The top 20 strongholds for desktop Linux

TuxAs a server OS, Linux has long been highly successful and a poster child for open source. For example, Linux currently powers a majority of the world’s web servers and supercomputers. As a desktop OS, however, Linux has yet to gain mainstream acceptance.

That said, there are some countries where people have embraced Linux on the desktop to a greater degree than most.

Since you probably wouldn’t be able to guess which these countries are no matter how hard you tried, we have highlighted them in this article. Read on to find out where desktop Linux is most popular, plus some nice bonus stats.

Top 20 countries by Linux market share

We looked at desktop OS market share, in this case defined as the share of computers used to access the Web. It’s basically the only metric out there that can give us an estimate of actual market share of actively used computers. The numbers are based on aggregated visitor stats for more than three million websites, courtesy of Statcounter.

110512 top 20 linux countries

This chart reflects the relative popularity of Linux as a desktop OS in each country. It doesn’t mean that these countries have the most Linux users overall (which is more difficult to estimate correctly).

A few general observations

As we collected the data for this article, we couldn’t help but make a few additional observations that you might find interesting.

  • Linux is most definitely a niche OS on the desktop: In most countries, Linux has less than 1% market share.
  • The Linux vs. Windows situation: In no country is Linux anywhere near replacing Windows on the desktop, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
  • The absence of the US and UK: The United States is far outside the top 20, with a 0.73% desktop OS market share for Linux. This by the way happens to be the exact same market share as Linux has in the United Kingdom.
  • The top countries in Europe are, in order: Macedonia, Finland, Spain, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Estonia and Germany.

Sweden, where we are based, sadly didn’t make this list. We just managed a measly 1.09% desktop OS market share for Linux, but at least that’s above average.

If you are wondering what Linux’s desktop OS market share is in the various world regions, here are the numbers:

  • Worldwide, 0.76%
  • Europe, 1.14%
  • South America, 0.88%
  • North America, 0.72%
  • Oceania, 0.72%
  • Africa, 0.45%
  • Asia, 0.34%

In other words, Europe comes out as the overall most Linux-friendly world region.

Why these “low” numbers are not bad at all

Linux may currently be a niche desktop OS, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It’s often described as the “tinkerer’s OS,” and it’s hard to see how it could go mainstream and retain that quality. If you keep that in mind, it’s quite possible that Linux will never go mainstream on the desktop, but will continue to flourish in a similar way it is now, with a relatively small but very dedicated community of users.

And when we say “relatively small” we really mean relatively. The worldwide Linux desktop OS market share (0.76%) coupled with the number of Internet users (1.97 billion) indicates that there are at least 15 million active desktop Linux users out there.

We say “at least,” because that number is probably significantly higher since there is a lot of overlap in these stats with people who use more than one OS and more than one computer.

That’s not a small community by anyone’s standards (except maybe Facebook’s 😉 ).

Notes about the data: The numbers are for the three-month period of February through April 2011 and are taken from StatCounter Global Stats. StatCounter bases those numbers on aggregated visitor stats for more than three million websites. To avoid statistical anomalies caused by small samples, we didn’t include any countries with fewer than 250,000 Internet users.


  1. Macedonia is in Europe, so it would be fair to correct the mistake.

    @ Christos: True. And yet I call it Macedonia. 🙂

  2. In my opinion, Ubuntu 11.04 is an excellent example of how Linux improved itself in the field of desktops and workstations. I know the adoption is growing but require further reach-out. Thanks to open source enthusiasts.

  3. Don’t you think it strange that, considering the belligerent attitude of the USA towards Iran, and in particular its nuclear ambitions, that Iran chose to run their nuclear palnt on American software and so left themselves wide open to the Stuxnet attack?
    One might have expected countries like Iran, China and North Korea to be prominent your list.

  4. I find it a bit strange to make an article about _Linux_ market share without mentioning Android.

    Now, if you’d said GNU/Linux market share, then I guess the article would be fairly correct..

  5. Nice article as always Peter! Sadly, I had hoped the desktop market would have grown bigger by now but the numbers look grim. On the bright side I can still look forward to the YoLD.

