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Jiri Eischmann's Blog

User Bases of Linux Distributions in the Czech Republic

The biggest Czech Linux magazine organized a survey to find out what distributions Linux users are using on desktops. There were 4423 answers which I think is quite a lot from statistical point of view. And here are the results:

I expected Ubuntu to have the largest user base. But still, such dominance is surprising. Over 50% of all Linux users are using Ubuntu. It’s pretty much Ubuntu… and the rest. And what about Deb vs. RPM? 80% vs 22.4% (note that the total is over 100% because there are users using multiple distributions). It’s even more horrifying. RHEL/CentOS weren’t included, but I don’t think they have a large user base on desktops and their share can’t be bigger than 8% because that’s what “Other distributions” got.

Fedora is doing the best (12%) in the world outside Ubuntu/Debian because we have a quite living Fedora community here and there is a large engineering office of Red Hat which has some impact, too. But face the truth: In terms of user base, Fedora is doing very bad compared to Ubuntu. What can we do about it? Because if we lose user base we will eventually lose contributors, too.

Other distributions with traditionally large user base are doing even worse: openSUSE has only 7.4% and Mandriva, which used to be the most popular desktop distro in the Czech Republic, is pretty much dead – <2%. And users didn’t run to Mageia because Mageia has even less users.

Another interesting results are shares of desktop environments:

 A very interesting finding is that GNOME 3 is actually more popular than Unity (19.7% vs 13.6%) which is the default environment in the far most popular distribution – Ubuntu. In fact, only 1/4 of Ubuntu users are using Unity according to the stats. GNOME 3 is also more popular than GNOME 2/MATE (16.5%), so looks like it’s not that bad with popularity of GNOME 3. GNOME-based vs KDE-based environment: 49.8% vs 24.5%. KDE 3/Trinity has less than 1%, so stopping time doesn’t seem to be very appealing to users.

  1. andre klapper Avatar

    The more interesting question would be loss/changes. For example, how was the situation 18 months ago without GNOME 3 and related forks? How much share has GNOME lost since 2.32?

    1. eischmann Avatar

      ABCLinuxu which is the second biggest Linux portal in the Czech Republic used to do a similar survey. Both portals have similar readers, so I think the stats are comparable. The last time they did the survey was in 2010:

      Fedora is actually about the same as in 2010. Ubuntu has gained at the account of Mandriva.

  2. Pieter Avatar

    Not sure what the reason is for Ubuntu’s considerable market share. My guess would be that Ubuntu is more mainstream and the “Linux for n00bs” and that a ton of Ubuntu users are dual booting WinXP,7/Ubuntu users that want to see what all the Linux fuzz is about. That type of user is pretty useless as a contributor due to total lack of technical knowledge. The users with skills are in my experience using Fedora, Debian, Mint, Arch etc.

    Ubuntu seems to do a good job at marketing their stuff while failing spectacularly when it comes to contributing back to the Community at large (how many kernel, gcc, gnome etc developers are paid by Ubuntu again?).

    Fedora is cutting edge and requires one to actually know things so it attracts a different kind of people with actual technical skills (similar to Debian). And because it is cutting edge the n00bs don’t feel comfortable because they think incorrectly (or heard from a friend of a friend) that Fedora is “difficult” or “does not always work unless ” or “requires difficult actions using that scary command line”, etc. Fedora’s cutting edge removes some of the predictability that things will work and will work the same when the next release surfaces. It would not surprise me if the short release cycles (which I love) scare away many n00bs who then try out Ubuntu.

    The Ubuntu docs are quite good. The Fedora Community really could do a better job there. But I guess most Fedora users don’t need them or just use the mailing list & irc. RTFM is for n00bs after all 🙂

    1. eischmann Avatar

      Yeah, but it was a quite specialized Linux portal. It’s not the place where hipsters and n00bs go very often. What worries me the most is that even among readers of such a specialized Linux magazine, most users prefer Ubuntu to Fedora or other distributions.

    2. jorge Avatar

      Ubuntu users don’t have technical knowledge?

      I’ll make sure to tell all the developers who just submitted _130 Free Software applications_ to the Ubunu App showdown.

    3. Kamil Páral Avatar

      Linux beginners are important for every distribution. You can change some of them to contributors if you do it right. Skilled Linux users will not appear out of the blue and come to Fedora.

      Personally, I was using Ubuntu for many years. I switched to Fedora when I started work for Red Hat. But if I hadn’t done that… who knows? I’d be probably still a Ubuntu user and I would contribute there.

