back to article Ubuntu team questions Distrowatch share slide figures

Ubuntu developer Michael Hall has questioned the latest data from Distrowatch, which suggests that it is slipping in popularity when compared to rivals such as Linux Mint. Last week figures from Distrowatch showed that Ubuntu was down in fourth place as the most visited Linux distribution portal, having previously topped the …


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  1. Goat Jam
    Paris Hilton

    <fingers in ears>

    nah nah nah I can't hear you!

    I note that nobody from Canonical disputed the distrowatch numbers while Ubuntu was riding high on top.

    1. I_am_Chris


      It's always the same.

      They believe the numbers when it shows them in a good light, but point to flaws when they don't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      you're right

      reckon they were too busy bodging unity.

      yep, that must be the reason

      1. alwarming
        Paris Hilton

        Re: you're right

        No first hand experience, but apparently Unity runs fine on Mint! LOL! :)

        Paris, coz if she dilds it, they will c'm!

  2. Shannon Jacobs

    Linux will succeed! Maybe Microsoft will produce another Vista bomb!

    Background: I love freedom and choice and therefore dislike Microsoft. I have used Linux for many years and Ubuntu is what I mostly use these days when I have the freedom to avoid Windows.

    Ubuntu peaked several years ago and I can no longer recommend it. Originally a good idea, but I now regard it as a failure. The rich-man's-charity model has led to too many bad decisions. Also, there are FAR too many random changes for the sake of gratifying the programers fantasies. The interface changes have become especially effective in driving new users away.

    Most significantly, Microsoft's Vista debacle was a GOLDEN opportunity for Ubuntu to capture a significant part of the market. Splut. Thud. Nothing.

    I don't blame Canonical. I certainly don't credit Microsoft for superior bloatware.

    It's the economic model, stupid.

    Whatever you think about Microsoft, their economic model works. (1) Produce awful software. (2) Shove that software down users' throats (preinstalled in their machines). (3) Profit!

    The link is about an alternative economic model. The idea is to add or change features ONLY when LOTS of users are willing to pay (a little bit each) to support the development AND testing. (Closest existing system is the Kickstarter, but the lack of support for project management has proved literally fatal there. Good ideas are plentiful. Money is a little scarce, but available. Good project management is apparently like a precious jewel.)

    1. Orph

      Do you...

      ...actually know what the word "literally" means?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Linux will succedd - No way!

      Microsoft may produce as many duds as they please and they will get away with it every time (between me and you, Vista was a big success for Microsoft because it has allowed them to collect a fresh load of cash earlier than the regular OS renewing cycle). Microsoft's (not so) secret weapon is their stranglehold on computer OEMs and retail chains and this is the reason why Canonical or any other Linux distributor will never get any significant market share on the desktop. In case you have doubts just look at the miserable death of the netbook form factor castrated into uselessness by OEMs intimidated by Microsoft.

      Instead of fiddling with new desktop paradigms, Canonical would better do to start looking for a computer OEM brave (and insane) enough to start loading Linux instead of Windows on their PC. Dell doesn't count for me, they sell Linux loaded on some of their PCs but only with modest hardware and they always charge you for the Windows license and report it to Microsoft as a sale.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      top notch post

      nailed that one.

      but because I can never resist being crass and facetious:

      "The rich-man's-charity model has led to too many bad decisions" and far too much pious simpering from the believers.

      Sabayon and Xfce - it's the one true path.

      1. RSmith
        Thumb Up

        enigmatix said: '"The rich-man's-charity model has led to too many bad decisions" and far too much pious simpering from the believers.'

        Absolutely. Shuttleworth has said all along it's a for-profit company, despite not making any profit at all since inception. I'm sure his Unity UI is how he wants to tackle slates/tablets, hoping to gain a foothold and finally make a profit.

    4. MgrBloodBath
      Thumb Up

      Vista made me question my life long love affair with windows. Ubuntu Unity/gnome 3 made me question my short tryst with Ubuntu Linux. Now I recommend Linux Mint or Debian/LXDE for advanced users.

      Change for the sake of change is a waste of time and resources. Change for the sake of efficiency, security, usefulness, now your talking.

      Canonical should have kept its Ego in check and listened to its users.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Between a rock and a hard place.

