Open Ballot: Is Ubuntu on the way out?


Pop over to the DistroWatch popularity stats page and you'll see something very interesting: Ubuntu is sliding down. As each set of data gets more recent, you can see the gap between Ubuntu and other distros narrowing - and in the last month, Mint and Fedora have overtaken it. So this leads to perhaps the biggest Open Ballot we've ever posted: has Ubuntu had its day? Has the switch to Unity, the talk of Wayland, and all the upheaval on the desktop driven traditional Linux users away?

Maybe this is inevitable, and Canonical isn't concerned, as it's chasing bigger markets. Or conversely, perhaps Canonical should try harder to keep old-time Linux users, as they're the advocates who will spread Linux in the future. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, choosing a hipper name than Anonymous Penguin, and we'll read out the best in our upcoming podcast recording.

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Does it Matter

In the long run it does not matter one way or the other, before Ubuntu, Mandriva (Mandrake) were the Noob’s choice distro as they were seen as the most user friendly way into using Linux. Then along came Ubuntu and made things a little simpler to encourage a whole new user base to the Linux OS, this was when I joined in after years of frustration with the Windows Blue Screen of Death.

However things progress, the advent of hand held portable computer equipment integrated into mobile phones and the new tablet devices requires a different type of user interface and it is this market that Mark is steering Canonical towards, he has always focused on the new user and simplicity of use and the new Unity desk top is geared towards touch screen users so will eventually be very successful.

For those of us using our desktop PC for serious work flow tasks such as Image, video and sound editing or serious office applications, the application running on the PC is more important then the DTE it is running on. I personally want a DTE that does not get in the way when I want to do a task or tinker with the system to optimise it for my use. Unity and Gnome 3 are not for me they don’t work on a 20” non touch screen where input is by Keyboard, mouse or graphics tablet.

Ubuntu is a Good Linux Distro but others have adapted to meet the needs of more traditional Linux and, dare I say, Windows and Mac users that enable the OS to sit in the background and let us get on with using the PC to do what we need it for. In another 5 years we may be talking along the same lines about a distro that is just emerging now, gains a wide user base and then is superseded by something that is still yet to emerge, but there will always be a need for the distro that meets the needs of the wide (tec savvy) user base that Linux has.

there is only 1 thing worse that being talked about...

...and that's not being talked about.

If Unity had no good parts and if Unity was obviously awful and unusable then we would not even be having this discussion - Ubuntu would have been forgotten 3 months ago. But people still use it and feel a certain loyalty to it.

Ubuntu is at a difficult stage - it has to change and move on and it has to create new user groups, audiences, customers, partners and sales. In order to do this it will alienate some of those fickle Distrowatch readers. And if it gets great again and untouchably better again those fickle Distrwatch readers will flock back in their droves.

Gnome 3 Tweaks

To all the fedora Gnome shell users who feel it lacks functionality `yum install gnome-tweak-tool` Lots of tips on what to do with it on the fedora forums including doing away with it ;)
As to the main question can we tell from the available data whether this is just a shift in market share or is the market growing in general.

Enjoy the Choice :)

Lack Of Focus

I think Ubuntu chop and change stuff too much. Their target userbase, as I understand it is your average Joe, non-geek who wants a consistent and familiar experience and does not have the time or inclination to learn lots of new stuff. I think the way Ubuntu changes so much from release to release would tend to alienate such a person.

For instance, my mum might just have got to grips with Gnome 2 style Ubuntu and then if she booted the computer up and Unity was there instead she would be flummoxed.

The default selection of software changes too much. PiTiVi was introduced in 10.04 and has now, I believe, been dropped as a default... F-Spot was introduced as a default and later dropped... Evolution will be dropped in favour of Thunderbird... GIMP was dropped. There may be good reasons for this from a technical standpoint, but to the average user it comes across as indecisive.

