A word about statistics: Fedora continues to be completely open and transparent about the ways we gather statistics and the ways we present them. We don’t document these statistics for purposes of competition, but because we believe our community and our sponsors are invested and interested in knowing some of the end results of the work they do in Fedora. We also use these statistics to help us construct and refine additional community-building strategies and initiatives, which are themselves also openly and transparently produced.
In particular, there are statistics available which show the number of unique IP addresses that have checked in for updates for each of our distributions from Fedora Core 6 up through Fedora 9 and current Rawhide (and soon, Fedora 10). Although totaling those numbers is interesting, it is not meant to indicate a measure of users, only a total number of connections to repositories. No one in Fedora claims a specific number of users based on these statistics. We do know that each of our releases tends to be installed on machines located at 3 to 4 million unique IP addresses. Any one IP address, though, could represent:
- one machine that has been upgraded to a newer release
- two or more machines owned by the same person behind a NAT/router/firewall
- two or more machines owned by different people behind a NAT/router/firewall
- two or more completely separate sites where the IP address has been re-used (cable/DSL pool)
Obviously this makes determining the total install base of Fedora across all releases somewhat difficult. We understand completely that IP address counting is not a scientifically valid way of determining a total number of users. That’s why we don’t claim a number of users from these counts; we only present them as what they are, sums of unique IP addresses.
Anyone who’s ever heard me speak to this issue knows it’s never been my intention, nor interesting at all to me, to debate over user statistics. I am extremely satisfied that we have a geometrically (in some cases exponentially) growing number of account holders, contributors, and Ambassadors involved in Fedora, all of which numbers we can openly and transparently document. This is far more compelling for the community, I think, than simply throwing large round numbers about, especially when those numbers aren’t supported by completely open, transparent, and documented recording and reporting methods.
Our leadership position, I believe, is based on the total contributions our community makes to the entire free and open source software ecosystem, through our continuing, unwavering policy of upstream collaboration, and our continual efforts to lower barriers to contribution across the entire project.
NOTE: This is a refinement of a post I made earlier to the fedora-marketing-list, in response to some inferences people have made with which I don’t agree. I’m refraining from naming names not to lend those inferences credence, but because I think they were made with good intentions. While I think it’s important that people understand the truth about these numbers, I don’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings. Treat all statistics statements with caution unless you can see them backed up with facts and methodologies.