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OS Stats Removed From Google's Zeitgeist 426

Posted by simoniker
from the teacup-tsunami dept.
Kelly McNeill writes "Google's Zeitgeist service is sometimes used by news sources as a resource to generate install-base (don't call it market share!), statistics for operating systems. osViews contacted Google to bring some clarity to questionable aspects of the OS statistic, to which Google said that Zeitgeist is only a fun search inquiry resource and should not be used to generate statistical information. A couple days after that inquiry, we found that Google has since removed the OS stats from the Zeitgeist service."
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OS Stats Removed From Google's Zeitgeist

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  • by friedegg (96310) * <(bryan) (at) (wrestlingdb.com)> on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:08PM (#10006907) Homepage
    I know a lot of people were waiting to see the July browser stats to see if Internet Explorer share dropped off after the vulnerability announcements last month.
    • by IGTeRR0r (805236) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:18PM (#10006998) Homepage
      Not that it matters...using the firefox User Agent Switcher Extension [chrispederick.com] I changed mine to "Internet Explorer" just to trick people like you into thinking I was still using IE after the vulnerabilities...
      • by Nos. (179609) <{ac.srrekeht} {ta} {werdna}> on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:23PM (#10007056) Homepage
        I don't understand while people do this. I'm proud of the fact that I use firefox over IE. I know some pages did display different results if you were using a browser other than IE (didn't Opra get a big payout from MS for this?), but just to fool people and throw off stats doesn't seem like a good reason to me. Like most people on Slashdot, I'd like to see Firefox's market share increase to a point where IE didn't (at least try to) define standards for html,css,xhtml, etc.
      • by Njovich (553857) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @06:24PM (#10007593)
        I use the user agent string Googlebot/2.1 (+http://www.googlebot.com/bot.html). It gives access to quite a few sites that only give full access to subscribers and Google...
    • by rd_syringe (793064) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:23PM (#10007061) Journal
      ...was so people can't refer to Zeitgeist's damning 1% Linux usage statistic anymore when discussing desktop Linux. If you disagree, let me know why.
      • I don't think there's anything "damning" about that figure at all. We all know gnu/linux is still a niche phenomenon on Desktops, and 1% of all people accessing Google is _millions_ of people. That's pretty a damn respectable figure in my book.
        • by rd_syringe (793064) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:36PM (#10007192) Journal
          Well, it's not damning to you, but to the "Linux on the desktop will over take Mac within a year" people, it's a damning statistic. I believe the article was accepted as a general discrediting of that statistic. We don't know why Google removed the statistic or how accurate or innaccurate it was. The implication by this article is that the statistic was meaningless or somehow so faulty that Google felt the need to remove it. Unless Google officially states such, I think it's premature to make such assumptions. Just my opinion.
          • The point people often missed with that stat is that the stat was of user agent strings, not actual user agent or os.
            Many browsers support configurable user agent strings to get around all those sites that stupidly block non-ie browsers, often needlesly.

            Mycroft
        • >We all know gnu/linux is still a niche phenomenon on Desktops

          "We all"? Could you please bring up this fact during the next "Linux is/isn't ready for the desktop" flamewar that come up.

          >1% of all people accessing Google is _millions_ of people.

          No, its 1% of all queries. And that might be overweighted since alot of IE people will still use MSN by default.
      • ..was so people can't refer to Zeitgeist's damning 1% Linux usage statistic anymore when discussing desktop Linux.

        And why does Google suddenly care?

        For that matter, why do you think that they are accurate? Most of the konqi browsers that I see out there are set to MSIE due to the fact that so many sites will try to block you if you do not run it. Probably should pick Mozilla to emulate, but I have seen site block that as well (homedepot would only accept MSIE for a time).

      • Your Sig (Score:3, Interesting)

        by _Sprocket_ (42527)
        There's a few things you're missing on your sig.

        1) Slashdot had the same bias well before OSDN (then Andover) expressed interest in buying them.

        2) As a general rule, all tech news is biased. You aren't likely to find unbiased news anywhere.

        3) Slashdot rose from obscurity at a time when the more mainstream news sources' bias was almost entirely opposing Slashdot's bias.