Compare that with Mac OS X. iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, Safari, Garageband... all of these apps have been defaults for donkey's years... new features may get added, but the basic user experience remains reassuringly familiar.

It was me!

The reason Ubuntu is less popular now is that I put the Voodoo Curse on them they day they had the audacity to move the buttons to the wrong side.

(The left hand side has always been associated with the devil... do a Google search for "left hand devil" if you don't believe me.)

Ubuntu's Not On The Way Out For Me

I have two desktops, a laptop, and two netbooks. After trying the latest Mint/Fedora etc, I've just upgraded them all to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (the netbooks are running the netbook edition) and I'm very satisfied. They are networked and everything works smoothly. Great repository and package manager. I have also installed Ubuntu 11.04 on an 8G SD card which I can boot on either of the netbooks. I'm getting to like Unity. It looks pretty and once you find your way around, it does all you need on a netbook with limited screen space. One of my netbooks is an eee PC 701 with a 7" screen (800x480), so the dock autohide feature is essential. Only problem is that it's slow to boot, but I guess they will fix that in due course.

Questionable data

I am not convinced that the number of hits on Distrowatch is a reliable measure of popularity. I myself never visit Distrowatch and I am sure lots of other Linux users don't either.

Maybe the data shows Distrowatch is becoming less popular with Ubuntu users, rather than Ubuntu itself becoming less popular.

(Disclaimer: I am not an Ubuntu user)

Smartphone UIs Are Becoming More Familiar Than Windows..... I believe Canonical has got it right. Ubuntu with Unity has the potential to challenge seriously Android on tablets.

I tried Ubuntu some time ago

I tried Ubuntu some time ago and didn't get on with it, it was being dubbed as the first "easy" distro but it was no easier than Suse.

More recently I have tried LMDE which I find really good!! Last week I decided to look at Ubuntu again because I wanted to try Unity, after a week of trying to get Ubuntu to recognize the partitions on my hard drive I gave up. I am now happily using LMDE again as that gave me zero installation problems.

If Ubuntu is on the way out then maybe its because lots of people can't install the latest version.

Wanting Something That Keeps Working

I have been using Ubuntu for three years, but lately each release has made me feel more like a beta tester than a user. Jumped ship for LMDE and found it lacking key features e.g. NO SOUND. Presently happy with SUSE. I'm not sure I hae found a home but at any rate I see no compelling reason to ever go back to Ubuntu.

Tempo Is Key

The tempo for releases is perhaps problematic. Ubuntu seems similar to a perpetual teenager going through growth spurt after growth spurt. Too much change can result in not having any sense of what is "normal".

Then again, I'm part of a nascent effort to create an openbox-desktop sort of metapackage to reduce complexity and make for a simpler desktop. That would help create a sense of normalcy and familiarity compared to the GNOME desktop product stream's turbulence. Disruptive change is great but constant turbulence is counter-productive.

Picture yourself aboard an aircraft. You hit a single pocket of turbulence and then things stabilize. The aircraft course is changed but your destination remains the same. Hitting turbulence over and over in a flight can create delays, discomfort, and potentially even diversion to a different destination.

Finding the happy medium between stagnation and frenetic activity hasn't been found yet within Ubuntu. This too shall pass. Until then, the core may well be those able to hang on for the wild ride that is developing.

Ubuntu becoming too foreign for first time Linux users

As a long-time Linux user (from the days of Corel Linux and Fedora Core 1), I might grudgingly allow myself to be converted over to Unity because I have been with Ubuntu for so long now... or maybe it is time to go back to Fedora. But I cannot seriously think that any Windows user is going to be convinced to switch over to Linux when presented with Unity and with no means (as of Ubuntu 11.10) to get to a familiar desktop. Too bad. Yes, I think they are on the way out as they have abandoned new switch-over users and have decided instead to gee-whiz it up for the Linux crowd.

