Trying to figure out what the most popular Linux distribution is isn't easy. We can safely say that Red Hat's Rat Hat Enterprise Linux is almost certainly popular server Linux. You don't close in on a billion in annual revenue without a lot of users. You could argue that it's Android since there are over two hundred million Android smartphones out there, but I was thinking of PCs. So, which distribution do most individual people use on their computers?
For years, Ubuntu has been the number one end-user Linux, but, somewhat to my surprise, it looks like Ubuntu has to face not just a challenger, but indeed it appears that Ubuntu has already been dethroned by Linux Mint, my own current favorite Linux desktop distribution.
I say that Linux Mint seems to be number one now because on the site that tracks all Linux distributions DistroWatch's, Page Hit Ranking list, Mint has been number one for the last week, the last month, and, indeed for the last six months.
What happened? Even now if you were to ask most Linux people what the most popular desktop Linux is they'd probably say Ubuntu.
Well part of it is just excitement over new major releases of openSUSE and Fedora of course, but that doesn't explain why Linux Mint has been holding the top spot.
For those of you who don't know it, Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based desktop distribution. The big difference between it and its Ubuntu father is that it still uses a GNOME 2.32 interface instead of Ubuntu's controversial Unity desktop.
I kind of like Ubuntu Unity, but other people, not to put too fine a point on it, can't stand Unity. What Mint offers to users is Ubuntu's goodness but with the GNOME interface they've grown to love over the years. Clearly, they've found a lot of people want to use their old desktop and don't want any part of Unity.
Mint, however, realizing that GNOME 2.32 is, for now anyway, at a dead end, is moving to GNOME 3.2. I hate GNOME 3.2. I'm not alone. But, Mint has a plan. The plan is called Mint Gnome Shell Extensions (MGSE).
MGSE puts a GNOME 2.x style desktop layer on top of Gnome 3. While it's still beta, its worked well for me in the Mint 12 release candidate. I'll be writing more about that in the next few days, but it looks to me like Mint is on to a desktop that will keep its GNOME 2.x loving customers happy.
And, that, in turn, may well mean that Mint will continue to be the most popular Linux desktop of all.