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.
In September 2010, the top 10 looked like this, as I noted in an article at the time:
3) Linux Mint
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
6) Arch Linux
9) Puppy Linux
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.
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.