It’s one of the most famous predictions about voice search – “By 2020, half of all searches will be conducted via voice.”

It appears on everything from presentation slides to thinkpieces: the ultimate justification for prioritising voice search; the ultimate proof that soon, we’ll be living in a much more vocal world.

The thing about statistics is that so often, as they’re cited and re-cited, their context is lost. And sometimes, that context can be very important to understanding what a statistic actually means.

In my recent article on the future of voice search: 2020 and beyond, I devoted a decent chunk of time to deconstructing the "50% by 2020" statistic and running the numbers to gauge how realistic it is. I pointed out that the original prediction, while popularly attributed to comScore (and for the life of me, I can’t seem to find where that came from), was in fact made by then-Chief Scientist at Baidu, Andrew Ng, in an interview with Fast Company. It was also meant to encompass image search as well as voice.

However, for the sake of keeping things concise (ish), I didn’t delve as deeply as I could have done into the original context of Andrew Ng’s voice search prediction and why it makes so little sense as a benchmark for where voice search is headed in countries like the UK and the US.

But the statistic is widespread enough, and I see few enough people drawing attention to this (no-one, really) that I thought I would devote a follow-up post to explaining why we need to stop blindly repeating the "50% by 2020" stat.

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