        When the Gnome boys decided to commit ideologically pure suicide with Gnome 3, what real choice did Ubuntu have? Go with the Gnome 3 abomination (and shed users by the ton), fork Gnome 2 (a metric fuckload of work) or invent something to sit on top of Gnome 3? The last might be the least bad option from their point of view.

        As long as Xubuntu is still available when support ends on Ubuntu 10.04LTS I won't be too unhappy.

  3. joe4ska

    Pages hits are a terrible metric

    Lets not forget that DistroWatch lumps all of mint's environments onto it's one page. Meanwhile each variation of Ubuntu (Kubuntu, Lubunut, Xubuntu) are listed separately. Add all those up and you'll see that Ubuntu is easily still on top.

    Additionally I discovered Ubuntu's website far before DistroWatch. I only ran into them later on when I was already using Ubuntu and was looking for other Distributions to try out. Ironically Linux Mint was what I installed next, then Arch Linux.

    As I became more experienced in using Linux distributions I ventured to the more challenging ones.

    1. Code Monkey

      To be fair to Distrowatch

      Distrowatch admit as much and never make any grand claims for any distro's positiion in their rankings.

    2. Toastan Buttar

      "As I became more experienced in using Linux distributions I ventured to the more challenging ones."

      Do you hit yourself with progressively bigger hammers because it feels even better each time you stop? Each to their own, but I can't imagine trying out 'more challenging' OSs is a particularly rewarding way to spend your free time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Page hits may be a terrible metric

      But the reason that Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu and Mint exist is because people don't like the choices made for them by Ubuntu.

  4. DrXym

    Well Mint is Ubuntu plus stuff

    So technically Ubuntu is still there just under a different name.

    The problem for Ubuntu is they do not appear to be listening to the people who would make the dist maintain its popularity. Obvious shortcomings in the desktop are not being fixed and people are getting fed up. e.g. global menus and overlay scrollbars may be great on a netbook but they suck on large screens. And Unity as a long list of ways it could be improved which do not seem to be happening (e.g. being able to move the launch bar to the bottom, excessive promotion of the app store, enormous icons, lack of configurability etc).

    There is already a mini revolt brewing with even diehard Ubuntu users switching to GNOME shell. At some point they're going to wonder why they're bothering with the dist at all.

    I think the best thing Ubuntu should do at this point is dump Unity and make some of the other netbook oriented stuff configurable. Any chance to make a good impression with Unity has disappeared. Virtually everything that Unity does could be achieved through extensions to GNOME shell. It really doesn't make any sense to pursue a desktop that nobody likes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @"Well Mint is Ubuntu plus stuff"

      "So technically Ubuntu is still there just under a different name."

      Hmmm, not sure the initiates and zealots would see it that way - see also the CofE and the Roman Catholics - kind of the same from the POV of the objective non-believer.

      1. DrXym


        Well zealots will be zealots. No point trying to appease people who have lost all sense of perspective.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: the objective non-believer

        It's all Judaism, you know. Just as it's all UNIX. Everything else is just packaging. These FreeBSD Moslems only *think* they're different. If you want a *real* difference, try i-Series Buddhism. (It never really dies but you may see it reincarnated on different hardware from time to time.)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm one of those refugees

    What is hurting Ubuntu is not Unity, is the lack of choice. Mint keeps offering that choice, hence it is winning.

    And I completely agree, if the benevolent dictator does make too many bad decisions Ubuntu will be over. Unity perhaps has some value on touch devices, but forcing it on desktop users is really what is killing it.

    Mind you, after 20-plus years of research and development, the ideas around what works and what does not with on screen windows and a mouse are pretty well settled down. It is hard to come up with something original that is not a step backwards in usability. Court evidence: overlay scrollbars, Metro replacement for start menu.

    Both Windows and Mac are offering new user interface ideas in their latest desktop concepts but both allow the choice of using the tried and tested metaphors and waiting to see if people adopt or reject them. Only Ubuntu thinks that can afford to force such changes on its users? Wake up, Mark, this is not going to end well.

    1. DrXym

      Overlay scrollbars

      The funny part is overlay scrollbars are 20 year old, at least in what happens when you hover over them. OpenLook's introduced the concept of an elevator scrollbars - a thumb with arrows at the top and bottom as opposed to fixed arrows at the ends.

