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Given that ubuntu has a very public goal of reaching 200 million users, how will we know when this goal has been reached?

Is a public and transparent method for counting Ubuntu users being used?

Is there a user count published and updated regularly? If so, where is it?

We know that goals should be measurable and achievable. Leaving aside the question of whether 200 million is achievable, is this goal measurable?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

No, there is no way to count users of Ubuntu. There are sources from which you can extrapolate more or less realistic estimates, though. For instance, the number of users of Ubuntu One will be known to Canonical, and I'm sure their services are able to identify clients, like any other. They're also opening a lot of shops in China that will sell computers with Ubuntu preinstalled. That's another reliable number. Then you have the software center, where you need to have an account in order to either purchase software or rate existing software. All of these are reliable numbers for a minimum number of users.

The real number can never be known, since Ubuntu is free software and doesn't come from one source. For instance, when I download a new CD image or updates, I do that from the University of Oslo. I don't think it's very important to know the exact number of users, though there is a prize for user # 200.000.000: he or she gets a lot of free software! :)

Hardly anyone knows the real number of users of their services, though. Skype, for instance, is said to have 5-600 million users or something, and about 100 million active users. I haven't used Skype in about ten years, but I'm sure I'm being counted as a user anyway. In other words, such numbers are never entirely reliable. They do portray the situation in their own way, however, and as long as you understand the nature of these numbers, they do tell a story.

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They can also track direct downloads, and I know Debian has popularity-contest, though I don't know if Canonical uses it for Ubuntu. Again, they're not 100% accurate, but they do add another data point. As for the number of Skype users, that requires an account, which is, by nature, an accurate count of users who have signed up. Assuming they log the last logged in date, it's also trivial to track active users, so that's a bit of apples to oranges. – Shauna Oct 29 '12 at 14:38

it should be possible to count the number of downloads for the latest LTS version and that would be a good estimate of active users. However, the Ubuntu brass need to order all mirrors to report such stats back to them as it is a fairly decentralized operation. but it is surely possible.

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