    Best wishes to you guys at Pingdom – keep up the good work!

  6. I don’t buy my Linux at any market, I don’t counted by Statcounter, I even not counted by any javascript counters, so I do not inside of this “less than 1% market share”. There is no true method of counting Linux users, so _any_ numbers will not be true.

  7. @Branimir: those Wikipedia stats include Android, which is about 1% and not “desktop Linux” as per this article. Remove Android and you get 1.53% for Linux, which is in the right kind of zone.

  8. Good job guys. The article is very well written ( especially the part where you write “because that number is probably significantly higher since there is a lot of overlap in these stats with people who use more than one OS and more than one computer.”).

    This is the bad side of web statistics; they don’t count dual boot, they normalize the results, etc…

    However Linux is definitely a small player in the desktop arena, but this is good for now ( no russians interested in targeting us 😀 ). This doesn’t mean Linux is a bad desktop system, it only seems Linux needs more marketing. Yes sirs, marketing!

    I have made a little experiment lately. I tried to convince some friends and colleagues to switch to MacOS. I have a Macbook pro too. They played a bit, some said it was “different”, all said it was to different to be an easy switch. Then I tried with Ubuntu. Surprise! Ubuntu is simple for them ( hardware is 100% compatible in my case ). The software center is something very intuitive for users. The system is rich but well organized and understandable.

    So Ubuntu is simpler than MacOS to use. I would definitely say yes. Ubuntu has better hardware support ( try to install a mustek scanner under MacOS ), is richer ( no walled garden of sort ) and is well organized.

    So why Linux has a low market share? Marketing! Remember Android? This damn thing is Linux afterall, the same system a lot of marketing self proclamed gurus say is not good for end users. But the same people say Android is good for end users. Wait, what? Ok, Android is for smartphones and smartphones are not PCs, right?

    What about ChromeOS then? They are talking wonders about ChromeOS, even if it has not yet been released. So ChromeOS, a not yet released OS, is good for end users, but Linux isn’t? What kind of joke is this? Seriously, marketing people say bullshit!!! Simple and plain.

    This is what I mean Linux needs marketing. Linux is good, but marketing people say it is not. In turn this means a lot of OEMs will not ship Linux PCs and people will obviously not buy something they cannot find in the megastores.

  9. True, it may be a small percentage, but when you consider the vast number of PCs out there, that represents tens of millions of PCs.

  10. This is not true…we in Portugal have a Computer for the kids…Magalhães is the name of the portable computer(netbook) with linux we made millions and millions and it come with linux and windows, but the kids like much, but much more linux,..of course, we sell it to many countries, like Venezuela, Cuba,Europe, Africa….i don’t now…the number that you post is not even 1/3 of the really usage of linux…the operating system is Caixa magica, magic box in english…

  11. OMG, I’m from Macedonia, and I use linux, and this is great news for the linux community in Macedonia, but why why even for such a non politically related news, if someone mentions Macedonia there will always be some IDIOT from Greece to complain about it.
    @ Christos: Go hide yourself in a hole you moron.

  12. It’s sad to see the Province of Greece with some 3,000 years of history appearing as a “country”. I am talking about Macedonia.

    The official name of this country is FYROM. This is how it is called in the UN. Half of the inhabitants speak a Slavic idiom. The other half speak Albanian, Romani and other languages. This area was called “Vardarska” until WWII.

    Macedonia is the name of a Greek province. It has been for ages, it will still be.

    The 3 million Greek-speaking Macedonians are really offended by this fraud, which some call a “dispute”.

  13. Obviously the StatCounter statistics are biased by a fact that most of Linux users are probably blocking stat counters java scripts while for the Windows machines is true only for small minority.

  14. Africa shows up because of internet cafes mostly. In Kenya, there are copyright inspectors that show up and ask if your internet cafe bought windows legitimately. You have to bribe them or use Linux.

    That said, there is a pretty good Linux community around. The LUG in Uganda is always fun. You are able to hire Linux admins from the local community.

  15. StatCounter does not provide numbers based on a true random sample, nor a true representative sample, or even a clear, open methodology, which makes the conclusions worthless.

