Flash Player 8 is at 86% (June 2006), and info about the methodology update

The latest penetration study has been published, and Flash Player 8 is at 86% penetration. That’s an amazing number considering it only took 9 months to cross the 80% mark — something that historically has taken 12 months to reach. Flash Player 9 launched after the survey was sent out, so we won’t have stats for v9 until the September study. But the download rates are the same as Flash Player 8 so you can use history as your guide. ;-)

Another important aspect of the June study is that we decided to improve upon the methodology we are using, since it has been the same since it was first started in 1999. A new company, Millward Brown, was selected for the updated study. The study itself has not changed; we still survey users with a set of media and content files and ask them “Can you see this fish?” (click here to see a sample of the survey, also linked from the methodology page). But we wanted to improve upon the worldwide sampling to get a better representation for the study. In the new sample, we have broadened it to a multi-country study and based on the World Internet Usage and Population Statistics, the surveyed countries collectively represent 72% of the world’s internet connected population as of June 30, 2006. We will now be reporting a weighted average for “mature markets” as our worldwide number. The “emerging markets” study will be conducted twice a year.

Obviously, making any changes to the methodology does introduce potential continuity issues with the data. We actually did run both versions for the last two quarters to check the results, and the results were very similar and within the margin of error. But, if you really need to compare apples to apples this is still possible with the latest data. In the previous studies with NPD, the primary sample was in the U.S. so you can still trend the US numbers across the studies.

FAQs for other popular questions that popup whenever we release a study:

Q: What is the penetration in corporations/enterprise?
A: Unfortunately, we don’t really have this information. The reason we don’t test for this in a penetration study is that, frankly, it’s not easy to do. The reason is that with “internet households” or “internet population” there are forecasts, data, and census that can be used to understand how to select a representative sample. That doesn’t really exist for companies. The study does ask the user if they are on a home or work computer, but again, since our sample isn’t designed to be representative of enterprise internet access we can’t project that data into percentage penetration.

Q: My company just did a test on our site to see the version penetration of our visitors. Why is our penetration higher/lower than what this study reports?
A: The penetration of Flash for your target audience is likely to differ from the results reported by this study, because the study is a conducted on a representative sample of the world internet connected population. For example, if you have a website that is primarly targeted to young kids who are likely to be on hand-me down PCs and aren’t allowed to install things — you will probably see a lower penetration of the latest Flash Player on your site. If you are targeting the MySpace/YouTube generation — chances are you are seeing 80+% of your site visitors with the latest version. The study provides guidance on the overall penetration of each technology, but applying it to your specific case may require some thought about whether the number is appropriate for your use as-is or if it is one input into your decision about updating versions depending on what you know about your target audience.

Q: Now that Flash Player 9 is out, does that mean the Flash Player 8 penetration ends at 86%?
A: Nope, that part is a bit confusing based on the way it is presented. Since the study is asking the user if they can see a set of files with the plug-ins they currently have installed on their system, what we are truly testing in each question is whether the user can see a SWF of version 5, 6, etc. When we say that Flash Player 5 has 97.3% penetration, this is the same as stating “97.3% of people can view a version 5 SWF.” If you wanted to state the percentage of users that actually have Flash Player 5 installed, it would be the delta between those that can see only SWF6 and up and those that can see SWF5 and up OR [97.3% – 97.2%] = 0.1%! Note that with weighted averages and margins of error, this calculation doesn’t work with some of the data. But you get the general idea of how to get to the individual player penetration.