      Ubuntu is winning newbies because of user friendliness (except for Unity controversy) – software center, multimedia codecs, flash, proprietary hardware drivers, bug reporting, installation – all of that is easier with Ubuntu. Some of those areas are problematic in Fedora, because Fedora doesn’t want to be involved with proprietary stuff, it values freedom more. Ubuntu sacrifices some freedom to be more friendly.

      And let’s stress this out – the majority of survey respondents were likely to be skilled users rather than newbies. Newbies and experimenters don’t read these Linux websites too much.

      So it’s rather scary. What can we do? Even though we target Fedora at skilled users/contributors, we should not forget about newcomers. We should welcome them and make things as easy as possible for them. Some areas for improvement are pretty clear and nothing blocks us from working on it (software center etc). Some areas are problematic, because they oppose Fedora’s view on freedom. But even there we might find some ways to improve user experience.

      I believe embracing newcomers and making things easier is the only way to ensure we don’t become… irrelevant.

  3. Andrey Mavlyanov Avatar

    Ubuntu wins because of doing a lot of “research” work for users. They choose some good (can be better, but it’s not important here) apps and told users that they should start using them. They made a CHOICE for users.

    Later RH 9 comes with 4 editors, 6 music players, a couple of browsers and tone of mail clients installed by default and users HAD to search through to find out which is better. They (users) simply don’t want to!

    That’s why Ubuntu wins – they had a good preinstalled software without need to dig!

  4. bochecha Avatar

    > “But face the truth: In terms of user base, Fedora is doing very bad compared to Ubuntu. What can we do about it? Because if we lose user base we will eventually lose contributors, too.”

    I think the more important fact is that both Ubuntu and Fedora are doing bad in terms of absolute number of users (who bothered answering the survey) : ~2340 vs ~530

    That’s what you should try to do something about.

    There’s really no point trying to take users from Ubuntu. Try taking them from Windows or Mac OS X instead, and grow the **global** pool of Free Operating Systems users.

    Plus, I don’t think it is true that with less users we will have less contributors. There are many examples of Red Hat employees working on Fedora today who were users of other distributions before being hired.

    Fedora works upstream first, so that everybody else benefits. So in a way, all upstream contributors are Fedora contributors, even if they use another distribution.

    1. nicu Avatar

      “taking users from Ubuntu” also means getting people who switch from Windows to Linux to choose Fedora instead of Ubuntu, and there are no signs of this happening.

      of course people who started with other distros will work on Fedora if someone *pay* them to do that (and there are cases when they continue contibuting to their old distro in their spare time), is about people *voluntarily* contributing to Fedora. Remember the recent article about developers leaving GNOME? ( is about the same thing.

  5. nicu Avatar

    Considering the audience, which is knowledgeable people with experience in the field (“power users” not “n00bs”), advertising and choice made by others are less important factors, if a distro has a low score it means it does not give the users what they want and they need.
    What users want and Fedora does not provides is hard to tell having only this data set (and any assumptions will be flawed, I have mine as each of us has his).

  6. […] User Bases of Linux Distributions in the Czech Republic […]

  7. Ben Avatar

    For what it’s worth – I tried Fedora 16 for about the first 6 months of this year. I had problems with getting a proxy set up (had trouble with both squid & tinyproxy). I also had some problems with packages that weren’t fully systemd-ready yet, and I didn’t like all the constant updates to new versions of software. Also, I don’t want to be forced to upgrade at least every 14 months when the Fedora version goes to EOL. You might say that I’m not the target audience, and that’s probably true, but those are some of the reasons I don’t want to run Fedora. I did try Scientific Linux, but didn’t get my mic working right with Skype, and now I’m back on Slackware. I might go to SL if I can get the mic working, but Slackware is stable, works great for me, and I don’t have to worry about it going to EOL.

  8. Anixx Avatar

    What distributions provide Gnome 2? You make conclusion that Gnome 3 is more popular than Gnome 2 while not accounting for the fact that no distro ships Gnome 2 now and users have to hack to run it.

    1. eischmann Avatar

      No distribution ships GNOME 2? GNOME 2 in this survey includes GNOME 2/GNOME 3 Fallback/MATE. Ubuntu still has GNOME Classic preinstalled, that’s 53%. Fedora still has GNOME Fallback which is 1 click away – that’s 65%. Mint uses MATE as one of the main DEs, that’s 75%. Debian still includes GNOME 2, in Debian Stable it’s even the default environment, that’s 92 %. Do I have to continue?

