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Lying with Numbers

Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
Mark Twain's Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
There's a site on the web hell-bent on vilifying open source projects such as Linux, along with their (at times naive) supporters, for no more good reason than it's great entertainment for the other site participants. No, I'm not talking about Linux Hater's Blog, but that pale imitation of LHB known as the TM Repository and its FUD Tracker section.

I tend to go slumming through the FUD Tracker for the lulz. Most of the time I take a quick look and have a small chuckle at the childishly written posts and then move on to more important tasks, such as cleaning out Lucy's litter box. But today I came across a post about how Internet Explorer had recaptured "first position" in Europe from Firefox, and as a consequence had "passed Firefox in market share." Here's the complete paragraph:
Remember the browser ballot screen, the magical screen that was going to save European users from having Internet Explorer forced down their throats by ebil Microsoft? Well, it appears the same users are now willingly choosing Internet Explorer over Firefox. Last month, Internet Explorer passed Firefox in terms of market share, despite the fact Firefox was first in May. This means that users willingly ignored Firefox in favor of Internet Explorer in the ballot screen, or gasp dumped Firefox and switched to Internet Explorer. Chrome came a distant third, despite being prominently advertised in Google‘s sites and the fact that many free/freeware software tries to install it in your system without really asking.
Reading this you'd think that some countdown to browser Armageddon was eminent. What could have possibly led this learned scholar to such a dire conclusion? Why, this wonderful chart:

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share

Yes, a pretty graph with pretty colors graphing browser market share. Let's dig some numbers out off that graph, drop them into a simple table, and think about them for a moment.

European Browser Share Statistics
Internet Explorer35.15%35.47%34.70%

I've copied the percentages from the chart for the months mentioned; May, June, and August. What's interesting about the numbers for IE vs. Firefox is that they've both been within 1% or so of each other. Neither IE nor Firefox have been "dominant", but have essentially shared first place on the Windows Desktop. That's called parity, and that's what the browser ballet screen was all about, to foster parity with competitive alternatives to IE. And from the looks of it that's precisely what happened. So what if Firefox and IE swapped first and second in June. They're still only 1% or so apart. Both are in the mid 30s.

Now let's have a gander at Chrome. Chrome is sitting at nearly 22%. That's not quite what I would call "distant." That's a solid third place. What I would label as distant would be Safari (5.32%) and Opera (3.73%). Those numbers are the true definition of distant.

What's very interesting, and what our learned anti-open source scholar conveniently ignores, is how the total percentage of both IE and Firefox have declined from May to August, and how Chrome's has risen. Chrome has risen nearly 3%, while IE and Firefox have both declined, 1% and 2% respectively. Yes, Chrome's rise has come at the expense of both IE and Firefox, and it looks (for the time being) that will continue.

I have no idea what the lower life forms that occupy the dark corners of the Internet, such as TM Repository, are trying to prove. But when they deliberately and cynically lie using cherry picked facts, they do no good for their reputations or the credibility. Heaven knows that are a lot of real issues with open source and the various open source projects that need to be addressed, but these trivial tempests they like to create serve no constructive purpose whatsoever.


  1. On the bright side, if those numbers were tracking political approval, the histrionics would be ten times worse.

    For thewsreviews over the last month, the breakdown has been :

    Firefox, 28%
    Safari, 25%
    IE, all versions, 22%
    Chrome, 20%

    That's tracking over 7500 visits, with almost 6000 visitors being counted only once.


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