What are the relative market shares of the various desktop GISes? I'm interested in this within the open-source and non-opensource realm.

One article that I read, is that the market share of ESRI is estimated to be approximately 30% of the global GIS market in 2009 (Daratech, 2011 - dead link unfortunately) but that they have a much higher perceived 'mind-share' (Batty).

I started thinking about this as I wondered which was the most popular open-source GIS program, and assumed it was QGIS but I'm finding it hard to locate any numbers.

To clarify (in response to a comment), I am interested in GIS Desktop tools that allow quantitative analysis (which would exclude Google Earth).


Unfortunately it's impossible to say how many people use QGIS.

Tim Sutton regularly creates download stats for Windows stand-alone downloads:

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Last December, Gary Sherman followed a different approach and counted the number of unique IP addresses accessing the plugin repository and found:

35,603 unique IP addresses of users that accessed the repository between October 23, 2011 and December 17, 2011

In the end, he summarizes:

Considering the number of points that represent an organization and those that represent a country location, I think we can safely assume that the number of QGIS users easily exceeds 100,000 worldwide.

If we are talking about "market share" as % of GIS users using a certain GIS, we would need to know the approx. number of global GIS users.

If we mean "market share" in $ we would further have to put a price tag on QGIS. That's another difficult issue.

Update Dec 2016:

Another interesting way to look at this topic is by Google Trends analysis:

enter image description here


This is what I know as an ESRI customer. They have over 350,000 customers worldwide. That means a company like local electric utility APS, where I worked at one time and has several hundred users of ESRI, or the City of Chandler, where I also worked, has a couple hundred users, are each only counted as 1 customer. Also, ESRI is used quite a bit at universities, many users, 1 ESRI customer. Even smaller oragniazations would have several to 10 licenses. So 1 ESRI customer does not equal 1 ESRI user. Most ESRI software has a cost, so that deters a percentage of people from even trying it, although you can get a 3 month free trial. So I would easily guesstimate that 350,000 customers for ESRI would equal approximately 10+ million users. Yes, hard to get real numbers, and difficult to compare freeware users to purchase customers. Probably one way to get some numbers is to contact the companies and ask for the total number of customer sites.

To answer the comment from WHUBER:

The source of my info is ESRI's website, and as a current customer at a Telecom with 3 licensed users, as well as my experience at other companies as one of many users under their client/customer accounts, and experience with multiple ESRI account managers across these different companies I worked for, yes, 1 customer/client = a single "site" or "company" to which ESRI is paid from for X# of licenses. APS was 1 customer, City of Chandler is 1 customer, etc. But each of these customer sites had several hundred users. If you go to ESRI's website and go to the About section you will see these numbers: 350,000 clients, 3,000 employees, 10 US offices, 80 distributors worldwide, 1,800+ partners. Oh, and wholly owned by Jack Dangermond (and his family?), so totally in the black, financially sound company with no stockholders telling them what to do. So they can follow the users needs and the technology trends.

  • 1
    All your conclusions are predicated on the "350,000 customers worldwide" figure. What is the source of that and what precisely does that source mean by "customers"? – whuber Apr 1 '14 at 20:15
  • Thanks for the additional information. A Wikipedia entry on ESRI--which reads as if written by ESRI itself--claims "about a million users in 200 countries." – whuber Apr 2 '14 at 23:36

The market share of ESRI far exceeds any other desktop software simply for the fact that almost all actual product creation is done by state agencies, which are overwhelmingly ESRI.

If you include consumption users then you can start to include QGIS but it is still safe to say that a huge majority of consumption users do not use a desktop tool, but they consume using mostly ESRI online interfaces. I am excluding consumer grade products and users in this napkin math.

Even if ESRI's ArcGIS is not the primary desktop application it combined with their ArcGIS Server UI would likely make up a majority.

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