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Why is Ubuntu no. 1? Because of distrowatch! April 27, 2007

Posted by Nigel Ajay Kumar (NAyK) in Article Watch, Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Internet, Linux, Linux Mint, Other Distros, Recommendation, Reviews, Ubuntu, Working with Linux.

Don’t get me wrong (from the title). Ubuntu has a lot of things going for it. I learned a lot through it, and it eased my entry into Linux from Windows. But what my title is trying to say is this: distrowatch deserves credit for Ubuntu’s meteoric rise to fame.

Distrowatch has become the number one go-to site for information regarding Linux distributions. It’s an excellent collection of reports on the latest linux distros. Heck, without it I would have never heard of or tried, Dreamlinux, Linux Mint, MCNLive, LG3D… and a host of others.

Of course, the more people came to distrowatch and learned about Ubuntu, meant that more people would look for Ubuntu and come to distrowatch. So perhaps there is more mutuality than I have suggested.

More importantly, it’s much maligned and appreciated stats page, that records the hits for a site have been a helpful (though qualified) guide to what’s out there and how ‘popular’ it (probably) is. Notice, the key word is popular, not best.

However, human beings being human beings, we gravitate towards the “best” movie according to the highest rating, the restaurant with the best “review” and in this case, the distro with the “most” hits. Distrowatch, by its stats that have consistently shown Ubuntu as number 1 for the last two years… has drawn people, even like me, to try Ubuntu first.

Of course now I use other distros. I like other distros. However the first-time user, if given a choice, often invariably chooses Ubuntu. I mean, they (first time users) don’t even choose Kubuntu, which according to me is better equipped for Windows defectors like me. But that’s because Kubuntu is rated a lowly 15 today!

So what am I trying to say, finally? I’m saying that while Ubuntu has many things going for it (and a single-CD concept is one of them)… Distrowatch has led the way in Ubuntu’s popularity. Of course, the more people came to distrowatch and learned about Ubuntu, means that more people will look for Ubuntu and come to distrowatch. So perhaps there is more mutuality than I have suggested.

But still, this post celebrates (and emphasizes) the role of distrowatch in the rise of Ubuntu.

And just to let you know that I’m not the only one who would think like this, check out this site (http://useopensource.blogspot.com/2007/03/unscientific-linux-popularity-contest.html ) especially the first comment by Jay Ellington which reads:

Its too bad you don’t give distrowatch.com the credit they rightfully deserve in your post. Yes the numbers on the ticker can be fudged but I can remember going to distrowatch right after its first publishing and it just blowing up in the following months, it is an incredible site that still today remains quite unbiased towards the different distros on the market. I still read distrowatch weekly regularly and at the time it was one of the only sites that had quality news for open source os’s compared to today when linux has every poser organization claims they are the news site for the masses. At my university (EWU, very small school) we used it almost daily for tracking our currently installed distribution’s default packages and new up and coming distributions onto the market like sorcerer…


Actually, my post is written in response to this post http://blog.lejer.ro/2007/04/26/why-the-ubuntu-linux-os-have-such-great-popularity/ which is a typical entry that one would expect that tells the “merits” of distro as the reason for its success while missing the sociological (and marketing) reasons around it.

ps. check out Distrowatch’s report of Ubuntu’s recent success. The section is in “miscellaneous news.” http://distrowatch.com/weekly.php?issue=20070423#topten



1. devnet - April 27, 2007

I’ve been stating this for well over a year:


It’s cool that people are finally seeing other smaller distros like MEPIS and PCLinuxOS and DreamLinux or Pardus that are friendlier than others out there for new Linux Users.

2. Rahul Batra - April 27, 2007

I am in complete agreement with this post. There are many great distros out there which are definitely better and more user-friendly like openSuse, PCLinuxOS etc. which any new user who is switching to linux might not give a try because of the overly-hyped Ubuntu. I am not saying that Ubuntu is bad, it surely is a good distro, but there are some better options available as well.