    If this company bothered with these “little details”, and even more significantly, didn’t have a record of retroactively “revising” their numbers (oddly enough, consistently “adjusting” the “Linux” numbers downwards in these revisions) perhaps these so-called “Linux desktop statistics” would still have some use, if only to give some idea of relative growth, etc.

    Back in 2003 or 2004, when Google stopped publishing OS client stats, they indicated Linux client usage was already about 1%. Linux usage has clearly been growing steadily since then — even excluding the (arguably irrelevant as non-desktop) Android numbers.

  16. @ Christos Chatzaras,

    Nobody is going to pay any attention to Greek whining about the name of the country that sane people call Macedonia. Grow up!

  17. @Alex,

    They want to be called Macedonia or Republic of Macedonia. That’s good enough for me. Perhaps we should rename the country to its south as GROW,
    Greek Republic of Whiners.

  18. @Alex,

    In the Wikipedia entry for Republic of Macedonia, I find that 65% of the residents are ethnically Macedonian and the official language is Macedonian.

    Now, please tell us again about “fraud”.

  19. Macedonia is a region of Greece. It has been there since the ancient years. Just get another name. This is taken, for god sake.

    Get the facts, read history books, use your logic.

  20. A couple of examples about the name dispute:
    Region in Romania Moldova and a country named Moldova
    Region in Great Britain called Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

    I thought Linux users were above politics but i guess I was wrong! Greetings to my thesis mentor Thanos, my friend Jorgos and all other great people from Greece who were above the silly name dispute. You are always welcome in the Republic of Macedonia!

  21. Those numbers seem way off for Uruguay. For example, there are over 400,000 XO laptops from the One Laptop Per Child project, all of which run linux. Assuming your numbers are correct, and the XO’s are the ONLY desktop linux computers, not accurate because the government offices use linux, have distros, etc….

    But if you did assume that, then there would have to be 133,200,000 non-linux desktop computers in Uruguay. That’s a hell of a lot of computers for a country with 3 million people. That’s 39 desktop computers per person!

    The XO laptops as deployed in Uruguay go through a proxy, so they count as a single IP for each town/school when connecting to the internet. It’s also possible that school kids are interested in games for the XO, and not much else, so they don’t show up in the stats.

    My guess is that there are probably around 1 million desktop computers in Uruguay, that’s about the number of phone lines / internet connections (all phone lines have internet in uruguay).

    My calculations say uruguay has about %31 of desktop computers running linux, %28 for the XO, and %3 for the rest of us linux geeks.

  22. There are many problems with this report. Stat counter is only on a very small number of websites. A high percent of which are probably English.

    More importantly early adopters are still increasing on Linux. They are a big influence on the masses. So its still early.

    And then there is the new Google laptop ‘ Chromebook’. That will change things.

    The momentum will shift. It will take time. Microsoft will help push people into Linux.

  23. The english speaking world will continue to call your country Macedonia as long as your official name is “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, just as we call the “People’s Republic of China” simply China, just as we call “Democratic Republic of the Congo” simply the Congo, just as we call the “French Republic” simply France. If it makes you feel any better at least you’re not the “Republic of the Union of Myanmar”, not just because of their terrible human rights record, but because we still call them Burma. Get used to it.

  24. What a stupid argument! Why do so many Greeks feel threatened by something so incredibly irrelevant? Why don’t you spend all that effort coming up with ways to stop running your own country into the ground, and less effort about what your neighbors call themselves? I’m American, so it doesn’t affect me either way, but it just makes Greeks look ridiculous when they complain about this.

    1. Yeah, but the Vatican City State has about 100 Internet users, which makes it close to impossible to get a decent sample size. And is it relevant?

  25. @Tyler The name of a country or state is important to the people who call it home. Saying “Congo” for Democratic Republic of the Congo is silly. How would anyone distinguish between the Democratic Repulic of the Congo and Republic of the Congo. You would be better of saying Congo-Kinshasa or Congo-Brazzaville.