        Granted - that probably won't all fit.
    • It's also possible that the stats would go up as a result of exploits using the installed IE to continuously send requests to the site, to artificially inflate the IE appearance.

      Not likely perhaps, but a thought to consider...
    • by AirNwater (806594) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @08:54PM (#10008616)
      The stats aren't gone from the canadian site. http://www.google.ca/press/zeitgeist.html
  • ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:09PM (#10006909) Journal
    I have a question for slashdot... can I use your polls for scientific research? Will my request result in slashdot removing their polls section? What kind of a crazy assed reaction is this? Why not just put a disclaimer up on the page that says, not scientific.
      • That'e because it hasn't been updated yet.

        The .com has July's stats, the .ca only has June's.
    • Re:ha (Score:5, Funny)

      by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:28PM (#10007105)
      > I have a question for slashdot... can I use your polls for scientific research? Will my request result in slashdot removing their polls section? What kind of a crazy assed reaction is this? Why not just put a disclaimer up on the page that says, not scientific.

      Well, you can't for Slashdot, because the poll page is pretty clear about it, but that reminds me.

      "Can I use Google Zeitgeist for scientific research?"

      Yes ................. 82% 7122 / 82%<BR>
      No .... 18% 1560 / 18% <BR>
      Only if you give CowboyNeal 100,000 shares of GOOG . 0.1% / 1 / 0.1%

      Don't complain about lack of options. Most people are only after for pictures of the latest RIAA pop star's tits. Those are the breaks.
      Feel free to Google for something else if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest grepping "goatse" out of the past Zeitgeist logs first.
      It's a good thing that Google Zeitgeist isn't wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, User-Agent spoofers, dynamic IPs, proxies. If you're using these numbers to decide whether to invest in our IPO, you're behaving at least as rationally as anybody else is in this market.

      So if you're using Google Zeitgeist, I'd say go nuts, but only as long as every image search query returns a picture of that squirrel from Fark.

    • can I use your polls for scientific research?

      I sure hope so! If there's one thing that needs a lot of scientific research, that one thing would be CowboyNeal.

      (/tongue-in-cheek)
    • Re:ha (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:37PM (#10007209) Journal
      I have a question for slashdot... can I use your polls for scientific research? Will my request result in slashdot removing their polls section? What kind of a crazy assed reaction is this?

      It's actually typical for a public company. Just imagine that someone sues Google because he was indeed using Google Zeitgeist for some scientific research, unaware that it was just for fun. It doesn't matter that this claim is ridiculous. Its very existence will most likely create negative market reaction. Even if the shares drop for just 1%, if you are among the company's top rank, it will generate enormous loss for you. If you have, say, 100.000.000 dollars in company stock, you have just lost 1 megabuck just because of this crazy accusation. So public companies act rather paranoid in situations like this. That's the reason why media in the US were too chicken to say "tobacco is addictive". Just the very thought of being sued by big tobacco companies made every CEO of every media corporation to wet his pants with fear. Expect more "crazy assed" reactions from Google as they continue to "go public".
  • by conner_bw (120497) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:09PM (#10006910) Homepage Journal
    Google is developing their own OS. Anyone want to provide the odds?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:11PM (#10006927)
    I think I speak for everyone when I say...

    Please put `em back!
  • MSN (Score:5, Funny)

    by prostoalex (308614) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:11PM (#10006931) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully MSN will pick up where Google left off and provide free unbiased stats.
    • Re:MSN (Score:2, Funny)

      by kagaku (774787)
      In which case Linux will suddenly have a 25% increase in market share.

      "Yes sir Mr. DOJ, we no longer have a monopoly!"
    • Re:MSN (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sleepy (4551)
      Hopefully MSN will pick up where Google left off and provide free unbiased stats

      Are you implying MSN is not Fair and Balanced?

  • How do you like that. I didn't even know that Zeitgeist [google.com] existed! I do use their calculator and Google Sets [google.com] though.

