Popularity of online reference managers

Now that we have a number of online reference managers to choose from, I thought it would be interesting to look at their popularity – both in absolute numbers of visitors and the in changes during the last 12 months. Online tools such as Compete allow everybody to do just that, and their basic functions are free to use. I've picked unique visitors, but there are of course other statistics to look at, including total number of visits.

Click on the graph for more detailed statistics.

CiteULike is the most popular online reference manager, and it is obvious that the announcement by Springer to sponsor them last August has helped their site traffic. Only CiteULike and Labmeeting show a significant increase in unique visitors in the last 6 months.

The statistics are more complicated for tools that include both a desktop client and online database (Endnote, Mendeley, Zotero) and these numbers should be interpreted with caution. I've included RefWorks in both graphs for better comparison. It is probably safe to say that both Endnoteweb and the online version of Mendeley are not as popular as the online only reference managers in the first graph. This could either mean that online only tools are far more popular than desktop applications (which I doubt) or that most references are still primarily stored in desktop programs and not shared online. Something that Eva Amsen already described last year (How to get scientists to adopt web 2.0 technologies). To put these numbers into perspective: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov (the home of PubMed and other NCBI databases) sees about 2.5 million unique visitors a month.

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7 Responses to Popularity of online reference managers

  1. David Crotty says:

    Martin, your link to “Compete” is malformed (there’s an extra http:// in there).

  2. David Crotty says:

    I’d also add that I’m always skeptical of site traffic data that comes from a group of users who volunteered to be tracked by a site. It’s always unclear how well that represents actual use.

  3. Heather Etchevers says:

    I’d lean toward “references are still primarily stored in desktop programs and not shared online.” Despite my goodwill toward Mendeley in particular, which I find has introduced a great number of improvements since I started to try to upload my fifteen hundred-plus references there, most of those are still only on my computer, waiting for me to get around to it. And when I write an article, I whip up an Endnote database just for it. Old habits die really really hard.

  4. Martin Fenner says:

    It again boils down to “what is in it for me?”. And the primary reason for sharing references is probably with collaborators, especially paper coauthors. EndnoteWeb, Zotero, RefWorks and Mendeley all have word processor plugins and could be used for that.
    I will have a closer look at LabMeeting. It looks like a nice service and has really seen an increase in traffic, but is not often mentioned.

  5. Richard P. Grant says:

    _It again boils down to “what is in it for me?”._
    Money and/or sex, usually.

  6. Eva Amsen says:

    I should probably post another thing I wrote more recently, that goes with the slideshare thingie that you said you had questions about. Maybe tonight.

  7. Michael Lee says:

    RefNavigator is also a good bibliography software. it’s very fast and efficient to search Pubmed and other sites such as Google Scholar. Besides, it can automatically download full-text PDFs from PMC and Highwire. A local MeSH browser is included to make more precise searches. It can also automatically make bibliographies in MS Word with 1500+ popular bibliography styles.
    I think the software is great and recommend it. There is a nice tutorial “RefNavigator’s Pubmed Tutorial”:http://www.refnavigator.com/tutorial_pubmed.html