The DistroWatch Linux Distribution Rating System & The Reality Of Mageia’s #2 Position

in Linux, Operating Systems | by Jon-Paul Raymond | 6 20.01.2013
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As depicted in the video, it took numerous years for Mint to surpass Ubuntu. The remainder of the top Linux distributions have consistently been ranked in the top group year after year as well. All of a sudden though there’s a new competitor that has supposedly surpassed them all except one Linux Mint. The mystery distribution is Mageia, and they’ve practically come out of now where to make it to number 2, but many question the reality of this possibility.

Over the years there’s been a lot of controversy over DistroWatch. Although it has never claimed to be a site with an authoritative ratings system, within the Linux community itself, DistroWatch has always held some weight when it comes to who is at least downloading what distribution. Recently though, DistroWatch has continuously ranked Ubutnu below Mageia and this has been going on for a some months now although Mageia is a distribution that few even talk about, by comparison to Ubuntu or most any other popular distribution in the top ranks.

Mageia's Ranking in 2011

Mageia's Ranking in 2011

Whether or not you’re an Ubuntu fan or not, Ubuntu has gained immense popularity within and without the Linux community. The distro has driven in people to the Linux community by the droves. From corporate users, to government and educational systems. as well as personal users alike (for example see “Spain Deploys 220,000 Ubuntu Desktops In More Than 2,000 Schools, Servicing 600,000 Students“. Yet Mageia is surpassing even Ubuntu in the DistroWatch rankings month after month.

Mageia's Ranking Last 6 Months

Mageia's Ranking Last 6 Months

Mageia Linux was forked from Mandriva in 2010. Mandriva was created by a company by the same name that went bankrupt about the the time Mageia was spun off from it. Mandriva still exits though, and is actually doing business. Mageia doesn’t receive any financial backing from Mandriva, at least none that we know of.

DistroWatch has never been a rating system that takes into account a large number of criteria to establish its rating of Linux distributions. It’s actually very simple, yet important. It’s a Linux community indicator of how many people have expressed interest in a Linux distribution, based on how many times it may have been downloaded. It in essence gives a good indication of what people are now interested in.

A proponent of Mageia and blogger by the name of Susan Linton wrote:

Another indication that Mageia’s popularity is on the rise is its move up the Distrowatch.com Page Hit Rankings. Mageia occupied the number 15 spot in 2011 but promptly pushed Ubuntu down and took its number 2 spot in 2012. Only Linux Mint stands between Mageia and number 1.

It’s true. In 2011, Mageia was ranked 15th on DistroWatch (see first chart above), but just how it reached number 2 surprises many, even those that applaud its success.

Another blogger and also a proponent of Mageia named Christopher Tozzi wrote in a well put together article entitled,”Young Mageia Linux Distribution Surges in Popularity”. Christopher said:

according to distrowatch.com, Mageia Linux is the second most popular distribution available today. That’s impressive, given the distributions that have been around for many years–including Ubuntu, openSUSE and Fedora–dominate most of the rest of the top of the list.”

It is impressive, and interesting considering the minimal level of discussion on the Internet regarding the distribution, when compared to lesser ranked distros.

Even Katherine Noyes, a PCWorld columnist, said at the end of 2012 with regards to Mageia, being #2:

Perhaps most intriguing of all on this year’s list is that Mageia has rapidly rocketed up into the No. 2 spot. Though it was born as a fork of Mandriva in 2010, Mageia did not appear in DistroWatch’s top 10 list in either of the past two years. This year, however, Mandriva disappeared from that list, while Mageia jumped in very close to the top.

It is actually intriguing for many since there’s really no evidence that Mageia has sparked such a continuous interest for it to have maintained such a ranking.

Something else interesting to note at this point as well.  Christopher Tozzi also mentioned something that might be of particular interest:

Unlike Ubuntu, Fedora or OpenSUSE, it has no close ties to corporate entities. It has, however, already piqued the interest of Mandriva SA, which in May announced plans to base a new business server product on Mageia. Meanwhile, Mageia itself offers a server edition as well as a desktop version, potentially allowing channel partners to integrate Mageia into their own commercial server products.

So in other words, although Mandriva filed for bankruptcy in 2010, they’re still operating under a restructuring of the company, and they obviously intend to support Mageia. 

While no one quite understands how such a widely un-used distribution has reached number 2 on DistroWatch on such a continuous basis, it may leave one to question whether or not Mandriva / Mageia is using the ranking system as some form of search engine marketing in order to gain popularity. Of course, none would hope that to be the case, as DistroWatch has at least a some of clout in the Linux community. Even if it’s just in the heart and minds of those that appreciate its service.

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6 Responses to “The DistroWatch Linux Distribution Rating System & The Reality Of Mageia’s #2 Position”
  1. BobK says:

    Distrowatch has never claimed to be a metric of the user base. It is simply a click counter. If something new and shiny comes out, it gets clicked on by many. Mageia is new and shiny. It gets attention. Ubuntu has been around for a while, it doesn’t get as many clicks. Mageia could have a user base of ZERO but as long as it gets more clicks than Ubuntu, Mageia will be above Ubuntu on DW list. Simple math.

  2. LoneStar says:

    About 2 or 3 years ago – PClinuxOS suffered a similar ‘fate’. In that case, somebody actually stood up and claimed to have beaten the ‘counting system’. Also, you may remember a completely non-descript, non-supported (for years) linux rose to #4 or #5 not long after. The latter, most obviously to anyone, was a hoax if there ever was one. I can’t but help thinking its the same here – but I have never tried Mageia, so let me not accuse anyone of tinkering with the system; just be aware that it _has_ happened in the past.

    • Joe max says:

      I think it is a fake too, based on Google keyword search which shows opensuse getting 6x the searches as mageia just with those 2 spellings alone. (there is no other way to spell mageia).

  3. distrorank says:

    Hey, sorry to comment on an old article, but my linux and bsd ranking site more accurately tracks these types of things. By my research, Mageia is not really very popular at all. Ubuntu is still the king, but Mint is nipping at its tail. No other distro comes close to the popularity of Ubuntu and, secondly, Mint.

    Anyway, thanks for the great article! Enjoyed reading it!

    -ion

  4. Tobius says:

    well, to be brutally honest, counting the number of downloads to see how popular a particular distro is a bit misleading. i download the distribution ONE time, and install it on several different PC’s laptops etc from the ONE download, and i am certain many others do the very same, or some one will bring the USB stick or DVD over for a friend to copy or install from. therefor, a lack of downloads, but a lot of users of a single distro, things to make ya say, “hmmm” so counting the number of downloads may work if it is based solely off new downloads and unique downloads, but there is NO way to track if that download is redistributed afterwards.

  5. Ruy Antonio says:

    A friend introduced to Linux via Ubuntu. Ubuntu really surprised me and I liked it immediately. But Linux Mint was simpler to use which is why I liked it even better. Distrowatch introduced me to more Linux OSes. I downloaded several different OSs and installed them on 4 different computers which I maintain at home. They were excitng to use and I liked them all. But each one has their own particular quirk which get into me. The last one I downloaded was Mageia. I use mageia3 more now and I think its going to stay that way. I say Mageia’s wallpaper is pretty simple and hypnotic. I may like seeing my face every morning in the mirror, but everytime I open my computer? No way. Linux OSes are incredibly fast, I cannot complain that I cannot install Legacy on a core 2 duo because its not meant to. I use Velocity 64 on my Pentium D, Vector should improve its desktop wallpaper because there are people who do not change them. And folders should be empty upon installation.

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