In his Geoweb 2008 keynote speech, Michael Jones mentioned that among the 1 billion online, there are “400 million Google Earth users”, and that this “constituency” is bigger than the number of Americans.
Time for a reality check. That number for “Google Earth users” can’t be unique users. Downloads, sure, but not users. Just think about it: Let’s even allow 1.4 billion online people in 2008; less than a quarter of them have access to broadband, according to Gartner. And among broadband users, businesses are over-represented — businesses where a program like Google Earth is less likely to be downloaded. To get to the total of 400 million users, every computer on the planet connected to broadband would have to have Google Earth installed, plus a whole lot of people sucking Earth through a 56kbps straw.
Whence the discrepancy? I’ve done my part, downloading Google Earth at least a few dozen times between different versions and successive machines from all sorts of different IP addresses. And likely so have you. This is not to take anything away from the fantastic uptake of Google Earth, not least in the zeitgeist of the world’s technology elites; but just as websites no longer advertise the number of “hits” on their site, isn’t it time for a more conservative number on Google Earth users? Surely Google Earth can concoct a unique hash number for each install so that Google can acquire data for unique visitors per month, just like top websites do? Why not then release that if advertising the popularity of Google Earth is important?