The most popular Linux is...

The most popular Linux is...

Summary: No it's not Fedora, openSUSE, or even Ubuntu. It's Linux Mint.


The most popular desktop Linux is Mint with a GNOME 2.32 interface.

The most popular desktop Linux is Mint with a GNOME 2.32 interface.

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.

In the overall rankings over the last six months, Ubuntu remains number two, but recent updates of openSUSE and Fedora have knocked Ubuntu into 4th place in recent days.

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.

Related Stories:

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OpenSUSE's new Linux distribution is for the clouds

Fedora 16, Red Hat's new community Linux distribution, arrives

Ubuntu Linux 11.10: Unity comes of age (Review)

New Desktop Interface Flops

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • RE: The most popular Linux is...

    ... Debian. Debian itself is consistently among the top 5 distros at DistroWatch and both Ubuntu and Mint are knock-offs of Debian.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • RE: The most popular Linux is...

      @Rabid Howler Monkey

    • linux mint debian edition (LMDE)

      @Rabid Howler Monkey
      Have your cake and eat it too! A nice configuration of Debian, without using ubuntu. Has some problems updating the first time, use apt and apt-update, apt-upgrade instead of the mint update. Debian's x-window system makes it difficult to configure, although it makes a great server.
      sparkle farkle
      • I second that

        @sparkle farkle After playing with Unity and so on, I had to get back to work instead of tweaking, learning new stuff, and searching the forums for fixes. Mint's the way.
    • RE: The most popular Linux is...

      @Rabid Howler Monkey
      You're kidding, right? Debian is open source. Ubuntu and Mint are forks of Debian, not knock-offs.
      • RE: The most popular Linux is...

        @Zc456 You're right, they are not knock-offs but are they forks? I thought a fork would continue on its own path but Ubuntu keeps depending on later versions of Debian. As for Linux Mint Debian, it's just Debian with a few changes.
    • Less efficient knock offs at that

      Well ubuntu is at least, I made the switch to Debian last year( after Unity and 11.10 drove me into a fit of rage and it was the best decision I ever made. Debian is so much more efficient out of the box than Ubuntu it's not even funny.. Screw the middle man, go straight to the source of Mint and Ubuntu and use the distro directly instead of distro's built on top of it
  • The most popular UI: KDE 4.x

    will become KDE4.<br>I've spent several weeks reviewing various Distros and have settled for KDE4.x as the preferred Desktop UI.<br><br>To Mint's (All hail Clem) credit, they have done a 'superb' job of putting together the moving parts and 11 is truly a beautiful thing with 2.32 Gnome.<br><br>Yet, the extensions in 12 just don't cut it for me. The whole Gnome 3 shell is not workable, so, I am pinning my hope on the prospect that Clem will maintain a fork of Gnome 2.32 (Mate) for future's sake, Humanity and World Peace.<br><br>Otherwise, the formers using Gnome 2.32 now faced with Gnome Shell 3.x are at their limits and need to be pulled back from the ledge.<br><br>To their rescue comes KDE 4.x.<br><br>Today, I took Linux Mint 11 and did:<br><br>$sudo apt-get install kde-standard<br><br>It was absolutely perfect. Well, of course, I went on to tweak it a bit (Glassified Theme, switched kicker to classic), but was then immediately taken back to the days of KDE 3.5.x and began feeling great using it.<br><br>It wasn't hard to figure out, replete with compiz eye candy, and rich configurability, the way I remember 3.5.x only with Plasma's Oxygen driving the screen paints.<br><br>So, Folks, don't jump. Don't lose hope. KDE-standard.<br>Give it a spin. <br>Peace. Out.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
  • This might be a lie

    Because SJVN wrote it, and it just happens to be something he uses.
    • RE: The most popular Linux is...

      @x21x It's not even close to true. Even Mint's developers think that they might have a chance of passing Ubuntu in _the next year_ *if* they play their cards right and Ubuntu continues to screw up. Ubuntu has about 20M users. Mint has about 2M.
  • ... Android.

    Android is probably shipping 8 copies for every copy of all other Linuxes put together. I predict one of the next 4 quarters will be the one when it finally surpasses Windows to become the world's most popular OS.
    • RE: The most popular Linux is...

      @ldo17 I doubt that.
      • Re: ... Android.

        @Peter Perry Look at Android's sales figures: 100 million new users in the last 6 months, on top of the first 100 million in the previous 3 years. That's amazing growth by any standard. So Android is now shipping 200 million a year, compared to 300 million a year for Windows. So if you want to be absolutely conservative about it, Android is behind Windows, but not far behind. And taking into account growth rates, it seems clear Android will surpass Windows, most likely in a matter of months.
      • I don't even use Windows 7 64-bit and it's infected.

