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Given the rave reviews that Linux Mint has been getting recently, it would be perfectly understandable if the man driving the distribution was a little swollen-headed by this time.


But Clement Lefebvre appears to have both his feet planted very firmly on the ground as he guides the team that produces what is now predicted to soon overtake Ubuntu as the most widely used GNU/Linux distribution.

Lefebvre says he has no plans to commercialise the project. He works full-time on Linux Mint. "My work is funded by the project itself. We're also planning to hire more people full time in the future," he told iTWire, in response to a query.

On the website of the distribution, there is a line that says Linux Mint is the fourth largest operating system in terms of use, after Windows, Mac OSX, and Ubuntu.

The Distrowatch website, which ranks various distributions for the popularity, has Mint in top position. But this is only measured in terms of page hits which the site of a distribution receives in a day.

Ladislav Bodnar, who runs Distrowatch, told iTWire that the page-hit rankings measured one IP address for each day - in other words, repeated accesses from the same IP on a single day would only count as one hit.

Lefebvre is frank about his userbase. "We don't know how many Linux Mint users there are," he said. "Prior to the release of Firefox 4, most distributions used their own user agents and these were tracked by Distrowatch.

"Assuming that website was as popular among our userbase than the userbase of other distributions, we could record with precision, at the time, that our userbase was about three times smaller than Ubuntu, three times larger than Fedora/SUSE and about four times larger than Mandriva.

"This was not based on the Distrowatch rankings (which measure popularity more than usage), but on the share that Linux Mint represented within the visitors of that website, according to their browser user agent."

But Lefebvre was sure that Mint had grown faster than Ubuntu since. "We're now confident our userbase is much larger than a third of theirs. Did we outgrow them yet in terms of users? We don't know. My personal feeling is that we didn't but that we will in the months to come."

He said he was hesitant to estimate the number of users of any distribution. "Ubuntu claim to have around 20 million users, that would put us somewhere between seven and 20 million... but this is all extremely theoretical.

"I find it better to claim what we know for sure, there's been a huge gap between Linux Mint and Ubuntu in terms of users in the past, that gap is reducing fast (we've recorded growth of some 40 per cent in a single month and we can see a lot of people coming from Ubuntu, especially since their last two releases).

"There's also been a huge gap between Linux Mint and other distributions, and although some of them have grown since, none of them are growing faster than Linux Mint."

Lefebvre said that from a marketing point of view, at some stage, the project would need to know whether it had more users than Ubuntu.

"In my opinion, this is not the case yet. What we know for sure is that our second place on the Linux market is extremely secure and that, unless something drastic happens in the near future, we will eventually outgrow Ubuntu and become the most widely used Linux distribution. To come up with figures and be able to say it with certitude though, we'll need more data and metrics."

 

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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