Ubuntu: unnecessary distro nowadays

The Ubuntu did it job atracting many many users, but there is no need for it anymore. It turned to new interfaces (unity), which in present state are hardly usable. Gnome2->Gnome3 and KDE3->KDE4 was also same kind of transitions, but both were more or less painfull, but succesfull: Gnome 3 has it speed, KDE 4 - powerfull interface. Unity looks like primitive gnome 3. Gnome 3 was logical step in my opinion: Gnome 2 looked really outdated and slower than XFCE, Ubuntu developers knew that, but took wrong path. Now most users are in Mint.

Ok, so I went and installed

Ok, so I went and installed Fedora 15 like I said I would.

Oh boy... what a waste of time. Everything worked out of the box, except I couldn't play any of my music, watch any of my movies or tv shows.

Of course, it offers to search for plugins to play my file types, but it never actually finds them. I spend two hours tracking down the packages that I needed to isntall, and still most of my music (ALAC format) would not play.

After that, someone suggested that the gstreamer packages in rawhide (unstable packages) contained a fix, so I followed some instructions to install those.

Something went wrong on the way, and now the operating system is unbootable.


Moving from Ubuntu

I discovered linux through Maemo when given a Nokia N800. I installed Ubuntu on my desktop and have used it ever since. However, I find Unity ugly and feel Ubuntu has been making erratic, half realised, changes in direction since Mark Shuttleworth changed his role at Canonical. I enjoy Gnome 3 on my laptop so this weekend I will move my desktop to Fedora 15 too and leave Canonical to flounder around seeking profitability without messing me about.

What is DistroWatch popularity stats?

DistroWatch popularity stats page is mostly related to the downloads each distro makes through a DW link. That's confirmed by looking at the prime places in the 7 day range. Its easy to see that they're the same that have announcements released in the previous days.

Excluding Ubuntu, non english speaking users prefer to download from DW due to the standard way they have been presenting the release announcements.

Ubuntu have sites localized in most countries and local users download from local Ubuntu sites. Its a huge number out from DW stats. To know about Distro popularity its more easy to find the average daily web traffic at each one web sites. Ubuntu may easily be 10 times greater than the next to follow it.

From Warty To December 2010.....

I moved to Ubuntu right after the Warty release & became active in the Testing & Development forums around the release of Breezy Badger---I actively tested for Ubuntu until December 2010, when I was "told" by one of the developers that I could either test Unity or find the door.....I had been involved with Gnome-Shell testing for almost 2 years at that point &----well--Mint had just released a 64bit version of I took the path out.... Was sorry to go, the Testing forums were the PLACE to be at Ubuntuforums....we were a lively, vibrant group...pity to see it's all gone now..

I hope you are happy Mark...I did enjoy talking to you...I wish that towards the latter years you would have listened more to us.

Corporate Takeover

I see 2 things happening with Linux.
1) More and more corporations are wresting control of Linux. At some point Ubuntu is mandated to start making some money, this involves not necessarily increasing the user base, but increasing the paying user base.
2) Employees of these corporations are not interested in adding functionality for the user base, but adding a bunch of useless features and changes which will attract the attention of their corporate bosses, and help secure promotions. A debugged smoothly running intuitive application is not nearly as obvious to a clueless MBA as a bunch of glitzy add-ons, or a useless change to a functioning system.

Not the end, but a big problem for Ubuntu

I left Ubuntu when Lucid was released. The upgrade from Karmic broke Gnome on my computer, so I installed Mint 8 Xfce (I already had some previous experience with Xfce). I still use Mint (Debian Edition) with Xfce, and it works fine for me. I follow the forums of both Mint and Xfce. Until recently there was a steady flow of refugees from Ubuntu, but it turned to a remarkable wave since the release of Natty. Does it mark the end of Ubuntu? I doubt it, but Ubuntu has a disconnected with a significant portion of its user base.

Ubuntu based Distros are making difference

Ubuntu is still on and will be strong.
The difference might be that every month you get a new distro based on Ubuntu - add those distro;s to the number and you can get an idea about the Ubuntu base.