      And they were horrible which is why they were consigned to the dustbin of UI history. The arrows are not in a fixed location meaning scrolling up or down by one line or two is a pain and the elevator is not proportional making it a huge pain to land on it. And then Ubuntu goes and digs up this mouldy corpse and adds hide / show behaviour to boot.

      The only redeeming feature of these scrollbars is on space constrained devices they take up less horizontal space. But on anything larger they are just fiddly, imprecise and inferior to a standard bar. They should at least be configurable through the UI.

      I think Metro will be fine when it turns up. Most likely it will be on the fringes for desktop users in places where it doesn't impact on their daily workflow. e.g. gadgets will get canned for metro and maybe there will be the usual rejigging of the start menu but nothing that would upset Microsoft's corporate clients too much. And for tablets I'd say it would make far more sense to use Metro. The standard desktop metaphor has a long history of sucking badly from one generation of pen / touch devices to the next.

  6. Shaun Hunter

    He's right but who cares?

    This is not news.

    Fedora and OpenSuse had recent releases as well so their home page hits are up. That's all Distrowatch claims to monitor.

    Mint has gotten a lot of good reviews this past year although I don't see anything special in what they bring to the table from my own experience.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    It's all to do with the interface

    Like it or not, the majority of 'linux' (as opposed to android) users are probably using laptop or desktop machines. Many of them will have large or multiple monitors. Most non-developer, non-fanboy users - surely the target market - will be quite happy with the way things were and have no interest in using a touch screen-centred interface on a mouse/keyboard system.

    And what Gnome3 and Unity do is take away that choice out of the box, for an average user or windows convert.

    There's a hell of a lot to be said (except by graphic designers) about a task bar at the bottom and a hierarchical menu on the left. Familiarity is a wonderful thing - how difficult is it to go from any windows OS to another? Some menus are different, but everything else has the same standard layout - and that works well in Linux too.

    Changing things around - in particular, the invisibility of running applications, the difficulty changing desktops, the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned idiotic vanishing menu bars stuck to the top of the screen and the ridiculous now-you-see-it-now-you-don't scroll bars - is never going to make friends.

    These are touch screen interfaces. But I don't see them on touch screens... something wrong here? (Where are the sub-£200 tablets with gnome3 or unity?)

    Yes, other window managers are available. If you know what to do and how to do it - but how many windows-using grannies do? There's no technical reason why the gnome2 interface couldn't have been implemented using the gnome3 libraries - hell, gnome2 applications work under gnome3 without change other than look and feel, though they won't usually compile directly - but this is change for change's sake and there's no wonder it's causing resentment.

    1. DrXym

      You can have a task bar with GNOME

      GNOME shell is extensible. Mint is just the first dist to bother to do it.

      Unity and global menus suck though. I can see the point of a global menu on a netbook where space is severely constrained and a user is likely to only have a single app / document maximized at a time. But they stink in normal desktop use. As do overlay scrollbars. There should be switches to control both things, preferably set to off.

  8. MgrBloodBath

    Goodbye Canonical

    Vista made me question my life long love affair with windows. Ubuntu Unity/gnome 3 made me question my short tryst with Ubuntu Linux. Now I recommend Linux Mint or Debian/LXDE for advanced users.

    Change for the sake of change is a waste of time and resources. Change for the sake of efficiency, security, usefulness, now your talking.

    Canonical should have kept its Ego in check and listened to its users.

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Believe it...

    So, the "classic" Ubuntu interface was gnome2 based, and was more and more refined (both due to gnome itself and Ubuntu-specific tweaks) from 6.06 (at least) up through 11.04. I considered Ubuntu "good enough" to recommend to whatever random Windows user at about 8.04, it was quite slick. 10.04 was even better. 10.10 and 11.04 continued to improve, although with 11.04 I had to select "Ubuntu classic" (at least on new installs) to avoid the new Unity interface. 11.10? Unity is the ONLY choice, and when I did install "gnome-session-fallback", it is gnome3 based and to me looks incomplete compared to the gnome2-based system.

    I think Unity is like the Microsoft Ribbon or something, it's a "love it or hate it" thing, I for one think maybe it'd be OK on a tablet, but hate it on desktop (or notebook....) I seriously doubt there's ANY interface I'd like on both a tablet and conventional computer, they just don't have the same physical interface and aren't used the same way. When I upgraded a 11.04 virtual machine to 11.10, then installed "gnome-session-fallback", the result looked so bad I thought the install or upgrade had failed somehow, and installed a *fresh* 11.10 install and threw on gnome-session-fallback. Nope, that's how it looks now.