    Country names change, move with the times – Get educated:

  26. These numbers should be corrected. In Uruguay about 300000 boys and girls use Linux in their XOx (OLPC). Thar is about 10% of the population. Starting this year, thousands of teenagers will start using their laptops with Linux in highschool.

  27. “Why these “low” numbers are not bad at all”–WRONG! They are not good; indeed thery are a sign of failure on the part of the “community”. A “tinkers” os–you must be kidding. That could also be said of DOS. What linux will be is about the preservation of computer freedom. What I think the “community” is missing is the seriousness of their mission. There is no real reason the desktop linux should not be much more used other than the fact there are too many redundant packages and distros with too much diffuse effort and egos.

    We dont need a 20 B- to C+ desktop distros; a few grade A desktops for linux is a far better situation. With Intel’s new initiative in a uniform architecture with low power requirements things are going to be a changing . . . .

    Linux developers need to realize that TOO MUCH choice (too many packages covering the same ground, too many distros competing in the same segment) leads to very bad outcomes. I think you can see that happening in Linux desktop as whole.

    Lots of choices= Good choices= Good outcomes–is frequently wrong!

    See Choice Paradox:

  28. @Alex

    I already gave the Wikipedia reference. I’ve read all about it. Macedonia is the only country that resides entirely in the historic region of Macedonia. There is no prohibition for using names in multiple jurisdictions. Grow up.

  29. I object! My country is called Avalon, not Great Britain! Hurumpth! 🙂

    Seriously though, I like Linux, it has encouraged me to learn more about my computer, and I’ve even decided to learn the C programming language because I want the chance to tinker with it as well. something I would not have wished under Windows.
    I like Windows, but I prefer linux.

  30. @boffa

    You could use some education yourself! The two Congos that you name are both countries. Macedonia is the only country containing that word in its name.

    I might also remind you that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was named Zaire under Mobutu and then changed its name back to the one it had before. Whatever whining and complaining from Brazzaville did not last long after this happened.

    FYROM is not that country’s name, according to the UN resolution. (It is officially a way of referring and not a name.) Only idiotic Greeks and people who fall for their lies call it FYROM. (You have to wonder about the humanitarian standards of people who try to force a name onto a country that contains the name of another country that subjugated it for decades.) Two thirds of the countries in the world refer to it as the Republic of Macedonia or Macedonia, for short. So do I.

    The recalcitrant Greeks are on the losing side of this argument; they only display their own pettiness in dragging this out.

  31. @alexvitale

    I would argue that the low market share of Linux has less to do with the lack of marketing and more to do with the fact that Linux lacks compelling reasons for desktop adoption and here’s a couple of big reasons why.

    Third-Party Applications:

    Simply put, Windows is unmatched when it comes to breadth and depth of the available third-party application pool. Here are the softwares that I run on my Windows platform.

    Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended
    Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5
    Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre
    AVS Disc Creator
    Daum PotPlayer
    McAfee Endpoint Encryption
    PowerArchiver Professional
    SlySoft AnyDVD HD
    SlySoft CloneDVD
    Sony Vegas

    As you can see, these softwares are non-existent under Ubuntu and although there exist alternatives, none of them come close to duplicating the functionality and features found in Windows counterparts. Even if all softwares but one are hypothetically available for Ubuntu, it would still hold me back from making the switch since one software that is exclusive to Windows is just too valuable to make a trade-off.


    Again, like third-party apps, Windows is the undisputed king when it comes to extensive gaming support. The low market share of Linux really hurt its position among big-name game developers and given the high cost of game development, developing an expensive game for just a small percentage of Linux users worldwide is a terrible business strategy. Apart from the business perspective, Linux world has always been marred with many misconceptions. Many people are hesitant when it comes to developing paid software for Linux. They think that all Linux users are obsessed with free stuff and nothing else. The developer might further think that, if a person is using all free software, then why would he bother paying $50 for my game?

    It’s not lack of marketing why Linux is not widely used on the desktop. It’s the lack of compelling reasons and until the creators of Linux addresses those issues (probably not), it will always be viewed as a niche OS.

