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Operating System Figures

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Kevin Hinde | 12:42 UK time, Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Chart from Martin Belam's Currybet blogOn Ashley's recent post about Linux figures, some people have asked for more detail on the information that the BBC gathers about the operating systems which are used by visitors to its websites. There was particular interest in whether the statistics for the web servers which host the BBC's News and Sport content were any different to the statistics for the whole of the BBC.

I posted the output from our reporting system to the BBC Backstage mailing list which Martin Belam has conveniently summarised on his blog.

There is some difference between Journalism and the rest of the BBC which may be explained, as Martin suggests, by the different usage patterns for the News site, although I don't know whether all the differences are statistically significant or could be explained by sampling error. (Compared to the rest of the BBC, more people visit the News site from an office computer, during the day. We have data from independent sources which confirms this).

All of the BBC's regular reporting mechanisms use the User Agent string to make inferences about the client operating system. In a follow-up post I should be able to give you information about how many User Agent strings are classified as "operating system unknown", and about the split between visitors from the UK and from outside the UK.

We will publish this data regularly on both the Backstage archive and this blog.

Kevin Hinde is Head of Software Development, Journalism, BBC Future Media & Technology.

Comments

  1. At 04:30 PM on 06 Nov 2007, Matthew Marks wrote:

    Thank you for your clarification, Kevin. One thing must be added though: "operating system unknown" will not give the full story about the user, because many users will have taken advantage of their browser's client identification feature to fake a Windows user-agent string. We are forced to do this because of some idiotic web-sites which still try to prevent non-Windows users from accessing them, because they have been written so badly that they have only been designed to work with (perhaps one particular version of!) Microsoft Internet Explorer.

    Microsoft's battle to undermine open standards in order to perpetuate its monopoly scores again, in the shape of distorted web usage statistics. You need to be aware of this and never rely on such flawed measurements.

  2. At 06:37 AM on 09 Nov 2007, James Foster wrote:

    The BBC data for this will still be skewed in favour of operating systems that the BBC supports.

    The BBC herds Linux users *away* from the BBC website by making it incompatible with Linux, and then claims there isn't many Linux users around.

    The UK needs a new public broadcaster.

  3. At 10:52 AM on 10 Nov 2007, Paul wrote:

    Sorry but James Foster's "won't someone think of the children" style post made me have to respond.

    The BBC is making it's content available in more ways than any other broadcaster in the UK(possibly in the world). iPlayer, for instance, isn't Linux friendly. Last I checked it wasn't Vista friendly either but I suspect the Linux community couldn't care less about that in their battle for cross-platform usage.

    The Linux community has to accept it's role in world priorities. Linux is still a niche operating system and as such gains a niche priority. Would they rather the Beeb waited until a solution was developed for every conceivable platform before delivering anything?

    Before Linux users get out of their prams about what are, at the end of the day, probably the best open source efforts in broadcasting. They should look at the games industry to see the lavel of native Linux support the market thinks is appropriate and they should reconsider (if they really have to bleat so much) the CHOICE THAT THEY MADE to use Linux.

  4. At 11:28 AM on 10 Nov 2007, Paul wrote:

    Sorry but James Foster's "won't someone think of the children" style post made me have to respond.

    The BBC is making it's content available in more ways than any other broadcaster in the UK(possibly in the world). iPlayer, for instance, isn't Linux friendly. Last I checked it wasn't Vista friendly either but I suspect the Linux community couldn't care less about that in their battle for cross-platform usage.

    The Linux community has to accept it's role in world priorities. Linux is still a niche operating system and as such gains a niche priority. Would they rather the Beeb waited until a solution was developed for every conceivable platform before delivering anything?

    Before Linux users get out of their prams about what are, at the end of the day, probably the best open source efforts in broadcasting. They should look at the games industry to see the lavel of native Linux support the market thinks is appropriate and they should reconsider (if they really have to bleat so much) the CHOICE THAT THEY MADE to use Linux.

  5. At 09:37 PM on 10 Nov 2007, Carl wrote:

    Sorry, Paul, but you're wrong here on several counts.

    This isn't about Linux at all. It's all about the BBC deciding not to use open, transparent standards, that everyone can access without the penalty of having to use proprietary, lock-in solutions. Given that the BBC is publicly funded by licence fee payers, this is contradictory. especially as it says so in their Royal Charter that they would support openness and tranparency. You might be able to argue this angle if the BBC were a for-profit commercial organisation, but it is not. We paid for that content the BBC want to show; they have no right to restrict it to a certain platform.

    Moreover, the BBC's decision to use all this DRM is illogical, since they transmit all their content unencrypted anyway, and I could capture this signal (with the appropriate hardware) for later viewing, anytime I want. So wehy are the BBC so insistent their this same content, delivered over the internet rather than broadast, be locked in to a DRM ridden, proprietary format?

    Secondly, Linux is most certainly not a 'niche' operating system. Heck, its parent, UNIX system V, has been around since the early seventies - Take the TCP/IP stack, for instance, on which all the internet depends. It's an open standard that any operating system can use. UNIX has had this incorporated into its core since 1983, before windows was even born.

    Clearly 2/3rds of the world's web servers run some form of Linux, including the BBC itself. It also runs on mobile phones, Tivos, and is also being rolled out on the One Laptop Per Child(OLPC) project for the developing world.

    As for games, there are thousands available, both natively, or the windows versions can be run using a program called WINE

  6. At 09:49 PM on 10 Nov 2007, Carl wrote:

    Sorry, Paul, but you're wrong here on several counts.

    This isn't about Linux at all. It's all about the BBC deciding not to use open, transparent standards, that everyone can access without the penalty of having to use proprietary, lock-in solutions. Given that the BBC is publicly funded by licence fee payers, this is contradictory. especially as it says so in their Royal Charter that they would support openness and tranparency. You might be able to argue this angle if the BBC were a for-profit commercial organisation, but it is not. We paid for that content the BBC want to show; they have no right to restrict it to a certain platform.

    Moreover, the BBC's decision to use all this DRM is illogical, since they transmit all their content unencrypted anyway, and I could capture this signal (with the appropriate hardware) for later viewing, anytime I want. So wehy are the BBC so insistent their this same content, delivered over the internet rather than broadast, be locked in to a DRM ridden, proprietary format?

    Secondly, Linux is most certainly not a 'niche' operating system. Heck, its parent, UNIX system V, has been around since the early seventies - Take the TCP/IP stack, for instance, on which all the internet depends. It's an open standard that any operating system can use. UNIX has had this incorporated into its core since 1983, before windows was even born.

    Clearly 2/3rds of the world's web servers run some form of Linux, including the BBC itself. It also runs on mobile phones, Tivos, and is also being rolled out on the One Laptop Per Child(OLPC) project for the developing world.

    As for games, there are thousands available, both natively, or the windows versions can be run using a program called WINE

  7. At 01:43 AM on 13 Nov 2007, MJ Ray wrote:

    The currybet breakdown doesn't list what User-Agents are regarded as which operating system. That would be the interesting bit, to let people see whether they were classified correctly.

    But, as someone wrote elsewhere, Windows v MacOS v Linux is missing the point a bit. The BBC should not be doing the modern equivalent of "you must buy a Samsung TV to watch us". The BBC should be using open standards and be involved in developing them where appropriate. It's done this many times before (DVB and Ceefax to name two of my favourites) and still gets a lot of praise for those past successes.

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