    I've heard people that I didn't even know where running Linux comment how they don't like the new Ubuntu interface, and are going to check out Mint or some other distro. Believe it. I'm sure some love Unity (or run Xubuntu or Kubuntu where this doesn't effect them...) But for the rest, those who aren't jumping ship now, are waiting for LTS, and I really suggest you fix the "classic" desktop situation by then.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "I seriously doubt there's ANY interface I'd like on both a tablet and conventional computer, they just don't have the same physical interface and aren't used the same way."

      What you say seems so obvious to me that I can scarcely get my head around the idea that people might not agree. However, Unity and Metro both seem to be betting the farm on the idea.

      Odd. Extremely odd.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    ... seems to be very divisive..

    I've only been using (and will use) LTS versions (Hardy -> Lucid -> ..... Precise?) so not really bothered by this, right now at least. [Of course that means no SSD support but I can live with that, for now (yes i've tried the kernel backports, but they don't work well on my system)]

    All that I ask from Unity is to make the top menu bar configurable. I want to be able to get the app menu bars stuck to the app windows (and not the global one) and use the top bar for notifications & other stuff (currently using for the output from the hardware temp monitors).

    Willing to live to everything else (same app multiple window switching, desktop icons etc).


  11. batfastad

    Rant alert!

    I'd say the Linux desktop/UI/shell is definitely fit for purpose these days with a large number of different interpretations and distributions that are all pretty mature.

    The problem I find is with software. LibreOffice has already made some huge improvements over OpenOffice. I use Inkscape and GIMP as core applications in my workflow, apart from when I need to output CMYK images when Photoslop is still necessary :( Scribus is improving as well.

    The only application for which I've not managed to find a Linux/open source equivalent is Acrobat. And I'm not talking about simple PDF viewing/creation but something with functions such as page re-arrangement, font/subsetting options, comments, document mark ups/notes, XML text export, PDF forms, conditional image downsampling etc. I hate Acrobat and the PDF format in general but it's a major format for document sharing so I have to just get over it. If there was a project that could let me do all that on Linux then I'd drop Windows immediately.

    My point is that while there is just 1% of my work that is only possible on Windows, I still can't drop Windows. An Acrobat clone for PDF manipulation would be a huge step forward particularly for enterprise adoption.

    I believe the OS and desktops are ready, there just needs to be more polish on software projects which unfortunately isn't as glamourous or as well funded as distro development. I want to be using Linux full-time but I just can't :(

    Apologies for the rant that's only vaguely-related to this post!

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Have you tried running it under Wine?

      This entry in the Wine AppDB seems to indicate that it should run acceptably under Wine:

  12. Ian 55

    Being in the news boosts interest in you, shock.

    I've been using Linux Mint for a while and there is lots to like about it.

    I've also had Ubuntu on the netbook and have almost come to love Unity, at least on a small screen.

    Both are much better for me than Windows, both personally and when it comes to doing support for the kids' PCs.

    (I recently put XP back on an old box to play some games that WINE won't do properly and discovered that running Windows software on Windows can be harder than running it under WINE, with various Microsoft programs complaining about DirectX 9 being too new...)

    So given that past experience of 'in place' upgrades with Mint have not been great (the suggested method is 'backup, wipe, install, restore' - if you've been sensible, you've got /home on a separate partition, so it's only the list of programs you've installed that needs restoring and the backup tool does that) I wondered about switching back to Ubuntu.

    So far, I am glad not to have done so, although who was the genius who thought the new user switching / login screen having the user names in white on a very light grey background was a good idea, for example?

  13. johnnytruant

    So much fuss

    Over some pageviews on a relatively obscure website? I like distrowatch, but then I'm a linux geek. The vast majority of Ubuntu users haven't heard of it, and don't care either.

    Ubuntu is easily the most popular linux distro and so what? Mint is good. Ubuntu is good. Debian is good. Fedora is good. Crunchbang is good. SUSE is good. Slackware is good. Sabayon is good. They're all good. (except KDE distros, obviously.. /troll) Choose the one you like and use it. Then be glad you've got the choice.

