As we reported here today, a new NPD Group study ranks iTunes above nearly all peer to peer services in terms of popularity in the United States, and gave dark horse WinMX the top-ranked digital music spot in the country.
These figures have furrowed brows across the music-swapping world today, and I tend to agree. Statistics for these topics can be brutally hard to come by, and NPD often deserves credit for spotting trends. But it's hard to believe that WinMX or LimeWire can be more popular than eDonkey or Kazaa, each of which have millions of people online at any given time of the day. According to Slyck.com, for example, eDonkey currently has more than 4.5 million users online, while the Gnutella network that LimeWire uses has just 1.6 million people online.
It is possible that most of the bigger networks' traffic comes from overseas, and that the U.S. market has switched to underdog networks. But it seems unlikely. The lesson, as always, is be very careful with any numbers online, even from the most respectable sources.