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Unique Visitors Explained

Posted on October 31, 2009 by admin


On the support desk at StatCounter, we receive a lot of queries about Unique
Visitors. This concept can be a little difficult to understand, particularly if you are

new to web stats, so were going to try explain it here in very simple
terms.
What is a Unique Visitor?
A Unique Visitor is a separate/individual/distinct visitor.
Each Unique Visitor to your site will be EITHER a first time OR a returning
visitor.

How are Unique Visitors and Pageloads related?


Firstly lets be clear on what we mean by a pageload. A pageload is a hit or
page view on a site.
When one page of your site is loaded into a browser, one pageload is generated.
Clicking the refresh button generates another pageload. Visiting another page on
the site will generate a further pageload.
All the pageloads on your site are generated by your Unique Visitors.
Lets imagine you have 10 pageloads on your site. This could be the result of:
>> 10 Unique Visitors each one visited your site once

>> OR 1 Unique Visitor who visited your site 10 times

>> OR 5 Unique Visitors each one visited your site twice

Can you explain Unique Visitors in the Summary Stats?


Lets look at the Summary Stats below.

On Wednesday, there were 21 pageloads. This means there were 21 hits on the site.
In other words, pages on the site were loaded in browsers 21 times.
These 21 pageloads were generated by 5 Unique Visitors. This means 5
distinct/separate individuals e.g. Mark, Paul, Tom, Joe and Simon.
Of the 5 Unique Visitors who viewed the site, three of them are Returning Visitors.
This means that three of the five visitors have visited the site before and returned to
view it again. The remaining two Unique Visitors are therefore First Time Visitors.

How are Unique Visitors in the Summary Stats calculated?


In the Summary Stats, Unique Visitors are calculated by the use of a cookie. A
cookie is a small text file that we use at StatCounter to determine whether a
visitor has been to your site in the recent past.
When a visitor first looks at a page on your site, a StatCounter cookie is placed in
their browser (if allowed). Then, as the visitor browses your site, the cookie tells us
that this is NOT a new/distinct/separate visitor visiting your site. Instead, its the
same visitor looking at several different pages.

You should note that it IS possible for a visitor to disable all cookies in their
browser.
When a visitor has cookies disabled, cookies cannot be used to determine whether
the they are a Unique Visitor or not. If a visitor has cookies disabled, then each
page of your site that he views will be considered to be a pageload by a Unique
Visitor. Obviously, this is not strictly correct, so the Unique Visitor count is an
imperfect measure. It does, however, give you a reasonably accurate overview of
your Unique Visitors.
We hope this post is helpful if anyone has any further queries or comments,
please post below! Thanks!
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General News
Unique Visitors YOUR Questions Answered

1340: Unique Date


Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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COMIC #1340 (MARCH 10, 2014)

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Unique Date

Title text: If our current civilization lasts another 8,000 years, it's probably fair to
assume the Long Now Foundation got things right, and at some point we started
listening to them and switched to five-digit years.

[edit] Explanation
Many people make a big deal about dates when the digits follow an interesting
pattern, such as 2000-01-01 or 2012-12-12. They might plan special events on
these "unique" days. For instance, 2007-07-07 was considered a "lucky" day and
had a record number of weddings.
Cueball points out that every date is equally unique, even when the digits aren't in
a pattern. The Gregorian calendar is the current way to count time in years, months
and days a unique way to describe this is defined in the ISO 8601 standard.

