Google is eating Microsoft’s lunch, one tasty bite at a time.

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Microsoft just launched Office 2010 to great fanfare, and quietly slipped in a new free online version.  It looks like they may have finally realized that if they don’t cannibalize their core business with a web based offering, Google will.  Has the sleeping giant over in Redmond finally awoken, and can they defend their biggest cash cow from the future?

Some analysts say Google’s online offering can’t compete with Microsoft’s.  They have no idea.

Google Apps vs Micrsoft Office Daily Reach

We’ve been tracking the usage habits of hundreds of thousands of our users over the last two years, and you can clearly see that Google has managed to increase their daily reach from around 59% to 79%.  On the other hand, Microsoft Office has been steadily shedding users, losing about 9% of our population.

To get an idea of how relatively important each application in these suites are, here is a graph showing the full gamut.

Communication makes up about 18% of all computer usage.  Google proved you could do email in the cloud not only competitively, but for free.  Outlook and Gmail dominate these two companies’ suites in terms of unique daily users.  Gmail managed to increase their slice of the pie about 3%, while Outlook lost about 6% of the total.  That’s a 21% relative decline for Microsoft vs 7% relative growth for Google in arguably the single most important software sector.  Microsoft loses its integration advantage when people stop using big pieces of the suite, which may help explain the synergistic decline of Outlook and Excel.  It’s also interesting to note that Word and PowerPoint have been relegated to a tiny fraction of our users who seem to greatly prefer Google Docs.

If that was the whole story, things might look pretty grim for Redmond, and it’s no wonder they’re being forced to respond to web based offerings.  However, there is at least one more way to consider the data, and that’s in terms of the amount of time spent in particular applications, not just the number of people using them.

It’s clear again that email is the most important component in both companies portfolios, but even though Gmail has about double the users, the smaller population of Outlook users spend more time emailing than all the Gmail users put together.  Today, Outlook is the preferred weapon of choice for heavy users, but if I were an exec at Microsoft, I’d be paying very close attention to the direction those blue and red lines move from here on out.  You might also notice that in terms of spreadsheet usage, there is really only 1 option.

About the data:
RescueTime provides a time management tool to allow individuals and businesses to track their time and attention to see where their days go (and to help them get more productive!). We have hundreds of millions of man hours of second-by-second attention data from hundreds of thousands of users around the world, tracking in real time both inside and outside the browser.  We selected annual date boundaries for this set, to help reveal seasonal variations in usage, like the holiday dip in productivity.

About our software:
If you want to see how productive you are vs the rest of our users, you should check out our product tour. We offer both individual and group plans (pricing starts at FREE).

The Tragic Cost of Google Pac-Man – 4.82 million hours

When Google launched its Pac-Man logo on Friday, we immediately heard amused groans in our tweet-streams. “Well, so much for my morning,” said one. “Google’s Pac Man logo just ruined millions of dollars in productivity today, nationwide,” said another.

Here’s what we all saw on Friday:

Here are two of the tweets we saw in response:

Given our repository of hundreds of millions of man hours of second by second attention data, we figured there’s no one better than RescueTime to tell the world about the cost of Google Pac-Man on that fateful Friday. Here’s what we learned.

The first thing to understand is that Google does not result in a lot of active usage, in terms of time. Yes, we all use Google. But a Google search only requires a few seconds, and we’re all pretty well trained to click one of the first few links. Add to that the fact that many people use Google as a navigation tool (“Googling “IBM” instead of typing in “”). Nonetheless, it might surprise you that our average Google user spends only 4 and a half active minutes on Google search per day, spread over about 22 page views. That’s roughly 11 seconds of attention invested in each Google page view. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but next time you do a search, count to 11- it’s a long time.

This weekend, we took a hard look at Pac-Man D-Day and compared it with previous Fridays (before and After Google’s recent redesign) and found some noticeable differences. We took a random subset of our users (about 11,000 people spending about 3 million seconds on Google that day) The average user spent 36 seconds MORE on on Friday.. Thankfully, Google tossed out the logo with pretty low “perceived affordance” – they put an “insert coin” button next to the search button, but I imagine most users missed that. In fact, I’d wager that 75% of the people who saw the logo had no idea that you could actually play it. Which the world should be thankful for.

