LinuxMint Vs Ubuntu: A Growth Analysis

When Linux Mint fans trumpeted that it was the most downloaded Linux distro in recent years, the distro was throwing itself open to debate on the ways and mechanisms by which it became the most downloaded or most viewed distro on opensource platform watchdog-Distrowatch.

Linux Mint 11 and now Linux Mint 12 are great versions that have grown in usage, thanks to the continuity, its founder developer Clement Lefebvre offers for Gnome users. While Ubuntu, backed by Canonical’s steady but firm vision of moving towards a ‘touch-based user experience’ for Ubuntu, continued with Unity desktop as default, Linux Mint proved to be a ‘fresh Mint of Gnome’ as it offered what Ubuntu users yearned for- the ultimate, satisfying experience of Gnome platform.

Statistics are being paraded and justifications are being made on how and why, Linux Mint is the uncrowned king of Linux and how Ubuntu is losing ground as the most favored distro, thanks to the unacceptable action of replacing charming Gnome with unnecessary Unity.

The first ‘statistics’ that set the entire debate rolling was a couple of months ago, when Linux Mint became the most searched and read distro on ‘distrowatch’ the industry log expert that lists open source distros and offers live accounts on which is the most downloaded/viewed distro.

While it can be expected that enthusiastic Linux Mint fans used it to reiterate the growing depth of their distro, it did not in any way indicate that it was a better distro in terms of performance or downloads.

Now, Distrowatch display continues to rank Linux Mint way ahead on the distro link, Ferram Roberto from lffl opens up the debate some more.
Statistics/graph of Linux Mint that Ferram Roberto found on Search on Google.
Statistics/graph of Ubuntu Search on Google, as discussed by Ferram Roberto.
The chart, plotting Ubuntu’s popularity from 2004 onwards records that there was a massive surge in Oct 2007 when Ubuntu 8.04 was launched. This popularity is retained with a few dips and rises until April of 2011, when Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal debuted with Unity in tow. The graph then shows a steady decline in users searching for Ubuntu.
The chart for Linux Mint, 2004 onwards is a steady increase that sees a massive spike in users looking for Linux Mint information, news was in Nov 2011.

Ferram Roberto and other passionate ubuntu users claim that the number of clicks on Linux Mint increased on the website, thanks largely to an active community that back-linked all posts to the distrowatch website. Roberto interprets the fall in Ubuntu’s most-searched ranking on Google was due to introduction of ‘Unity’ and not due to the ascendency of any other distro.

Clement Lefebvre has already demonstrated his commitment to user community and open source philosophy by developing what users want and not what business intelligence dictates. Again, his fork and development of Cinnamon gives a whole new dimension and direction to where Gnome can reach. Linux platform should not be limited by internal conflict on ‘best distro’ status between Unity users and Gnome users.

[polldaddy poll=5902249]

  • Bart Broeckx,+ubuntu&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=1

  • Jay Ro

    Mark Shuttleworth must be so self-absorbed and oblivious to everyone’s hatered towards Unity. Keep on polishing that turd, Mark. It’s still going to be just a polished turd. Even a year after Unity’s release, I can’t think of a single distro that uses Unity as the default desktop environment, besides Ubuntu. Shouldn’t that be a HUGE RED FLAG, MARK? The ignorance of some people in the OS business, I swear… They ignore user feedback, they OBVIOUSLY have no R&D team to speak of, otherwise this unacceptable shit wouldn’t continue. Thank goodness it’s at least open-source.

  • Jay Ro

    BRB, respinning Ubuntu with Cinnamon.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t the rejection of unity [and subsequent decline in Ubuntu popularity], essentially the same as the ascendancy of Mint?

    There is something worth mentioning about mint, It is a popular distro family not because they give users what they want (a lot of distros do that), but rather the manner in which they give users what they want.  For example:

    – the community:  unlike a great many communities, the Mint community is friendly (for the most part) and members really go out of their way to teach and help each other out.

    – Access to the people in charge.  Unlike many of the main distros out there, the people behind the scenes are involved in the day to day of communicating with the community.

    – the staff listens to the community and to contributors – this is a big one.  for the most part, Mint does an excellent job of listening to what the community wants and delivering exactly that.

    – Homogeneity – Mint comes in various different flavors with both Ubuntu and Debian bases.  One of the nice things about mint is that you can go to any of their spins and with few exceptions (mainly the KDE version) the look and feel tends to be very similar and distinctly mint.  That level of commonality is very attractive to users.

