Linux Mint Pulls Ahead of Ubuntu

by Andrew on November 7, 2011 · 49 comments

in Reviews

After years of holding the top spot on the Linux desktop leaderboard it looks as if Ubuntu is starting to slip.

Linux Mint Pulls Ahead of Ubuntu displays a popularity list of all Linux distributions by measuring the number of hits per page on their site. This ranking system is considered to be one of the most reliable around. Even if it is only a measurement of one website’s traffic. Lately Linux Mint has been making a run at first place.

Although I’ve seen Linux Mint and even PCLinuxOS hold the distrowatch crown briefly in past years, each of their #1 listings was during a final release. Now in the midst of the Ubuntu Unity crisis, I noticed this morning Linux Mint has moved to #1. Remarkably, the Linux Mint 12 RC is not even out yet and the stable release is not set to happen until the end of November.

This was written by Clem on the Linux Mint blog a few days ago. “We recorded a 40% increase in a single month and we’re now quickly catching up with Ubuntu for the number #1 spot within the Linux desktop market.”

I feel like GNU/Linux needs a stand out distribution that represents how easy Linux can be for beginners and new users. This used to be Ubuntu but now I think Linux Mint is in a position to take over.

What do you think? Is Linux Mint 12 the real deal or is it destined for failure after it’s adoption of Gnome 3?

Beginners, you may enjoy our Linux Mint tutorials section.


Jim November 8, 2011 at 6:29 am

Thanks for the great post. I’m so glad Mint is available. I switched to Mint last month because of frustration with Unity and might switch to the Debian version of Mint to avoid all ties to Ubuntu.

Mike November 8, 2011 at 6:37 am

Those stats are *completely* inaccurate. Compare against Google Trends:

Andrew November 8, 2011 at 6:40 am

I’m not sure an accurate way to measure stats like this exists. One thing is for sure, Mint is gaining ground.

Mike November 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

How is that “for sure” ? The Google Trends graph indicates Mint has about 1% of the interest that Ubuntu does. I find it hard to believe that they’d even have 1% of the size of the Ubuntu install base. Heck, I’ve been building and running Linux systems for over a decade and had never even heared of Mint until just now.

andfea November 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

How does hits per page relate to downloads and installs. In the last month (running Ubuntu), I have checked the pages of Linux Mint, Debian, Fedora, PDS, BSD and a host of others. Did I download any. NO but hey they each got a page hit.

andfea November 8, 2011 at 8:10 am

Oh there is a CentOS banner at the top. I think I will click on it…..however, I won’t be downloading it to use.

Andrew November 8, 2011 at 8:18 am

Being #1 at distrowatch will drive more beginners to Mint. Then maybe they can overtake Ubuntu in terms of downloads and installs, which as I mentioned in an earlier comment, is hard to measure

aMintDude November 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

My only regret with mint 11 is that the installer doesn’t run on my acer one D250 … for desktop I still prefere Arch Linux … I liked linux mint 10 because it was amazingly faster than ubuntu 10.04 … and that it supported 100% of my acer’s hardware out of the box..

With linux mint 11 no touch pad and the installer program in it selfs crash at launch (because it needs probably needs more than a giga) the keyboard is wrongly detected and the embeded wifi chip isn’t anymore detected.

The recent enjoyement for linux rings to me like a what we can see with windows 8…
the journalists decided to buzz windows 8 saying it was the best thing everseen it taste to me totally that way with linux mint 11…

I found the mint flavor of gnome 3 disgusting … gnome is far from perfect but what does of it is trying to bend it back to gnome 2 … sorry but I can’t call that progress :)

max November 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

It’s been years since a stopped to follow distrowatch. It ranking isn’t relevant anymore. People who want’s to learn about Linux type Linux in Google search. And guest what come seconds : Ubuntu (the first being the Wikipedia article). Don’t get me wrong. I used to love Ubuntu and I now moved away because of Unity. But Ubuntu is still the buzz.

obie November 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Of course if you type linux in google the third result (if you ignore wikipedia) is Distrowatch. Considering number two is, which will always be high because it’s domain name is the search term, by your criteria Distrowatch has a lot of buzz, so it shouldn’t be irrelevant.

Elder-Geek November 8, 2011 at 3:18 pm

In advertising they say that 50% of all money spent on advertising is wasted. The problem is you don’t know which 50%.

Distrowatch stats mean something. We just don’t know WHAT they mean.

As far as opinion goes. I believe that Mint is heading in the right direction. They have kept under wraps the work on there Gnome Shell plugins. They did not over promise. They went to work and worked hard. They are going to provide a Gnome 2/Mate environment and an enhanced Gnome 3 environment. They do not make outlandish statements. They just work very hard to produce a beautiful, user-friendly desktop.

