Lies, damned lies, and browser market share statistics

Summary:As a professional journalist, I find itfrustrating when my brethren repeat press releases verbatim, without looking inside them. Such is the case with recent "reporting" on Firefox.

As a professional journalist, I find itfrustrating when my brethren repeat press releases verbatim, without looking inside them.

Such is the case with recent "reporting" on Firefox.

Firefox Gains Share At Slower Pace, says MacWorld. This is based on data from WebSideStory, which provided the headline. But think, people! As numbers get bigger, it's harder for market shares to rise as when they are smaller. The same WebSideStory chart shows Firefox use under Windows going from roughly 3 percentto 5.7 percentsince November, when the company began tracking it.

It is equally brain-dead, on the other hand, to write a headline like Firefox Market Share Rockets.

According to OneStat,the source on the second story, Firefox now represents 8.45 percentof browser traffic, with speculation that some users are upgrading to Firefox from Explorer 5.0 instead of taking Explorer 6. Again, the headline came from the press release.

When we're dealing with single-digit market shares, these things can happen. Opposite headlines may be based on identical facts. Smart reporters get inside the numbers and don't just print press releases.

By the way, the same OneStat release noted above showed that the share of Apple's Safari browser is now 1.21 percent, up from .91 percentat the last measure.

So let's play Web Scavenger Hunt. Find me a story reading "Safari browser share up 25 percent" or better yet "Safari share growing faster than Firefox."

Drop the URL in at TalkBack. You can have a laugh on it. I'll have a good cry.

Topics: Browser

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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