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​How many Linux users are there anyway?

It depends on how you count them.

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I was talking to a friend the other day when he said there were no more than 0.0001 percent Linux users. So, so wrong.

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True, desktop Linux has never taken off. But, even so, Linux has millions of desktop users. Don't believe me? Let's look at the numbers.

There are over 250 million PCs sold every year. Of all the PCs connected to the internet, NetMarketShare reports 1.84 percent were running Linux. Chrome OS, which is a Linux variant, has 0.29 percent. Late last year, NetMarketShare admitted it had been overestimating the number of Linux desktops, but they've corrected their analysis.

You see, NetMarketShare doesn't simply count PCs which connect to its network of over 40,000 websites using HitsLink Analytics and SharePost. Its methodology is to "collect data from the browsers of site visitors" and it then weights the data by country. "We compare our traffic to the CIA Internet Traffic by Country table, and weight our data accordingly. For example, if our global data shows that Brazil represents 2% of our traffic, and the CIA table shows Brazil to represent 4% of global internet traffic, we will count each unique visitor from Brazil twice."

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Another analysis company which is frequently cited for operating system numbers is StatCounter. By its count desktop Linux has 1.48 percent, with Chrome OS coming in at 1.03 percent. StatCounter claims its numbers are derived from raw browser hits from racking code, which is installed on more than 2 million sites.

Perhaps the most unbiased numbers are from the federal government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP). DAP's numbers come from the billion visits over the past 90 days to over 400 US executive branch government domains. That's about 5,000 total websites. These visitors appear to be largely US citizens. You can see this from the most popular websites: The US Postal Service, the IRS, and Medline Plus.

By DAP's count, Linux is bundled in with 0.6 percent other. Chrome OS, according to DAP, has more users: 1.3 percent.

Still, while desktop Linux is a minority desktop operating system, it still has millions of users, and that's a lot more than a mere fraction of 1 percent.

And, when it comes to overall end-user operating system, Linux-based Android has 70.96 percent of the mobile market by NetMarketShare's count. By DAP's reckoning, Android has 19.9 percent of all end-user systems, while StatCounter shows Android as even more popular than Windows by 39.49 percent to 36.62 percent.

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