Is Ubuntu on the way out?

by Susan Linton - Jun. 20, 2011Comments (34)

Ubuntu A distinguished Website is asking the question: "Is Ubuntu on the way out?" They cite Distrowatch's Page Hit Rankings as the catalyst for this query. According to said PHR, Ubuntu has fallen to the number three position in the one month tally behind Linux Mint and Fedora.

The the past year Mint has remained in the number two spot with Fedora occupying the third position. For the last six month Ubuntu's popularity remained stagnant and fell within the last three months. And as said it actually fell down the chart this past month.

Some initial comments seem to indicate that premise is incorrect. Several assert that Ubuntu is probably just finding a new audience. One said, "I think the real question is 'Is Ubuntu on the way out for new users?'" Another said, "I get the feeling that those of who are more power-users are moving over to other distros such as Fedora and Arch. Another echoed similar thoughts by saying, "Ubuntu is repositioning itself. It obviously is no longer targeted at the new comer. That role has been taken over by Mint."

One speculates, "there are those who are not keen on Unity and do not want to use KDE are more likely to have moved to the likes of Mint or Fedora." And yet another noticed that "all the top distros are going down."

One of the more interesting comments wonders if "maybe Ubuntu's just becoming normal? Every week all the other distros shuffle around depending on what's hot that week - what released or made the news. But Ubuntu was always on top because it was the distro to look at when you were first starting. So maybe, and it pains me to think this, there just aren't as many new people coming to Linux as there once were? Or maybe it's just that everyone recommends Mint nowadays. I know I do. Partially because stupid laws mean that Ubuntu, Fedora, et al can't include codecs for MP3s, videos, etc."

 Although one month's page hits is a bit too small of a sample to actually call it a real trend, Canonical probably isn't concerned. After all, they are getting commercial deal after commercial deal. Ubuntu is turning up on pre-built computers from top brands. They are lining up ultra-portable gigs as well as cloud and support contracts. Canonical is on the path to making back some of Mark's investment.

But what do you think? Is Ubuntu declining in popularity, changing demographics, normalizing, or concentrating on commercial interests? If you comment at TuxRadar, your opinion will be figured into the next TuxRadar podcast and could possibly be quoted.

Handrus Nogueira uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


I don't think it's any of the above, to be honest. New Linux users are different today than they've been in the past. The days of spending your early Linux years distro-hopping between SuSE and Fedora and Mandriva and Ubuntu and so on may be behind us. I'd wager that the majority of new Ubuntu users don't ever think (or know) about alternative distributions, and so wouldn't ever visit a site like Distrowatch in the first place.

2 Votes

For people that don't like Unity, should give Pinguy OS a try.

0 Votes

I knew things were radically changing when my wife saw UNITY and said... it looks good ...Aaah. The game has changed and ubuntu is moving to a different league. When Oneiric comes out on the Ausus EEE I am going to buy it for my mother. It seems harder to break than Windows, cheaper than Mac and no *freekin* command line unless you look for it. Well done all you UBUNTU geeks / contributors out there - it is such a breath of fresh air...!!! Thank you !!!

1 Votes

ungly Unity!!!

Please, come back scroll bar and menu position.

0 Votes

I doubt the numbers from Distrowatch. And Fedora as a distro for power users? I don't see it that way nowadays.

Unity is definitely a good thing, and as far as I've seen, anybody who complains about Unity, complains about Gnome3 or anything new really.

0 Votes

i was skeptical about unity until i tried fedora 15....

Unity is still rough (and what genius came up with those scroll buttons?) but it has potential in many areas (tablet, phones) as well as desktop.

0 Votes

Distrowatch is not a metric of how popular a distribution is.

It's a measurement of how popular a page for that distro is on distrowatch itself, which is not representative of anything.