    – Keeping things simple and polished without sacrificing power and flexibility.  This is mint’s crowning glory.  Ubuntu is great at simplifying certain aspects of Linux.  Mint does them one better and simplifies many of the things that users interact with every day.  Take for example the Software center (yes mint did it way before Ubuntu), or the Updater, or Mint’s brilliant menu.  yes Ubuntu is great at making Linux approachable to the masses, but Mint has been amazing at making the overall experience polished and comfortable to use for everyone from the newest Noob to old school power users.

    IMHO the best example of mint’s great job of knowing their audience is Cinnamon.  Cinnamon is a direct result of the public’s rejection of Unity and Gnome 3 Shell.  Mint has responded by again listening to the community and creating a desktop environment that takes the best features of both unity and Gnome 3 shell (mainly G3S) and combining them into a clean environment that is both unique and traditional, and which still allows for ease of use and great flexibility for those who want to make it more elaborate.  They are basically doing this at the same time that Ubuntu and Gnome have remained fixated on the correctness of their approach no matter what their communities have to say.  I think it is telling that  no one but Ubuntu ships with Unity as default and very few distros have adopted Gnome 3 Shell, yet at the same time, most major distros have already put Cinnamon in their repos and some are already talking about making it available as an alternate desktop for their distributions.

  • Connie New

    While unity is the default, it is not the only environment.  The users have a choice.  While some are content to make a herd of clones of desktop, the Ubuntu developers are trying out their own radical alternative.  As far as I can see, Unity has got better and better with each release, with concepts being borrowed by other mainstream Desktop Envirnoments…
    Of course Unity users can use Mate or Cinnamon or any other variant…the choice is theirs, and no one is forcing them to use what they do not like.  Default != Obligatory

  • Paleoflatus

    Many years ago, I used to check distrowatch at least weekly, looking for the latest and greatest new or improved distro. I did this less when I found Knoppix, then Kanotix, but since finding sidux, aptosid, then siduction as user-friendly versions of Debian sid, my quest has been over and I’ve only rarely looked at Distrowatch since. I wonder how many of us have moved away from Distrowatch after finding what they were seeking and I wonder how many Distrowatch readers are merely users who are unhappy with their current distro and therefore looking for something better. In that case, these readers would reflect unsatisfactory distros, rather than popular ones.

  • Linux Canuck

    Popularity on DW is meaningless by their own admission. Just ask PCLinuxOS. Actually usage has Ubuntu way ahead and not losing steam.


  • Andrew Craucamp

    Ironic that your comment smacks of obliviousness. Unity is a result of constant user testing and Mark Shuttleworth has stated that what you or i (meaning himself) might think is good design means nothing since it’s the user testing (read: R&D) that ultimately decides what Unity becomes.

    You clearly associate with Unity haters since most of the people i speak to on the topic agree that while Unity is young it’s quickly headed in the right direction. Note: i really like Cinnamon and i think Mint deserves all the popularity it’s getting. I just prefer Ubuntu.

  • Oldtimer

    Just for the record, the Ubuntu community has never failed to be helpful, friendly, and interested. Same for the Fedora folks. I suspect it’s a common trait amongst Linux distros, but I have a few hundred more to check out before I’m certain…

  • Klaus Knegg

    Well – I have used Unity since 11.04, and I must admit that I was shocked in the beginning, having spent time on Linux menus since Linus dropped a pile of floppy-files on the Internet – was it 1991?

    But as time has passed by and I have upgraded to 11.10, my feelings have changed – menus are not “natural things”. The never ending story “Is xxx a system tool, application, utility …” You can go on discussing this topic forever, the categories are blur.

    Flat search engines seems natural – but they must smart and learn over time and hint you.

    My conclusion is that Ubuntu / Unity is on the right track, but the “last mile” is still to go.

    My son (Windows Guy until he started stying) came home one evening and said to me – “I installed Ubuntu [11.10] – I really liked the user interface – I found all I needed right out of the box, the search engine did the job”.

    My conclusion is that “I hate change – but I survived, and I did not end up in hell with Unity. I did not end up in Paradise, but I did not leave Paradise either”.

    And Linux Mint looks great too :-)

  • kroqgar78

     Thank you ;)

  • Leventtore

    yes ı just switched to linuxmint after years of ubuntu

  • mswal2846

     I think Jay’s comments go a bit far BUT I agree with the direction.  A single user interface regardless of the device I’m on may be too much of a stretch.  It leads to a “least common denominator” result that fails to leverage the strengths of the device (e.g., bigger screen, mouse, etc.) on which I’m working.

  • robert pogson

    While downloads of Mint may be higher than Ubuntu, Ubuntu has about 30 times the installed base of Mint and is not going away any time soon. Mint is a tiny organizatioin compared to Canonical. Ubuntu has many millions of users on long term support. The change to Unity has not even reached those folks and they are happy with what they have.