    1. This is usually outside of the Linux developers’ control and should normally be ‘blamed’ upon the developers of the third-party applications who rely too much on Windows-using masses. This creates a chicken-and-egg principle: developers develop for Windows because more people use Windows, and people use Windows because third-party software is available for it. Developers and users have fallen for the old ‘argumentum ad populum’ fallacy. How did this all begin?
      The answer: in the 1990s Microsoft was engaging in anti-competitive practices that prevented other operating systems, such as OS/2, BeOS and DR-DOS, from gaining a foothold, so you wouldn’t see much commercial software for these once-popular OSes. What Microsoft did was charge OEMs a fee for each computer sold regardless of whether it had Windows on it, leading the OEMs to drop other operating systems. Microsoft’s bully tactics have also hampered the availability of Mac software. Though we need to let bygones be bygones, the damage has been done; 90% of the world’s average Joes have been hypnotised with Windows.
      I digress. What WE should do instead is ask the developers to create native Linux versions and tell others about the benefits Linux has to offer (even if they’re minuscule).

  32. Linux ussage in Cuba is way bellow 6%. The problem is that almost nobody has internet access in there. This reported 6% must be due to only a few (mostly tech people) with Internet access.

    Inside Cuba almost every computer has a pirated copy of Windows and MS Office. They are used to install antivirus and other software updates from CDs and other portable media that people pass from hand to hand.

    I’m from Cuba so I know how it works there. I love Linux and use it as my primary desktop, but Cuba in the first place of this list is totally absurd.

  33. This is just another pro-Microsoft article.  If the numbers for Linux were really that low why would MSFT issue the following statement back in 2008-2009?
    “I think depending on how you look at it, Apple has probably increased its market share over the last year or so by a point or more. And a point of market share on a number that’s about 300 million is interesting. It’s an interesting amount of market share, while not necessarily being as dramatic as people would think, but we’re very focused in on both Apple as a competitor, and Linux as a competitor.”
    —Steve Ballmer, CEO MSFT
    That’s over 3-4 years ago.  From that time Linux desktop usage has double digit growth accross all categories especially the enterprise and academic market.  One famous example is how Google and IBM now require that Linux is the default required OS for all of it’s employees, this is echoed by the Pentagon that has now ditched Windows for Red Hat Linux for security and engineering reasons.   This does not even account for users OUTSIDE the USA/Canada worldwide where the majority of Windows installs are pirated copies and where Linux is becoming a serious replacement for the pirated copies.  
    Linux is probably in use on over 15% right now and that is probably an underestimate…

    1. @Ventak HR 
      I guess Steve Ballmer show this powerpoint figure giving Linux some 5% of desktops and Mac some 3-4% in early 2009.
      Here’s the picture:
      And also Goldman Sachs gave Dec 2012 it’s own numbers of devices in 2012:
      1. Android Linux 42%
      2. Apple’s operation systems 24%
      3. Windows 20%
      4. Other operation systems including other Linux distributions 14%
      My guess of all non-mobiles (desktops, laptops, notebooks) is giving Linux some 5% and mobiles (smartphone, tablets) some 67%.

  34. Good article. We need more realism in the Linux community.
    There’s too much silly nonsense written about how Linux will replace Windows, bury Microsoft, etc.
    I use Linux exclusively – on desktop, laptop and servers – and what I want is for Linux to survive, with good to excellent support of new devices, so that we continue to have a choice. That is actually a tough goal to achieve, because it requires constant, dedicated effort by a lot of talented people, and like any tough goal, it will only be achieved if we have a clear view of the situation.
    Cheerleaders are just a distraction.

  35. I have never believe in statistics of Statscounter and even less of those Net Application. They are market men figures. I have kept several years mostly social media blogsite and knows pretty well the OS of visitors. Numbers so far are these (145 082 visitors):
    Windows: 72,87% (106 246)
    Linux: 8,13% ( 11 793)
    Mac: 7,37% (10 693)
    Others: 0,02% (27)
    Unknown: 11,61% (16 323)
    And also, if you checked figures of WIkimedia (wiki statistics), you’ll get much different numbers than Statscounter: Linux had 1,9% of global non-mobiles and 7,45% of total market share.

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