Since time moves only forward, dates will never repeat. Nevertheless, his hobby of
stating this fact every day would be incredibly annoying to his listeners.
The title text refers to the Long Now Foundation, who uses five-digit years (e.g.
this comic's date would be written "02014-03-10"). This is an effort to encourage
people to think in terms of long-term benefits, rather than only the coming years or
decades. The Y2K problem was due to using only two digits to store the year,
which would have made dates ambiguous when it rolled from 99 back to 00.
Similarly, the Maya calendar had a repeating cycle of 52 years, and even their
"long count" rolled over after 7885 years. As we currently use four-digit years this
may cause a Y10K problem.
The Long Now Foundation designs a 10,000-year clock that should be able to run
for this long and in principle it could display every date up to 99999-12-31.
Randall remarks that by coming close to the year 10,000, our civilization probably
will follow this recommendation, unless our civilization is already extinct.
A previous comic on date formats was 1179: ISO 8601.
What about Daylight Saving Time adjustments and leap seconds? Don't they bring
duplicates of the same time or is there a way to account for that in the current
system? --Muskar (talk) 10:06, 28 March 2014 (UTC)
One hour is duplicated each year at the end of DST. Not much happens
during that hour, because it's the middle of the night. A poorly written
computer program that instructs the computer to set back the clock one
hour whenever the clock reaches a specific time would get caught in a
recursive loop (never advancing beyond that time). Properly, clocks are set

back one hour when that time is first reached, but are allowed to advance
after the duplicate hour concludes.
Not sure if this in regards to a now missing statement in the Wiki, but the
reference in the comic is to days. DST occurs as 2AM, so the day is not
repeated. However, 1 - 2 is repeated when time is turned back and 2:01 to
2:59 are ignored when moving ahead. Of course, this assumes one lives in a
state that recognizes DST. 15:07, 5 October 2014 (UTC)
Leap second does not result in a duplicate. The additional second is allowed by
increasing the number of seconds in a minute. Normally, the 60 seconds of 11:59
are numbered from 11:59:00 to 11:59:59, which is followed by 12:00:00. When
there is a leap second, 11:59 has 61 seconds, numbered from 11:59:00 to 11:59:60
(61 total seconds) and then 11:59:60 is followed by 12:00:00.173.245.48.24 18:42,
29 March 2014 (UTC)
My first thought was that he makes fun of people that consider dates like the
12.12.12 as important. As any other date they occur only once and are thus not
more special. 108.162.254.66 04:37, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Good point, I have added something about that. 108.162.246.117 04:49, 10
March 2014 (UTC)
Possibly related to the upcoming Pi Day. Also, next year's Pi Day will be 03-14(20)15, which a few images going around on the Internet have made an annoyingly
big deal about. 108.162.237.64 06:24, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

So - Maybe I suck at searching (I do), but I can't find any information about us
being limited to 4 digits in our calendar system...?173.245.53.107 08:38, 10 March
2014 (UTC)
Most of the computer software that handles dates would have problems
with more (or less) than four digits. Why bother with variable year length
when you can just take the first four characters of "2014-03-10" and it
works for the next 8 thousand years? 103.22.200.103 09:42, 10 March 2014
(UTC)
Also, most digital displays are limited to four digits for the year.
103.22.200.103 09:43, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
And I don't think we actually start address that sooner that in September
9999. It will be Y2K over again! .... not sure where will people of 9999 get
Fortran and Cobol programmers, though. Maybe we should freeze some
before we run out of them. :-) -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:20, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Check this out.--Rael (talk) 21:38, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
I'm with you. I suppose there may be places where leading zeros are used
(somewhere in software where memory space has been set aside, I
suppose) but I can't think of any common system where one has to use five
digits when using a four digit number.
When we get to December 31, 9999 (assuming he Gregorian calendar is still
in use (BIG assumption)) the next day will simply be January 1, 10000
because, as you said, the Gregorian calendar isn't limited to four-digit
years. And, as I say, anyone who think there is some problem with writing

