Linux markeshare doubling! In a single month! That's huge news!
… If it's true. Let's dig into the hard numbers to find out, for sure.
First, it should be noted that these numbers are all based on the monthly web browser usage reports from NetMarketshare.com.
To make this easier to analyze, below is the last roughly 5 years of results (one year intervals) for Linux, Windows, and MacOS using NetMarketshare's numbers.
Which is… not supremely helpful. The consistently high numbers for Windows renders the marketshare line for Linux difficult to effectively analyze.
Let's look at that same 5 year trend, but this time just for Linux:
Two things immediately jump out when looking at this graph:
April of 2020 definitley looks to have a big jump.
There seems to be a slow, downward slide starting in 2017 and running (at least) through 2019.
We need to get a little more detailed here. Let's look at a monthly snapshot of marketshare – just for Linux – over the last 12 months.
Clearly there is a huge (roughly double) marketshare spike between March of 2020 (1.36%) and April of 2020 (2.87%). Undeniable.
We also see more of that slow decline in Linux marketshare throughout the last year… all the way up until the low-point of March, 2020 (right before the April spike).
To put this in better context, let's also look at some of the high points in reported Linux marketshare using the same NetMarketshare metrics.
The highest reported Linux marketshare was 2.96%, back in September of 2017. The April, 2020 spike falling just sort of that (at 2.87%).
Worth noting: That September, 2017 spike was actually part of error plagued reporting that month.
When looking at other sources of similar information, Statcounter.com puts the marketshare for Linux, in April of 2020, at 1.61% – which is roughly in line with the average marketshare reported by NetMarketshare over the last 6 months and completely contradicts the April, 2020 NetMarketshare spike (which caused the flurry of news reports of Linux marketshare doubling).
Which begs the question… is that April spike a number to actually be believed?
Let's look at this objectively for a moment:
We've seen a consistent, multiple-year-long, slow decline in reported browser marketshare of desktop Linux – the numbers for that are undeniable. Not a huge decline, but consistent and noteworthy.
The April, 2020 NetMarketshare numbers are inconsistent, and unexpected.
NetMarketshare has had eronious spikes of Linux Marketshare in the past.
Other sources of data contradict the NetMarketshare April, 2020 numbers significantly.
All of which suggests, rather strongly, that Linux marketshare has not increased in April, 2020.
In fact, quite the opposite has been happening, long term.
If we disgregard the April, 2020 NetMarketshare spike (which is likely eronious) and, instead, go with numbers from other sources (or the March NetMarketshare numbers)… Over the last 12 months, Linux Marketshare has dropped from roughly 2%… to hovering around the 1.5% point. That is a massive drop in marketshare in a very short period of time.
I'd like to take a moment to make a few points on this:
These numbers are only for desktop Operating Systems. Not servers, embedded systems, or mobile devices.
It is entirely possible there are significant innacuracies in these numbers (including their data collection methods). But these are the best numbers we have to go on.
I am a huge Linux fan and utilize Linux, on my desktop, every single day. These numbers are, indeed, a bummer. But just because I don't like the numbers… doesn't mean I can wish them away.
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