Linux Desktop Feed Reader Usage Declining?

When working on your open source pet project there is always the ego boost of asking yourself how popular is this thing that we are building. Who is using it? Why is there no feedback. Or why are there suddenly so many bug reports? So what is the amount of users of Liferea and other feed readers and how is it changing?

Popcon

Well for Debian and Ubuntu there is the famous popularity contest which tracks installation and usage count per package. Let's look into the statistics over the years. Note that while the Debian graph is official from the Debian popcon.debian.org, the Ubuntu graph is from lesbonscomptes.com/upopcon as Ubuntu itself doesn't provide a graphs. Also the Ubuntu graph only covers the time from 2010 to now, while the Debian graph dates back to 2004.

Liferea and Akregator

The two widely used feed readers under Debian/Ubuntu are Liferea (GTK) and Akregator (KDE). While it is possible that more people use Thunderbird or Firefox for feed reading it cannot be measured using popcon as there is no dedicated package for Thunderbird nor Firefox that could indicate the feed reading habits of their users. So we can only look at the standalone feed reader packages.

Debian

Ubuntu

The graphs indicate a decline from up to over 4000+ users on each distributions which seems to have been peak usage to recently roughly over 1k Debian users and 700 Ubuntu users. Interesting is the difference on Debian with until 2014 more Liferea users vs. Ubuntu which always had more Akregator users.

Other Market Shares

Of course there are several other news readers for Debian and Ubuntu. Note that Ubuntu has RSSOwl which Debian hasn't. Snownews isn't listed in the Debian graph anymore as it was dropped with Wheezy.

Debian

Ubuntu

All other feed readers on Ubuntu count roughly 250+ votes in 2010 and roughly 80 in 2014.

Installation Base

Usage is falling. Well there are mobile devices and the reduced visibility of syndication techniques in the browser (we do not have the feed button in the browser location bar anymore)... So people might just not install feed readers anymore. Is this the case? Let's limit the analysis just on Liferea and Akregator.

Debian

On Debian the install base of Liferea is rapidly declining as it is not in the default desktop selection, while Akregator installations still grow maybe due to the kde-pim integration.

Ubuntu

A different situation on Ubuntu. Both feed readers are in the default desktop packages of their respective desktop environments. So installations seem to scale linearly upwards along with the growth of Ubuntu installations. Update: Jeff Fortin hinted on only Akregator being in a default package selection on Ubuntu. This makes the linear growth of the Liferea install base strange.

It looks bleak... Checking the baseline!

Well let do some verification of the results to be sure popcon can be trusted. Let's have a look at a basic Debian package needed during installation like "debianutils" which users do not unselect and which is automatically used. And let's also add a basic GNOME package like "gnome-session" which always will be used if GNOME is used.

Here are the Ubuntu popcon results for both

It looks (most obvious with "debian-utils") that there was a 50% reduction of the popcon votes in over 2013. Please note that the staircase steps in all the Ubuntu curves do probably indicate there are only 2 samples in the given time range! I guess the decline was rather continuous as can be found in the Debian curve. When checking the installations at the same time there is no drop. So some mechanic in the popcon voting counting could have changed. I found no hints online why this is the case so far.

Conclusion

At this point I think the results are too confusing to actually read much into it. I believe all graphs indicate a decline of the feed reader usage over the years, especially after the peak in 2010, and at the same time the graphs indicate changes in the vote counting with differences in Ubuntu and Debian.

Comments

Re: Liferea popularity stats

I think I have a rough explanation just by looking at the pattern of the first and last graphs. To me it seems like the total popcon votes (baseline) have been cut in half since 2011-2012, and so has the popcon votes amount for Liferea. Liferea therefore has lost little (if any) "popularity". I have never seen Liferea installed by default on Ubuntu, Fedora or Elementary.

As to why Akregator has seemed to "maintain" its absolute popcon numbers, then that's because it has been installed increasingly often. Why? The answer is right on its homepage at https://userbase.kde.org/Akregator : "Akregator is part of the Kontact suite."

More Kontact installs -> more Akregator. Also, you should look not at the install numbers, but the "frequent use" numbers vs "installed" numbers (if that metric still exists in popcon).

Am I missing something?
Hope that cheers you up :-)
--------
P.s.: you should also see http://jeff.ecchi.ca/blog/2010/10/17/video-editors-usage-statistics-duty...

On vote count effects

Hi Jeff,

thanks for the heads up and the hints. I agree on the vagueness of the popcon statistics. Still it's the only thing we have. You are right with poiting out the general drop on vote counts on Ubuntu which correlates with packages every "default" user has installed (like base GNOME packages). For example with "gnome-session"

http://www.lesbonscomptes.com/upopcon/display.php?packages=gnome-session...

This doesn't seem to affect Debian though:

https://qa.debian.org/popcon-graph.php?packages=gnome-session-bin&show_v...

so I assume the losses on Debian are for real.

You are also probably right on Liferea not being in any Ubuntu distro default package selection. Which makes the large install base of 120k the more strange. Why should 120k users install the package and not use it. Or is really only every 100th user using the package after consciously installing it, at the same time not removing it?

Well I think I should not ponder on those statistics too much.

The reason why I left Liferea

The reason why I left Liferea behind is the one, why I started using it: Beeing able to have synced feeds via google feedreader (what was it's name?).
I prefered to read the feeds without the browser (following the "one program for each problem"-philosophy).

With the shutdown of the google reader, I was forced to switch to an alternative and went on to feedly. Although I didn't adore it too much, I arranged myself with the (at-the-time) browser-only thing and I stuck with it.

Therefore no more need for a nice, extra feed reader :-(.

just-my-50-c,
Guntram

Support of Online Services

This is totally understandable. At least this usecase is addressed since 1.11 when choosing online services as TheOldReader, Reedah, InoReader or TinyTinyRSS.

Popcorn

I switched from Ubuntu a couple of years ago and went to Debian. The thing is, even towards the end, when I was still on Ubuntu, I started refusing to participate in Popcorn. When I switched to Debian, I also decline participating in Popcorn. I believe that more and more people, when given the option, simply refuse to have their software, or other software, reporting back to anyone. We've come to view software that "phones home" as being evil, even if the stated purpose is to collect metadata.

No phoning home...

I think not wanting the own OS to phone home is a very valid position. The funny thing though is that the Ubuntu popcon "installed" count is growing. This IMO indicates there is no broad movement of popcon disablers, at least it is not grower faster than Ubuntu installations grow. And this along with lower "vote" count can indicate less usage.

Ubuntu One shutdown also affected many other things..

I synced parts of my /home directory (many local .config-files) using U1. So, I had the same feeds at home and at the office (and on the netbook). But, well need I say more? U1 shut down and ever since I only use feeds at work.

i'm not in popcon

Hi,

I appreciate Liferea a lot. I've tried different solutions, none of them is perfect, nore is Liferea, but I always come back ;-)

Keep it up please!

Regards,

XC

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