About two years ago, after seeing a failed comment survey on /r/Linux I decided to create a “real” survey using Google Docs to find out what Linux distributions (distros) the folks at /r/Linux were using. These past two years, the results of those surveys were very well received so I wanted to keep doing it. You can still view the 2012 survey or the 2013 survey.
Some of you may have noticed I’m hosting the results on a different domain this year. The idea behind this is I wanted to get this kind of personal stuff off of my friend’s website and on to my own. I plan on migrating the old surveys if it looks like access to the old site will disappear, but for now I see no reason to break any links to the old post(s) since that site isn’t going anywhere.
As always, I’d like to prefix this by saying I’m no statistician. My stats knowledge is limited to a college class I took four years ago and can barely remember. If you feel like I’m representing anything incorrectly or have any kind of constructive feedback I’d appreciate a reddit PM about it or a comment on this page’s reddit thread.
Before we get down to business, I’d like to make the usual disclaimer about online polls (courtesy of Slashdot):
This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you’re using these numbers to do anything important, you’re insane.
The data was pulled from Google Docs and contained 10,292 responses (up from 7,698 last year, and 4,932 the year before that). This is probably a mix of /r/Linux’s growth in active users and the /r/Linux moderators stickying my survey post (thanks guys, you’re awesome!). The biggest thanks of course goes to each of you who responded to the survey—thank you!
In the categories where manual entry was allowed, I had to do a lot of cleanup to merge similar entries. I couldn’t come up with an automated way to do this (and it really doesn’t take that long by hand). Sorry if there are any errors in the category names!
The spreadsheets were crunched with a combination of Excel (sorry guys), sed, tr, awk, and Notepad++. This year I used pygal to generate the graphs in SVG format. I had to use my own python wrapper script to handle importing CSV data into pygal (that was a little painful). The SVGs are embedded directly into this page this year instead of using PNGs. It’s 2014—I hope you’re using an SVG-capable user-agent by now! My apologies if you’re stuck on IE < 9 at work (I am truly sorry). You can download all of my scripts and raw data if you like.
Do you use Linux on any non-server computers?
|Do you use Linux on any non-server computers?||Responses||Responses (%)|
This question is simple, and in the survey was used to allow people who do not use Desktop Linux to skip questions pertaining only to Desktop Linux. Note that when I say Desktop Linux, I really just mean “non-server Linux”. I will use the two terms interchangeably. The idea of a server is intentionally vague in the survey. My rationale for this is if someone says they are running a server, that’s what it is for our purposes.
The proportion of people using desktops to those not using desktops is more or less the same as last year. We use this metric to filter our server questions later to see if desktop users have different preferences than people who don’t use Linux on desktop.
Do you run Linux on any of your server computers?
|Do you run Linux on any of your server computers?||Responses||Responses (%)|
This is one of the questions we will use to compare the results among groups. The goal is to see if server users have different preferences than people who don’t use servers. I’m not saying one is better than the other, it’s just that I find the difference interesting! I’d hypothesize that server users are more likely to use “hard” distros like Gentoo, Arch Linux, or others like them, whereas people without servers will tend towards distros that aim for less manual configuration and/or to be easier to use (Mint, Ubuntu, etc.).
Do you run Linux primarily for fun or profit?
|Option||On Desktops||On Desktops (%)||On Servers||On Servers (%)|
The vast majority of /r/Linux users are running Linux for fun. The only interesting bit here is that on servers, proportionally more people are running Linux for profit. I feel like this is expected, as Desktop Linux (whether we like it or not) is usually considered to be a hobbyist Operating System. Personally, I thought more people might have been running servers for profit, but this is just one of several metrics based around fun vs profit that were not what I expected.
This question was a new addition for our 2014 survey. I caught a little heat due to its poor wording (which will be different next year) but overall I think it is a very interesting stat to compare with some of our other sets of data later.
What Linux distro do you primarily use on your non-server computers?
|Distribution||Server Users||Desktop Users|
In this graph, we get a numbers comparison of the top flavors of Desktop Linux among /r/Linux users, broken down by users who only run Desktops, and users who run Desktops and servers.