    I would use their personalized web search, but it needs some work. Having both interests in "Sci-Fi" and "Naval military" causes problems when I'm looking up specs on the carrier Enterprise (CVN-65 & CVN-6). I suggested that they allow you to choose a specific category at search time, but I never got a response. :-(
  • I can see why... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TWX (665546) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:12PM (#10006942)
    If people are citing Google's "just for fun" figures as something to base critical decisions on, Google could be subject to liability for the accuracy of the figures. Granted, it's not likely that a lawsuit would succeed, but simply having to defend against one wouldn't be very good.
    • Sigh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:18PM (#10006999)

      You surely do live in the greatest country in the world.

    • by mindfucker (778407) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:45PM (#10007270)
      While you may be correct as to the reasoning that prompted them to do this, it begs the question...

      How fucked up of a society do we live in that people can't provide interesting statistics out of fear of being sued?

      This legal bullshit is the same reason that the US Park Service refuses to release any kind of estimates on crowd sizes for protests in Washington D.C. .... they were sued by Louis Farakahan when they did a crowd size estimate of the Million Man March, that Farakhan said, was intentionally smaller than it really was.

      Insanity.
  • by LeninZhiv (464864) * on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:12PM (#10006944)
    Good riddance, as I agree with OsViews that the statistic was scarcely credible. All the same, I'd like to see a more finely-tuned version come out someday that does reflect the OS of google users come out someday. That truly would be a useful rubric with which to track the 'zeitgeist' of the net.
  • What I don't get (Score:5, Interesting)

    by r.jimenezz (737542) <rjimenezh@nOSpam.gmail.com> on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:13PM (#10006953)
    That Google doesn't want to talk to the press now, I understand.

    That the OS/browser stats would not be too reliable (I assume they are computed similarly, via the User Agent String) I can also easily understand.

    That they took the stats off Zeitgeist, however, that's what I don't get. Wonder if they are now a bit paranoid about all things media after their recent faux pas?

    BTW, those who don't like reading the articles would wish all stories were like this ;)

  • Accuracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:15PM (#10006968)
    The big problem with the Zeitgeist stats, from what I've heard, is that they only recorded the same IP address once. For people who are more likely to have a broadband connection, which is probably true of Mac and Linux users, they get counted less because their IP address changes less frequently. As Google said, it's just for fun.
  • It's a real shame (Score:4, Interesting)

    by barcodez (580516) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:15PM (#10006969)
    It's a real shame Google have removed this interesting stat as it is as good as any browser/os statistic available due to the huge an ecletic user base of Google.

    I guess things are changing at Google and their free , open and considerate attitude is set to change with the IPO.

    The search results I've been getting from Google have been decreasing in usefulness at an alarming rate over the last year - it's sad to see Google go this way.
  • by slavemowgli (585321) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:16PM (#10006981) Homepage
    Is there a Google cache of Google's Zeitgeist?
  • by thoolie (442789) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:17PM (#10006990) Homepage
    Because if they do, this would be a GREAT time to respond to WHY THEY REMOVED the OS Stat?

    I just found Zeitgeist the other day, and it is a pretty cool tool. Why on earth would they want to take features away?
  • by gmajor (514414) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:17PM (#10006995) Journal
    I, for one, would be very interested in seeing the browser and OS breakdown on Slashdot. IIRC, slashdot has not given out this info in the past?
    • Back when Slashdot still had public statistics, as well as what Malda and crew said in a past IRC conversation (so keep in mind the stats are a few years old), Windows and IE were the dominant environments.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:30PM (#10007120)
      Slashdot's userbase would know how to game the results, there's only so many months you can analyse stats from
      Gorganzilla/5.0 Big_Cheeze (X11; U; Linux i686; gaping-anus; rv:1.7)
      Goatse/20040811 Watercat/0.9.3+
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:30PM (#10007121)
      They did, years ago. It was dropped, depending on whom you believe, because it served no value or because it was embarassing to show 75% Windows hits. Probably both. Slashdotted sites still report an overwhelming majority of Windows/IE hits.
      • In the community's defense,

        1) While there may be no excuse for IE, there are still lots of reasons for "real nerds" to use Windows.

        2) I imagine a pretty high percentage of Slashdotters are reading at work.
        • For what it's worth, I use FireFox at home, and so does my wife (who, once transferred against her will from IE and Eudora to FireFox and Thunderbird, has grown to love them and is now an evangelist for both in her workplace).