    I know distro choice has always been a minor holy war, and one that is occasionally fun to get into, but this latest pissing contest escalation seems a lot more childish than before.

  14. llewton

    "Red Hat is 42nd on the list, but has a much larger installed base..."

    red hat is the world's leading linux on servers and a very, very serious company.

    canonical on the other hand are unable to turn a profit and are chicken-thieving debian and a number of other FOSS projects in their bid to become "desktop" leaders.

    to which of course i lol, but that's where distrowatch is important. it indicates the popularity of a distro on the desktop, not servers, rather well. canonical previously even quoted their "number 1 ranking on distrowatch" on their ubuntu page. now that they're gone, it's no longer relevant?

    i call that clownishly flippant behavior on the part of canonical, that even smacks of desperation.

    get your act together and stop whining, you uninspired, uncreative bunch.

  15. mhenriday

    «The challenge for Linux Mint now

    is to transform interest into hard users, he [Michael Hall] concludes.» Guess I'm going to become one of those Mint «hard users», due - you guessed it ! - to my dissatisfaction with the Unity interface and the fact that the option to use a Gnome2 variation has been removed on Ubuntu 11.10. I simply find it more convenient and much faster to work with customised launch icons (which don't bounce around and have fits, à la OS X) in the GUI top panel. But I'm grateful to Canonical for services provided ever since Dapper and wish them the best of luck. Hope I find current and future versions of Mint as good as I found previous versions of Ubuntu !...


  16. kurkosdr

    Microsoft strangehold

    The supposed “Microsoft strangehold on OEMs“ is a tale told by bitter Linux fanboys. OEMs just want OSes that work, because they are the ones the user turns to when things don‘t work. Dell tried selling Ubuntu with the XPS 1530, only to have the computers break during an upgrade to the next version. All of them. This shouldn‘t have been good for the tech support department, and surely offseted any gains for not paying Microsoft a license. Lets be honest, Ubuntu doesn‘t work. It breaks when you try to upgrade to the next version half of the time. Its not the market that‘s at fault, its Linux. Oh, and Mac OS X success showed there is no “Microsoft monopoly“ in the desktop OS market either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @kurkosdr - Your Mac OS analogy is wrong here

      because we (including you) all know Apple makes their own hardware as opposed to Microsoft who works with OEMs and Apple also owns some retail stores while Microsoft still doesn't have much.

      And a question for you, how may PC labeled Vista compatible broke during the famous upgrade to Vista not so long ago ?

    2. scientific_linux_01

      Linux/Unix powers the Internet

      You would not be on this forum if not for Linux/Unix variants that power routers/switches/servers and the myriads of other devices like smart phones.

      You are speaking of applications, you do not need Windows to create a (.doc) and/or a spreadsheet.

      The public Internet is full of bot networks powered by non-else than Windows machines.

      If Microsoft was so wonderful why is the iPad and Macs taking a strong hold.

      You can virtualize any application, you do NOT need a Windows server to run an app that requires Windows.

      Before you start trashing all Linux/Unix variants that make the Public Internet available you might want to do some research.

      There are many countries that have abandoned Windows and run pure 100% Linux distro's and a lot of other companies have made the switch.

      There is no need in paying for software when you can have a hardened OS that can withstand the Public Internet such as Linux distro's. A Windows machine cannot face the Public Internet without some barrier to protect it with the 50-70 MILLION lines of code full of security holes and back doors.

    3. scientific_linux_01

      careers today

      I find this almost comical because the top paying careers involve open_source and Linux distro's building virtualized apps and middle-ware technologies.

  17. squilookle

    Why is this guy stating the obvious? I thought it was well accepted, even by the people behind distrowatch, that the page rankings should be taken with a pinch of salt. It shouldn't even need stating that the rankings on DW don't reflect the install base.

    I would argue that the page renkins reflect interest in a distro, and that, rather than suggesting Mint has gained more users than Ubuntu, the rise of Mint shows that people are dissatisfied with Ubuntu and the route it is taking, but are looking for something similar to what Ubuntu was at it's peak.

    Rather than ignoring this and dismissing the figures as irrelevant, they should be taking a look into that.

  18. scientific_linux_01

    Linux distro's are one word AWESOME!

    The more distro's the better, the advancements and packages are mind boggling.

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