Another year, another totally different top 10 Linux distros

Compared with last year, this year's list delivers several distinct surprises.

Between the new innovations that emerge practically every day and the fairly constant rate of change in general, things never stay the same for long in technology.

Case in point: DistroWatch's page hit rankings for Linux distributions. I've covered DistroWatch's top 10 at the end of each of the past two years, and the differences never fail to be striking.

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In September 2010, the top 10 looked like this, as I noted in an article at the time:

1) Ubuntu

2) Fedora

3) Linux Mint

4) openSUSE

5) PCLinuxOS

6) Debian

7) Mandriva

8) Sabayon

9) Arch Linux

10) Puppy Linux

The rankings in 2011

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

2) Ubuntu

3) Fedora

4) openSUSE

5) Debian

6) Arch Linux

7) PCLinuxOS

8) CentOS

9) Puppy Linux

10) Mandriva

Fast forward to late 2012, and the rankings have changed yet again.

Top 10 for 2012

It should be noted, of course, that DistroWatch lists are simply page hit rankings and therefore are not necessarily indicative of usage or real-world popularity. Nevertheless, as one of the few measures we have here in the Linux community, they're particularly interesting for the changes they reveal over time.

Without further ado, then, here's where things stand in DistroWatch's six-month rankings at the end of 2012.

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.

2. Mageia

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.

3. Ubuntu

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.

4. Fedora

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.

5. openSUSE

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.

6. Debian

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.

8. PCLinuxOS

Dropping just a little bit from where it stood last year, PCLinuxOS remains a very popular Linux distribution complete with both the attractive KDE desktop and a lighter-weight "MiniMe" version.

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.

10. CentOS

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.

This story, "Another year, another totally different top 10 Linux distros" was originally published by PCWorld.

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