0 Votes

I have been waiting for some person to write article like this for a little while now. I have been using Ubuntu since 2006, and had for a long time use to visit distrowatch everyday. Now, I haven't even visited Distrowatch for over 6 months and frankly I don't care what ranking it shows. I have been very happy with Ubuntu and its direction (although not fast enough for me). Unity - I like it, and prefer it, it suits my workflow, however I know its going to improve. I think people are judging this as the final end version, but it is the first version. Canonical is planning for long term vision, not short term.

0 Votes

Yes ubuntu is strictly way out and Mint is a strictly ubuntu derivative with classic gnome. Now add them up. They almost double fedora or anything else. Ubuntu is out ? oh yeah

0 Votes

You can't convert a windows user to Linux using something like Unity or Gnome 3, so, for now, Mint is the way. These new 'desktop paradigms' just confuse people. It's just bored developers. Why take away the 'start' menu, as EVERYONE from MS world still calls it?

After Gnome 2 series gets too old to include in any distro, I suspect that XFCE will become the new tool for us folks trying to get new users to Linux.

200 million users Mark? Not with a damn start menu.

0 Votes

When I first tried Ubuntu I was pleased but with every new release I've let more time passed before upgrading because of the bugs reported by others and Unity was the last straw that made me stay in Ubuntu 10.10 and then going with Debian+xfce.

It's not that I'm reluctant to change but all the complaints about Unity's buggy behaviour make me feel this was a rushed decision and I'm not gonna bother to install a rushed release. I don't want a shninny desktop to show off, I want one that works.

It's Ubuntu on the way out? I don't know but I know it's not for me anymore.

0 Votes

Perhaps Unity was a mistake and people are confused on the desktop side of things. Ubuntu on servers is thriving, at least on web servers, even ahead of Red Hat as of recently:

0 Votes

Well, Unity was brave step for Ubuntu (maybe premature). Ubuntu looks very polished, but Unity is still unstable and can be silly on 21" screen. So it look like Ubuntu is repositioning itself and will not be out of the game because it's popular and well maintaned.

0 Votes

I'm GLAD Unity looks different than Windows. The problem with distros that look and try to work like Windows is that people who try it out tend to think that it works exactly like it too. When they realize that Linux is different and requires them learning something new, they ditch it completely. Ubuntu with Unity makes it distinct and tells you immediately that it's a different animal (pun intended). However what I love about Ubuntu is that it targets them in a way that lets new users LEARN it easily. Don't believe me? I have Unity running on computers for users with ages ranging from 11 yrs. old to 40 and each have adapted quite easily. They enjoy the look and simplicity of Ubuntu as well as it's security. Is it perfect? No, it's not but I love the work and direction Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth are going with Ubuntu and Unity.

0 Votes

Unity is anti-Linux. That's why lots of people switch to GNOME Shell. I (being a big fan of Ubuntu) am also considering a switch to Fedora. I am not saying that Ubuntu and Unity are bad products, it's just not in the spirit of Linux and GNOME Shell feels more aligned with our vision. Unity isn't bad or ugly from aesthetics and usability point of view, but even if I plan to stick with Ubuntu, I don't want to feel tied to some even open-source, still proprietary UI like Unity. GNOME Shell doesn't have that bad aftertaste.

0 Votes

Not scientific, but as valid a data point as distrowatch

0 Votes

Once Unity gets over its bugs and settles the trend might change. I am one who tried Unity and dropped it. I use my computer to work and need something stable and predictable. I had a look at Fedora and Gnome 3 and I must say I preferred it to Unity. So I am now waiting to see what turns up in 11.10. I am running Mint on my wife's laptop and Pinguy on my netbook. 11.04 in classic on my work horse.

0 Votes

Time will tell if Ubuntu is on the way out or not.

Personally I think the Distrowatch drop is due to the change in GUI's going on at the moment. GNOME is in flux with all the changing over to V3 and I can't help but feel we are getting swamped by whats going on. I must admit I very rarely look at Distrowatch these days, so the 6 machines at my home don't add to these figures.

