The Wikimedia Foundation publishes monthly reports with a lot of useful information about the visitors to its various web sites (mostly Wikipedia). One interesting report shows the popularity of different operating systems. Not only does it show the number of visitors using Linux, but also it breaks down the Linux users by distribution. The below chart summarizes the popularity of various distributions from April 2009 to May 2010. (Note that the chart shows only desktop Linux distributions; e.g., it omits Android, the mobile distribution.)
Not surprisingly, Ubuntu is on top; this distribution is often considered to be the most popular among desktop users. What is perhaps surprising is the magnitude of its popularity: in May 2010 it was more than 10 times as popular as its nearest competitor (SUSE).
Of course, a few caveats are in order:
- Drawing broad conclusions based on the visitors to a particular web site can be problematic; the visitors to the web site may not be representative of all users. (Still, Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the entire web, with literally billions of visits every month, from all over the world; it seems unlikely that Wikipedia’s visitor data would be heavily biased towards any particular desktop Linux distribution.)
- Obviously, the data only measure desktop Linux users; they do not reflect the popularity of server Linux distributions.
- In the data, not all Linux users are placed in a specific distribution; some are placed in a generic “Linux” category. (Presumably the user’s browser did not report a specific distribution.)