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If a product is downloaded, say 1000 times, does that mean that there 1000 users of that product? Certainly NOT, that’s why download stats can be misleading if you don’t know its real meaning. Robin Bloor @ The Register has a thing or two to say about that.

Robin says that as the number of visitors on your website doesn’t translate into the number of buyers on your website, similarly the number of downloads of your product doesn’t translate into the number of users of your product.

So if XYZ says that they’ve had 10million downloads of their ABC Product in just 1 week, that doesn’t mean that there are 10million users of their ABC Product.

Now, some of you might be guessing the company or product I’m aiming this at & some of you wise guys must’ve have guessed correctly that I’m aiming this at FireFox. 😕

Now, don’t just rush off to send me swear emails. Read what I’ve to say before doing any such foolishness. 😀

I want it understood that I’m not anti-FireFox & I use it regularly. So, don’t think I’m Bill Gates’s sidekick!! 😀

The thing is that there are several wrinkles to the download stats as there are to visitor stats. I start the download of a product, but it stops midway. But the log is registered for 1 download. I download it again & I’m disconnected by my ISP in midway or my power goes out & I’ve to shut down my computer. But the log now says 2 downloads. These are just minor exceptions, but exceptions nevertheless.
The other situation can be that I downloaded the product, tried it but didn’t find it good enough for my use to make me switch from my existing product. I delete it, period. But, yes, but the server logs will have one more download in the stats. This has been pointed out infact by Robin.

Another situation, which does sound like an exception, but is important is that of accidental corrupt build of the product. Being in software business, I know mistakes can happen when compiling the software into a standalone installer. It needs to be tested for compatibility on various systems running different support operating systems & only then it is released. But sometimes goof-ups are made accidently(or intentionally). The installer is corrupt, meaning its of no use, it either won’t install or it’ll not install properly. Just imagine if some 1 million or so users download that installer before you realise(or made to realise) what’s happened, you rush off another good installer & those who got corrupt product, download again. But there are 1 million (false)downloads recorded in the logs,even if you didn’t do it intentionally. No one would be the good guy to remove those 1 million hits. 👿

So, even though your download stats say 5 million downloads, there’s actually only 4 million using it(remember the 1 million bad downloads), if we just assume that no one ditches the product & no one has a broken download in midway.

But just consider a bright side to this(not for download stats, maybe). The product is free(as in beer?) & you are free to distribute it in un-modified form. You download it & install it on all the PCs you have access to(colleagues, girlfriends, parents, friends, brothers). So, even you downloaded just once, you installed it on 100 PCs but the download stats say just 1 download.

So you must be thinking what I’m implying by all this, no?

What I’m implying is that the download stats of a product cannot translate into the number of users of that product. But people make the mistake of assuming that since this product has had X downloads, it has X users & the more the number of X, the more popular the product is. 😕

And FireFox is not an exception here either. I’m not saying that its not popular, but people hyped it when they read at the mozilla website that it has crossed 10million downloads or 20million downloads. Doesn’t necessarily mean that there are that many users of it. Maybe less(or maybe more) than that. And believe me, I know plenty of guys who use other browsers like IE & Opera etc. & they downloaded & tried FireFox but didn’t switch to it as they don’t have any reason to.

And lets get down to the base, does it effect you if FireFox has reached X downloads/users? Frankly, I don’t care nor will. If I like it, I’ll use it, even if it has just 1 user(me) or if it has 1 billion users. 😉