      1. nicubunu Avatar

        if GNOME 3 fallback was counted as GNOME 2, then we are looking at a flawed, poorly made survey

  9. Zdenek Avatar

    I really like feedback from Kamil Páral. He caught the point and hit the nail on the head.

    I’m missing one thing in this topic (it’s mentioned but not highlighted here) – who is actually the target audience for Fedora from Fedora developers point of view? On one hand, you are not happy with low user base compared to Ubuntu (used mainly by “n00bs” as stated in this blog but that’s not true at all) and you would like to attract more users (even the non-technical ones I guess). On the other hand some of you claims Fedora is more or less for experienced users only. In that case there should be no surprise to have lower user base than Ubuntu has.

    What I would also like to know is the definition of “technical user”. I use Fedora since FC2 and I can say there is no special technical skill needed in today’s Fedora anymore (if I speak about standard work on desktop). Some settings of the desktop and system environment can be done in desktop tools and the current set of settings should satisfy the most of standard (means non-technical) users. If Ubuntu can offer some other basic (or even advanced) settings via Desktop than Fedora is capable to do today, does it immediately mean Fedora is for “technical users” only (e.g. use command line or modify configs) or is this statement just an excuse / defence of the fact Fedora has missing or not finished GUI interface? What ever the answer is, definitely these small details can influence user’s decision between Fedora and Ubuntu. But if your aim are technical users only (e.g admins and developers), just ignore this question.

    If I compare Ubuntu and Fedora on OS level only (no desktop), I’m sure, Fedora can offer more than Ubuntu but in most cases this advantage is mainly for enterprise solutions (lots of cloud and virtualization projects, system and network enhancements). One can see amazing number of new features coming in F18 but (based on their scope) the target audience are again system administrators in most cases.

    So what can attract standard end users? It’s all about the desktop and applications these days. As Kamil Páral mentioned, users want to work with multimedia and other applications that are often proprietary and not included in Fedora by default. But it does not mean Fedora cannot offer it. Just Fedora newcomers are not aware of 3rd party repositories so they go to other distributions (Ubuntu) because they do not want spent hours of searching for alternative solution. They just want to “plug & play”.
    Fedora could maybe inform users about availability of other repositories automatically when the multimedia application search for missing codecs but none is found in default repos. Fedora could offer “single click” way to install additional repositories. Well default OS installation will comply Fedora philosophy but could also help / guide users to fulfil their needs as much as it is possible (further proprietary software) but still in terms of Fedora freedom politics.

    Next (and I think the root cause of the discussed problem), it is all about small details only – already mentioned missing software centre, single-click to install other repos (if this could be acceptable for Fedora team), installed gnome-tweak-tool by default, small pop up windows over some menus (when mouse is over) with info/tips describing more details about what’s this action used for and other small detail improvements that can make desktop more polished and “user friendly”.
    For example: How I will be informed (as a user) about possibility to record my desktop screen with integrated Gnome 3 tool in F18 without my own investigation and detailed reading of shortcut possibilities in keyboard settings? Normal user will most probably not find it (there is no icon for execution in menu now) and will search for some other application capable of desktop screen recording on web. Why if it is not needed at all?
    So that’s it. Fedora has it all available and implemented already. It just misses these small detail tweaks that make user’s life much more easier and motivates them to stay with Fedora distribution.

    Last but not least, please do not ignore or underestimate “n00bs” (as I saw in this blog). First of all, everybody of us had his/her own beginnings spent with days/weeks of learning and tweaking and it was not easy time, wasn’t it?. We should minimize this experience for today’s users (we are many years beyond these painful beginnings!!!). Second, each newcomer definitely contributes to Fedora (!!!) – Even the recommendation to the others is contribution. Lot’s of these newcomers report just bugs only but some of them can participate to documentation or even to code update during the time. If we ignore them at the beginning, Fedora user base will not grow and these people will contribute somewhere else once they technically grow up (e.g. support Ubuntu but not Fedora).
    There are more points where I see space for improvement or discussion at least but then I would write a book and not just comment in this blog… 😉

    Anyway, thanks for interest to motivate standard users to work and stay with Fedora. It is a great system.

  10. […] summer, I published results of survey organized by the biggest Czech Linux portal where Fedora was the 3rd most popular Linux […]

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