Ubuntu is now only the fourth-most popular Linux distribution, according to the latest rankings from DistroWatch.
According to DistroWatch, the most popular has for some time been Linux Mint. Fedora is second and OpenSUSE third, with Ubuntu — in second place just a couple of months ago — now behind all three.
The site-monitoring service Pingdom said on Wednesday that Ubuntu's switch to Unity was probably to blame. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, made Unity the distro's default user interface earlier this year, although users can still use the familiar Gnome shell if they change the settings.
"It seems like Canonical… may be paying the price for the change," Pingdom said.
The site pointed out that it was too early to judge whether use of Ubuntu was declining in the real world, and also stressed that no firm explanation could be drawn up as to why the popularity figures were changing.
However, the post read, "it does seem certain that the timing of Unity's introduction coincides with the decline in Ubuntu's popularity".
Mint 12 appeared for download this week, using the Gnome 3 interface. Mint, which is known for being a relatively simple Linux distro to install and use, is actually based on Ubuntu, but it avoids the use of Unity.
DistroWatch is a well-known guide to the plethora of Linux distributions. Its rankings are based on hits received for different distros' pages on the site, so are not entirely reliable as a market share guide. However, it is nonetheless seen as one of the most plausible indicators of Linux distros' popularity.
Pingdom collated DistroWatch figures to show that Ubuntu's popularity has been falling for years, with Mint taking over as the top Linux distro late last year. Ubuntu's decline sped up during this last year, though.
Comparing the figures for the last month with those for the same month in 2010, Pingdom noted that Ubuntu's share had fallen by 47.2 percent, while Mint's went up by 105 percent.
"Note that even though the relative share of Ubuntu has dropped during this period, the total number of hits on the distribution pages at DistroWatch has almost doubled," Pingdom wrote. "Adding that to the mix makes Mint's popularity even more spectacular."