          Amongst my coworkers at a technology company, I recently sent out a response to someone's email about IE that said "this is why you should use FireFox", and his response was, "I usually do -- I was testing with IE". An informal poll around the office showed an approximate 30% usage ra
      • it was embarassing to show 75% Windows hits

        The embarassment probably arises from reading too much into the statistics. Here's one reason why.

        Even if people are technically sophisticated and highly pro-Unix/Linux/*BSD, if they play many PC games then they probably have at least one separate box running Windoze. I have three, because I like to multi-box with several accounts in MMOGs. I treat the boxes as games consoles and not as computers, ie. there is nothing of any importance on them besides the gam
    • Here's the webmin breakdown: Top Salwise Referers [ibnads.com]

      As you can see, the user agent string gets quite silly as you go down the list, but Internet Explorer is definately losing popularity.

      Back in 2002, I mirored another story; the breakdown is available here. [isu.edu]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:18PM (#10006997)
    Problem in Database Connection

    This Website is powered by PostNuke
    Web site powered by PostNuke ADODB database libraryPHP Scripting Language
    Although this site is running the PostNuke software
    it has no other connection to the PostNuke Developers.
    Please refrain from sending messages about this site or its content
    to the PostNuke team, the end will result in an ignored e-mail.
  • Going Public... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by peasleer (806038)
    With Google getting it's ammended statements accepted, it means that Google stock will start being traded as early as tomorrow. They already dropped the initial IPO, and I'm sure they are being very cautious about causing any investor worries.

    I bet that after their stock has had a couple months to stabilize, this will be addressed.
  • by whovian (107062) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:21PM (#10007037)
    Sadly, this removal had to happen given who Google's competitors are going to be in search space. No doubt they will continue to record the information, but it won't be public anymore.
  • Yes, google's stats are not totally accurate. For instance, my web site says that someone keeps browsing it using Opera on NetBSD, and as everyone knows, BSD is dying... so no

    However, they're not going to be far off and most importantly they are unbiased. That makes them the best stats we have (had).
  • by chill (34294) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:24PM (#10007069) Journal
    Hmmm...now that this is on /., will the search for "Natalie Portman" stay on the Top 10 Declining Queries?

    Inquiring minds want to know!
  • Meanwhile, up north (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Otter (3800) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:27PM (#10007101) Journal
    Lesson learned from this morning's "Lunix's desktop share is triple MacOS's!" "No, dumbass, Google Zeitgeist has it at 1%! "No, you M$ astroturfer, that 51% for Windows XP is all Linux users with spoofed browser IDs!" argument:

    Google has pulled OS stats from the US Zeitgeist but Canada still has them [google.ca]. And Lindsay Lohan has pulled ahead of Avril Lavigne.

  • But but but... how am I going to know how many Amiga and BeOS users use Google!? I don't know if I can survive without knowing that...
  • by oscast (653817) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @05:49PM (#10007316) Homepage
    I am the owner of osViews.com and the individual that submitted this slashdot post. It appears as if the article got slashdotted.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a second copy of the article otherwise I would post it here. My Slashdot summarization pretty much captured the gist of the editorial, however there is one part that should be mentioned.

    In Google's Zeitgeist statistic there was a 5% figure that represented what the OS statistic as "other". I thought that this was bizarre because the Linux and Mac statistics even combined were less than the "other" which encapsulated them all.

    I don't believe that the more obscure OSes make up a number that is larger than both Linux and mac combined. This is what prompted me to call Google to get some clarity.

    i thought that perhaps Google was doing some subdivisions within the Linux or Mac stats.

    For example, Google might have only been reporting 3% to represent the OS X installations as opposed to all Mac users and then grouped the non OS X users (Mac Pre OS X) into the aforementioned "other" category.
    • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @06:10PM (#10007480) Journal
      In Google's Zeitgeist statistic there was a 5% figure that represented what the OS statistic as "other". I thought that this was bizarre because the Linux and Mac statistics even combined were less than the "other" which encapsulated them all.

