It’s nearly impossible to tell how many people are using any given Linux distribution. Each distro probably has some internal statistics that they can use to judge relative popularity, but tracking how many people have installed a distro or use it regularly is currently not possible. However, we can look at some general trends online to get an idea of a distro’s relative popularity.
Looking at these Google Trends, there seems to be some indication that Ubuntu is losing mind share to Linux Mint. While Ubuntu still holds a clear advantage in almost all online indicators, there is a slight downward trend that can be seen. Also, Linux Mint has been steadily gaining ground since it was introduced.
While it’s hard to quantify the most “popular” or most used Linux distros, we can look at five which are widely accepted by the general Linux community.
Thanks to its user friendliness and specifically-picked bundled software, Mint has become a popular choice for newcomers to the Linux OS. It comes in two editions, namely Cinnamon and MATE, which feature Gnome 3 and Gnome 2 desktops respectively.
Ubuntu is arguably the most-used Linux distro out there. Its rigorous release cycle and consistent improvement upon new releases have made Ubuntu a solid distro choice. Unlike Mint, Ubuntu doesn’t come with a lot of pre-loaded software, but the community support behind Ubuntu more than makes up for it.
Fedora is a Red Hat-sponsored, but community-driven project which has grown in popularity with a strong user base since its inception in 2003. Fedora is praised for being highly innovative, having outstanding security features and a large number of supported packages. Certain criticisms pinpoint the lack of desktop usability.
openSUSE has garnered a large following due to the distros polished desktop environments (KDE and GNOME), excellent system administration utility (YaST), and an impressive web site infrastructure. Novell’s patent deal with Microsoft legitimised Microsoft’s intellectual property claims over openSUSE, but the distro has remained prominent.
Debian went from a skeptical vision to one of the most dominant Linux distribution platforms. Debian has inspired over 1,000 volunteer developers and includes over 20,000 software packages. It’s known for being incredibly stable and supports more processor architectures than any other Linux distribution.