08.27.08

Gemini version available ♊︎

Can the of Scale of Linux Adoption Ever be Gauged?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Servers, Ubuntu at 5:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Determining usage and growth of Free software has always been a challenge. For over a decade, arguments have been held — sometimes flamewars — whose central point was the usage scale of software which is freely distributed. While market share can be estimated based on the number of sales. Free software usually replaces existing software that is proprietary, i.e. its ownership lies with a vendor and it is usually treated as an integral part of another product.

When discussing Free software, the term “installed base” seems rather popular. It is installation, not embedment or preinstallation, that tailors a product to the owner’s personal needs. Unfortunately, installed base, as opposed to market share, proves to be a tricky thing to gauge.

At the center of this debate, one typically finds the GNU/Linux operating system. Many perceive Linux the greatest contender which can bring Free software to the mainstream. Linux is commonly obtained through exchange of CDs, which can be modified, change hands, and be used to deploy the same software on multiple computers. The content of these CDs is usually (albeit not always) downloaded from the Internet. Lesser-known Linux distributions are sometimes obtained through peers or via BitTorrent, which cannot be properly tracked. These channels of communication are decentralized by nature.

Endless attempts have been made to count Linux users. Userbase vanity harbours confidence and leads to better support from the industry. Attempts to quantify growth included Web sites whose sole purpose is to have Linux users register and provide details about their computer/s. Even the most prominent among these Web sites met very limited success. They were not able to keep up with change, let alone attract and grab the attention of all Linux users. Most Linux users were simply apathetic toward this cause.

In more recent years, the ubiquity of interconnected devices and computers played an important role in statistics. Computing units that offer Web access have generated large piles of data. Statistical analysis of this data was thought to be another opportunity to study presence and geography of Linux users around the planet. It has, however, been a very deficient analysis. For a variety of reasons, too many assumptions were made, which led to flawed conclusions. To this date, no proper and valid analysis has been carried out.

Looking more closely at some difficulties in interpreting Web statistics, there are numerous factors to consider. There are obvious problems. The sample of selectively-chosen Web sites often contains particular audiences which, on average, do not represent the entire population. Additionally, due to diversity in the identity of Linux, as it comes in just one among a large number of distributions, identification strings are hard to understand. As such, many Linux users are simply be treated as though they use an “unknown” operating system. This “unknown” component is statistically significant, yet it tends to be ignored and discarded.

There are more problems that need to be taken into consideration. For example, data gathered by Web sites neglects to identify computers that are operated behind proxies, or even Squid. This data also assumes that everyone identifies himself or herself in a truly honest fashion. The matter of fact is that certain Web sites were designed to reject access from every Web browser other than Internet Explorer. As a result, many Linux users are forced to pretend (by altering HTTP headers) that they use a typical Windows setup. This is known as spoofing or forging and it is a matter of convenience.

“To use an example, Hollywood is considered a place where production studios adopt Linux, even on the desktop.”The last factor to consider here are botnets (zombie PCs), which are essentially travelling the World Wide Web. It’s a relentless Web journey and this happens without the awareness of the rightful owner of the computer. This troublesome phenomenon means that large amounts of Web traffic is devoured in a very wasteful fashion. It does not reflect on human consumption of information. Botnets ‘pollute’ log data and therefore tweak statistics. It rarely (if ever) works in favor of secure operating systems and Web browsers.

Web statistics and research that revolves around them suffers from yet another false assumption. One must not simply accept the contention that all computers are connected to the Internet nowadays. If they are, their users do not necessarily visit an identical number of Web sites or consume an equal number of pages. Different operating systems are used in different settings. They serve a particular purpose and facilitate working tasks that might not require the Internet at all.

To use an example, Hollywood is considered a place where production studios adopt Linux, even on the desktop. In a recent interview with the press, CinePaint’s Project Manager said that “Linux is the default operating [system] on desktops and servers at major animation and visual effects studios, with maybe 98 percent [or more] penetration”. These computers, which include user-facing workstations, get used heavily for design and rendering work, but probably not for Web surfing.