3. helios - April 28, 2007

Having been the recipient of over a dozen requests to be part of a “distro hit swarm”, I have long since discounted off-hand the “stats” of any given distro reported here. When a bulk email can be sent to 500 people with the order to “do your duty for your distro”, I question the validity of anyone promoting these stats as “proof” of any distro’s popularity. I would be twice as leary should a website itself do so. touting a distro’s ranking at distrowatch is like proclaiming the winner of American Idol as the best singer in America.

It is a well-kept site and displayed in a professional manner. While it does provide a reliable place to come learn about new or updated releases, as far as distro ranking goes, it only serves as a facility for building bandwagons.

4. NAyK - April 28, 2007

To helios: I agree. But that still does not discount that many people look at the stats (and believe them). Thus, when a distro’s stat are high up, it gets more installs… (like Ubuntu over Kubuntu). The point being that whether the stats are accurate or not, they do matter in terms of which distro gets greater exposure and which gets less. Eventually the stats are not harmless or value-free.

5. Raging_Hog - April 28, 2007

Human beings are human beings, I agree. And we go to the restaurant other human beings suggest to us, and I for one usually go to a one a friend of mine suggested to me for reasons I found reasonable. Not because I saw a statistics somewhere but because someone else was pleased with the place. Not to mention that movie with the best review isn’t the movie with the most hits, as the distro with best reviews isn’t the one with the most installs.

But anyway, I agree that Distrowatches stats aren’t a reliable source(which I believe they have mentioned themselves, with the manipulating and the different user segments visiting it etc.).

Finally, remember that if Ubuntu is nr.1 in Distrowatch, it had to do something to get there.

6. NAyK - April 28, 2007

To Raging_Hog: Let’s put it in another way. Did distrowatch have anything to do with the meteoric rise of Ubuntu as the most popular linux distro today? My article is basically saying, YES!

While obviously Ubuntu is a good distro, it would be interesting to study why Ubuntu and not Kubuntu is top… or even why there is such a huge difference between the two… Ubuntu almost 3000 hits per day. Kubuntu barely 500! There can’t be that much of a difference in the distributions, can there? Are we saying Kubuntu “deserves” to be so low down and Ubuntu “deserves” to be so high up?

I’m basically arguing that statistics, whether reliable or not, make a difference to how users perceive the market. People look to statistics, like we look to peer reviews, to see if others liked a product. And usually, we accept the views (even if it is conditional acceptance).

In variably, the ‘rich’ get ‘richer’ and the ‘poor’ stay ‘poorer’. Unless something remarkable happens.

7. Victor - April 28, 2007

To reply back: I honestly prefer Kubuntu, but friends of mine asked for some Ubuntu distro, and that’s why i wroted down that.
As you and Nayk said, kubuntu’s better (lot better, from my point of view).
The reason of Ubuntu being in top and not Kubuntu’s ( i think ) because of the large mass of ubuntu usage people. They share free cd’s everywhere:).
I think that was the great top raising of the Ubuntu core on the linux distro market.
People runs for free stuff, and if it’s bundled and works for their own pc, then it’s all that they need. Not searching more, for different options.
Get, install, play, it’s all that matter for them.

My pitifull opinion:)
Just think… not a long time ago, the fight was between red hats, suse, slackware, and others… like debian:)
Now, allmost all folks talk for ubuntu when anybody request a simple os for them…
What do you think about that?

8. Valis - April 29, 2007

I think that this is quite flawed approach to distro popularity. The article has no mention of Ubuntu community which is huge in Linux terms, we even have quite active one in my small country. The free CDs were mentioned in other comment, and I might add the possibility of corporate support to make Ubuntu even more attractive choice. I have been playing with different distros for a couple of years now, and the current choice for our university’s and my personal needs is Ubuntu.

9. NAyK - April 29, 2007

To Valis:
Factors contributing to Ubuntu’s success. (not in any particular order)

1. Money and Support from a Billionaire.
2. Very strong community
3. Simplicity… which includes single CD concept.
4. Marketting… which includes a cool name.
5. Very good release cycle… trustworthy and reliable.
6. Stability… user-friendly… good-clean install.
7. distrowatch stat-charts.
8. etc etc etc

As you can see, there are actually many many many reasons for a distro’s success. I’m just saying that distrowatch is one (usually ignored) one of them.

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