For a very long time, Ubuntu was at the heart of the Linux revolution. The leader, the heart, and soul on the quest for Linux to win the desktop operating systems wars. With the then GNOME and GNOME 2 desktop environments, the task was clear, the job was cut out and then in 2017, it has not happened yet. Ubuntu in the search to become the number one choice for desktop users replaced its default desktop from GNOME to Canonical’s very own crafted Unity desktop. The Unity desktop environment did a lot right with a more modern outlook and a future towards a convergent desktop with mobile. Regardless, a lot of Ubuntu fans were disappointed in the direction that Ubuntu had taken and out of their frustrations, many jumped.
Gnome is back on Ubuntu
Ubuntu has made the switch from the Unity desktop environment to GNOME 3 and this can be seen already in the current daily builds of Ubuntu 17.10. Initially, the plan was to use Unity in this iteration and switch to GNOME 3 in 18.04 but I bet Canonical themselves could not wait to make the change. Why put effort into something that is definitely going to be short lived as the expense of what is inevitably coming. So the switch has been made and I believe this is going to please the multitude of users who jumped ship 6 years ago when Canonical made the controversial decision to switch to Unity.
How many impacts will Gnome have on Ubuntu?
In short, A LOT. The implications of Ubuntu’s switch back to GNOME can not be overemphasized. For starters, it brings back a great deal of goodwill to both Ubuntu and its parent company Canonical. Also, the contribution that Canonical and the Ubuntu community will bring to the development of Gnome is very welcome.
Gnome’s place as the de-facto choice of desktop for most Linux distro is cemented and hopefully, this will add to the growth and development of the desktop environment and the distro as a whole. There will be a close collaboration with the larger Linux community allowing in the improvement of the GNOME desktop in particular. For the folks who left because they wanted a traditional desktop, well GNOME 3 is not. For those who came to love Unity, GNOME 3 is not too different and hopefully, they will adjust seamlessly.
What is Distrowatch rankings?
What exactly is the Distrowatch rankings? Distrowatch rankings are not the actual count of the installations of Linux distros. Let us see what they say about the rankings.
The DistroWatch Page Hit Ranking statistics are a light-hearted way of measuring the popularity of Linux distributions and other free operating systems among the visitors of this website. They correlate neither to usage nor to quality and should not be used to measure the market share of distributions. They simply show the number of times a distribution page on DistroWatch.com was accessed each day, nothing more.
Currently, there are only Linux distros ranking ahead of Ubuntu and they are Mint, Manjaro, and Debian in that order and rightly so, these are some of the popular distros out there. But to say they are popular than Ubuntu, I believe many will certainly dispute that. Mint has gained popularity because of the familiarity and ease of use it comes with. With Manjaro, I’m not so sure, maybe it for Arch lovers who prefer Arch already set up for them. As for Debian, I believe it's because of the stability it offers.
Will Ubuntu come back to the top on Distrowatch?
Probably not. But most certainly, it does not matter. Ubuntu’s ranking on Distrowatch like I have mentioned earlier is not a true reflection of the penetration of the distro. For most normal folks that I know who have transitioned to the Linux desktop for work or for a particular application or tool, they have switched to Ubuntu and I believe they will continue to choose Ubuntu at least due to its popularity. Canonical has taken a very good step in switching back to GNOME as a default desktop but I believe this change will only bring back a few disgruntled users who made the switch from Ubuntu in the years back. The count that Distrowatch makes is skewed towards the distros new users check out after dabbling in Linux and most of the time with Ubuntu.
In conclusion, I do not believe Ubuntu is coming to the top of Distrowatch and even if it did, and once again I say it does not matter. Ubuntu will for the foreseeable future remain the best distro Linux has to offer in my opinion. Distrowatch is extremely prone to a whole lot of bias. Personally, as a distro hopper, I go to Distrowatch to check out new distros and distros with new releases. I am not going to be checking out Ubuntu most of the time but it is certainly the one distro I always happen to have around. In any case, GNOME 3 isn’t too different from Unity, with a focus on modernity and simplicity. Ubuntu is not coming to the top on Distrowatch but it still remains the poster boy of the Linux desktop and for a good reason too.