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As Linux especially in its desktop variant get a firmer grip on day to day users its interesting to see some data put forward on a PCWorld article which has tracked the top 10 Distros on Distrowatch over the last 3 years. While this doesn’t pinpoint downloads as such just intrest in distro’s it has on its page it is a good indication of the state of the linuxsphere.
3) Linux Mint
9) Arch Linux
10) Puppy Linux
A year later, it was already a very different picture. In late December of 2011, DistroWatch’s top 10 looked more like this:
1) Linux Mint
6) Arch Linux
9) Puppy Linux
Fast forward to late 2012, and the rankings have changed yet again.
1. Linux Mint
Holding strong in its position of dominance from last year, Linux Mint continues to claim the No. 1 spot on DistroWatch today. Currently in version 14 “Nadia,”Ubuntu-based Mint has seen a number of exciting developments over the past year, including the launch of both the mintBox and the Linux Mint Store.
Perhaps most intriguing of all on this year’s list is that Mageia has rapidly rocketed up into the No. 2 spot. Though it was born as a fork of Mandriva in 2010, Mageia did not appear in DistroWatch’s top 10 list in either of the past two years. This year, however, Mandriva disappeared from that list, while Mageia jumped in very close to the top.
Ubuntu may be in the No. 3 position at the moment, but it continues to dominate many Linux-related headlines. With the release of Ubuntu 12.10 “Quantal Quetzal,” many consider Ubuntu a true competitor to Windows at last. Meanwhile, several decisions made by Canonical over the past year have sparked fresh controversy, even beyond what its Unity interface has generated.
This free, community version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux has remained entrenched as a leader on DistroWatch’s list, and this year it fell just one place to No. 4. Currently in version 17, or “Beefy Miracle,” the software’s many strengths include top-notch security, good usability, a choice of desktops, cloud capabilities, and strong business features.
Also holding relatively steady is openSUSE, which has shifted down only one spot since last year. Faster speeds and a more advanced infrastructure are among the new features added in openSUSE 12.2, which was released in September.
Then, too, there’s Debian, which has alternated between the No. 5 and 6 spots over the past few years. Widely considered the granddaddy of Linux distributions, Debian routinely wins top honors in popularity contests of many kinds.
7. Arch Linux
Arch is another Linux distribution that has placed well in some popularity contests over the past year, which has seen it shift down just a single spot to No. 7. A brand-new distro called “Cinnarch,” meanwhile, adds the new Cinnamon desktop to this popular rolling release distro.
9. Zorin OS
Just as intriguing as the appearance of Mageia in this year’s top 10 list is the appearance of Zorin OS, which is currently in version 6.1. Ubuntu-based Zorin is particularly well-known for offering an especially easy transition for Windows users.
Last but certainly not least, now holding DistroWatch’s No. 10 spot is CentOS, which ranked at No. 8 on the list last year. Released in July, CentOS 6.3 is an enterprise-class Linux distribution derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.3.
I find these lists interesting because there are a lot of linux distros out there, polished well written distros which just don’t appear in this list like Sabayon. Big money makers like Red hat as well however the big boys like Ubuntu, OpenSuse and Fedora always feature well. These are brand names in the Linux community and should on a site like Distrowatch do well. Its the distros like Mageia and Zorin placing hight this year which are showing yet again as a new version of Windows comes out, users are turning to Linux to cope with the overwhelming change windows 8 is bringing and to eek out more from that hardware in tough times maybe.
Realistically I think if this was numbers on install base I would see Linux Mint and Ubuntu storming away from the pack with numbers only even closely matched by CentOS which seems to be the new standard for Linux Servers.