If we take Wolfram Alpha at its word, Google had about 504,703,000 unique visitors on May 23. If we assume that our userbase is representative, that means:

  • Google Pac-Man consumed 4,819,352 hours of time (beyond the 33.6m daily man hours of attention that Google Search gets in a given day)
  • $120,483,800 is the dollar tally, If the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 – 2.0 X pay rate).
  • For that same cost, you could hire all 19,835 google employees, from Larry and Sergey down to their janitors, and get 6 weeks of their time. Imagine what you could build with that army of man power.
  • $298,803,988 is the dollar tally if all of the Pac-Man players had an approximate cost of the average Google employee.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our Pac-Man data journey as much as we have. Next up in our on our data-hacking list, we’ll be digging in to find the laziest and most productive countries and cities in the world. Where do you think yours ranks?

About the data:
RescueTime provides a time management tool to allow individuals and businesses to track their time and attention to see where their days go (and to help them get more productive!). We have hundreds of millions of man hours of second-by-second attention data from hundreds of thousands of users around the world, tracking both inside and outside the browser. The data for this report was compiled from 11,000 randomly selected Google users.

About our software:
If you want to see how productive you are vs the rest of our users, you should check out our service. We offer both individual and group plans (pricing starts at FREE).

Startling Data: Are Men 32% more productive than Women?

Editor’s note – April 2016: This six year old post was recently pointed out to us by some folks on Twitter who (quite reasonably) took issue with its content. The author of the post no longer works at RescueTime. Regardless of what the original intent may have been, my impression is that it now should be read as a fantastic example of how, if one looks hard enough, they can find data to support just about any narrative, no matter how questionable.

We’ve decided to leave the post up for two reasons. First, people have linked to it and the discussion of why they were offended is worthwhile. Secondly, enough holes have been thoroughly poked in the analysis by the comments that we think it drives the point home that cherry picked data from a small sample population rarely holds up to scrutiny.

Apologies to anyone that was offended.

Since we’re a gang of egotistical guys hanging around all day, we’ve always assumed we’re the crème de la crème here at RescueTime.  Turns out, we were right.  Our team is regularly in the 90th percentile or higher for weekly productivity.  We figure it’s because we’re productivity guys, it’s what we do.  To get some answers with a little more data, and little less ego, I’ve started digging through the hundreds of millions of man hours in our database.  From what I can tell, the 23rd chromosome has a pretty amazing impact on the way people use computers.  Full disclosure: I happen to be a man.

1) Women spend more time socializing and shopping

The 4,000 women sampled managed to rack up an astounding 87,585 hours on social networking sites, which accounts for about 6.4% of their time.  Their male counterparts, on the other hand, spend 39% less time drinking from the fire hydrant of virtual friendship.  It’s not that men are less interested in being social either.  In fact, in our population, more men use social networks than women (72% of men vs 69% of women).  When it comes to shopping online, women spend 63% more of their time picking out their goodies than men do.  Men have their distractions, too.  They spend about 15% more of their time reading the news than women.

2) Men multi task more than women
I was surprised to find that men switch their active focus about 18% more often than women.  On average men switch windows 53 times per hour, compared to women who clocked in at 45 per hour.

These switches can be anything from one email to the next, or to something completely… OMG, hold on a sec, Tony just posted new pics of his recent getaway… Oh, sorry, back to work.

3) Men work more diligently than women

The average guy spends pretty close to 50% of his computer time doing things he considers distracting.  No wonder our information economy is being eaten piecemeal by developing countries where people still have a work ethic.  Wait, what?  You thought I said men work harder, but they spend half their time distracted?  That’s right, women only manage to be productive with about 43% of their time.

4) Women spend fewer hours on their computers

Evidently, there’s a reason they are called “man” hours.  On average, male information workers spend 14% more time per day working on their computers than women do.

5) Do men simply care more about productivity?
RescueTime only has data from people who’ve decided they’d like to use our tools to get more out of life.  Everyone who uses our software has at least made it to step #1: “Admit you have a problem”.  If this is any indication, nearly 5 times more men than women install our tools to get more productive.
All this adds up to huge differences in the amount of knowledge work men get done compared to women. Our data shows women only work 76% of the time that men do.  Interestingly, the National Committee on Pay Equity found that women earn 77% of what their male counter parts do.