years as four digit numbers is simply demonstrating that they are not
someone to take seriously. 199.27.128.84 16:32, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
After visiting the website for the "Long Now Foundation", I find I'm left
wondering - why, oh why, would they stop at using a five digit year? why not six?
eight? ten? sixteen? thirty-two? Brettpeirce (talk) 12:06, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
I think the point in the comic title is that writing years always with 5 digits is as
significant as the zero to the left it will take to do so for most of the next 8000
years. FlavianusEP (talk) 12:25, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
My first thought was that the comic was about date formats and yyyy-mm-dd being
better than yy-mm-dd or dd.mm.yy. 173.245.53.138 12:40, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Dynamic?
It isn't, but I've made a dynamic one (based on UTC):
https://voidptr.de/xkcd-1340 n.st (talk) 19:36, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
Wanna bet that this comic always shows the current date?--Henke37 (talk) 10:23,
10 March 2014 (UTC)
Haha, that's a great observation! I wish it were so, I'll check again
tomorrow. If it's not, someone email Mr. Munroe to make it so, great idea.
Adityarajbhatt (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
It's 00:07 (11th of March) right now in China where I am currently located
and it still shows 10th of March...just for the record 108.162.225.191 16:13,
10 March 2014 (UTC)

It's March 15th now, and it still says the 10th. It's not dynamic.
199.27.128.76 20:47, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
It says 2014-10-01 for me. But I think it was at 11:53 (2014-09-30) when I
checked it. And mine matches the atomic clock.
108.162.238.173 04:02, 1 October 2014 (UTC)
It's funny that Randall seems to have never heard of RFC 2550, which goes than
the Long Now Foundation in expanding the representable date range.
173.245.53.161 15:05, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Technically, there will be another 2014-03-10; on October 3rd. 108.162.219.65 16:01, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
It would actually be 2014-10-03 "under our system" as stated in the comic.
Technically. 108.162.237.64 17:14, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
It's like me saying that there will be another 2014-03-10 on March 14th.
173.245.50.63 19:45, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
I wonder if this is also somehow related to the Interesting number paradox.
199.27.128.29 18:48, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

The problem of the date rolling back is partially mitigated by storing the year as an
integer instead of as characters, such as how certain Spreadsheet programs, such as
OpenOffice Calc, stores years as a 16-bit signed integer. This doesn't solve the
issue, only pushing it back to be the year 32768 problem. This is even less of an
issue for 64 bit Unix time, which expire on 15:30:08 UTC on Sun, 4 December

292,277,026,596. It's also important to note that the dates, such as 99, or 00 should
not be seen as digits, they should be seen as characters (unless, of course, they are
BCD digits, which entirely defeats the purpose of shortening the date to 2
characters length). This might seem trivial, but I think it's an important
difference.108.162.216.41 02:46, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
3rd of October won't happen for another seven months. 173.245.53.125
(talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
As a (culturally) dd/mm/[yy]yy person (and ignoring, for brevity, the
different options for delimiter), I find yyyy-dd-mm as illogical as
mm/dd/yyyy... Why should anybody switch 'precision direction', mid-way?
Still, as someone who went through the Y2K process and worked with
colleagues across the Atlantic, I tend to use dd/Mmm/yyyy habitually in
"for humans" systems (giving the abbreviated month spelling to avoid all
ambiguity, as well as full year-number), or my own "yyyymmdd[hhmm[ss[.ddd...]]]" format in (informal and internal) programming
situations, with comments attached to any conversion routines (inwards
and outwards). ((And, yes, there are ISO/other standards, but I find
converting from/to them and internally working with my own longpracticed format works best, for me. YMMV. But be aware of how'd you
deal with (or ignore) Leap Seconds!)) 141.101.98.47 14:58, 12 March 2014
(UTC)
I once toyed with the notation 0y20140310, with the "0y" prefix (a pun on
C's "0x") distinguishing it from the eight-digit integer 20140310. I later
decided that 0y20140310.175959 would be a good way to extend it to

specify both date and time, and it still parses as a single C token if that
property is useful. (And it sorts properly, of course.) 199.27.128.68 04:15,
24 March 2014 (UTC)
I am surprised nobody has mentioned the fact that we know of no civilization of
human beings that has reached 10,000 years with a continuous calendar.Seebert
(talk) 14:15, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
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