Determining how many people are using free software has always been a bit of a challenge. For more than a decade now, there has been much conjecture around how this should be measured.
Market share can be a good way to gauge it, based in things like sales numbers, but the thing about free software is that it usually replaces existing software that is proprietary.
This means that the ownership is associated with the vendor, so that it’s treated as a part of another product.
When talking about free software, the phrase ‘installed base’ appears to be common. This is the installation that customizes a product to the owner’s personal needs.
However, installed base, when compared to market share, proves to be a difficult thing to measure.
So, at the core of this argument, the spotlight could be turned on Linux. Many see Linux as the best free software program that has entered the mainstream tech industry.
Linux if most often shared through CDs, which can easily be customized so that you can download the same software onto more than one computer.
Usually, the content of these CDs is downloaded from online, but when Linux is distributed by other means, it cannot be tracked.
As you might have been able to guess already, there have been quite a few attempts to count how many people use Linux.
The number of people using the software boosts its appeal and credibility, and shows people that it’s reliable, and effective.
There are even websites out there whose main goal is to get Linux users registered, so that they can provide details about their PC.
However, even the most proactive websites like this weren’t able to get the results they needed.
This is because they weren’t able to keep up with the changing industry, and they weren’t able to get the attention of the majority of Linux users. Most Linux users weren’t interested in contributing to this cause.
More recently, interconnected computers and devices has played an integral role in data. Computers and devices offer web access which has been able to garner a huge amount of information around usage.
Analysis of this information is thought to be another opportunity to study the geography and presence of Linux users around the world.
However, it hasn’t garnered the results that were hoped for. This is because there were too many assumptions made, which led to conclusions that were flawed. As a result, there is no up to date analysis that is being executed.
So, thinking about challenges around interpreting web data, there are a number of factors to think about.
There are some obvious challenges here. Of course, when you cherry pick data to analyse, you get specific audiences which do not necessarily represent the complete population.
Also, because the identity of Linux is so diverse, it is just one of a huge number of distributions, and identifying all of those different distributions is difficult.
There are a lot of Linux users out there that are seen as ‘unknown’, and this could make up a big part of the operating platform.