There have been other projects that are intended to keep track of the number of Linux users by setting up a communication channel that connects a computer to the Linux distributor’s servers. These projects are neither mature nor widely adopted.

On the other hand, the increasing adoption of online software repositories has made this process more feasible without it being considered “spying”. And yet, inexistence of a registration process leaves room for dynamic addressing, so a single unique user is still hard to identify. The user will remain a moving target on the network as long as system registration is an absent component. Free software is adverse to such privacy-compromising steps, so they are unlikely to ever become mandatory.

Last year, in an interview with Red Herring, Canonical’s CEO Mark Shuttleworth commented about the activity on his company’s repositories. At the time, at least 8 million distinct users or addresses with a particular version of his Linux distribution could be identified. That was only months after the release of this distribution, which many of us had already known as “Ubuntu”.

Regardless of the adoption rate of Linux on the desktop, Linux enjoys double-figure inter-quarter growth on the server side. This trend has sustained itself for several years. There are, however, great difficulties to overcome when it comes to tracking how widespread — not just profitable — Linux has become on in the datacenter. Market figures regularly come from analysts, but these figures are based purely on sales. They only gauge revenue. They fail to account for the fact that Linux is free and it is becoming easier to set up each year. Many companies take the do-it-yourself route and build their own server farms. They do not require much assistance, so deployment can be completed without a Linux purchase per se ever being made. The true growth of Linux will therefore stay an enigma for quite some time to come.

At the end of the day, let us all remember that Free software was not created to thrive in profits. There is no marketing department to boast growth either. Whether we use a search engine, or connect to a mail server, or acquire some snazzy gadget, Linux is likely to be there. The desktop, however, is perceived as an ultimate destination. It has the most visibility. Laptops and desktops can demonstrate that Linux has come and that it is here to stay and thrive. The back room usually escapes people’s attention, despite a gradual shift in paradigm, which encourages adoption of remote services and thinner clients.

Counting the number of Linux users might always remain an impossibility. Should you mind?

Originally published in Datamation in 2007 and reached the front page of Slashdot

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

Decor ᶃ Gemini Space

Below is a Web proxy. We recommend getting a Gemini client/browser.

Black/white/grey bullet button This post is also available in Gemini over at this address (requires a Gemini client/browser to open).

Decor ✐ Cross-references

Black/white/grey bullet button Pages that cross-reference this one, if any exist, are listed below or will be listed below over time.

Decor ▢ Respond and Discuss

Black/white/grey bullet button If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

DecorWhat Else is New


  1. Links 17/1/2022: More Microsoft-Connected FUD Against Linux as Its Share Continues to Fall

    Links for the day



  2. The GUI Challenge

    The latest article from Andy concerns the Command Line Challenge



  3. Links 17/1/2022: digiKam 7.5.0 and GhostBSD 22.01.12 Released

    Links for the day



  4. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, January 16, 2022

    IRC logs for Sunday, January 16, 2022



  5. Links 17/1/2022: postmarketOS 21.12 Service Pack 1 and Mumble 1.4 Released

    Links for the day



  6. [Meme] Gemini Space (or Geminispace): From 441 Working Capsules to 1,600 Working Capsules in Just 12 Months

    Gemini space now boasts 1,600 working capsules, a massive growth compared to last January, as we noted the other day (1,600 is now official)



  7. [Meme] European Patent Office Space

    The EPO maintains a culture of illegal surveillance, inherited from Benoît Battistelli and taken to a whole new level by António Campinos



  8. Gemini Rings (Like Webrings) and Shared Spaces in Geminspace

    Much like the Web of 20+ years ago, Gemini lets online communities — real communities (not abused tenants, groomed to be ‘monetised’ like in Facebook or Flickr) — form networks, guilds, and rings



  9. Links 16/1/2022: Latte Dock 0.11 and librest 0.9.0

    Links for the day



  10. The Corporate Cabal (and Spy Agencies-Enabled Monopolies) Engages in Raiding of the Free Software Community and Hacker Culture