This seems like a big year for movement among distributions within the /r/Linux community. After two years of a strong Ubuntu lead, Arch Linux has taken the lead as the #1 distribution! Other than that, compared to last year:
- Debian has displaced Linux Mint for position #3.
- elementary OS has quickly gained a following, putting it into position 6.
- Xubuntu has dropped to position 7, after elementary OS.
- Crunchbang has risen above Kubuntu and Gentoo for position 8.
- Kubuntu has dropped off of the top 10, taking position 11.
Using the table allows us to more easily compare the preferences of server users to desktop users. Looking at the overall average we see that 57% of /r/Linux users are using desktops and servers while 43% are using desktops only. In the desktop distribution results, any major deviation from that global average indicates a preference for that distribution by a certain user type. For example, 64% of Arch Linux users are also server users; this is 7% higher than the overall average and indicates that desktop Arch Linux users are more likely to have a server than the general /r/Linux population. On the reverse side, 62% of elementary OS users don’t have servers. This indicates that elementary OS users are more likely to not have a server than the general /r/Linux population. To visualize these differences, have a look at the chart below.
If we go by the rule that a distro with a 5% or more preference by one group from the average of 57% server users and 43% desktop users, we can divide the top distros as such:
Desktop distributions that are strongly favored by users with servers
- Gentoo (81%)
- Fedora (68%)
- Debian (67%)
- Arch Linux (64%)
Desktop distributions that are strongly favored by users without servers
- elementary OS (62%)
- Linux Mint (55%)
- Crunchbang (53%)
- Other (47%)
Desktop distributions with no strong preference by users with or without servers
- Xubuntu (46%)
- Kubuntu (41%)
- OpenSUSE (41%)
In addition to comparing server usage, we can also look at how use of Desktop Linux for fun or profit affects the /r/Linux community’s choices.
To my surprise, there didn’t seem to be all that much variation amongst desktop distribution choice based on profit (nothing like what we will see later with servers). That said, we can see that the overwhelming majority of /r/Linux subscribers use Desktop Linux for fun (78%). Keeping to our 5% rule, we can divide the desktop distros of /r/Linux as such.
Desktop distributions that are strongly favored by users for fun
- Crunchbang (84% fun)
- Arch Linux (84% fun)
Desktop distributions that are strongly favored by users for profit
- Kubuntu (29% profit)
- Fedora (28% profit)
- Xubuntu (27% profit)
- OpenSUSE (26% profit)
Desktop distributions without a strong preference towards fun or profit
- Ubuntu (74% vs 25%)
- Gentoo (76% vs 23%
- Debian (76% vs 23%)
- elementary OS (83% vs 16%)
What other Linux Distros do you use on your non-server computers?
What’s particularly notable here is that /r/Linux isn’t dominated by just a few distributions. We see that outside of the top 10 shown is where a plurality of desktop distros lie. Note: these results are ripped straight from the Google summary page. Because of this I can’t do that much analysis on them.
What hardware platform do you run your primary non-server distro on?
It comes as no surprise that most people are running their primary desktop distributions on laptops and desktops. I find it interesting that “Desktop Linux” is more frequently being run on laptops! I remember the days where installing Linux on a laptop often required extreme patience (and blood sacrifice) just to get the wireless and graphics performance to be acceptable. I’d credit the kind kernel developers for their huge efforts in this area which has made this possible.
What other hardware platforms do you run your primary non-server distro on?
In asking what other platforms people are running desktop Linux on, we get a wider spread. Laptops still reign king, but surprisingly many people are running desktop Linux in virtual machines and on their Raspberry Pi. I find this fascinating, if you could explain in the comments how you are using Desktop Linux in a VM or on your Pi I know I’d be interested.
