Google predicts that Ubuntu may be more popular than Linux itself in 2010

Ubuntu is just one of a myriad of Linux distributions, but no one can deny that its rise to fame has been meteoric, especially as a desktop OS.

This week Google announced a “forecast” feature in Google Insights for Search. Essentially it’s a new function that looks at the search history (popularity) of a term and tries to predict what the future trend for that term will look like.

So just out of curiosity we decided to try Ubuntu versus Linux to see what would happen. The dotted line furthest to the right in the chart below is Google’s prediction. We’ve marked the point where the interest for Ubuntu is predicted to overtake Linux with a red arrow, i.e. February 2010.

Since this is based on past data it is in no way a secure prediction of the future, but it does look quite plausible. The interest for Linux (at least as a search term) has long been declining while the interest for Ubuntu has been increasing (although it has slowed down recently).

One interpretation of this data is that the interest for Ubuntu is surpassing the interest for “just” Linux. It’s becoming quite a brand…

Perhaps we’re playing devil’s advocate here, but are we seeing the beginning of the end of the Linux distribution chaos? Will Ubuntu eventually become the Linux distribution of choice for more or less everyone?


  1. Looks like Ubuntu is succeeding in supplanting the term “Ubuntu” for Linux. This is something I’m highly against and cringe at the thought. Linux needs to have a united front, but Ubuntu seems like Intel where it’s their way or the highway. This is so very bad. Already, I see many distros invoking Ubuntu-like features, which I also detest. I simply do not like Ubuntu, it’s business practices, or it’s nasty habits as an OS.

  2. I’m an Ubuntu user myself but, if you want devil’s advocates, I could point out that the Google results could equally be down to Ubuntu users having more niggly problems that they have to search for help on … repeatedly!

  3. Tacking “Linux” in front of a search term typically gives good information targeted at advanced Linux users who don’t need a lot of hand-holding. Prepending “ubuntu” typically gives newb-level information, ie, step-by-step instruction, or even copy-paste pseudo-scripts.

    Convincing users to adopt the linux philosophy (by whatever name it is called) is extremely desirable.

  4. Ubuntu is a mom and pop distro. I know so, cuz I’m a mom and I have been using it for almost 2 years. It’s friendly and accessible, and does everything a mom and pop OS should do. I don’t do much hacking, or gaming, neither do I compose music or movies (thought I sometimes watch and edit some). I have looked at some other distros, but not many (Puppy, Opensuse, PCLOS) and I always return to Ubuntu. Maybe it’s a desktop thing: Xfce and Lxde are nice and fast, KDE is Kool, Enlightement is amazing…but Gnome is nice, comfortable, and complete. I suspect when my girls reach 12, they will start to stray towards those “kooler” distros and desktop, and I will sure as hell let them. They will probably introduce me to my next distro as my needs will change over time.
    Ubuntu is a great entry point into a remarquably diversified OS world, and I’m damn happy with it.

  5. Ro: The “niggly” problems are the ones that prevent widespread adoption… If Ubuntu’s only contribution to Linux is better documentation, it’s worth it.

  6. Ubuntu Bug Stats as 8.20-09

    * Open (60697) +609 over last week
    * Critical (28) +1 over last week
    * Unconfirmed (28316) +350 over last week
    * Unassigned (52346) +558 over last week
    * All bugs ever reported (303196) +1977 over last week

  7. The sharp drop for “Linux” is not compensated by Ubuntu (nor Fedora or Redhat or debian). Why is it? I am quite surprised.

    Compare Linux and Windows on Google insights. It is interesting because you will see that both have the exact same trend.
    So my personal attempt at a conclusion is simply that people search less for these terms because they know better how to use Linux or Windows.

    But basically I see no correlation between Ubuntu rise and Linux decrease.

  8. Ubuntu is Linux!!!! Why do people think that Ubuntu isn’t linux!? Also why do some people think that Ubuntu is the only Linux distro and that it is the best Linux distro!? Ubuntu SUCKS!! Slackware linux and Gentoo etc. are much better!

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