I have a kind of relatively high number for "people reached" (3.5 million) on my Stack Overflow account and I'm just kind of wondering what that really means. Is it the sum of the view counters on all my questions and pages where I had highly upvoted answers? Does it account for duplicates, i.e., if the same person visited 3 of my questions would that count as 3 people or 1 person?

It's really cool to imagine that 3.5 million people have looked at something I wrote, but I'm just wondering what that really means. How much of that is automated crawlers?

  • It's based on views, and those aren't affected by crawlers AFAIK. Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 16:27
  • Here is the calculation: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/244534/…
    – rene
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 16:40
  • According to this post from one of SE's chief developers, view counts are tracked by means of a token that is requested and loaded later, after the page has been loaded for a while. Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 16:41
  • 1
    I wanted to test this by having Google crawl a specific URL, but couldn't find out how to do it, not being the administrator of Stack Exchange. In case anybody wants to help me out: webapps.stackexchange.com/q/132811/136642
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 17:11
  • Unrelated. Why can't we see how many people have looked at an answer? While it is possible for questions.
    – user718628
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 22:20

1 Answer 1


It's fairly accurate. There's no exact science to this but the vast majority of crawlers won't influence the number. The logic used is very similar to tracking actual visits to the site for participation-based badges.

And when I say vast majority of crawlers, I'm leaving room for academic settings where a crawler fetches a set of links, and then humans go through them and create metadata based on what they see, or other such settings where we end up firing a visit for non-typical behavior.

If anything, the reached indicator is probably more on the conservative side than anything. You can go through 5 or 6 results in the top 10 of searches in way under the amount of time that would actually register (depending on how aggressively you close tabs).

The effect does tend to snowball as people find pages with posts you wrote and spend a little time on them, because that's a key metric for two things:

  1. We register the visit
  2. Google notices that people spend time on that particular page, and gives it more weight

So, while the number of people you've reached is a rough aggregate estimate, some contributions you've written can disproportionately influence that number and that's .. essentially what we'd expect. Some of my best answers are on posts that kind of languish in obscurity and there's just no great way to solve for that in such a generic indicator.

But overall, yes - it's a number that's probably way more understated than overstated, and something you should feel pretty good about. Jay Hanlon and Oded Coster invested a huge amount of time in it just so folks got a better sense of their net impact on people's day-to-day lives, so, enjoy it :)

  • 8
    I really appreciate that feature, it means a lot to me. Give them my thanks. Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 18:56
  • 7
    Aww, shucks!! You're VERY welcome! :) And the real point is to thank YOU - we wanted a way to provide perspective on just how many people benefit from the time you donate here.
    – Jaydles
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 20:03
  • I posted an answer in a 500k view question. Does it start counting the views from when I posted it (as it should)?
    – user
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 21:42
  • 1
    Seeing my total reached is about 700k and all my other posts are in <20k views posts, my guess is that it erroneously adds the views regardless of when I posted an answer in a question.
    – user
    Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 21:50
  • Beware when people (/recruiters/bots) start taking this as a proxy for how knowledgeable or influential a user is, or their contribution. If user A posts good stuff in a less-trafficked language/package, and user B in a more-trafficked one, then user B will have a higher metric. But it won't necessarily indicate anything.
    – smci
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 8:56
  • @smci We always advise people to look at the total picture. Rep / reached / etc are just artifacts of how someone participates. It's necessary to drill into how folks answer, how they communicate, what types of questions they tend to answers, etc. I completely agree that it's hard to get recruiters to stop sorting humans by arbitrary scores (the state of recruiting and hiring as it exists is one of the reasons I retired as an engineer). [1/2]
    – user50049
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 17:06
  • @smci ... But as a mechanism for our users to enjoy as a way to reflect back on what they've accomplished through contributing, I still maintain that 'reached' is a great metric, and a very good reason to give yourself a pat on the back for moving it. :) [2/2]
    – user50049
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 17:06
  • @TimPost: whatever the original intentions, it is the nature of vanity metrics to be gamed and abused. I gave you several solid examples why 'reached' isn't a good metric; it's skewed towards Java and JavaScript and away from newer languages with smaller userbases.
    – smci
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 2:22

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