Predicting Apple's 10 Billion Song Countdown

Remember the days when getting music meant leaving your chair and driving to a store? Remember having to buy a whole album of filler to get that one great song you heard on the radio? iTunes didn't only change the way music was distributed... it changed music. This is why the upcoming milestone is so momentus. In the next few days, iTunes will reach 10 billion song downloads. That's ten billion with a b. A one followed by TEN zeroes. That's a song for every person on the planet, plus an extra 3,300,000,000 songs left over. To mark the occasion, iTunes is giving a $10,000 iTunes giftcard to the lucky downloader of the 10 billionth track. Mike and I thought it'd be a fun challenge to try and come up with an accurate educated guess of when the download will happen to increase our chances of being the lucky winner.

To come up with a good estimation, we started by taking a look at Apple's "countdown" page. The 10 Billion Song Countdown page features a really awesome countdown effect without a lick of Flash; it's all done by moving a large background-image up and down with Javascript and CSS. By taking a look at the source code, we quickly discovered that the counter's starting amount and rate of change is being loaded from a text file off the Apple server seen here: (the number on the end is presumably a random number sent to prevent caching)

This file is updated every hour and is a simple one line string. The string contains the timestamp, the current count and the how many songs were downloaded in the last hour. In order to calculate our estimation, we set up a script that logs the newest data every hour from Apple and stores it into a database. With this data, we can analyze the rate of change per hour, every hour and convert Apple's countup counter into RustyBrick's countDOWN counter. We have created a few algorithms and crunched a lot of data and our prediction is below.

Songs to Go before 10 Billion: Loading...
Approx Date and Time for 10 Billionth: Loading...


Number of iTunes Song Downloads to Reach 10,000,000,000

10 Billionth iTunes Song Countdown!
00 days 00 hours
00 minutes 00 seconds

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With all this data at our disposal, we thought it would be fun to do some cool stuff with it. We're nerds for great data sources. For example, here's yesterday's rate of song downloads (in Eastern Standard Time).




Now, it's important to note two things. Our prediction will (hopefully!) get more and more accurate as time goes on as we collect more and more data from Apple. So, be sure to bookmark this page or use the widget for the latest info.

Also remember that the counter is purely for novelty purposes as it's impossible to tell EXACTLY when the ten billionth download will occur. Apple's counter is only using an hourly feed so we're left to make educated guesses at the end date. Also, even if we were able to get the exact second of the final download... at the time this blog page was loaded, Apple is averaging _ downloads every second.

However, we can tell you that if you use our estimator, you'll greatly increase your odds of winning the grand prize. Good luck and be sure to share the loot if you win! ;-)

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posted by geck0man on: Feb 17, 2010 12:28am

Perhaps I should be asking Apple this, but do you know if an album counts as one song (purchase) or does each individual track count separately? If each song is separate, it would be advantageous to buy an album to increase your chances when the time comes. Of course this would be to Apple's advantage too.

posted by on: Feb 17, 2010 02:25am

And after that is explained, how the whole "No purchase necessary" thing works in this situation (legal requirement for sweepstakes).

posted by Sean Park on: Feb 20, 2010 05:52am

Let's win this shit!

posted by yew on: Feb 24, 2010 02:30am

Is this not being updated anymore? It's clearly going to happen tonight

posted by MICHAEL on: Feb 24, 2010 02:37am

how do u know you R RIGHT YOU NERDS??????? :-(((((((((())))))))))()()()()()()())()()()()()()()()(

posted by .. on: Feb 24, 2010 04:45am

did anybody else notice that hes got the number wrong? theres only like 4 million left.

posted by on: Feb 24, 2010 05:24am

Read the post in detail and you'll notice they're feeding off information from Apple as soon as they can get it, but the numbers might not be exactly right.

posted by MICHAEL on: Feb 24, 2010 06:22am

yo your countdown is whack you jerks

posted by TJ on: Feb 24, 2010 05:21pm

Yeah, great idea. Somehow you've managed to be about a half million off going into the final few hours . . .

