Most People are Lurkers: The 90-9-1 Rule

by | Aug 19, 2020

Just lurking under a lamppost

Way back in 2006 Jakob Nielsen forumulated what is now known as the 90-9-1 rule which states that in online communities most people don’t actively participate. Specifically the rule states:

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

The 90-9-1 rule means that for every 100 people who view a blog post, LinkedIn post, Facebook share, Tweet, etc., only a few people will comment or like the post. One interaction will be from a person who is a very active contributor and a few are from people who occasionally comment. The other 90%+ are “Lurkers” who just read and move on.

In this 2014 peer-reviewed paper, the researchers confirmed the 90-9-1 rule for participation in digital communities focused on health issues. Other researchers think that the 90-9-1 rule is too generous and it’s more like 98-1.8-0.2. More generously, a survey by Pew Research found that nearly 1-in-10 claim that they usually review products or services that they consume.

Why does this matter? Keep comments, likes, etc. in perspective. In reality, here’s who is driving most online discourse:

Thus, online discussion, whether about sports, politics, or product/service reviews, is usually dominated by a very small percent of the people who visit the site. And, it’s very possible that the views of the 1% – 10% who comment don’t reflect the majority view of the subject at hand.

Related IFOD: The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule)


  1. I am with Gonz! No Lurker me! Isn’t this phenomenon another reason why the most dangerous equation is so important? Luv2Nap

  2. I have nothing to say, just want to be part of the 1%.

  3. Ugh. Now I feel like I should comment so there is some semblance of a contribution and influence over what I consume! Thanks for that.
    It is interesting also to note the news services that do not have a comment section after their articles. Grateful you do!
    As often goes unsaid (Lurker), thanks for the insights you provide!

  4. I wish I had the Lurker personality — would keep me out of trouble!
    thanks for this important reminder John that the twitterverse is not the universe.

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