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I am interested in the amount of usage of freeware (closed source) running under Windows, which is not preinstalled on PCs. The closest I expect to get to such statistics is the amount of freeware downloaded by an average user. A good answer refers to a source, which says something like: "The average Windows user downloads 2.3 freewares per year". An even better answer is: "An average Windows user spends 0.04 hours per day using freeware".

Edit: I see this as the equivalent of: "How many kilos of chocolate does an average russian eat per year", which is the sort of statistic widely used for initial market analysis. I agree that you still do not know whether a mint chocolate with a slight taste of banana will sell, but you have a better idea.

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some freeware is used by some users some of the time –  Matt Ellen Apr 19 '11 at 12:36
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Can MSIE be accounted as a "closed source freeware"? –  SK-logic Apr 19 '11 at 12:37
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Flagged as off-topic - I think it's an interesting question perhaps a mod can move to superuser so it doesn't just disappear? –  DKnight Apr 19 '11 at 12:46
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This question is unanswerable in its current form. What's an average computer? Who can even do usage tracking at the level you're looking for? –  Anna Lear Apr 20 '11 at 13:14
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What about ask this to SourceForge? –  Nathan Campos Apr 24 '11 at 14:33
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closed as unclear what you're asking by gnat, GlenH7, MichaelT, Kilian Foth, Dan Pichelman Dec 3 '13 at 21:07

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6 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Personally I have 132 Applications Installed That I use regularly. I need a Good Program Launcher (Gizmo) to hold them for quick and easy access. I am Trying to get the answer to the same question myself. 80% of My Apps are either Freeware or Open Source

This won't be helpful since I am not the average user. I am a Power User, Graphic designer, Web developer, internet marketer, Writer, Business Owner, Run close too 100 Websites so to say alone, I do have two partners, who do about 30% of the Work if that much.

If You like you can follow up with me in a few weeks or so. I am running a Survey On PC Users and will willingly suppy the info

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Excellent. I am still most interested in this. Will you post your findings here, if not, could you please send me an email to daa.alps@gmail(dot)com? –  David Jan 17 '12 at 18:22
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There are not statistics for this question. For the following reasons:

  • 'freeware' is not accurately defined
  • Program usage is not tracked (or in most cases not shared) at a useful enough level
  • The data will vary intensely depending on what user groups you include.

I suggest you determine the root of your question and find another way to solve your issue. Ask yourself "How will knowing that the average user spend 0.04 hours as opposed to 0.14 hours per day using specific software help you?", and that should lead you to the real question you have.

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This is not an answer. The question is my real question. It is called market research and is a science based on estimation and incomplete information. You can define freeware according to what you have data for or you can ask me a question like S.Lott did. Program usage is not autmatically tracked, but there are certainly surveys covering the field. I am looking for the average user/average computer however that is defined by the people making the surveys. –  David Apr 19 '11 at 13:55
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@David, so you are looking for survey results? How does this relate to programming? –  jzd Apr 19 '11 at 14:17
    
It is very relevant if you consider whether to create freeware or not. If the answer to this question was that the average computer has 0.0001 freeware installed then it is probably not a good idea to develop something and release it as freeware. If the answer is 20 freeware, then this means that there is such a huge number of users, which uses freeware (compared for example to software) that it might pay off to release something as freeware and possibly live off the support or consuling. –  David Apr 19 '11 at 14:37
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@David - All freeware is not created equal. Have you considered picking out some "successful" freeware and looking into why it was successful? –  Cyrena Apr 20 '11 at 21:03
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I agree with jzd: it will be hardly possible to collect those statistics. Who is an average user? What is freeware? etc.

Moreover, reading the comments, I see that you are asking the question to evaluate the reason to create a freeware product or not. I quote your comment:

It is very relevant if you consider whether to create freeware or not. If the answer to this question was that the average computer has 0.0001 freeware installed then it is probably not a good idea to develop something and release it as freeware.