So its still gonna be around and its been the top distro in distowatch since i 2005-2006.

Also other reason is users got proficient with Ubuntu and are trying Fedora and Suse as well.

I guess that explains the slight drop but Ubuntu is still gonna be the in the top distro race as ever.

Not the end, but probly also not the beginning Canonical wanted

I have been using Ubuntu as dual boot since 8.04 and fully since 9.10. I tried 11.04 three times, once on my laptop, two times on a desktop, and it was really just crap in the sense of buggy, unintuitive, and uncustomizable. Canonical is a company, they can do what they want with the free OS, and yes, I know know it's all about choice, but choose I did: I am on Mint 11 now, and while I would still like to go back, Canonical has a lot of fixing to do - otherwise I will stay with Mint 11 or switch to Debian or Pinguy.

I don't like it as it is right now

since ubuntu 7 I became a loyal follower until recent times
when canonical star making changes don't get me wrong I am a novice user and I may not now much but I do not like the way ubuntu looks right now and I'm thinking in going with linuxmint( another favorite)

Unity was the final straw

After it became apparent that that was their vision, I switched to Arch

Although a long time Ubuntu

Although a long time Ubuntu user, I struggled with Unity and its global menus. Reluctantly, I decided to try Fedora 15 with Gnome 3. Having now used both, I can’t for the life of me understand Ubuntu's decision to implement Unity over Gnome 3. Simply put, Gnome 3 is the most polished, elegant, and functional desktop environment I have ever used.

When I sit down and use Gnome 3 I get the feeling that someone stepped back from the table and asked, “How can we re-invent the desktop environment in such a way that users have a fundamentally more enjoyable and productive experience?” It seems they put away all preconceived notions and built from the ground up with the user in mind. The result is something completely innovative that has indeed enhanced both my productivity and my overall computing experience.

With Unity, I get the feeling that someone said, “Here’s an idea from Macintosh that works well. Here’s one from Windows. Oh, and let’s grab this piece from Gnome 2. Also–let’s try to make it so it can someday be utilized on a smart phone.” The result is a product that feels cobbled together when compared to Gnome 3.

Fedora and Ubuntu

The old gnome desktop? Take this from an old Apple Mac studio. Old Gnome 2 was ancient Apple 8 to us. With tiny icons with stupid little shadows, come on linux, change was needed. Using Fedora 15 here, runs excellent. And yes gnome 3 looks like the new mac and tablet desktop and that is excellent for me! From phone to tablet to desktop, one smart system, way to go.


Good grief, I certainly hope not. I don't have a problem with the new Unity desktop and feel that it could/would get more people to use Linux. While many people like working with command lines,etc. many do not and if Linux is ever to become more mainstream it will have to appeal to the masses and I think Unity does that. I've tried over distro's (Fedora, Mint, OpenSuse etc.) and none of them give me anything I can't already get from Ubuntu. I especially like the Ubuntu One Cloud feature with the auto backups for my important files. This gives me an added level of security I don't get with the other OS's and it's totally seamless.

Tablet OS?

When I look at Unity interface I see a really great tablet or embedded device UI. Personally I would love to see Ubuntu slide into that market. Imagine Unity on a nice 10" tablet. Of course Emacs would be a bit of a pain in the ass...

its summer

maybe its just summer and 'normal' people do not jump on fixing their computers while sun is shining ???? :P


I think perhaps that Ubuntu, because of its orientation toward new users, is the distro that new users start on, and then some of the more demanding move to a distro more suited to what they need. The new user is the one most likely to switch distros, although there will be more churn with the unity gnome3 moves, which some won't like. But lower numbers for Ubuntu may mean fewer new users coming in. Only about 15 million users for the Linux desktop (a minuscule number). But there is Android, if you want to call that Linux also.

New users can soon become fans!