posted by Alex Fierro on: Feb 24, 2010 07:23pm

@MICHAEL We are working right off the same data Apple uses. The code gets updated by Apple every hour, and as soon as it updates, our software grabs that data and uses it its calculation. At the time of this comment, our software says 4 hrs to go which seems to be a pretty accurate guess based on the high rate of downloads in the last hour.

posted by Alex Fierro on: Feb 24, 2010 07:25pm

@TJ For best results, use the brown countdown timer and not the countdowner. The brown widget with the time is much more accurate, the number ticker is rounding. See you in 4hrs!!!

posted by Name on: Feb 24, 2010 08:44pm

If Apple's code is saying that there were 388,306 downloads last hour, and the counter on is just right now hitting 9,999,500,000, we should be seeing the milestone in just about an hour, not the 3+ hours your calculator is showing. Looking at the timestamp on Apple's code (currently 11:00:00) and assuming it's Pacific time as I believe it was earlier, it's now an hour behind, as we're in the noon hour there.

posted by Alex Fierro on: Feb 24, 2010 08:54pm

@Name The rate is going through the roof! With the latest data, the code now predicts less than 2 hours which should handle the "wait for the last possible second" people.

posted by Name on: Feb 24, 2010 08:58pm

My code (a.k.a brain) predicts more like 45 minutes at the most.

posted by Alex Fierro on: Feb 24, 2010 09:46pm

Yeah, well that's easy to do now that there are less than a quarter million to go. But this was made to predict the date very early on (from weeks and weeks ago). With the latest update of data, we were off by about 4 minutes at "zero hour". Currently, the Apple site says "done", but our counter says 3 minutes 15 seconds.... which still might even be true, since we're using the same data is using, so even the official contest page is an estimate.

posted by Name on: Feb 24, 2010 09:46pm

Looks like I was just about dead on. :)

posted by Name on: Feb 24, 2010 10:08pm

As of February 15th (nine days ago), your counter was predicting that the milestone would be reached around 4-5 AM Eastern time on February 23rd. So even back then you were off by a day and a half. (Not that I'd really expect such data to be able to offer an accurate prediction in the first place...) The data Apple's site was presenting on an hourly basis and that you were using was definitely off in the last few hours for whatever reason, as several comments here point out. Whatever the counter visible on was actually using, it wasn't using that linked piece of data because they didn't match up. It very much did look like it was an hour behind the real numbers as I noted in an earlier comment (at 4:00 PM it updated with numbers as of 3:00 PM), and only corrected itself with the real 4:00 data in the last few minutes. Check the timestamps on their data entries if you have them and you should see that they got an hour behind. Don't get me wrong...I appreciate the effort you put into extracting data from Apple's site and it's cool to look at the ebb and flow of downloads, but it wasn't a great predictor. With hours to go it was obvious to an eyeball that something wasn't right either with the data you were getting from Apple or the way you were using it. I'm pretty sure it was the former for whatever reason.

posted by on: Feb 25, 2010 07:20pm

you guess was like an hour after it actually happened....

posted by Barry Schwartz on: Feb 25, 2010 07:23pm

That is pretty good.

posted by Barry Schwartz on: Feb 15, 2010 11:02pm

This is pretty cool, I know I am biased, but very cool!

posted by on: Feb 15, 2010 08:59pm

Cool! Love the widget countdown. Looks like we can see exactly when valentines across the world started spending their iTunes gift cards they got from their loved ones :)

posted by hard disk recovery on: Jun 12, 2010 04:35pm

This countdown shows the popularity of music track.

posted by Joel2 on: Jan 20, 2011 05:08pm

Um. Fail.

posted by Barry Schwartz on: Jan 20, 2011 05:12pm

Check the date of this post.

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posted by joshuatitsworth on: Feb 16, 2010 03:37pm

That is pretty sweet. Now I know when to try to download. Very nice work!

posted by Yosef on: Feb 16, 2010 03:43pm

That's a pretty sweet hack - I'm impressed!