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Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:02 AM EST

Matthew Aslett of Computer Business Review brings to my attention that a recent article by the Salt Lake Tribune's Bob Mims, "Novell underscores support for free software development", includes an inaccuracy. Because the article has been widely quoted and it is currently linked to on Novell's web site, it seems important to correct it. Mims, after an interview with Novell spokesman Kevan Barney, wrote:
"Three weeks ago Open Suse 10.2 was released for free download. It's doing very well," Barney said. "Our experience with the open-source community has been great these past few years, and we will strive to continue that." Statistics back up Novell's contention. In the past month, Open Suse supplanted Ubuntu as the No. 1 choice, according to the download access-tracking DistroWatch.com Web site. Fedora? It fell to No. 3.

Aslett correctly points out that Distrowatch doesn't track downloads; it tracks hits to its own web site:

There seems to be growing confusion about the Linux distribution popularity statistics published over at DistroWatch, with some commentators referring to them as download statistics that indicate growing adoption of openSUSE. This is not the case....DistroWatch does not track download access, it tracks the average hits per day for each of its own distribution pages.

Barney had highlighted the Distrowatch page hit figures on his blog in mid-December, using them to demonstrate popularity and alleged community support for openSUSE.

He wrote:

December 11th, 2006 by Kevan Barney

There’s an interesting trend on display at DistroWatch.com. DistroWatch tracks average page hits per day for Linux distributions, and for last 30 days, openSUSE has jumped into the top spot, from its typical place in second. The popularity margin is even greater when you look at the last seven days.

When I click on the links he provided, I don't see openSUSE listed as number one. I find that Ubuntu is listed as number one, and according to that page, it has been number one in Distrowatch page hits for the last year, the last 6 months, the last 3 months, the last week, the last everything on those pages. When I set the Page Hit Ranking app to the last seven days, I see Dreamlinux is number three for the last week, just for context, so maybe there was a temporary upsurge for openSUSE, but apparently not enough to last.

Oh, and according to what I see, Fedora hasn't slipped. It was number three for all of 2006. In 2005, it was number four, so by that metric, it's actually gone up.

Barney, as you saw, correctly wrote that Distrowatch counts page hits, so I don't know how the downloads-hits confusion got started, but it is important to be accurate, and it fooled me too. I linked to an article in News Picks that repeated the wrong information, without checking the statistics. After reading Aslett's correction, I wrote to Distrowatch's Ladislav Bodnar and asked what their figures mean to them. Here is his answer:

What do the figures mean to you?

They represent the number of clicks on each distributions-specific page on DistroWatch. Nothing more and nothing less. In theory, the more popular a distro, the more clicks its page should get, but in practice this might or might not be the case, who knows. You can also look at it as an ongoing popularity poll among the visitors of DistroWatch.

I started the ranking some 5 years ago as a fun way of measuring the popularity of distributions and I thought it would remain a little fun toy, but many visitors take it far too seriously. In the past, the ranking figures made it into the various press releases by Mandriva, Ubuntu and now Novell and many other web sites draw attention to it regularly. Heise.de recently called it a "distro hitparade". I'd like to believe that there is some truth in the figures, but in all honesty, they really don't mean all that much and should not be taken very seriously.

So there you are.

Distrowatch's Top Ten Distributions page, by the way, lists Mandriva as number 2, after Ubuntu, but it disclaims as follows:

The bewildering choice and the ever increasing number of Linux distributions can be confusing for those of you who are new to Linux. This is why this page was created. It lists 10 distributions (plus an honourable mention of FreeBSD, by far the most popular of all of the BSDs), which are generally considered as most widely used by Linux users around the world. There are no figures to back it up and there are many other distributions that might suit your particular purpose better, but as a general rule, all of these are popular and have very active forums or mailing lists where you can ask questions if you get stuck. MEPIS and Xandros are considered the best for new Linux users who want to get productive in Linux as soon as possible without having to master all its complexities. On the other end of the spectrum, Gentoo, Debian, Slackware and FreeBSD are more advanced distributions that require plenty of learning before they can be used effectively. Mandriva, Fedora, Ubuntu and SUSE can be classified as good "middle-road" distributions. Knoppix is a so-called live CD - it is great for trying out Linux without getting your hands dirty as it runs directly from a CD, no installation required. These distributions are loosely listed in order of popularity on DistroWatch, which is NOT an indication of their market share or quality. As always, comments and suggestions are most welcome.

I've corrected the News Picks entry I posted at the time that linked to Dana Blankenhorn's blog, which talked about downloads. I had opined that the downloads statistics were likely just people wanting to get the last clean version of openSUSE, but now that we know Distrowatch isn't even presenting download statistics, it actually means even less. For sure, what I wrote compounded the misinformation, because I accepted the downloads information as being accurate without checking. So I wanted to correct it more prominently than just in News Picks.

