Google Trends is not an authentic source of popularity index, but it can definitely give you a lot of pointers on what future holds for Ubuntu and Linux. As you can see from the above Google Trends screenshot, popularity of Ubuntu is almost same as that of Linux in 2010.
Intermittent small spikes shows the Ubuntu release cycle. And during the last Ubuntu release, Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx LTS ie, Ubuntu almost overtook Linux's popularity by a whisker. A feat no other Linux distro ever managed to achieve.
Google Insight's Forecast of the Future
Google Insight has this forecast feature, using which you can predict the future of different trends. Basically what it does is, it looks into the search history of a term and tries to predict what the future trend of that term will look like. Here is how Ubuntu vs Linux looked like.
As you can see, Ubuntu clearly crossing over Linux's popularity in late 2010. Though you can't completely rely on statistics provided by Google Insight, as I said before, they are definitive pointers into the future.
What about other Linux distros?
I took a quick comparative analysis of other popular linux distros like Fedora and Open Suse against Ubuntu and here is what I found.
Ubuntu completely overwhelming the popularity of all other distros and Linux itself is a bad thing? I don't know. But Ubuntu is Linux. And who ever using Ubuntu long enough will definitely learn about Linux IMO, even if he/she does not 'search' the term 'Linux' in Google. What you guys think?
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