    The Minters are mostly geeks who will download and install an OS while Ubuntu has more geeks and millions of uses who bought a PC with Ubuntu installed. Mint has not even dented the installed base. Ubuntu can adjust its user-interface 9 times more without affecting the installed base and resume being a popular download before Mint can gain traction.

  • Blammo

    Mint is………….Mint !
    Clems mistake  was LMDE and trying to make it a so-called “rolling release”., that’s like a 500 horse car without brakes.
    He should have went the Squeeze route like SalineOS did.
    He led the game with Cinnamon and LM12. No doubt.Can he keep it up ???

    It’s time to go back to Debian proper with the right “pins” and repos and let Shuttleworth build a nice resort in the Carib…….. and send Stallman to an institution.
    Debian is it. Mark taught people that by un-Stallmanizing” it, it was, as always. #1 ! Clem fixed it from there.
    Anthony Nordquist adjusted it accordingly. Debian is Debian. Often Imitated/Never duplicated.

    The rest of the circus is people wanting to be a GaGa of Linux. Head to the source. The rest is a waste. The source is ?
     Debian proper………..with some soap.

  • John Sullivan

    That’s what I did.  Rather than reload everything, just added Cinnamon to the Ubuntu installation. 

    I’m using a *desktop*.  Unity takes too much away in trying to be a single interface for everything.  

    Note to developers:  I really don’t care if my touchscreen interface works differently than my desktop.  I kind of prefer it that way for the same reasons I prefer a steering wheel over a joystick in my car.

  • Seth Galitzer

    I’m all for change, as long as it’s an improvement.  The way I use a desktop, unity is not an improvement in any way.  Having said that, I also happen to like gnome3 shell quite a bit, which I know a lot of others hate just as much as unity.  Just goes to show that as long as we have choice in the gui desktop space, we will all be able to find something we like.

  • Alan

    Unity is simply not a good desktop interface. Cinnamon has the makings of a very good desktop interface. You can run Cinnamon easily and seamlessly on Ubuntu. No doubt you could run Unity on Mint – goodness knows why though.It seems to me the passionate argument relates to choice of desktop, not really the distro. Personally, I much prefer Ubuntu over Mint but I use the Cinnamon desktop. I’m happy!

  • Brandon Kline

    Frankly I would be happy if we could at least have the ability switch to a simple menu, whether its a simple drop menu from launch button or allowing the Ubuntu Menu to be switched to a Gnome 2.x layout or close to it. I don’t mind the search bar, I just don’t want to have to use it to “quickly” access what I want. And I would like to be able to have the top bar go on a auto-hide/intelli-hide so I can use my full screen, I only have a standard 1024×768 to work with and while global menu helps quite a bit, its just not the same.

  • Andrew Craucamp

    Unity is recognisable but adaptive. For example, there are a number of mouse-over effects which are obviously only available with a pointing device. Another example is that Unity has an ‘automaximise’ feature that kicks in if an app takes up more than 75% of the screen. As i said in my previous post, it’s still young but Unity’s adaptability is improving with every release.

  • Dektalk

    ‘Polishing the turd’ is maybe an overstatement but I do get the sentiment. The saga of unity/metro is really about creating a distinctive brand that users will come to trust whatever the platform, a bit like ‘SAGA’ has cornered the oldies market. The problem is however to my mind unsolvable, phones and tablets are consumer devices and a PC is a productivity tool – how do you square that circle with just one interface? 

  • Leslie S

    The distros that concentrate on using programs to manage data, instead of using data to access the programs will cause users to revert to other than Fedoras Gnome3 or Unity.

    I have to develop software, and abhor the lost time by using unity, or Gnome to thread through the menus ad nauseum.  icons do not turn me on.  I am waiting for the desktop that responds to voice commands. That is the future. 

  • joshua_phillips

    I don’t think voice commands will ever be the future. Can you imagine 20 people in an office all shouting at the same time?

  • Heath Knight

    if Ubuntu told more people about KDE / Gnome option to install, then it would still be top of the distro’s

  • Rohit R

     Those plots are so misleading. Why did they plot them seperately? Do a comparative graph and you can not even find the linuxmint plot against the ubuntu one.

    The number of searches in not really indicative of interest either. Just see the graph for linux. It is steadily decreasing. Would you say interest in Linux is decreasing? I would not.

