||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (February 2013)|
|Owner||Linux Counter Project|
|Launched||1 May 1999|
The Linux Counter attempts to measure (ultimately via statistics) the number of people using the GNU/Linux operating system, along with the number of machines those users use. The counter is run by a nonprofit membership organization called the Linux Counter Project. This organization was created on 1 May 1999, taking over the running of the counter from Harald Tveit Alvestrand, who has been running the project since 1993.
Harald Alvestrand is chief executive officer of the organization. Active work is carried out by volunteers. The Country Managers maintain the data for their geographical areas. Coding and maintenance is carried out by teams.
Purpose of the Linux Counter
The Linux Counter is started as a "for fun" project to find out how many Linux users there are worldwide. The basic idea is for people to register themselves as being a Linux user. Of course, this way you won't get all Linux users counted as not every Linux user will register himself at the Linux Counter site . Thus, the only way to "know" the number of Linux users worldwide, is to make a guess, preferably a not-too-wild guess of the number of Linux users. In not making wild guesses, there is only one way to go: statistics. So, the main purpose of the Linux Counter  is to deal with statistics on all kinds of numbers related to Linux usage. It started with statistics on the number of Linux users and it extended to statistics on Linux users, the machines they use, software they use and in what part of the world Linux users are actually living.
A second purpose of the Linux Counter is to make it possible for Linux users to find each other. The Linux Counter is reporting Linux users sorted per almost any place in the world. So, when Linux users want their information to be public, you can quite simply find those users who live in places near you.
Attention paid to the Counter
At the time when Linux first burst into the limelight (around 1999), there were quite a few news articles about the Linux Counter, including three Slashdot articles (the first two of which brought the counter to its knees). Linux Today reported how Microsoft Austria used the site for spamming Linux users; the counter keeps a list of press references, occasionally updated.