Early Adopters Still Spend More Time With Microsoft Than Google, Facebook, or Skype. But For How Long?

When early adopters sit at their computers, what applications and websites do they use the most? The answer: Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office, and MSN Messenger—just like most everyone else. At least according to data from RescueTime, the productivity app that monitors the amount of time a user spends on every application on his desktop. The Y Combinator-funded startup has given us an exclusive look at the usage data they’ve compiled from over 30,000 users (most of whom are early adopters). This data represents real-life usage on a huge scale, totaling 475,190 man-hours.

Gmail, Facebook, and Skype make strong showings, but still lag behind Microsoft’s desktop apps. Microsoft Websites, however, are nowhere to be seen. All of this suggests that among early adopters, desktop apps still rule, but Webtop apps are gaining ground in terms of what they use every day. After Outlook and Word, Gmail is the third most-used application, Facebook is No. 6, Google search is No. 10, iTunes is No. 11, and Skype is No. 16.

If you add up all of Google’s apps and sites, they take up 17 percent of the time this group spends on their computers. But Microsoft’s apps collectively take up 41 percent of their time, so Google still has some catching up to do.

Here’s the disclaimer: This data is by no means scientific. It represents mostly early adopters, but these are the people who are supposed to figure out what’s useful before the rest of us do. They are the canary in the coal mine. The data also has an international slant, with only 40% of users in the US (a total of 60% are English-speaking). About 35% of the users are on Macs, a rate over three times higher than the international estimate of 10% Mac market-share.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 20 applications and Websites, ranked by the overall time spent in each.

The Top 3

The top of the list is dull. Outlook stands tall with 12.4% of all the time spent on a computer, with MS Word(9.4%) and Gmail(6.6%) rounding out the top three. No surprises here.


In the battle for chat-client supremacy, MSN Messenger comes away with a whopping 4.14%, more than twice as much as the next leading client. Adium’s high performance is indicative of the high proportion of Mac users (it is easily the best client on the Mac).


Facebook holds a surprisingly strong lead over other websites, with nearly three times as much usage as Wikipedia’s English site. Also notable is Twitter.com’s usage (this is the site itself, not the API, which reportedly sees ten times more action). Digg is more popular among this group than the NYTimes.com, and gaming site Kongregate makes a strong showing as well. TechCrunch comes up right behind YouPorn (NSFW), which isn’t such a bad place to be in.

In all, RescueTime users spent 44.6% of their time using communication services, beating out work-related apps by a large margin. The trend is probably much worse for the typical user, as RescueTime users are more likely to try to stay on task (in theory, at least).

We’ve included the full spreadsheet below, and would love to see further analysis in the comments.