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5. GNOME 3's progress
When the latest GNOME hit the desktop, it was not only filled with bugs, but it was a hardly usable replacement for what was probably the most efficient and stable desktop available. Yet GNOME 3 has come on so far in such a short time. In less than a year, it has become incredibly reliable and efficient. Few pieces of software can claim such an improvement over such a short period.
Image credit: GNOME
6. Desktop-centric distributions
After the change Ubuntu made with Unity, a number of distributions reacted by creating releases based on specific desktops. The likes of Bodhi Linux have gained wider popularity, thanks to Ubuntu 11.04 and Unity. Most of these desktops have been available for a while, but they only achieved their present success after Unity arrived. It has also boosted the popularity of such distributions as Xubuntu and Kubuntu — still Ubuntu Linux, but with a different flavour on the desktop.
Image credit: Bodhi Linux
7. Linux Mint
If it weren't for Ubuntu Unity, Linux Mint would not be where it is today. And Linux Mint is one of the finest desktop distributions available. They have taken GNOME 3 and stretched it to include a number of extensions to make GNOME 3 a mashup of Classic GNOME and GNOME 3. It looks great and is one of the most user-friendly desktops you'll ever use.
Image credit: Linux Mint