I am sure there must be a steady stream of coumuter users who are looking to change to, or to at least experiment with, a 'new' or at least alternative, operating system.

They are getting fed up with Windows, their hackintoshed netbook has just crashed after trying to install the latest Apple update, so they are looking for something else to try.

How about this Linux thing they say, I have heard of Ubuntu, so let's try that one first. "Oh look, this new desktop looks a bit like the Apple one I rather liked".... and before you know it, another user is hooked!

They may of course decide to try one of the others, such as Mint also, of course... but Ubuntu was easy to install, and it recognised all their hardware... seems quite also to use, without all that "sudo" stuff, so they stick with it, and another new user... who will in time hopefully become an old user, is on board, and will tell all his mates about this great new O/S he has just "found".

Well that's certainly what could happen!

Might I suggest?

The nice thing about Linux is there is so much choice. I am not at all excited about Gnome3 or Unity, but being a Linux user I have a lot of choice that simply doesn't exist in the Windows and Apple worlds. I like Gnome2 and am very unhappy that it will possibly be going away soon, but I have the freedom to move on and find something else that will suit my needs, if not my likes. With Linux I never have to worry about being chained down to one particular way of doing things, unlike in the Windows and Apple worlds. Plus, lest we forget, the Linux world is full of innovative and creative people who are always coming up with alternative ways of doing things and in some cases, finding ways of keeping things as similar and familiar as possible for themselves and like minded individuals. Who knows, maybe someone is already working on a Gnome2 like fork or derivative. In the Linux and Open source world it's possible. And as much as I like Linux, it's not the only alternative OS out there. There's the BSD and it's various derivatives. There's Haiku, and other's that I can't think of off the top of my head. Just do a Google search for alternative operating systems. What I'm getting at is that maybe instead of getting upset and disgruntled, we should just exercise our ability and right to choose a distro or OS that is more in line with our wants and needs and let the ones that don't suffer the consequences of our freedom of choice. We should also not be afraid to use these same powers of freedom of choice when we shop and when we vote, those of us who can that is.

Ubuntu is down because of

Ubuntu is down because of Unity/Gnome shell debacle. People who rely on their system/desktop want stability and ease of
use Keyboard "shortcuts" take time to execute and are NOT intuitive to users who are not part of the crippled "tablet/phone" user base - best that could happen to Gnome now is to fork it and maintain development for the Gnome 2 base as a GUI for the disaffected users - KDE 3.5.9 is still
available as the Trinity Desktop and works fine - much faster than KDE 4 and on par with XFCE - someone please take over development of Gnome 2

Ubuntu OS vs Unity desktop

I have given the Unity desktop a try on a few different PCs. On one of them, Unity did not work at first, but one video driver update later, it started right now. On another laptop, it would not run at all, so I tried a different desktop while sticking with Ubuntu 11.04 I finally GOT IT that I need to separate the Ubuntu OS from the desktop I use in my head.

I think that is both a confusion point and a VERY strong point for Ubuntu. Unity didn't work on the laptop, so I installed the xubuntu-desktop. It worked but not well, so I installed the lubuntu-desktop. Now that worked well!! All without having to change the Ubuntu install on my system.

More people need to be taught this: if you don't like the desktop in the distro you installed, you can install another desktop without reinstalling the entire Ubuntu OS. Suddenly I am not looking at 5 different flavors of Ubuntu 11.04, I am looking at one Ubuntu 11.04 OS with 5 different desktops that I can choose from, and can install all within the same OS install. Wow, is that powerful and very useful!!

so thats what distro watch is...

Ubuntu was the first alternate desktop other than windows and Apple I heard of (this was before android came out and after the release of unity) I installed Ubuntu when my windows net-book failed and wow it revived my old computer for another 3 years during which it was quite reliable. Ubuntu is how I learned of Linux I had never even heard of distro watch until recently I have introduced Ubuntu to many of my friends and have never thought of changing. Linux mint seems nice played with it a little.

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