Silverlight Usage Statistics

The Illusion

Last week I was discussing Silverlight vs. Flash with a friend of mine.  He seemed to think that the only criteria for deciding which platform to use was marketshare.  He then referred me to http://riastats.com/.  While I appreciate his desire to reach all audiences, I believe he is failing in his analysis.  Let me explain...

This website (http://riastats.com/) is a service provided by a hosting company.  While their data is interesting, I find that it changes drastically from day to day.  Last Friday their reports stated that Silverlight had only 29% penetration, yet tonight I checked and it says Silverlight now has 33% penetration.  Do you know how many people would had to have installed Silverlight in the last 72 hours for these numbers to be anywhere close to correct?  Needless to say, these guys have a pretty big margin of error.  The fine print mentions that the statistics are gathered from 77 websites.  It would be nice to know exactly what 77 websites they use to collect their data.  I mean, how can anyone presume that their their user base is the same as what's being serviced by these 77 anonymous websites?

My friend and I were discussing Silverlight vs. Flash and it eventually devolved into trash-talking.  :)  But what about folks who take these statistics as absolute truth?  What about folks who aren't just talking trash, but I planning their IT strategy around these statistics?  For anyone to make a business decision of which platform to use, and then to reference this service (http://riastats.com/) as the authoritative resource is ignorant at best and criminal at worst.

Most online companies have some form of advertising revenue in their business plan, yet very few depend on it for 100% of their profits.  So if you are a company who isn't 100% dependent on advertising revenue, then why do you care what percentage of the world has Silverlight installed?  I mean, you're making money through other means.  Shouldn't you be focusing on understanding the users who generate the majority of your reveune?  What if you found out that their habits and online experiences meant that 86% already had Silverlight installed and the rest were highly likely to install it?  What if?

Now let's pretend that you're one of those arrogant startups (present employer excluded) who claims your user base is really the entire world.  Seriously guys, you're not Google or Facebook.  You don't service the entire world right now (remember, you're a startup).  Believe it or not, in 12-24 months of all the things that will change, this won't be one of them.  Seriously.

The Reality

On September 17th, Scott Guthrie talked about both the current state of Silverlight and where things are heading in the near future (watch video).  While this was very informative, the "meaty" announcements won't be happening until next week at PDC.  Here's some of my notes from what Scott said back in September:

  • Earlier this summer Microsoft released that Silverlight is on about 1 in 3 of all internet connected devices (desktop, mobile, and embedded).
  • Some countries are above 50% and in fact pushing 60% penetration.
  • Worldwide they expect Silverlight to above 50% in the next couple months.

A couple other points to consider:

  • NBC used Silverlight for the 2008 Summer Olympic games.
  • NBC will again be using Silverlight to broadcast the 2010 Winter Olympic games.
  • NCAA March Madness streamed all their games using Silverlight.
  • The Democratic National Convention last summer (2008) was broadcast using Silverlight.
  • President Obama’s Inauguration was broadcast using Silverlight.
  • UFC uses Silverlight for their online pay-per-view events.
  • Netflix uses Silverlight for their online player.
  • NFL Sunday Night Football is streamed live each week using Silverlight Smooth Streaming.
    • Week 1 had over 500,000 viewers watching it for an average of 55 minutes
    • Player was built with full DVR support
    • Included slow-motion
    • Replay of key events (touchdown, interception, etc)
    • Included Highlight reel
    • Included chat
    • Displayed video in 720p HD
    • All this was done off 2 web servers

Conclusion

I would argue that of the people who purchase and consume video online, a very high percentage of them have Silverlight installed.  Those who do not have Silverlight installed would have no problem with installing and using it.

The argument that you should not consider a platform because it doesn't have a certain level of marketshare just doesn't hold water any more.  Otherwise no one would have considered building apps for the iPhone, rather than sticking with the Blackberry.

tags: Silverlight

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution By License.

3 Comments

I made RIAStats because I couldn't find any other similar, 3rd party
source. I stress 3rd party, because Microsoft, Adobe and Sun all publish
their own "independent" studies; but are we going to take them at their
word?

I purposefully created the RIAStats collection script so that it could
be added to any website. As a bonus for adding the RIAStats collection
script to your site, you get a free customized report. That report is
definitive for all the information that RIAStats collects across your
visitors. RIAStats is a great site get a general gist of the public at
large, and in addition, an outstanding tool to discover these metrics
for your unique user base; for free!

The statistics shown publicly on RIAStats.com are simply the sum of all
the visitors of all the sites that have included the collection script.
There are fluctuations for many reasons. The most common is that a site
with many visitors adds or drops the collection script; there's not much
I can do about that. The second most common reason is that percentages
are drastically different for home versus corporate visitors. You can
see this on the weekend days of the line graph. The plugin deployment
percent for all three RIA technologies goes up a few percent on weekend
days. That's an example of data that is simply not available any where
else. You'll find hundreds of correlations between browser, country of
visitor and operating system in the data as well.

I don't publish the list of included sites, because I don't want those
sites to become the target of malicious activity. I also want to protect
the visitor numbers for those sites, as that piece of data is often used
for valuation and ad revenue. I understand the desire to know the list,
but I simply can't and won't release it. However, I can tell you that
most of the sites are VERY main stream. I was surprised at how many
corporations, that must have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars
of IT software resources use RIAStats. There are sites in many
languages, most European countries, and all of North America is
represented.

I encourage you to include the RIAStats.com collection script on your
site. Make the private link that you're provided public if you wish.
You'll help the community by adding to the polling base, and increase
our general knowledge of the topics at hand.

Regards,
Travis Collins
DreamingWell Web Services
Hi Kelly,
These are great points. I notice the stats from riastats and statowl are very different. Scott Hanselman from Microsoft has published some statistics gathered from NetApps, and also from Windows update statistics. It is not clear how much comes from which source. http://www.hanselman.com/blog/CommentView.aspx?guid=0af5b012-1168-4f2e-ad6b-4e45300c1957

There is still not a lot of information about non Windows operating systems unfortunately.

Here in NSW, Australia, the Department of Education has purchased around 240,000 netbooks for Year 9 students and above that run Windows 7 and have Silverlight installed. This should boost the numbers somewhat in Australia, and means that it is easier in the education sector to target silverlight.
Travis,

RIAStats.com does provide a great service, and the fact that I can add it to my own site and then get statistics on what my user base actually has installed is awesome. I've noticed that the overall numbers are becoming more accurate as more websites add your script to the sites. FYI, I installed your script for our web site (mycontent.com).

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