Personally I think Unity at the moment has potential but is only half way there. At the moment I find myself using KDE4 on top of an updated Ubuntu box. Am I completely happy with KDE4, well no but at the current time I like it a lot more than Unity. I have been using KDE4 90% of the time after persevering with Unity for at least 5-6 weeks. The remainder of the time I drop back to GNOME 2.32 but with Ubuntu's implementation of Compiz with Unity it makes the Compiz experience on 2.32 less than desirable.

I have tried LXDE desktop and find it to be missing that little bit when it comes to the bells and whistles.

Well in summary I can't see myself switching away from Ubuntu as the base core of the system remains reliable, but I will re-visit Unity when 11.10 is released down the track and see where it's at. If it is still not up to what I consider to be good enough then GNOME3 or KDE4 will be it's replacement.

0 Votes

The data from the statistics cannot be considered as a trend. The declined of the hits can only a temporary sign of timely 'low hits' because the data in the previous months have increased compared to last data (12 months) excluding the present month.

Just my opinion. :-)

0 Votes

@Nikolay Kolev,

Unity is proprietary? OpenSuSE and Fedora (which you are considering to switch to) both flirted with using Unity. You can install it on Arch and Frugalware now.

Just because Canonical is developing Unity it does not make it proprietary. Check the licenses before you make assertions. Unity is released under GPL v3. It is not proprietary. It is however copyrighted, but so is Firefox and many other open source projects.

Unity is a bold step. I don't use or like it. However, kudos to Canonical for its boldness. We need more of it in Linux. More choice is better not worse. GNOME is also to be commended for GNOME 3. It is also bold and different. I don't like or use it either. People do not like something that is different particularly when they feel that they are being forced away from something that they have grown accustomed to in GNOME 2.x. However, time marches on and change is inevitable.

GNOME 2.x is passe and users who want it are stuck in the past. It is not surprising that they do not like Unity but they likely won't like GNOME 3 any better.

I went through this with the move from KDE 3 to KDE 4. Now it seems so ridiculous. Give both Unity and GNOME a chance and some time to mature.

0 Votes

If both unity and Gnome 3 don't "like" 8 of my machines, then I HAVE TO CHANGE DE and possibly distro. The linux under the hood is still the same and who cares about the DE anyway! Recently got me a MS win 7, but the whole thing sucks. Next time it will be a MAC, so long as security is (still?) OK. Big advantage to Linux is the large number of distros and "small" user base. Much more difficult to target and not no much payback.

0 Votes

@LinuxCanuck: Unity is open-source, but feels proprietary (that's what I really meant to say, sorry). To me GNOME Shell is way bolder and revolutionary than Unity.

0 Votes

I don't quite understand the idea of "jumping ship" from Ubuntu because you don't like Unity - this is Linux, just replace it.

Linux is Linux, pretty much. Make it work for you.

GNOME Shell will be available in the official repositories for 11.10, as will a GNOME Classic based on GNOME 3.

KDE is there.

XFCE is there.

Fluxbox... Window Maker... dwm... you get the idea.

The last thing I would do, personally, is switch distros just because the one I am using has tried something new - especially if they're not preventing you from doing what you like...

But that's just me I guess :)

I know I could choose to run any kind of Linux or BSD (have probably run a good chunk of them over the past decade) yet I run Ubuntu because I am not willing to invest too much time fighting the system - and it is easy to find help.

0 Votes wish!...

0 Votes

Mint is just another flavour of Ubuntu (if you'll pardon the pun). Well, except for the Debian edition, that is, but then Ubuntu is based on Debian, so it's all pretty incestuous.

0 Votes

Maybe people are getting all the info they need from other sources. My youtube review on Ubuntu 11.04 is getting between 1000 - 1200 views per day.