Randy Fry November 8, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I agree with you (Elder-Geek). And the big difference is that the developers at Mint, listen to thier users feedback, and really try to give them what they want. Mint is, what Ubuntu once was.

chassum November 8, 2011 at 4:31 pm

My guess is that the increase in hits for Mint reflects a general dissatisfaction with Ubuntu’s move to Unity. While Mint 12 will have Gnome 3 as the default, there will be added Mint Gnome Shell Extensions to provide a more classic user experience. The number of hits following the release of Mint 12 will reflect whether or not user are willing to accept this alternative. If it is not successful, I would expect a new interest in Debian, Arch Linus, and possible Sabyon.

Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 4:31 pm

The problem with this scenario is that if Mint becomes wildly successful, the end user is using a derivative of a derivative. The more links in the chain the more the probability of problems down the line. If Debian or Ubuntu has issues then so does Mint. In order for a distro to be permanent to any degree, the closer it is to being self-sustaining, the better it is for its future survival. Somehow, I do not see Mint surviving in this mode.

Andrew November 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm

@ Anonymous One of the best points against Mint I’ve heard all day. Thanks for sharing.

Paul November 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Great job Linux Mint! I am running LMDE right now, it is nice but not quite ready for the big time. Looking forward to the release of Mint 12

Ben November 8, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Mike, you’re using the wrong part of Google Trends. Try the website comparison, which shows Ubuntu’s daily unique visitors dropping rapidly.

MightyMoo November 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm

I like Ubuntu but Unity has me turned off. I would have gone Mint or something else but I found Kubunutu to work fine for me.

Ulysses November 8, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I’m using the latest Ubuntu release. I don’t like Unity at all. I’m using Gnome Classic.

carolinason November 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm

i was reluctant about gnome 3, but i am using it to be fair about it and it sort of grows on you. fedora installed in like 3 minutes, so i am appreciating the technology. debian has done a fantastic job as well. can’t wait to test mint’s spin on the latest gnome desktop.

i tried unity, but it was too unstable to use. i thought maybe 11.10 would be an improvement, but i have left the distribution since it’s functionality is crippled.

rhY November 8, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Actually kind of surprised it took so long! Mint has been > Ubuntu for a couple of years now.

This can be nothing but good news for the entire Linux world. Mint is much, much more user friendly than Ubuntu.

Skyhook November 8, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I’ve thinking about how many people like mint or ubuntu with unity or not in a survey type, just to find out how many like ubuntu or mint, does somebody can make this kind a survey? just curiousity, this remeber me a movie “matrix”, “choice” “the problem is choice.”

Anonymous November 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm

In response to Mike, I too have been building and running Linux systems for over a decade. I still use Slackware for file and print serving but have been running Mint since version 8, at least a couple of years.

Everyone seems to dislike Gnome 3, so what about LXDE. Not as full featured as Gnome or KDE but is very fast and pretty much does what a desktop needs to do.

tagnostic November 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I tried 11.04, couldn’t stand Unity, got a hold of an OEM copy of Mint 11, liked it, but it was a bit bloated and had a few bugs (i do run an oddball machine). Tried Fedora again, just not enough support after being spoiled by all the Ubuntu (been using it since 6.07) apps. Played with Suse too many hardware issues, Backtrack is amusing but not a daily driver. Fragged it all and put the 11.10 in fragged Unity and am running it with KDE right now, in the so far so good category, I’ve got a couple of other windows managers I’m going to being playing with just to see if I can get it tweaked back to Gnome 2 equivalent. As for taking over the topspot, it was/is Ubuntu’s to lose, they really dropped the ball with Unity. I’ve played with Mint before and it always seems to be on the verge of stability/functionality but its never all the way there.
Back to playing OS Roulette

mikiaandy November 8, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I have LinuxMint from 4 years, it s a great distro.

Sbeau November 8, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I started using Mint this year in May due to Unity. I was quite surprised about how fast Mint was running and the nice menus they have. Their software center was done very well. Im a graphic designer and a heavy Blender user. All the pre added drivers, codecs, speed and ease of use is also a major turn on. The comment about Mint listening to their users is right on the money. Ive seen a lot of that within the Mint community. I was an Ubuntu user for 6 years before making the switch and Im more than pleased with the choice. As said above… In the end what counts is about choice, personal perference and being a proud linux user who uses what makes him or her happy while enjoying their experience :)

sam November 9, 2011 at 2:39 am

I used to like Ubuntu a lot. I convinced many people to switch to Ubuntu. But after 11.04 and seeing Unity I have switched to Mint. I had always liked Ubuntu so have switched to Ubuntu based version of Mint. Mint is a good distro and has all the goodies of Ubuntu too.