Well, it's not. When an "average user" installs something on her computer, it's not just because it's freeware. It's because it is something she needs or wants to install. By reducing your consideration to a sole aspect of price, you forget that it's not because your application will be released freeware that it will be downloaded at all.

  • Adobe Photoshop is used a lot (including legally) because it's a high-quality software product, even if it costs thousands of dollars.
  • Firefox is a huge success because it's a fast, high-quality browser which is very extensible, and is also free.
  • Internet Explorer is used by a large number of users because it is (was) preinstalled by default on Windows platform.
  • The application I wrote two years ago was downloaded 0 times because there was no marketing, because the application is not useful, and because it is crappy and with an ugly design. Even if it's freeware. And even if I'll pay to every user, nobody will download it.

In the same way, the rest of your reasoning seems wrong to me:

If the answer is 20 freeware, then this means that there is such a huge number of users, which uses freeware (compared for example to software) that it might pay off to release something as freeware and possibly live off the support or consuling.

If the answer is 20 freeware, it doesn't mean anything at all. Especially since many users do install lots of applications they do never use lately, or they install applications without even knowing they are installing them.

So create a high quality product which is needed, advertise, and it will be used, independently of the number of freeware applications installed on the average user computer. And to do so, ask the users directly about their needs, rather than how much freeware applications do they install.


If such large and global metric does not mean anything for a specific product, you can instead try to evaluate some more precise things:

  • If there are other similar applications which are also freeware, are they downloaded a lot? If not, why? If yes, how you will compete with them?
  • If there are other similar applications which are paid, do they have a lot of users? Are those users angry to pay for those apps? If yes, why?
  • In general, what actual products miss that you can bring with your product? If there are freeware products whose quality is low and their users want a more high quality freeware product, it's not exactly the same thing as if there are paid products whose quality is high but the users don't want to pay for them and are ready to use a freeware version with less features.
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Good points. There's OpenOffice which is freeware and still it is not as widely used as Microsoft Office that costs money. –  Alexey Ivanov Apr 22 '11 at 16:53
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Better to find a similar or comparable program and ask the developers how many times its been downloaded. The raw number of downloads per year of 'freeware' (however you define it) is utterly useless as market research, since largest factors in the number of downloads will be what the individual program offers and who's offering it. Plus, such a number, if someone provided it, would be nothing more than a total guess unless it came from a general population survey.

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You can probably make a meaningful estimate based on some published data from major download sites.

For example, CNET downloads has stats for downloads, such as browser downloads. This tells you how visitors to CNET Downloads behave at least. You can find out how many people visit CNET using Alexa, and then from there extrapolate an estimate of the proportion of these people downloaded, say, Firefox.

This would be a very rough estimate though, it ignores many things, such as the fact that CNET users may well not represent the average user, they may visit CNET but get software from elsewhere, they may donwload and then remove some applications and so on. However, it is a metric you can easily calculate, so as long as you realise the limitations it may be useful.

I think the only way to get an accurate measure would be to conduct a survey of users, this would be perfectly possible but would take time and money to run.

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Number of downloads doesn't equate to the number of copies in use. For example I use several computers. On each I install VIM, usually I just download the latest version for a new system because it's a small download and it's easier than finding a CD on which I may have a copy. That's probably half a dozen downloads in the last 2 years at least for a single user.

Also, a lot that gets downloaded never gets used. People download say a dozen things to try, end up using only one of them. And that usually sporadically at best. Done that myself when selecting a piece of software for one of our managers. He wanted something free for a short term project (a week or two), asked me to select a suitable tool for him. Spent a day finding and downloading things, another day or two installing and trying them, then made my recommendations which (if followed on) will see another 4-5 downloads of a single tool which will get used for a few hours and then never again.

Thus we can conclude that download statistics give at best an inflated figure for application prevalence. At worst they give such a crooked picture that it's utterly useless (as some things might get downloaded and discarded more than others that see a smaller number of downloads but a higher percentage of active users among them).

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At the moment, it seems to be the best figures I can get, but thanks for pointing out some uncertainty factors I had not yet thought about. –  David Apr 28 '11 at 11:24
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