        @Peter Perry ... I installed Mint 12 RC on a small Pico-C 8GB USB drive. I boot from it on my dual core 64-bit HP and it runs like lightning. Everything is faster. My ACER netbook came with Win7 64-bit and I installed Avira AV. I set up a dual Boot with Mint and it has been used for virtually everything. The only thing I boot windows for is to install critical updates. The last time I tried to update it I was getting pop-ups from Avira that I was infected. Windows 7 can't even update itself without getting infected. Now that's pretty sad since I've been using Linux (Mint since version 4) for 9 years, without AV and have never been infected or experienced problems.
      • Some people should just not be using Windows

        @Joe.Smetona wrote:<br>"The only thing I boot windows for is to install critical updates. The last time I tried to update it I was getting pop-ups from Avira that I was infected. Windows 7 can't even update itself without getting infected.<br><br>And didn't you also previously state on another blog post that your work PC had also become infected (I assume that you actually use this one)?<br><br>Face it, Joe. You are a magnet for Windows malware and should either wipe Windows from your PC or volunteer it for Microsoft's new MSE beta program. Just think, Microsoft may identify and name a new strain of Windows malware after you. Something like 'Smetona.Dropper.A'. It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Windows gets infected by itself.

        @Rabid Howler Monkey... Windows can't even begin to compare with LInux for security. Here's you flagship 64-bit Windows 7 with Driver signing and UAC and all the trimmings. No actual use, but the stupid thing can't even update itself with updated AV running. I haven't even accessed it since this happened (several months). Fortunately, the netbook was priced really low and has HDMI, 2.5" SATA drive, LED Backlighting, etc. Windows cost really wasn't a factor. My family has outgrown Windows a very long time ago. The people that use Windows suffer with it, or else Geek Squad, De-Bug It and others would be out of business, but they are doing remarkably well fixin' Windows. They don't even work on Linux.<br><br>What would happen to Windows if you took those gigantic virus removal companies away? <br><br>Did I forget to bring the garlic? <br><br>You are not replying that you used XYZ Linux and got infected. No one ever does that.

        As far as the old work computer, it was an XP pro with Symantec Corporate fully updated and running. I ran 3rd party programs that found 2 key-loggers and 2 trojans that I had to manually remove myself. They were on the computer for 21 days. It was a disgrace.
    • Why compare -

      A desktop operating system to a phone operating system? Seems foolish to compare two completely different markets.

      Right down to the average life span of a device. A desktop may last 7 to 10 years (dinosaur, but running) wile a phone over two years old is ancient.

      If you wish to compare, go ahead, but it seems pointless to me.
      • Re: Why compare a desktop operating system to a phone operating system?

        @Cynical99 Because Linux does not respect categories created by marketing departments trying to maximize their companies' product revenue. Apple may have a clear boundary between "phone" and "tablet", with nothing in-between; Android offers products in-between (Is the Samsung Galaxy Note a large phone or a small tablet? Who cares what "category" it is?) Microsoft may dictate that Windows Phone is only for phones, not for tablets; but again, Android tears down those artificial boundaries and offers products across the whole spectrum of possibilities.

        Linux has desktop Windows surrounded, and the territory that Microsoft controls is shrinking.
      • RE: The most popular Linux is...

        @Cynical99 <br>I kind of agree with your point and I would add that looking at installed base, rather than "sales" figures, for Android to have more users than Windows, nearly every pc would have to be matched with one Android phone. Seems like a tall order. Families strike me as the only scenario where typically phones outnumber pcs. (My first-world problem may be that I am limited to first-world thinking.)<br><br>Meanwhile, okay, let's add phone operating systems. Let's add the ones that drove the non-smartphones. Why stop at phones? What os is in that microwave? The washing machine? <br><br>Why stop at the os level? Let's get down to the metal and talk about machine instruction sets. Is x86 the real winner?<br><br>And once one has made the Venn diagram large enough or small enough to find their flag is flown by the winner, what the heck has been accomplished?<br><br>Linux advocates have to get over their inferiority complex. It's good code and it's getting better. Device makers choose it because it does the job and allows them to deliver the kit at a lower price. Users choose it because they accomplish work in the way they prefer at a cost they accept. Will it ever "beat" Microsoft on the desktop? I don't care. I don't care if Linux will "beat" OS X, which is what I primarily use. Linux Mint is the leader (but it's a remix of Ubuntu which is a remix of debian)? Okay. Didn't like the green when I checked it out and I don't bother with customizations. Others like what they've done? Excellent. I'm not going to dwell on there being different tastes and needs in the world. I stopped being a teen-ager years ago. There are many choices and minimal cost to switch. Enjoy the party. Shoot, with virtualization and free distros, there's no need to have just one. And as with that brand of tortilla chip: they'll make more.
        • Operating Systems

          The reason why we can compare phones and computers is because they have operating systems. Operating systems are a bunch of services built on top of a kernel, which decides of how to share time using the hardware between all the various programs on it. Since phones and computers have programs and apps, comparing them is allowed, but comparing them to microwaves or dishwashers isn't. As far winning goes, Linux servers outnumber every other kind of server including Windows, and there are increasingly more and more Unix variant devices being sold to users, so yeah, Linux and its family is winning.