Brian Z November 9, 2011 at 3:16 am

I switched to Mint shortly after unity as well. I couldn’t be happier. Finally a desktop that “gets me”, for the first time since switching to linux, the desktop just feels comfortable. Easy to use, clean and yet not over-done like KDE.

Jeroen November 9, 2011 at 3:43 am

If you compare google trends, the comparison from Mike isn’t really fair: ubuntu without the word linux and mint with the word linux..

Look at this graph: Linux Mint vs Ubuntu Linux, exactly what distrowatch shows

gonetil November 9, 2011 at 3:51 am

“This ranking system is considered to be one of the most reliable around. ” … Come on, you’re just saying this to justify your article. Everyone knows it’s not true, distrowatch is not a distro-meter, is just another website. And, if it actually is considered “one of the most reliable”… compared against what? says who? ….

Neticis November 9, 2011 at 4:27 am

Mike, you are comparing two word phrase with single word in google trends, which is not correct. Please look how it looks, if Ubuntu is paired with Linux similarly to Mint:

Stephen Green November 9, 2011 at 5:47 am

I’ve always viewed Linux Mint as the very best. Ubuntu takes work to get it close to Mint. Stuff you need to have is there, except Flash

Glen November 9, 2011 at 6:07 am

Like all things Linux, it’s about choice. Personally, I tried running Ubuntu on my desktop several times and just didn’t like it. Though Mint is based on Ubuntu, I decided to give it a try and I couldn’t be happier (Julia). It’s rock-solid and fast on my 8x Phenom box and there’s never any guessing if something is going to work. It just works…..and keeps working. Great desktop distro!

Ernie November 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

Linux Mint is the real deal. LM12 demonstrates that the LM crew actually understands what users want. Nobody cares about whether it is Gnome 2.x or 3.x under the hood. Users care about whether the interface makes sense to them. Neither Unity or GnomeShell make sense to users and they just get in the way of doing what you want to do. I’m really excited about the announced direction of Linux Mint 12.

rian November 9, 2011 at 9:28 am

DISTROWATCH IS WRONG AND THEY KNOW IT! is not suitable for comparing popularity or any other numbers, these numbers are at best an indication. A high number indicates a popular distro and a low number indicates the opposite… thats about it.

Another problem is that DistroWatch is counting all 5 distro versions of Linux Mint as one distro, resulting in unrealistic high score. While distrowatch is counting every ubuntu version separate. Even if the count on DistroWatch would be accurate, then linux mint its counts equals the number of page hits divided by the number of variants: 2198 / 5 = 439. This is even less than slackware (my favorite, but not very populair these days).

Ubuntu counts: 2239 (this is even without the other ubuntu versions e.g. Xubuntu, Kubuntu, mythbuntu, lubuntu etc.) So Ubuntu keeps being the most populair distro around.

Looking at Linux Mint it real score, you could say its a ‘less’ popular distro.

P.S. In the past I’ve notified distrowatch about this, the owner says we must not take distrowatch serious and has no intend to modify it. I’m not looking at it again.

Barton November 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

It looks like the public has spoken: “We don’t like Unity!” We are the 99% and we will go somewhere else of the 1% at Ubuntu development try to force us into Unity. I have used Ubuntu since they started and liked it but I don’t like Unity and have moved to Mint on my laptop and to Xubuntu on my desktop. I still do more than 50% of my work from the command line so the GUI doesn’t mean that much to me, but I don’t like to be forced into something just to be NEW and I don’t like Unity!

Dan November 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Like a lot of people I started on ubuntu and then somewhere along the line switched to mint and never went back. Actually for those that dispute the distowatch ranking consider if we sum the comments on this article mint seems to be the more popular… But then so what? Why get upset? ubuntu or mint its all debian anyway and its all linux under that. I love linux and its especially fun there are so many versions of it.

Ken November 9, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Ubuntu stopped listening and supporting their users! The Ubuntu Support Forum is full of Mod’s that basically told Ubuntu users that there opinions were on longer welcome or needed. They took the “you’re are either with us or against us” attitude when it came to Unity. So long Ubuntu it was good for a few years but you not longer need users. Hello Mint Linux! A place where users and supporters opinions do matter!

ZippyMint November 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

@anonymous @andrew — If you use Linux Mint “Debian Edition” (LMDE) you’re not using a “derivative of a derivative” you’re using a derivative of “one of the originals.” Even though it’s based off of the Debian testing tree, it’s one of the more stable testing trees you’ll find … plus it’s a rolling distro — no major updates to contend with in the future. And super user friendly too boot …

Andrew November 9, 2011 at 7:44 pm

@zippymint Good point.

