Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ubuntu - The Flagship Linux Desktop Distro

Like it or hate you have to admit:

Ubuntu has done wonders for the Linux desktop.

Through Canonical's works, community development, and the various spin offs such as Linux Mint, PinguyOS, Zorin, and many others there is no arguing that Ubuntu based systems are the most popular choice for the Linux desktop operating system. Ubuntu has almost become synonymous, or at the very least as popular, as Linux in general. If Google search trends mean anyhing just "Ubuntu" could very well surpass "Linux" itself within a few years (because we know Canonical like to keep the Linux hidden). The year after Ubuntu's first release the amount of searches of "Ubuntu" versus searches for "Linux" was 13 to 1:

This number quickly changed as Ubuntu gained in popularity. In 2006 this ratio was more than cut in half:

Ubuntu continued to gain steam from this point forward, in the next year this ratio was halved yet again:

Now, in 2010 the Ubuntu search ratio is extremely close to that of Linux itself, settling at a 1.24 to 1 for the last twelve months:

As someone who has used nearly every distro on the Distro-Watch top 100 list, I can say from personal experience that Ubuntu based systems have always been the easiest to configure. They are what I recommend to friends and family when they ask about Linux. Some people will tell you Ubuntu is harder to use than some other operating systems, but we know that is just plain FUD.

If you are a Linux user do you use something Ubuntu-based on your personal machine? If you have a friend interested in learning Linux, would you recommend Ubuntu or a different distro? Finally, why do you think Ubuntu is the most popular around?

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. This is pretty cool information. I agree with you that Ubuntu is pretty easy to use than some other operating systems, except when it breaks or you need to perform advanced configuration then it can be more difficult. I think Ubuntu is the most popular around due to the Canonical marketing machine. They are quite good at marketing their distribution and hiding or minimizing issues.

  2. Yeah, and even Google is friends with Canonical (see for details). That said, take a look here as well:

    This second link involves my opinion on Linux for the future and how the Web will become a free advertising platform for Linux distros.

  3. I think also people may search for Ubuntu more because it is so widely used and there is so much information in the Ubuntu forums that is indexed by Google.

    When I need to fix an issue I always have Ubuntu in my search string.

  4. Why not use Ubuntu as a BASE OS, Desktop or Server, run VirtualBox; which can test out the other OSes such as Fedora and openSUSE?

    That's what I do! :D

    Markus McLaughlin
    Hudson, MA

  5. I will use Ubuntu, but find that Debian Testing is more up to date, faster, and far more stable than a released version of Ubuntu. But if I have to recommend a distro, I usually do Ubuntu just because it's a simple 1 click install. If I'm installing an OS for someone and they'll be required to maintain, I always go with Debian testing so that they're not bringing it back to me every 6 months complaining that attempting to upgrade to the next version broke it.

  6. i recomment Mint or Super OS for first timers as they come with all the multimedia codecs and many of the bugs sorted out.

  7. i like and trust ubuntu. it gave me what windows couldn't. peace of mind.

  8. Thanks for the post. Ubuntu really is a phenomenon, and we should all really celebrate its success.

    I myself use Debian. I've used some of Ubuntu's releases and here just 2 reasons from top of my head why I reverted back to Debian:

    * Debian has a tradition of maintaining stability, and is therefore cautious of embracing 'unproven' technologies (EG, it hasn't yet adopted Upstart). OTOH, Ubuntu is more adventurous, and some of their decisions have surprised me from time to time (remember the PulseAudio and Tracker fiasco).

    * About all Debian packages are considered 1st-class, which is not the case for Ubuntu, and I use a lot of packages which Ubuntu considers 2nd class. Note that a lot of these packages are copied as-is from Debian (I guess they only get a re-compile, I'm not sure). This also means that Ubuntu there's a delay between these packages being available in Debian and in Ubuntu.

    In a sense, Ubuntu is the guy that takes Debian to 'the people' since Debian failed to market itself that well (and/or popularity isn't its top priority). It isn't just marketing, but also the focus on ease-of-ease, date-based releases, offering free CD's, which all added to Ubuntu's great popularity.