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I have this question related to the Stack Exchange active user base.

According to this webpage, currently, there are around 661,293 Stack Overflow users who have at least 200 points as their reputation.

Similarly, according to this webpage, currently, there are around 32,858 Super User users who have at least 200 points as their reputation.

I am not interested in their reputation points, but rather in the number of active users. Supposedly, the users who have at least 200 reputation points have been doing something at least meaningful on these websites.

The numbers seem to be surprisingly low. As in the industry, one finds themselves at least reading these webpages, if not writing something on them or providing feedback to their content (that is, reacting to it in any way).

Does this mean that the current worldwide active information technology and telecommunications professional user base is only around a few hundred thousand users?

This idea might sound to be a little bit exaggerated, but look at the number of users that a software application such as Symantec's Norton Life Lock has: only something above one million installs.

Is it possible that the whole World Wide Web could actually be sustained by only a few hundred thousand users working on it around the world?

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    Stackoverflow actually has more like 14 million users stackexchange.com/sites#name, the vast majority of users don't make anything like 200 rep, they just come, ask a question and leave. Your conclusion that because only a few hundred thousand users have that much rep, therefore only that many people work in programming seems absurd based on that data alone. – Mark Kirby Mar 2 at 13:05
  • I have seen that number of around 14 million users, @MarkKirby. The idea is that, since they do not make much difference around here, they probably perform the same way outside of this place. People who have passions, who strive in their lives, they seem also to be quite proficient around here. – DOBRESCU_Mihai Mar 2 at 13:35
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    You could look at when users has accessed the site the last time: data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/1380548#graph – rene Mar 2 at 13:47
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    I'm unclear on what you expect as an answer. Does an answer need to address: I am not interested in their reputation points, but rather in the number of active users. or Is it possible that the whole World Wide Web could actually be sustained by only a few hundred thousand users working on it around the world?. The former is answerable, the latter we can only speculate about. Speculation is off-topic on MSE. – rene Mar 2 at 13:56
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    @rene well, one can visit every day and have zero actual contribution. I suspect great many users are exactly in this status, aka lurkers. :) – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Mar 2 at 13:57
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    "The idea is that, since they do not make much difference around here, they probably perform the same way outside of this place." … eh, that's a rather... absurd, if not rude, assumption if I'm being honest. There isn't a singular type of person who likes helping other people (or whatever other motivation drove them to earn rep) – Kevin B Mar 2 at 15:32
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I am not interested in their reputation points, but rather in the number of active users. (...) The numbers seem to be surprisingly low

I can't quantify it but among my colleagues many have SO accounts and many others don't. Most decide not to actively participate but certainly all end up on SO if they're googling something. Traffic is probably the better indicator of how many programmers are out there.

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    True. According to @rene's graph, there should be somewhere around 300,000 and 14,000,000 users who eventually end up at least reading SO. – DOBRESCU_Mihai Mar 3 at 10:04
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Wrong base assumption.

Stack Overflow (and Super User) users are not sustaining the whole world-wide-web.

  • Programmers can solve bugs and problems all on their own without asking on Stack Overflow.
  • Programmers can ask their co-workers and friends for help, instead of asking on Stack Overflow.
  • There are other sites besides Stack Overflow with possible solutions to common bugs.

So this whole discussion is moot. Amount of active or inactive users in Stack Overflow has very little effect, if any, on the world.

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    They can also check the language/library/program documentation for help ;) – Luuklag Mar 3 at 9:14

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