Like the obtuse heading to an expectant essay paper, the following reader question/proclamation graced the claustrophobic confines of my overly-full inbox a few days back: –

“Given distrowatch’s latest download figures, shouldn’t this site change to OMGMINT to stay relavent? (sic)”

The user was referring to an increase in Linux Mint’s DistroWatch ranking – a chart derived from the number of visits each distro page on the site receives.

Putting aside for one moment the fact that Linux Mint’s recent increase in ‘page hits’ on the site (because, remember, that’s what DistroWatch rankings are based on) has been helped in part by blog after blog talking about/linking to Mint on DistroWatch as evidence of its rise against Ubuntu, there is no doubt that Linux Mint is attracting renewed attention thanks to its own desktop innovations like Cinnamon and Muffin.

But many in camp Mint claim that the distro is now well on its way to being – if it’s not already – more popular than Ubuntu.

One infamous ‘open source’ site with a notable distaste for Ubuntu’s Unity desktop even assures its readers that:

“There is no way that Ubuntu will cover this distance in the near future, unless they change something dramatically.”

Is this true? Is Ubuntu really haemorrhaging popularity and users to Linux Mint?

Real Stats

To help give perspective to the whole Mint Vs Ubuntu debate lets see what some real, hard stats say.

As ZDNet report, the Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report of Operating Systems visiting Wikimedia pages* in October 2011 show:

  • 16,924,000 hits from Ubuntu
  • 556,000 hits from Linux Mint

Half a million computers using your OS is not a bad stat at all, but it does challenge the often agressive posturing of many in the anti-Unity brigade that Unity has been nothing short of a disaster for Ubuntu.

If we look fast-forward to look at Wikimedia stats for December 2011 then things look even brighter for Ubuntu: –

  • 29,432,000 hits from Ubuntu
  • 624,000 hits from Linux Miint

There’s a healthy 68,000 hit increase from Linux Mint users – certainly indicating a surge in its use. But look at Ubuntu – almost 13 million hits up from October, which, perhaps not coincidentally, saw the release of Ubuntu 11.10.

Mint is a fantastic OS, it has a passionate fan-base and very dedicated developers. Its innovation in response to what its users want is to be commended. But to jump to the conclusion that being number one on DistroWatch is indicative of a dominant lead in ‘the real world’ is an Olympic sized one indeed.

And praise should also be given to Distrowatch itself. Its metrics, whilst likely not indicative of userbase size, tend to be pointers towards wider trends in the Linux community. The trend in this case is simply that people are wanting to know more about Linux Mint after reading about its alleged butt-kicking of Ubuntu.

Thanks to AJ

*Analysis is based on a 1:1000 sample

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