Hopefully, at some point, Novell will come out of denial and face the truth, that the community is really, really upset with Novell over the Microsoft patent deal. That isn't going to change, from all I see -- and because of Groklaw, I see plenty.


  


Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction | 238 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: feldegast on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:07 AM EST
So PJ can fix them

---
IANAL
My posts are ©2004-2007 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:15 AM EST

If you go by this view then Fedora is at #5.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Here
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:18 AM EST
And to start it off...

http://images.ucomics.com/comics/nq/2007/nq070110.gif

Obviously, Wiley knows who Rob Enderle is.

--
BMO

[ Reply to This | # ]

The other interpretation
Authored by: Aim Here on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:25 AM EST
So another way of looking at the Distrowatch figures is that openSUSE users
might have started flocking to the leading distro comparison website to find out
which distro to switch to...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: feldegast on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:26 AM EST
Please make links clickable and when starting the main threads....log in

from BMO
----------------
http://images.ucomi cs.com/comics/nq/2007/nq070110.gif

Obviously, Wiley knows who Rob Enderle is.
--
BMO
----------------

---
IANAL
My posts are ©2004-2007 and released under the Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 06:36 AM EST
I think this feud against Novell/SuSE is really foolish.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Authored by: simonbrooks on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 07:12 AM EST
so basically, what we're saying here is distrowatch is completely USELESS. it
means NOTHING. so whether novell use it or anyone else for that matter is
completely irrelevant.

So why do so many quote it. not just companies but linux fans aswell? I don't
see the point of it. I've used suse for several years now, but it wouldn't count
me as a user since I have never gone to the relevant distrowatch page. Yeah,
thats scientific! oh well. Back to suse I go (Fantastic distro by the way! No IP
issues what ever anyone else may say!)

[ Reply to This | # ]

3D desktops
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 07:25 AM EST
The reason for the newcomers Dreamlinux, LG3D, and Sabayon explosive popularity is probably their focus on the new 3D desktops on a LiveCD.

Just see how Beryl has conquered the mindshare of Compiz using Google Trends.





[ Reply to This | # ]

So we don't know whether more or less people are using OpenSUSE than before the MS - Novell deal
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 07:44 AM EST
We know basically the same about any of the other distribution's popularity -
NOTHING.

So this is our chance to "Prove" that OpenSUSE is less popular than
before, simply because we can't prove that it is more popular than before.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • completely untrue - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 02:26 PM EST
Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Authored by: luca.b on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 08:34 AM EST
Barney had highlighted the Distrowatch page hit figures on his blog in mid-December, using them to demonstrate popularity and alleged community support for openSUSE.

PJ, I strongly suggest you to read Brian Proffit's editorial on LT. While it's about another matter, in the end it touches the Novell/MS agreement. OpenSUSE is not only Novell. I'd say that articles like this one are more or less biased. You don't like the agreement? Fine. However, OpenSUSE is also made up by volounteer contributions (whether you like it or not) and I think it should be left out in this debate.

---
Violence is the last refuge of the incapable. - Salvor Hardin

[ Reply to This | # ]

As an opensuse user
Authored by: iksrazal on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 09:04 AM EST
I'm not going to defend Novell's actions of late. I signed Bruce Perens petition
and I agree completely that any agreement about linux that applies only to
Novell is deeply offensive.

That being said, I've been using Linux for 11 years, 8 years exclusively, and
IMHO opensuse 10.2 is the best distro on the market and I've tried the most
popular ones. In my line of work I spend many hours on ubuntu and fedora each
month. As a devout KDE user, kubuntu just isn't there yet. But I'm all for the
spirit of ubuntu , and I would like to see it rise since my long term view on
suse is in doubt.

So I'm cautiously continuing to be an opensue suse until kubuntu gets better.
opensuse AFAIK isn't impacted by the agreement. Of course, if opensuse actually
violates more then the spirit of the GPL via GPL3 then its game over for me. But
I'm waiting to see. If your aim is to hurt Novell, I can understand that, but I
myself am cautiously optimistic something is going to turn them around. If not
there's a huge amount of choices and IMHO infererior, but I'll make the switch
as I had to do a few times now.

As for which is most popular, who cares?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 09:12 AM EST
I don't know what all the fuss is about. PJ is right that people regularly
misstate what that Distrowatch ranking is about, but there was indeed a big
spike in interest in OpenSuse right after the release of 10.2, and if we had
daily figures it would probably show that the spike was sustained for a couple
of weeks, if not more, and that has been a rarity since Ubuntu came on the
scene.

I would think that OpenSuse's temporary lead came from curiosity created by the
MS-Novell deal, and curiosity over the release itself created by some praiseful
reviews from credible people like Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, who ended his
review by saying that he was dumping Windows XP from his production systems for
OpenSuse 10.2 (http://www.desktoplinux.com/articles/AT5310810296.html).

