Well this sure is interesting, Valve have announced some flaws in their Steam Hardware Survey that caused cyber cafes to over-count users.
Here's what Valve said in full:
The latest Steam Hardware Survey incorporates a number of fixes that address over counting of cyber cafe customers that occurred during the prior seven months.
Historically, the survey used a client-side method to ensure that systems were counted only once per year, in order to provide an accurate picture of the entire Steam user population. It turns out, however, that many cyber cafes manage their hardware in a way that was causing their customers to be over counted.
Around August 2017, we started seeing larger-than-usual movement in certain stats, notably an increase in Windows 7 usage, an increase in quad-core CPU usage, as well as changes in CPU and GPU market share. This period also saw a large increase in the use of Simplified Chinese. All of these coincided with an increase in Steam usage in cyber cafes in Asia, whose customers were being over counted in the survey.
It took us some time to root-cause the problem and deploy a fix, but we are confident that, as of April 2018, the Steam Hardware Survey is no longer over counting users.
It's good to see Valve be open about this and get it fixed, as many people suspected issues for a while now and it's interesting to see some validation of certain theories about cyber cafe use. The funny thing is, someone mentioned this to me on reddit today and I didn't actually think it would have been such a big issue, so it's fun to be wrong.
It's also interesting to note, that according to what Valve said, you're only supposed to be counted once a year, although many of us have seen an issue where it will come up many times within Windows or while using Steam with Wine and rarely on the native Linux client. For all we know, this could have been part of the issue that's now solved.
We will be tracking it on our dedicated page. It certainly will be interesting to see what happens in future. What are your thoughts?