One new addition to Version 10.40 is almost guaranteed to be controversial: at the user’s discretion, we now collect anonymous usage information.
Before you light your torch and grab your pitchfork, let me explain why we have not become the next Spyware Kings.
Whose information are we collecting?
The X-Plane 10.40 installer has a screen to explain the data collection, and a checkbox to opt-out. If X-Plane is already installed, you can toggle data collection on or off using the Operations & Warnings window in 10.40 and later.
We will only collect usage information from users who have that checkbox enabled. If you upgraded to v10.40 from an older version of X-Plane, for instance, the checkbox in the Operations & Warnings window is disabled by default.
(But, read on to find out why you should go turn it on!)
What does “anonymous usage information” mean?
In our case, we collect two main types of information:
- system configuration (including your operating system, CPU model, graphics card model, amount of RAM, what language you’ve selected, and so on)
- X-Plane usage (including which aircraft are flown, which airport you start at, and so on)
This information is 100% anonymous. Essentially, all we ever learn is that some user, somewhere was running Windows with a Core i7 CPU, 8 GB of RAM, etc. and they flew the C172 from KBFI. We cannot trace this information back to a specific person.
Will I be contacted or be spammed if I participate?
Since everything we collect is anonymous, it obviously does not include contact information like your name or email address. We can never use the information collected to contact you in any way: no marketing, no spam, no way to bug you.
Why does X-Plane want this information?
In essence, your usage data helps us make better decisions about the future of X-Plane.
For instance, if we found that 50% of users were running 10 year old machines, we would need to think long and hard about increasing the system requirements in future versions.
Similarly, if we found that only 10 people ever flew a particular aircraft, we could conclude that users weren’t very interested in it, so we probably shouldn’t create a new aircraft that was very similar. Likewise, if 25% of flights involved the 747, we might decide that people really like big airliners, so we should probably create another.
This is roughly a billion times better than the way we currently make decisions about this type of thing (both in terms of hardware support and sim features). The current model looks like this:
- Make a guess about what users want
- Argue with the other developers who guessed differently
- Ship something that users may or may not actually like
I can’t stress how much having actual data will improve our ability to make X-Plane the product that users really want.
Why you should participate
Sending this anonymous usage information is like casting a vote—in this case, a vote for us to support the way you use X-Plane. When you send your usage information, you cast your vote for us to support your hardware configuration, to build more of the planes you like to fly, or to improve the airports that you like to fly at.
Just like in electoral politics, you have every right to abstain. But abstaining means we’ll hear other people’s voices and not your own.
If you’d like to participate, you just need to do the following:
- Get the 10.40 update and launch X-Plane
- Open the Operations & Warnings dialog
- Check the box labeled “Send anonymous usage information to help make X-Plane better.”