These conclusiosn aren’t from a formal survey. IDG and Gartner only look at pre-installed server operating systems and Web browser surveys, such as StatCounter and NetMarketShare, don’t drill down far enough to say which Linux desktop distributions are the most popular. So it is that I have to turn to DistroWatch, the master Linux desktop tracking site for useful desktop Linux use data.
Before launching into this though, I should point out that the most popular end-user Linux of all is probably in your pocket and not on your desktop. That is Android of course. With just over half of the U.S. smartphone market, and hundreds of millions of smartphones around the world, Android is the most popular Linux distribution ever… even if 99% of its users don’t realize that their Linux users.
Moving on, DistroWatch comes right on and states that “The DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics are a light-hearted way of measuring the popularity of Linux distributions and other free operating systems among the visitors of this website. They correlate neither to usage nor to quality and should not be used to measure the market share of distributions. They simply show the number of times a distribution page on DistroWatch.com was accessed each day, nothing more.”
All true, but for better or worse, it’s also the best data we have.