About the data:
RescueTime provides a tool to allow individuals and businesses to track their time and attention to see where their days go (and to help them get more productive!).  We have hundreds of millions of man hours of second-by-second attention data from hundreds of thousands of users around the world, tracking both inside and outside the browser.  The data for this report was compiled from 8,000 randomly selected men and women.

About our software:
If you want to see how productive you are vs the rest of our users, you should
check out our tools
. Better yet, get your entire team signed up and put the rest of those slackers to shame. It’s not really that hard. Our data shows that your coworkers are probably taking it even easier than you are, since you at least made it over here to our blog.

Daylight Savings Time costs the United States $480,000,000

On Monday, the entire RescueTeam dragged their collective backsides into the office a little bit late.  Weekends are sometimes challenging to recover from in terms of work schedule– but Daylight Savings Time Monday is especially painful.  Towards the end of the day we all collectively felt the day was short– and, of course, it was.  We’d reset our clocks but hadn’t quite managed to reset to the new schedule.  Which raised the question:

If we lost a chunk of our morning to Daylight Savings Time, how many other people did?  How much time was lost when people failed to reset their alarm clocks as well as their internal clocks?

It turns out that the answer is this: The average knowledge worker in our growing database spent about 16 minutes less time this past Monday than previous mondays.  Assuming there are about 36,000,000 knowledge workers in the US (the first number I could find by Googling), and assuming that they cost about $50/hr ($50,000 per year x 2 divided by about 2,000 work-hours in a year), we can say that 16 minutes is worth about $13.30 (yes, fully loaded cost is often calculated with a 2x).  Multiply that by our 36,000,000 knowledge workers and we get a cost of this convention:


No idea how this affects other US workers.  And we haven’t checked if people are back to fighting trim the next day– so we suspect the cost is a bit higher.

Very soon we’re going to start releasing the RescueTime True Attention Report, detailing surprises like this one as well as a true understanding of how people really spend their time, on and off the web.  If you’d like to get the report when we release it, be sure to subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed.   If you have data that you’d love to see in a report like this, drop us a line.  Please note that the report will NEVER EVER show any individual data (anonymized or no)– just information like, “The average Outlook user spends X minutes in Outlook”.

RescueTime is a tool that helps businesses and individuals understand how they spend their time and attention– and helps them spend it more effectively.  For more information on our business offering, head to  To check out our individual offering, head to

Information Overload: Show Me the Data!

(note: If you’d like to be able to understand how your business spends time in a way that doesn’t step on the individual privacy of your employees, drop us a line)

Matt Richtel has a great piece on the (front page!) of the New York Times this weekend called “Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beasts“, which happens to mention RescueTime. The best followup analysis of the article can be found at 43Folders (home of GTD zealot Merlin Mann).

I thought I might offer a bit of the data that we have that didn’t make the cut of the article and pose a few questions that are worth considering.

First, let me say that for those who are interested, I have a footnote at the bottom of this post describing how we collected/aggregated this data.  It’s decidedly not scientific, but I think it’s interesting all the same.

For those who aren’t familiar with us.  RescueTime is a free tool (for most of our users) that allows individuals and businesses understand exactly how they spend their time with no data entry.  Essentially, it measures what is “in focus” (or “on top”) on your computer screen, and how long it’s there and allows you to do analytics on that data.

Here are the highlights of what we found that we think is interesting:

  • The average work day in this data slice was 6.71 hours in front of the computer.  We don’t yet track meeting and phone time (but that option will be available soon!)
  • The average IM user shifts to an IM window *77* times per day (avg of 11.5 times per hour or once every 5.2 minutes).  As an aside, I was at 130 per day on average and quit cold turkey.   I now have a work IM account with 4 people on my friends list.
  • Average number of unique web sites visited per day is 40 (that’s domains, not pages).
  • Average number of unique applications touched is 17
  • 26% of time was spent inside a browser
  • 61% of time was spent on internet dependent stuff (web sites plus applications who pull/push data from the internet)…  So unplugging is not a very practical option.

We took the top 125 or so apps from this slice of data and categorized them. Here is what we found:

  • Communication Apps (IM, Email) 38%
  • “Output” Apps (MS-Office style apps, design apps, database apps, etc): 34%
  • Media, News & Blogs (news, blogs, video, audio, photosharing): 14%
  • Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter): 5%
  • Games, Entertainment, & Shopping: 4%

It should be noted that just because communication apps make up 38% of the hours spent in the top apps doesn’t mean that people spend 38% of their time there.  When we crunch the numbers, we find that about 18% of time is spent within email and about 6% of time is spent within chat.  About 2% of time is spent within social networking.