    In an overt attack on the people who actually did all the work — the geeks who built excellent software to be gradually privatised through the Linux Foundation (a sort of price-fixing and openwashing cartel for shared interests of proprietary software firms) — is receiving more widespread condemnation; even the OSI has been bribed to become a part-time Microsoft outsourcer as organisations are easier to corrupt than communities



  11. EPO's Web Site Constantly Spammed by Lies About Privacy While EPO Breaks the Law and Outsources Data to the United States

    The António Campinos-led EPO works for imperialism, it not only protects the rich; sadly, António’s father isn’t alive anymore and surely he would blast his son for doing what he does to progress his career while lying to staff and European citizens



  12. Links 16/1/2022: Tsunami and Patents

    Links for the day



  13. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, January 15, 2022

    IRC logs for Saturday, January 15, 2022



  14. Links 16/1/2022: Year of the GNU/Linux Desktop and Catch-up With Patent Misinformation

    Links for the day



  15. Patrick Breyer, Unlike Most German Politicians, Highlights the Fact That Unified Patent Court (UPC) and Unitary Patent Are Incompatible With EU Law

    A longtime critic of EPO abuses (under both Benoît Battistelli and António Campinos leadership), as well as a vocal critic of software patents, steps in to point out the very obvious



  16. Links 15/1/2022: Flameshot 11.0 and Libvirt 8.0

    Links for the day



  17. Blogging and Microblogging in Geminispace With Gemini Protocol

    Writing one’s thoughts and other things in Geminispace — even without setting up a Gemini server — is totally possible; gateways and services do exist for this purpose



  18. Links 15/1/2022: Raspberry Pi in Business

    Links for the day



  19. IRC Proceedings: Friday, January 14, 2022

    IRC logs for Friday, January 14, 2022



  20. Gemini Clients: Comparing Moonlander, Telescope, Amfora, Kristall, and Lagrange (Newer and Older)

    There are many independent implementations of clients (similar to Web browsers) that deal with Gemini protocol and today we compare them visually, using Techrights as a test case/capsule



  21. 2022 Starts With Censorship of Christmas and Other Greetings at the EPO

    The nihilists who run the EPO want a monopoly on holiday greetings; to make matters worse, they’re censoring staff representatives in their intranet whilst inconsistently applying said policies



  22. Links 14/1/2022: FFmpeg 5.0 and Wine 7.0 RC6

    Links for the day



  23. White House Asking Proprietary Software Companies That Add NSA Back Doors About Their Views on 'Open Source' Security

    The US government wants us to think that in order to tackle security issues we need to reach out to the collective 'wisdom' of the very culprits who created the security mess in the first place (even by intention, for imperialistic objectives)



  24. Links 14/1/2022: EasyOS 3.2.1 and Qt 6.3 Alpha

    Links for the day



  25. Scientific Excellence and the Debian Social Contract

    The Debian Project turns 30 next year; in spite of it being so ubiquitous (most of the important distros of GNU/Linux are based on Debian) it is suffering growing pains and some of that boils down to corporate cash and toxic, deeply divisive politics



  26. Links 14/1/2022: openSUSE Leap 15.2 EoL, VFX Designers Are Using GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  27. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, January 13, 2022

    IRC logs for Thursday, January 13, 2022



  28. 2022 Commences With Microsoft-Themed (and Microsoft-Connected) FUD Against GNU/Linux

    A psychopathic Microsoft, aided by operatives inside the mainstream and so-called 'tech' media, keeps spreading old and invalid stigma about "Linux" and Free software; few people still bother responding to these fact-free FUD campaigns, which boil down to ‘perception management’ PR/propaganda



  29. Between January 2021 and January 2022 the Number of Active Gemini Capsules Nearly Quadrupled Based on Publicly-Available Catalogue of Capsules

    Geminispace has grown to about 2,000 known capsules and 1,600 of them are active, permanently online, fully accessible; in January last year these numbers were about 4 times smaller



  30. Links 13/1/2022: NetworkManager 1.34 and Everett 3.0.0

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts