Distro Rankings and Popularity Ratings through the Years

Have you ever wondered which Linux distribution was most popular during the previous years? If you have, then you may be interested in some of the data that I’m going to present to you.

With the aid of Distrowatch’s infamous ‘Page Hit Ranking’ system and Google Trends (a tool that shows the most popularly searched terms from 2004 up to present), we shall find out which distro had the most number of followers in the past. Here it goes:

(Page Hit Ranking)
Rank -Distribution -H.P.D*
1 -Mandrake -473
2 -Red Hat -453
3 -Gentoo -326
4 -Debian -311
5 -Sorcerer -253
6 -SuSE -250
7 -Slackware -216
8 -Lycoris -209
9 -Lindows -151
10 -Xandros -123

(Page Hit Ranking)
Rank -Distribution -H.P.D*
1 -Mandrake -770
2 -Red Hat -631
3 -Knoppix -489
4 -Gentoo -460
5 -Debian -428
6 -Yoper -390
7 -SUSE -366
8 -Slackware -357
9 -Lycoris -220
10 -Xandros -175

(Page Hit Ranking)
Rank -Distribution -H.P.D*
1 -Mandrake -1,457
2 -Fedora -1,202
3 -KNOPPIX -910
4 -SUSE -858
5 -Debian -832
6 -MEPIS -694
7 -Gentoo -670
8 -Slackware -669
9 -PCLinuxOS -451
10 -Damn Small -416

(Google Trends)

(Page Hit Ranking)
Rank -Distribution -H.P.D*
1 -Ubuntu -2546
2 -Mandriva -1664
3 -SUSE -1451
4 -Fedora -1211
5 -MEPIS -1145
6 -Debian -867
7 -KNOPPIX -830
8 -Damn Small -687
9 -Gentoo -647
10 -Slackware -613

(Google Trends)

(Page Hit Ranking)
Rank -Distribution -H.P.D*
1 -Ubuntu -2640
2 -openSUSE -2027
3 -Fedora -1444
4 -MEPIS -1045
5 -Mandriva -1015
6 -Damn Small -841
7 -Debian -819
8 -PCLinuxOS -774
9 -Slackware -648
10 -Gentoo -618

(Google Trends)

(Page Hit Ranking)
Rank -Distribution -H.P.D*
1 -Ubuntu -2519
2 -PCLinuxOS -2502
3 -openSUSE -1596
4 -Fedora -1332
5 -Sabayon -1087
6 -Mint -991
7 -Debian -953
8 -MEPIS -921
9 -Mandriva -845
10 -Damn Small -705

(Google Trends)

*H.P.D = hits per day

As you can see, nothing is constant in the world of distro rankings and popularity ratings. Mandrake was king of the hill from 2002-2004. Then, Ubuntu started its dominance in 2005. PCLinuxOS was inches away of kicking Ubuntu out of the top spot in Distrowatch ranking in 2007. However, it is interesting to note that PCLinuxOS was way below in Google Trends during that year while Ubuntu was really soaring high.

So there you have it. I want to know your thoughts about this one.


  1. my thought is that your little blurb at the bottom there
    could give some props to the SuSe. It didn't miss the
    list one time in all those years.!

  2. This is a Blogger blog?? Wow, AMAZING theme dude!! I gotta get this...or something similar. Great article though. I'll have to take OpenSuse for a spin. My pal came down from Canada to visit me a week ago here in DSL/Cable-challenged Nairobi and I got her to download the latest PCBSD and SimplyMepis.
    I can't wait to take those for a spin too.

    I am a BIG fan of Xandros. I think they're Open Circulation edition could get some more press and nobody even comes close to a giving you a BETTER Windows-like experience than their commercial offerings. Remember, they bought the code that was once Corel Linux which was a distro that was waaaay ahead "back then" in term of ease of installation, hardware detection et al. Had Corel had the financial resources to seriously committ to Linux "back then", the whole landscape would have been a lot different today. They really "flocked up" spending all that money on WordPerfect, which was purchased (or was it the other way around?) from Borland whom also couldn't make a dent in Micro$oft's Office sales. Hey, they tried! My hats off to Corel & Borland for trying to offer Office alternatives. Plus I was also a big fan of Borland's language tools (Turbo Pascal got me started in this field). Seriously, they should just open source Corel Office. It's waaay better than Open Office. Why reinvent the wheel?

    Anyhow, I'll definitely be back to peek this blog. You're right about this: "the best spot you're never heard of"

    Keep up the great blog.

    - Maxwell (aka MaxTheITpro)

  3. The answer to PCLinuxOS question is easy: they've manipulated Distrowatch's page hit ranking. Later, it was just a self-promoting trend. This clearly shows that Google Trends are much more accurate.

  4. @ Max

    Thanks a lot for the inspiring comment. I really appreciate it.

    That’s some very informative stuff you wrote there. I wish every commenter were like that ;-)

    I’m glad that you are also interested in Linux and other open source software. I’ve never tried Xandros but I’ve heard plenty of good things about it and I knew they were very popular back then. Now, it’s Ubuntu’s turn to try to kick M$ a$$. But if Ubuntu will fail, no need to worry because Linux still has plenty of weapons from its arsenal.

    Anyway, thanks again for being here. I’ll be checking your blog too as soon as I have some free time. I’ve been very busy lately and I’m answering comments via mobile phone right now.

    Best regards,

  5. AnonymousMay 25, 2008

    page hit rankings are not indicative of the "popularity of use" of some distro. just because many folks hit some distro's website (or at distrowatch), making it #1, does not mean that that distro is being run on more computers than other distros.

    i know - i've installed, literally, thousands of copies of "unpopular" distros in corporations - those being SuSE and Red Hat. the rest are mostly "hobbyist" distros.

    the only exercise I see here is merely for entertainment purposes.

    regards, mjt - author, Inside Linux.