Design November 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I’ve ran Mint using both Gmome shell, & LXDE, & have to say it’s a brilliant desktop environmnet. It’s useful for bringing new users to Linux due to it’s ease of use & making everything work real well after installation.

I’m very excited about the new Lisa distro, & can’t wait to test drive it once it comes out in November.

Gerry November 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm

I’d guess this is far more accurate than the trends link posted at the top of the comments and I say this as an Ubuntu Unity user:

cam November 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I was a loyal Ubuntu user but switched to Mint because of Unity (which will be great on touch screens I’m sure). I’ll try Gnome 3 on Mint12 but could switch back to the classic if necessary

Todd B November 10, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Gnome 2.32 is supported in the new release of Linux Mint. I feel strongly they made the right decision to offer the classic desktop environment. It would appear Ubuntu is looking ground with Gnome 3 and Unity. And rightly so.
At this point, not offering a more competitive alternative is what pushed Linux Mint ahead. Listening to the community.
That’s what it all boils down too.

rjs November 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

Debian/Slackware for decades, to the first original Ubuntu release, used Ubuntu on the desktop until 11.04, and tossed the shit in the trash. Unity sucks and that is the bottom line. And the attitude of the Ubuntu leader (MS) is even worse. 10.10 was the last release of Ubuntu worth anything.

As a Deb fan, I still use Deb on a box or two, but after trying the various Linux Mint distro’s, LMDE was chosen for a fast install and superior experience on the desktop. Even non Unity, earlier Ubuntu revisions became dog slow. LMDE shows just how bloated and slow Ubuntu really is. Try it. You’ll like it. And you will see the difference.

Linux Mint seems to be listening, and making some very wise moves. And working on MATE or the Gnome3 extensions to keep a fast and elegant desktop a priority is fantastic indeed.

As far as the discussion of whether or not Mint being number one on matters, I say it does and it is a direct reflection of all the defectors to other distros that didn’t at the time use Gnome3 or Unity. Gnome 3 sucks, but Unity hasn’t even made it to that level yet.

LMDE gnome 2(MATE) or Xfce8 does the job just fine.

Oliver November 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

All stats aside I know this to be true.
I first moved to from ubuntu to mint 6 and have stayed with it. I tried every release of Ubuntu and 9 was a total dog. Almost every release after 8 Ubuntu had numerous hardware issues with older hardware and they just didn’t give a crap about listening to people’s concerns. Mint always released tried and tested releases and I NEVER have had issues even running on the actual machines that HAVE issues with Ubuntu. Kubuntu after 8 was unreliable as well. They dropped the ball after 8.

I have several small Internet cafes within mixed business (eg newsagents with POS and EFTPOS environments) I have set up since mint 7. A current site runs a mixed windows xp and Mint 11 business network with full POS and EFTPOS and lottery, phone credit purchaising retail and a firewalled internet cafe based on Mint 10. The main server and firewall all run of an Open Suse 11 series. I haven’t got a chance (and I tried with Ubuntu 10 series) with Ubuntu. Client machines have 512 mb to 1gb ram and pentium class cpus as well (nothing flashy) and all are 2nd hand of about 6 yrs + vintage and it’s flawless. Windows users who have never touched a linux box in their lives sit down and immediately get it.

Mint don’t release buggy crap and listen to users. Ubuntu doesn’t give a crap and is totally unreliable on older hardware.
My 2cents

Oliver November 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm

the ubuntu guys run their project as a personal toy lab imho.

majorbucks November 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm

I was a faithful PClinuxOs user form the start but abandoned ship when the switch was made to KDE 4 and the Plasma desktop. I found it impossible to do even simple tasks such as placing shortcut icons on a top panel. For that reason I made the switch to Linux Mint 10. The Mint Gnome version was identical to the old KDE desktop with the ability to be set up as I wanted. Now, Mint has decided to jump on the Gnome-3 bandwagon. I downloaded the RC-12 version and the final Mint 12 with the same results. My Nvidia graphics card was not recognized so the display was not legible. The two screen setup requires several more steps to open or find a program. The new OS is not easily customizable and many of the old simple tasks are impossible. As an alternative, I have tested Ubuntu’s Unity interface and found it much more user friendly although it has the same custom shortcomings as Mint-12. My personal opinion is that the Unity interface is the better way to go if you want to stick to Gnome. Even Windows 8 previews look like something written for a kindergarten class. I sometimes wonder exactly who it is that the programmers get their feedback from. It certainly isn’t the general user public. XFCE is looking like a better option every day.

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