What Linux distro do you primarily use on your server computers?
|Server Distribution||Desktop Users||Server Users||Grand Total|
|Red Hat Enterprise Linux||247||10||257|
|SUSE Linux Enterprise Server||33||1||34|
For this category, we compare users who use desktops and servers (“Desktop Users”) and people who use servers only (“Server Users”). Unfortunately, I feel like the sample size is much too small for us to make desktop vs server comparisons like in some of the other categories, so I’ll avoid that. The numbers are shown here anyways.
The top server distros of /r/Linux by a large margin remain Debian and Ubuntu. For the third year running, the server distro top seven is the same. Not all that surprising if you consider that server users tend to be more cautious in switching distros in order to keep uptime and stability high.
A more interesting way to look at what servers people are using is to compare it to whether they are doing it for fun or profit, as has been done below.
|Red Hat Enterprise Linux||11%||88%||2%|
Here, we get a nice visual representation of whether /r/Linux subscribers are using server Linux for fun or profit. Overall, it seems like fun is the winner (but only narrowly so). Much like our earlier desktop usage by those with and without servers, we can compare each distro in the top ten to see if its fun vs profit usage is very different from the overall average.
If we go by the rule that a distribution showing a more than 5% preference by one group (profit users vs fun users) than the overall average (52% for fun, 44% for profit) we can draw break down the top ten distributions as such:
Server distributions that are strongly favored by people using Linux for fun
- Arch Linux (79% fun)
- Gentoo (64% fun)
- Fedora (62% fun)
- Debian (60% fun)
- Slackware (57% fun)
Server distributions that are strongly favored by people using Linux for profit
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux (88% profit)
- Amazon Linux (72% profit)
- CentOS (66% profit)
Server distributions with no strong preference by those using Linux for fun or profit
- Ubuntu (48% vs 47%)
- OpenSUSE (53% vs 51%)
- Slackware (57% vs 40%)
This comparison overall seems to show that use of server distributions tends to be either heavily skewed towards fun or profit. Particularly, Arch Linux, RHEL, and Amazon Linux had huge biases towards their target audience. I was particularly surprised to see Debian ranked so highly on the scale towards fun, as I’ve personally always thought of Debian (and use it) as much more of an enterprise OS than Fedora or Slackware.
What Linux distros do you use on your other server computers?
|Red Hat Enterprise Linux||348|
|SUSE Linux Enterprise Server||82|
This is another chart whose stats are ripped directly from the Google Drive summary. It is mostly a mirror of the primary distro stats. It seems like users of one of the top ten distros are very likely to use another too.
What hardware platform do you run your primary server distro on?
|Cloud Services (AWS, Linode, etc.)||1105|
It should be no surprise that the top hardware platform for servers is rack hardware. I was more surprised to see “Desktop Computer” making such a strong showing. I suppose one could attribute a lot of this to folk’s home servers, but I don’t doubt there are some towers sitting under desks in some workplaces. Cloud services made a strong showing (much more than I expected).
What is your favorite Linux GUI?
|GNOME 2.x (or fork/derivative)||322|
This year, GNOME 3 has unseated KDE 4.x for the favorite GUI of /r/Linux! My guess is that as the project has matured a little more, we’ve seen more people become fans. That said, the significant number of “other” responses indicate that these top ten are just a few of many.
What is your most hated Linux GUI?
|Most Hated GUIs||Responses|
|GNOME 2.x (or fork/derivative)||185|
By an overwhelming margin, Unity remains the most hated Linux GUI among /r/Linux users. In fact, this year’s margin is much larger than previous years'! It seems not only does hate for Unity amony /r/Linux remain strong, it is in fact growing over time. chuckles
Another year, another survey. /r/Linux remains a very diverse Linux community—covering everyone from newbs to greybeards. I appreciate you guys' patience in waiting for me to get these results together, and I hope I haven’t fallen short this year. Feel free to PM me on reddit if you have any questions or suggestions. I’d be especially interested to hear of better ways to represent this data as well as ideas for questions in future polls.
To the extent possible under law, https://brashear.me has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to 2014 /r/Linux Distro Survey Results. This work is published from: United States.