For myself, I share concern about Novell's ill-considered
deal with Microsoft, but I had already settled on OpenSuse as the distro most
suited for my own small business. While MS-Novell complicated that decision, it
was only one of several factors I had to consider, and in the end it didn't
change my decision. I suspect that a lot of people in my position will do the
same (i.e., consider the deal as A factor, but not THE factor), and if what I've
been reading on various boards, inside and outside the Suse community is any
indication, I don't think a large number of people already using OpenSuse are
going to drop it just because of MS-Novell. If they get along with the distro
itself and it serves their purposes, they'll use it, no matter what its ranking
at distrowatch.com, or the unpredictable shakeout from the deal.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Download numbers.
Authored by: hardcode57 on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 09:41 AM EST
Since many, if not most, distros make torrents of isos available, no-one can
have any idea how many downloads a given distro has.

In short, when anyone talks about the number of downloads for their
distribution, they are being willfully untruthful.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Popularity Contests
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 10:46 AM EST


That's the fun thing about a popularity contest - it's often easy to interpret
the figures in more than one way. There may have been a spike of interest in
Open SUSE, there may not have been.

To a large extent it doesn't matter. What matters is whether Novell will
continue to have community support over the next 5 years, and whether or not
they will be able to expand their sales of SUSE corporate over that time.

At present we don't know the answer. Some people think that SUSE Corporate and
Open SUSE will continue to be popular, and others like myself think that the
community backlash will cause significant damage to SUSE. At present we don't
know.

However issuing a correction as PJ has done is the right thing to do, and I hope
someone has contacted Bob Mimms and the other journalists about how Distrowatch
actually counts popularity. Not that I expect most of them to publish a
correction, but hey, I can be optimistic at least once a week.

Note that I am not criticizing Distrowatch's methods - they are as valid as any
other way of counting distro popularity.


---
Wayne

http://urbanterrorist.blogspot.com/

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some Facts about openSUSE and Distrowatch Figures - A Correction
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 10:55 AM EST
I have been a software developer for 28 years. I work with proprietary software
at work, and write GPL TWO software at home. I strongly disagree with the
concept that software can be patented. But I also strongly disagree with some
trends in GPL THREE.
I have been a SuSE user for several years, and I do not like any agreements
with Microsoft, especially about patents. On the other hand, I realize that a
large corporation is made up of a lot of people with different goals and ideals.
I am convinced that there are a lot of Novell people who are committed to Linux,
and the ideals of open software. And if Novell keeps OpenSuSE, and keeps patent
issues out of that distribution, I welcome their contribution to the community.
And if Novell wants to write proprietary software, using any operating system, I
have no problem with that.
The danger is mixing the two, which is why I stay miles away from Mono. Until
the issue of software patents gets resolved, which likely will take 10-15 years
or more, the open source community is potentially at risk from venders like
Microsoft, or groups like SCO which are trying to control software. Patents are
going to bite us, as they are currently biting venders who have money.
I am taking a "wait and see" attitude with Novell. If they support
OpenSuSE, and keep patents out of it, I will likely continue to use it. I am
using 10.1 now, and plan to upgrade soon to 10.2. If Novell starts playing other
games with patents, my support will quickly leave.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How I use DistroWatch
Authored by: artp on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 12:43 PM EST
My hits on DistroWatch would have no relationship to the likelihood of me
downloading that distro. I use DistroWatch to check up on distros that I have no
regular contact with, distros that I want to learn something about, or just
plain old-fashioned curiosity-satisfying browsing.

IOW, I would never give a hit to any distro that I already owned, nor to one
that I had the URL for.

I guess that the distribution of newbies/hackers would provide a rough
correlation to what is actually used, with very wide error margins. The random
layout of installed distros versus the random layout of distros that interest
people obviously has a broad overlap.

Or, to put it another way, statistics are meaningless.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Of course you see plenty of negativity on the deal here....
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 02:26 PM EST
Hopefully, at some point, Novell will come out of denial and face the truth, that the community is really, really upset with Novell over the Microsoft patent deal. That isn't going to change, from all I see -- and because of Groklaw, I see plenty.

You see plenty of negative comments on it because you've driven away all of the people who think you're wrong by accusing them of astroturfing. So those who think it's a good thing have been made to feel unwelcome, and have decided to go away. This is what's called a self-reinforcing or self-fulfilling prophecy. Well done, PJ. So much for Groklaw being AntiFUD.

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ please stop your smear campaign
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, January 11 2007 @ 04:23 PM EST
This would be funny if it wasn't so sad

The "community" is not upset with Novell at all.

The only one that thinks so is PJ.
And she continues her smear campaign against them, without any real evidence to
back it up.

She talks of FUD, while continuing it herself.
What a hypocrit!

BTW don't hold your breath, she'll delete this comment, as all disention must be
removed. Can't have the truth get out after all...

it's sad PJ, it really is. Please get over yourself. You're just not that
important! Your 15 minutes of fame are up.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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