What’s Behind the Recent Spike in Rate of Adoption of GNU/Linux?

Even NetApplications, which people tout as showing a tiny 1% share of web-connected PCs shows it:

Around July/August of 2011, the share for GNU/Linux took off with growth of up to 10% per month. That’s 1.5 million new machines per month running GNU/Linux if you believe Net Applications. I think the numbers are much larger so this is a lower bound to the effect.

Events related to GNU/Linux in that time frame:

In short, I cannot find any single event in the news that would correlate with this move in adoption. Is it a shift in the way Net Applications counts? Is it the collective will of the world to use FLOSS? I don’t know, but it seems real.

The difference is that Wikipedia has been seeing those rates of increase all along while Net Applications is playing catchup. Both graphs of Log(share %) show the same slope after 2011-07 of ~0.02 per month (5% of share increase per month). Welcome to the real world, Net Applications.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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9 Responses to What’s Behind the Recent Spike in Rate of Adoption of GNU/Linux?

  1. Oh yes. The bit rot is real but how did it come to a head the past few months? I’ve noticed those clinging to XP seem to have infinite patience with M$. My patience ran out more than a decade ago and I was a teacher. We are supposedly patient with learners/students.

  2. David Mohring (NZheretic) says:

    The proportional rise in the number of Linux desktop users has to do with increasing number of Microsoft XP and Vista desktops/laptops suffering from software bitrot.

    70% of the time the hardware is fine but the state of the Microsoft OS and related applications is a state of disarray on their hard drives. Add to that the failure of the Antivirus industry to keep pace with the new malware while keeping the operating environment in a workable state and you have a massive problem with growing customer dissatisfaction with Microsoft in general.

    Businesses are coping with the above problem by locking down the OS and/or constantly re-imaging hard drives. However even with the latest Microsoft Windows7 this ends up providing most end user with a sluggish desktop environment that many are increasingly beginning to loath.

    Most people are spending more time just web surfing, and the Ubuntu or Mint Linux distributions provide a superior experience in comparison to older deployments of XP & Vista when using Firefox or Google Chrome. Relatively faster startup/shutdown and no hassles with malware at all.

    I don’t think that the current economic environment will see relativity as many purchase new Microsoft windows 7 laptops during the Xmas period to complete offset the trend toward Linux web users. Also many consumers with the buying power are increasingly choosing Apple’s offerings, while the middle/lower end are rapidly adopting Android based tablets or Google ChromeOS netbooks instead of yet another round of Microsoft bitrot driven hardware upgrade.

    With an increasing proportion of people adopting non-Microsoft systems wanting to access their works systems, it will drive the demand for true cross platform and vendor environments and push ever more workplaces to put their data into cloud services.

  3. Phenom says:

    Don’t be sorry, Pogson. 99% of these CDs would have ended up in the trash bin. You did a good thing to environment.

  4. That kind of word of mouth/hand to hand/in person sharing of GNU/Linux should give exponential growth, a straight line in the logarithmic graph I produced. The thing with Net Applications’ data is that the line changed slope recently. What caused that? Are we seeing Brazilian or Russian students emerging on the market after having learned GNU/Linux in schools? What’s their school year like? Students who graduate in June, get a job, buy a PC… might do that in July.

    According to Wikipedia:
    – Brazil – “There is a 3-week long winter break in July. “
    – Russia – “The school summer holiday lasts three months: June, July, and August.”

    Maybe that’s it. On a school break, students exposed to GNU/Linux at school are trying it at home. If the blip are the result of these two countries, the effect of India and China could be huge. It makes me wish I had handed out more CDs at school. I usually did so in response to queries and graduations but I could have distributed thousands of my students. Another regret, a missed opportunity… 🙁

  5. I am thinking that perhaps the popularity of Linux on smartphones has somehow spilled over to the clients that access Net Applications’ watched sites. I think that will happen sooner or later but I am puzzled by the long lag and the sharpness of the bend. I know of no product that came on line at that time in such great numbers. Perhaps there is a smartphone or tablet with a Linux User-Agent. It’s a puzzle.

  6. toosleep77 says:

    Could be the ‘driod?

    “Nice Droid phone Dad, did you know it’s based of Linux?”

    “Linux, what’s that?” googlegooglegooglegoogle “…oh my!”

  7. Fitzcarraldo says:

    I think even home users may account for a little of the increase you report. Over the last couple of years I have noticed more Linux magazines and special editions (‘Master Linux Now’, and that kind of thing) on the shelves of the main newsagents in the UK. Computer Shopper magazine reinstated its monthly Linux article too. I know those are tenuous indicators, but it would seem more home users are becoming interested in Linux. My guess is that the more tech-savvy of home PC users are giving Linux a try, and that is in no small part due to Ubuntu (indeed that is how I got into Linux in 2006, although I subsequently switched to another distribution).

  8. anonymous says:

    Could be SUN users giving up on Oracle or BSD users updating their hardware (i.e. lack of GPU support).

  9. marc says:

    You should remove the following:
    “A year earlier Android/Linux phones overtook iPhone”

    andoid is using linux (kernel), not GNU/Linux.

    I don’t know if your graphs include android or not but if they do, you should change your article to remove mention of GNU/Linux and replace it by just linux the kernel and you also have your explanation into why there is a spike in adoption: android. Although I believe NetApplications stats don’t include android in Linux as they talk about desktop market share so you still have a point 🙂

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