As was pointed out earlier here, PCLinuxOS has dramatically risen in the Distrowatch HPD stats, but in terms of OS share on distrowatch.com itself only has about a quarter of Ubuntu’s and what I wonder about is that if you look at the Google search volume:
fedora debian ubuntu suse pclinuxos
PCLinuxOS has almost none by comparison to the others (and contrast with Ubuntu, which had a similar rise in both Google search volume and HPD on Distrowatch). So what exactly is going on here? Is PCLinuxOS to Ubuntu as Opera is to Firefox? (some would say better, especially their vocal supporters, but has far fewer users) What is causing PCLinuxOS’ HPD to be so high?
Update Aug. 28, 2007: As per the 2007 Desktop Linux Poll, PCLinuxOS is only used by 2% of the 38.5K respondents, compared to just slightly over 30% for Ubuntu and official variants (K-, X-, Edu-), almost 20% for openSUSE, nearly 12% for Debian, Just over 7% for Gentoo and 3% for Mandriva (and close relatives). All the rest were <3% At this point I really have to wonder if there is an active astroturfing campaign going on with the HPD on Distrowatch…
Update September 21, 2007: DistroWatch Weekly 220 discusses the HPD now that PCLinuxOS has jumped to #1 over a time period of 6 months (the default on the homepage)…
during the past six months more people viewed the PCLinuxOS page on DistroWatch (on a one-IP-address-per-day basis) than pages devoted to any other distribution. Whether this translates into actual popularity or higher usage remains unclear, although it is reasonable to assume that new DistroWatch visitors are more likely to download one of the higher-ranked distributions than those occupying lower positions in the ranking. There have been speculations and suggestions that the Page Hit Ranking statistics might have been manipulated by some overly enthusiastic PCLinuxOS fans. I don’t believe so – for two reasons. Firstly, I have logged all visits to the PCLinuxOS page and analysed them for any signs of abuse, but I found none. (That’s not to say that there was none, but if there was any, I couldn’t find it.) Secondly, there seems to be a trend among the DistroWatch readers to visit distribution pages that are relatively high in the Page Hit Ranking statistics, but are otherwise not particularly well-known outside the scope of this web site; we have seen this not only with PCLinuxOS, but also with other similar distributions, such as Sabayon Linux and Linux Mint. Based on these two facts, everything seems fair and square and PCLinuxOS is on top simply because its page is the most visited one at the moment.
Update October 28, 2007: Solved!
Distrowatch did an interesting experiment; On Wednesday Oct. 17 they removed the HPD counter from the main page. It was restored the next day (Oct. 18; Ubuntu Gutsy’s release). The data from the 16th to the 17th showed Ubuntu’s HPD dropping ~10% but PCLinuxOS’ dropped like a rock: by over 80%!
“It is rather obvious that the reason for the high number of hits on the PCLinuxOS page is nothing other than sheer curiosity of those DistroWatch readers who are new to the Linux world and who find it surprising that a relatively unknown distribution is at the number one spot. In order to learn more, they click on the link which takes them to the PCLinuxOS page.”
PCLinuxOS is not rising in popularity at at a remarkable rate like Ubuntu did (and continues to do). The Google Trends graph indicated as much. Its getting interest by appearing in a prominent place on Distrowatch.
Also of interest was this item from Distrowatch which talked about bugs:
“In the world of open source operating systems, what exactly is it that differentiates the “big boys” from the “also runs”? Why is one distribution considered “major” or “mainstream”, while another keeps being looked at as just somebody’s “hobby project”, irrespective of how many satisfied users it has? While there are many different criteria one could pick to demonstrate the differences between the two groups, there are two features that I believe are important factors that shape the user’s perception about any distribution: its security and bug tracking infrastructure.”
For the top 25 HPD distros, they tabulated which had security mailing lists and which had bug trackers; only the following of those 25 had both:
Ubuntu (including Kubuntu and Xubuntu)
It is very interesting to note that PCLinuxOS has neither.
In closing, it appears that my hunch was right when I asked: “Is PCLinuxOS to Ubuntu as Opera is to Firefox? (some would say better, especially their vocal supporters, but has far fewer users)”. Now, this should not mean that you should feel discouraged if you want to try out PCLinuxOS (by all means, give it a spin if you want to! :), just consider it in the same vein as Damn Small Linux; something of a specialty distro:
DSL is small… not just little, but very tiny; < 50 MB in fact. That’s its claim to fame; as a result, it can run happily on very old hardware or fly on modern equipment.
PCLinuxOS, IMHO, is basically a drop-in MS Windows replacement without all the crap people have come to expect from MS. If you look at its old logo, you might be forgiven if you thought ‘MS Windows knockoff’. Think Lindows, but not in the bad way they ended up ;)
Update March 25, 2008: Coinciding with the 8.04 beta, Ubuntu has reclaimed its #1 spot on distrowatch.