      There's a large network traffic generated not by human surfers but by various bots, scanning the Web for whatever purpose. The bots often identify themselves in a strange way - a comprehensive list of their user-agents can be found here [psychedelix.com] and I always thought that this is actually the majority of the mysterious "other". They are not human users of desktop OS'es, but bots running automated google searches. What do you think?
    • Couldn't 'other' just qualify as anything that didn't fit the exact match of Mac/Win/Lin? I don't know what goes into making a web browser spit out what OS it runs on, but if that string of text, for whatever reason, was not matching the exact result expected from Google's stats machine, than it would just drop to other. I would assume many of the 'other' category were Win/Lin/Mac, but for whatever reason, failed to be categorized as such.
  • by oscast (653817) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @06:03PM (#10007414) Homepage
    Google's Zeitgeist service is sometimes used by news sources as a resource to generate install-base (don't call it market share) statistics for operating systems. osViews contacted Google to bring some clarity to questionable aspects of the OS statistic to which Google said that Zeitgeist is only a fun search inquiry resource and should not be used to generate statistical information. A couple days after that inquiry, we found that Google has since removed the OS stats from the Zeitgeist service.
    --

    Many of us are familiar with Google's Zeitgeist resource which analyses search patters, trends and miscellaneous surprises as how it relates to the way people search the Google search engine. Up until recently, the company also provided operating system statistics of those that accessed Google.

    Many news sources have started using Zeitgeist as a means to get statistics that suggest operating system install base. Because of this, osViews repeatedly contacted Google to get clarity for the statistic, which provided some odd stats. (example: 5% of the OS demographic was comprised of multiple OSes which Google categorized as "other."

    We thought this odd because Mac and Linux OSes TOGETHER didn't reach 5%. How could the more obscure OSes (even combined) create a larger group unless Linux or Mac were being subdivided by the Google stat. Example: Google's 3% Mac statistic might theoretically only represent OS X users as opposed to all Macintosh users.

    Google replied back saying that they are not to talk to the media in any way throughout the "quiet period" that must precede a company's initial public offering, but did say that Zeitgeist is not meant to be regarded as a statistical resource to gauge a demographic of any type. Rather, it is simply a fun resource to analyze search patterns.

    After alerting the search company to the fact that many news organizations have started using Zeitgeist's OS stats resource as a means of generating operating system install base statistics, the company replied back with the same response.

    Today we noticed that Google has removed the OS stats from the Zeitgeist service.
  • osViews.com (Score:4, Funny)

    by bXTr (123510) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @06:44PM (#10007719) Homepage

    Someone who works at osViews.com submits an article about osViews.com. Jeez, people, buy an ad!

  • by Trolling4Dollars (627073) on Wednesday August 18, 2004 @11:52PM (#10009417) Journal
    What does it matter if Linux is used by 1% of the visitors to Google or not? In the end, regardless of how many people use Linux, isn't it more important that those of us who do are happily being productive, saving money on software and and (if you are so inclined) being a bit more ethical? I use Linux pretty much exclusively at home and at work. I use Windows at work when I need to as well as Solaris, HP-UX and VMS. I've toyed with the BSDs, and I even pull out my Atari ST for notalgia. The soon-to-arrive baby is getting my wife's old Mac for the nursery. It's all good. For me the biggest selling point for Linux is that all the money I save on software allows me to spend more of my money on hardware. Now who can argue that more money for hardware is a bad thing? Stats be damned. For those of us who enjoy Linux, there is nothing that can be said to take away that feeling. Many of us are willing to help others get accustomed and aren't lunatic fanboys. I think in the end, there will be more of us than there are those types of people.
  • by inkswamp (233692) on Thursday August 19, 2004 @03:53AM (#10010324)
    No great loss. Windows advocates/zealots always pointed to Google's zeitgeist OS numbers as proof that nobody uses OS X or Linux, but consider this. It's known that people do a great deal of their web surfing at work. It's also no secret that corporations seem to have an indefatigable love affair with Microsoft which means that Windows machines are predominant in the workplace.

    Many, many, many times have I been counted as a "Windows user" by Google's zeitgeist, but I've never owned a Windows machine. This is even worse for Linux. At least OS X has some foothold on the corporate desktop which means OS X gets some "at work" hits on Google. Linux, not typically used as a desktop machine, doesn't even get that benefit.

    So anyway, I'm not unhappy to see one of the many FUD tools taken from the hands of so many MS zealots.

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