The Big Question:  Does this Really Matter?

Stowe Boyd asks the question (well, he goes a bit farther and says it doesn’t), and it’s worth asking.  He says that “…connected people will naturally gravitate toward an ethic where they will trade personal productivity for connectedness: they will interrupt their own work to help a contact make progress. Ultimately, in a bottom-up fashion, this leads to the network as a whole making more progress than if each individual tries to optimize personal productivity.”

Stowe is going the straw man route– and is characterizing people who are interested in personal productivity as people on an “information assembly line” who would never interrupt their own work to help out a peer.   That’s taking the idea to a ridiculous extreme.  To be fair, there are certainly productivity zealots who take it to an (ultimately damaging) extreme.

We’ll concede that there are lots of people who benefit a lot from all of these great new tools and information sources.  And that there are lots of people disciplined enough to handle the temptations they offer.

But, IN GENERAL, we’re going to go out on a limb and say that alt-tabbing to an instant message window 77 times in a 6.71 hour period (the mean average in our data set) is in most cases, not good for personal or team productivity.  That going to your inbox and clicking send-receive 50 times a day like on of BF Skinner’s rats is bad.  That a river of interruptive (but incredibly interesting) news and links (from RSS, IM buddies, relatives via email, etc) is bad.  And we’re saying that this stuff is happening more and more.

Obviously, this all goes out the window when the person in question is disciplined and makes the right choices.  Sure, you can ignore interruptions when you’re in the work zone.  You can chose to NOT interrupt your peers when you’re NOT in the work zone.  You can choose not to forward that hilarious YouTube video to the whole team.  You can choose to stop your work to help a peer when you know it’ll help the team, and you can choose to ignore a peer when you know their need is less important and immediate than what you’re engaged with.  Like most utopian dreams, that works great when everyone in a business is driven, mature, respectful, and mindful of what they do.

We don’t pretend to know how to solve these new challenges we’re facing, but we’ve got some ideas.  We tend to agree with Merlin, when he says:

“Bottom line (and I’ll never stop saying this): stop trying to eradicate human communication problems by introducing waves of new technology or made-up rules of social engineering. A company with email problems is also experiencing people problems. Until you understand why the wetware isn’t working like expected, don’t go nuts with top-down technology solutions and over-clever edicts.”

Focus on the “wetware” and you’ll make great strides.  But I’d add that if a business or an individual has a time spending problem (just as when they have a money spending problem) you shouldn’t shoot from the hip.  You’ve got to see the numbers, you’ve got to know what you’re spending and where you’re spending it and (for motivational purposes) you’ve got to measure your improvement (hey, and that’s where RescueTime comes in!).

Footnote, more about the data: The data that I’m taking about is a slice from our aggregate data of over 40,000 users.  We took a subset of users who spent at least 4 hours a day in front of their computer but less than 12.  Our userbase consists now of individuals and businesses who actually CARE how they spend their time, so you can assume that skews the data.  The vast majority of these users are free users who found us on their own and signed up.  Users are 81% Windows, 15% Mac, and 4% Linux.  53% are from North America  31% from Western Europe.

Google owns 13% of me

I’m building some new screenshots today of the new-and-improved RescueTime UI and did a double-take when I was taking a screenshot…  On a lark, I decided to tag all Google sites as “Google” so that I could see just how much Google dominated my online life.

(For non-RescueTimers, RescueTime essentially allows me to track all of my computer behavior to see exactly how I spend my time.  I can then categorize each app and site with tags)

So, for me, here’s a rough breakdown of how I tag Google stuff (we just launched the ability to differentiate between various Google services… did you know that?):

Gmail: work, google, comm
Reader: personal, news, google
Analytics: work, marketing, google
Maps: google
Search: google, research
Calendar: work, google
Bookmarks: google

By tagging each of these things as “google”, it allows me to gauge just how much Google has taken over my life (at least the part that involves sitting in front of a computer).

Below is the graph of my total time since I started using RescueTime.  Note that this is COMPUTER time– not browser time:


If you’d like a little more granularity, here is how much Google consumed my day in January of 08:


Pretty damn amazing.