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I would like to know how many user use a GIS software and compile a list of the most used GIS software. I thought to use the download counter of the sites but this is quite inaccurate how can I determine the number of users of proprietary software. Is there a way to find the number of licenses sell by e.g. ArcGIS?

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I don't think any meaningful numbers can be arrived at without being specific, defining scope. Most used... for what? making the little road maps found at gas stations? publishing atlases? putting mashups in personal blogs and home pages? filing quarterly business reports? putting gps tracks into a personal trainer app? And even once scope is defined, I anticipate what you'll receive is a lot of anecdote, a wallop of opinion, and precious little actual data. And, even if you do get a real answer, what would that do for you? How would knowing X is used more than Y change your life or business? –  matt wilkie Oct 23 '13 at 16:30
    
@mattwilkie I don't care for what they are used for, for me they could be used to draw circle or writing books. I need numbers to know how many users use a specific GIS software for a research I'm doing, and I need to know how can I retrieve this data. I know there will be an uncertainty but this doesn't mean that this data are not useful. The two answers I've got for me are not anecdotes... –  G M Oct 23 '13 at 16:47
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if answers like what are coming in are useful to you and help with your project, then great. I'm glad it works for you. I was trying to point out, clumsily I guess, that what comes in will be very fuzzy and incomplete at best. (go ahead and prove me wrong though ;-) –  matt wilkie Oct 23 '13 at 16:54
    
@mattwilkie Please consider I don't want a number but a method to get this number! Sometimes research has strange goals, probably you are right but i hope you are wrong :-) we will see I think a question is an quite costless attempt... –  G M Oct 23 '13 at 17:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

For ArcGIS there is a figure of 350,000 customers and more than a million users mentioned near the end of this Press Release. That may be as close to the true numbers as you are likely to get.

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I would suggest emailing the software providers if you are looking for an accurate description. With open source software you may struggle to get a true representation, for instance where personal user counts are not logged e.g. http://hub.qgis.org/wiki/quantum-gis/Reference_Users_List or possibly by checking unique site visits e.g. http://grass.osgeo.org/stats/awstats.pl

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