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> Counting matches instead of replacements IMHO is simpler to understand
> and use. It also provides an easy way to count how many times a given
> pattern occur in a string.
> path= "/many/nested/directories"
> _,n= path:gsub("/",{})  -- n counts "/" chars

I do agree that it is simpler, and that is the main reason we chose it.
But I am not sure it is "better". You can use other options for this 
code, like

  _,n= path:gsub("/","")

On the other hand, counting only replacements allow some interesting
tricky counts:

  -- count number of reserved words in string
  _,n = string.gsub(s, "%w", {[while] = true, [for] = true, ...})

-- Roberto