Most users like their operating system to be like their cars. They stick in the key, turn on the ignition, and off they go. For these users, I recommend Ubuntu. But, if you’re the kind of person who likes a car with manual transmission and getting your hands dirty under the hood, then Arch Linux deserves your consideration.
You can, of course, just build Linux from source code, or use a distribution such as Gentoo or Linux from Scratch (LFS) that relies heavily on Linux source code. Those distributions though are best left to developers and other people who know their way around programming. Arch Linux, on the other hand, is suitable for Linux power users who still prefer the command line interface (CLI) to GNOME or KDE.
Believe it or not, there are still people who find the CLI to be the most comfortable way to get the most out of Unix or Linux. I should know. I’m one of them. It’s not that Arch doesn’t let you use a GUI; it’s just optional.
I strongly suspect that’s why Arch is as popular as it is. Arch Linux is currently, as of early December 2010, number eight on DistroWatch’s Linux distribution page hit list.
You see, Arch Linux, without requiring you to master kernel compiling 101 gives you an enormous amount of control over how Linux will run for you. That starts from the get-go.