Counting Bitcoin Merchants

Posted on July 12, 2012

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Spekulatius has been doing an awesome job on the forum showing number of Bitcoin-accepting merchants listed on the Bitcoin Wiki ‘Trade’ page. Here’s the latest chart:

There’s a slow but gradual increase across the board, although it’s tricky to say if particular areas are growing more than others.

The thread turned into a question of whether the data could be automated, so in a free moment I tried out a PHP script to scrape the Wiki page’s history and do just that.

Happy to say it kind of works. Results get piped out into both CSV format and JSON – gotta love PHP’s json_encode function.

The CSV output also means you can easily pump it into a Google Spreadsheet like this one using the importData() function. From there I made a copy of some of the data to select a particular time-range, and threw together a couple of quick graphs from it. Here’s a version of the total number of sites listed on the wiki over time:

And here’s a version with category breakdowns since the start of the year (when the wiki categories were tidied significantly):

Some caveats and observations:

  • My counts are taken from the latest point from each month – e.g. May’s count will use the last version of the page in May. Not sure what point Spekulatius used at the moment. It would be great (and fairly easy) to count number of edits made to the Trade page as well.
  • Counts go down as well as up, due to the wiki page being tidied up and merchants being removed. I think Churn could be a great indicator to track – i.e. how many merchants have dropped off the page?
  • My counts are higher than Spekulatius’  because (I think) I’m counting more categories, including the first 3.
  • There’s an interesting question about the community’s reliance on the wiki – as Bitcoin goes more mainstream, will the wiki become less relevant? i.e. We don’t really know how many traders accept Bitcoins outside the community, so I’d be careful about taking this data as a firm indication of the strength of Bitcoin by itself.
  • This is only a count for the English page. Spekulatius notes the German version as well, which would be good to compare.
  • What else could be scrape-measured like this? Total number of edits across the whole wiki? Forum posts? Is there scope for a “Bitcoin economy dashboard” with stats yanked from the blockchain and markets as well?
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Posted in: Bitcoin sites