I wonder why this saw-tooth feature (just visible in June, July) only became prominent in August this year. – mr.lark Oct 27 at 13:00

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