If all those people were visiting Distrowatch instead then Ubuntu would be sat firmly in 1st place

0 Votes

Quote: "Unity - I like it, and prefer it, it suits my workflow, however I know its going to improve. I think people are judging this as the final end version, but it is the first version. Canonical is planning for long term vision, not short term.":anonymous

It will improve and it IS about audience split. It also will succeed because most computer users are just that, which is the point. For all those users who have suffered through the painful growth, right on!, for hangin' in.

For some of us, who extend the use, the forced "Unity" was a very very frustrating hell-in-a-handbasket. I can hear the business discussions now that went on at Cannonical that they went "do we abandon them for market share". I'm very, very disappointed that they didn't find the obvious balance and can only think it was individual arrogance affecting their collective success at doing both.

0 Votes

I was using Ubuntu. I tried the 'Unity' version. I hated it. Period. I am now using Mint 11. Last year, I purchased Windows 7 -- which is now gathering dust on a shelf. Seems that developers are very busy fixing things that are not broken. A lot of fluff and eye-candy, a lot of moving buttons around so that I cannot find them.

Msg: K.I.S.S.

0 Votes

I loved Ubuntu, and my partner (technophobe and very suspicious of change!) was hooked too. But we both tried Unity, and gave up. Too many design flaws. For me personally, not having open tabs appearing at bottom, having to go check on Unity bar which little triangles are there- pointless and slow.

We switched to Mint (11) Katya, loving it, very friendly, accessible, sleek and sexy. I'll be recommending it to everyone now. On my notebook I'm trying out latest OpenSUSE too, and that seems great. Ubuntu was a great starting point, but now I'm confident to try other things. Mint was probably always a better starting point for newbies with the codecs etc anyway.

Think again, Canonical, or Ubuntu will lose many fans!

0 Votes

I've used Ubuntu since 6.10 and will not be upgrading to 11.04 because of Unity. I hate the sidebar and the so called "global menu" sucks. I could care less about programs available to download when I trying to open a program already on the computer. When I do upgrade from 10.10 it will probably be PCLinux or Mint if I can find a theme without the green.

0 Votes

It goes like this. KDE+ Compiz have become the new Linux desktop standard. So, Gnome and Canonical spits out their own versions. Of course the rap-sheets are different but the toys are similar. Then Gnome is slower on the uptake while Canonical is chomping at the bit. So when Unity comes out first running on Gnome 2 libs' in the new Ubuntu and Gnome-shell is still in pending development requiring Gnome3 libs', users squawked creating disharmony or Un-unity. I want Gnome-shell in Ubuntu and the anticipation is killing me. I think Canonical took advantage of the upgrade timing to introduce Unity, by using Gnome2 libs' they struck first. Now if Ubuntu 11.04 had Gnome3 libs', the wait wouldn't have been so severe, after all Fedora and Suse had Gnome-shell. Now Gnome-shell is ready but there is no one click way to get it on "Natty", we gots to wait for "Nutty" or "Oscar" or "Tanged Octopus Tentacles".

I just tried to put Gnome-shell in my Mint 11, not working yet, darn!

0 Votes

I love Ubuntu I've tried numerous other distro's and always come back to Ubuntu. I've always used the classic gnome desktop rather than unity because I didn't like it. I tried gnome shell and stuck with that for awhile but got tired of it's lack of settings so I went back to Unity and gave it another shot, I now LOVE Unity It is very customizable with tools like Ubuntu Tweak and Compiz config settings manager. Mint is definitely more noob friendly but Ubuntu is the perfect choice for people who want to learn about linux more so than just "use" it.

0 Votes

Spijtig maar de joseph kan niet over weg met engels ik ben een belg een vlaaming .

0 Votes

Ok, Unity attracts newbies and scares off techies. But who will then report Ubuntu bugs, fix them, propose or implement new ideas? The newbies or the few designers at Canonical??

Each Linux distro depends on a well-educated community and therefore should not concentrate on newbies only. The challenge is to find good compromises.

Cheers, and...

sudo apt-get remove unity-common overlay-scrollbar

0 Votes
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