  • Aymane El Baamri

    I use dual boot with linux mint ubuntu zoins OS ylmf windows 7 windows 8 windwos vista windows xp, liveandroid cd and im planning about to install snow leopard (if i have enough partitions in my hard drive :) )

  • 1roxtar

     Unity’s simplicity is it’s strength.  People talk so much, accusing Ubuntu of Gnome fragmentation, which is in fact not the case.  Lots of people claim that Gnome 3 and it’s shell are much better, but it’s being “forked” by many other distros, as well….Linux Mint with Cinnamon, Pinguy OS, PearOS, Elementary OS…so on and so forth.  If anyone is creating fragmentation within the Linux community it’s Gnome 3 with it’s much less useful shell than Unity.  Unity makes it easier and more fluid to get my things done.  I don’t care if I can’t put a hundred indicators on my panel or scatter lots of icons on my desktop.   I have tested Ubuntu and Unity, as well on regular consumers and I have got nothing but WOW’s from those who have tried Ubuntu for the first time. I am converting several laptops as we speak.

  • Guest

    Mint is the most convenient way to migrate from Windows. Kubuntu have many desktop enhancement features. Ubuntu is looking to the future.

  • Roy

    Maybe I could put this into perspective. We use Ubuntu machines at work, stopped upgrading because of Unity….will NOT…let me repeat Not deliver a product with Ubuntu on it. I have about 8 personal machines running. Have a couple at the latest release, will NOT upgrade any more in that direction and plan to replace distribution…probably with Mint which I am running in VM’s now. Only reason I have not shit canned Ubuntu yet is the amount of time to convert to another distribution. Might go back to straight Debian, which is what I did before Ubuntu.

  • Capt. Meat

    Meh, all I know is I tried MATE and it ticked all my boxes, after a couple teething problems I’ve now settled in comfortably with it. I wont be shifting to Gnome3 or Unity unless someone drags me kicking and screaming (as they did back when I was a perfectly content KDE3.5 user). If someone had have started a project like this to preserve KDE3.5 I would have jumped on board, but that never happened. I’m quite passionate about maintaining this classic style desktop. My computer is not a toy, I know how it works, it works well, I don’t need it changed thanks.

  • Daroogo

    I’m very new to Ubuntu, and the entire Linux distros for that matter. And coming from Windows I like the new look Unity gives, I get really excited every time I boot my laptop. And I (MO) think Unity works well with a mouse.

  • Imwithid

    I don’t find it very recognizable (due to the lack of accessibility, standard “options” such as Super+Scroll for Zoom removed since 11.04) and as to adaptive, I’m finding that the user is putting in most of the effort to adapt to an interface that is drastically different and counter intuitive (and hence counter productive) for the intermediate desktop user.

    I am still using Ubuntu 10.04[.4]. I’ve tried 11.04, 11.10 and 12.04 using live editions and been trying to adapt to Unity, however, I’ve been disappointed. As a simple interface for Web and Office, it is adequate. Stability is still an issue in all three releases, from my experience.

    For accessing a variety of system tools (e.g. Disk Utility) or finding an application that one cannot remember the name to is frustrating.

    I’m sure that Unity will improve, however, it is generally a preference that one either prefers structured categorical layouts (Gnome2 menu) or simplified non-linear malleable icons/panels (Unity panel).

    While one works well with desktops (the former), the latter impedes productivity. The corollary to this is that a Gnome2 style GUI would not work too well for tablets, however Unity would seem a good fit.

    I think Ubuntu goofed with Unity as the default interface. Yes, the touch interface is becoming common, however, like the mouse, it is an additional tool for desktops. It will not replace it (I cannot foresee the accuracy of touch screens remotely matching that of a mouse for graphic design work or improving productivity in office applications). I can not foresee, in the near term, tablets replacing the desktop as a productivity tool, either.

    As an operating system for mobile devices, tablets and minimalist systems for end users, I think Unity is an excellent interface. For desktop productivity, it is a step back.

    A choice should be offered depending on preference/device rather than arbitrarily offered. 

  • Errol

    You know what they say about stats… anyway, there is always a context.
    I was a Mint user since v3 and by the time the v12 was released with the new G3 shell (and there was no Mate as it is today and it was early days with Cinnamon) I kinda stuck with Mint in fallback mode. The Mint forums were gathering many ex-Unity users so when I had an occasion to install Ubuntu… I was rather curious as to what that experience would bring to the table, umm… desktop. When 12.04 was released, I dual booted Mint and Ubuntu for awhile but now work exclusively with Unity. I’ve grown to like it. I guess having a Mac as well has helped that transition. For me… one has a horizontal docky while the other has it on a left vertical. They seem like cousins and should you ask me what I prefer… it would be Ubuntu!

  • Mr James

    mmmm yes well, i just can’t get on with that thai dye purple yuck that just explodes in your face. I much prefer a nice cool blue mint to refresh my pallet. Anyway mint with gnome 3 installed is just horny

  • Scott M. Allen

    My continous choice lately is OpenSuse …. 12.2 and above. Works every time – Looks Brilliant – is sufficiently MAINSTREAM – and is unlikely to be abandonded any time soon.