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Debian Is the Most Important Linux 354

inkscapee writes "Without Debian we are nothing. Debian is the most influential and important Linux, and is unique for being the largest, oldest, 100% non-commercial community-driven distro. '...just under 63% of all distributions now being developed come ultimately from Debian. By comparison, 50 (15%) are based on Fedora or Red Hat, 28 (9%) on Slackware, and 12 (4%) on Gentoo.'"
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Debian Is the Most Important Linux

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  • by Again ( 1351325 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @02:59AM (#35387238)

    Yet another dick measuring contest? Seriously?

    • Re:Do we need this? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by airfoobar ( 1853132 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:07AM (#35387268)


      These numbers mean one of two things. Either devs should:
      1) Allocate more resources into developing Debian because it's the most important distro, or
      2) Allocate more resources into the rest because Linux may be losing its diversity.

      It helps to know where you're going...

      • by Weezul ( 52464 )

        It also suggests that Nokia and Intel were idiots for switching their mobile Linux distributions over to RedHat based systems.

        • I don't get it. RH is a very accepted standard, whether or not it is more or less "influential" than Debian. RH isn't fly by night, has been around as a commercial product for many, many years, has the backing of the parent corporation, which is actually profitable. The CentOS project was born from it, which makes the RH system completely free for use by people such as myself.

          And being used by a number of other distros has nothing to do with market penetration or quality. RH (and CentOS) haven't been fo

          • And being used by a number of other distros has nothing to do with market penetration or quality

            Exactly. No real innovation has come out of Debian. In fact, their situation was so messed up, they needed a millionaire do-gooder to sort their mess up.

            From the technical standpoint, Red Hat is the distro that advanced Linux the most. That's a fact.

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason why Linux never made it to the desktop: as long as developers don't unanymously chose for option 1, chaos will prevail in the Linux world.

        • Re:Do we need this? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @11:34AM (#35388966) Journal

          No, the reason Linux does not have a large desktop market share is because it matured 10 years too late, after Microsoft had already established a stranglehold on the desktop market. The barrier to entry is massive. Fragmentation is a minor issue in comparison to the difficulty of challenging an established monopoly.

          The only way Linux will ever succeed on the consumer desktop is if it (a) runs all Windows applications and games perfectly, and (b) never presents users with any uncertainty or minor difficulties. Because the truth is this: when a user has have a problem with Linux, they blame Linux. When they have the same problem with Windows, they blame themselves or their computer. That is the real reason why Linux has only made major inroads in markets such as smartphones, where there was no existing monopoly.

          • by spitzak ( 4019 )

            Nonsense. It is very simple:

            Linux could be complete crap but if when a person bought a "computer" and turned it on, it ran Linux, Linux would be the #1 operating system.

            The reason OSX is becoming popular is because now a significant fraction of "computers" (the ones from Apple that the cool people buy) happen to run OSX by default. This is despite the fact that 90% of the boxed software you can get at best buy will not work on it, and that it is perfectly possible to wipe the machine and install Windows to

    • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:42AM (#35387378) Homepage

      See, with
      1. RedHat doing their weird patches thing, and their restrictions when you use RedHat Network (Red Hat Stops Shipping Kernel Changes as Patches []), and the huge lag times between RHEL updates
      2. Ubuntu doing stuff [] that some people don't like, plus the whole Unity/Wayland thing,

      the importance of a good, free, working and fresh distro is highlighted.

      OK, so you're going to say "Debian, fresh?" But I think this might be a good time for both Ubuntu users to test the Debian waters, and for Debian to get its act together.

    • by Sulphur ( 1548251 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @04:06AM (#35387448)

      Yet another dick measuring contest? Seriously?

      unique for being the largest, oldest, 100% non-commercial community-driven metric.

      • Re:Do we need this? (Score:4, Informative)

        by armanox ( 826486 ) <> on Saturday March 05, 2011 @04:40AM (#35387570) Homepage Journal

        Slackware has Debian beat on age.

        • The statement is that Debian is the oldest community-driven distribution.

          Personally, as a Debian user, I always think of Slackware as the oldest distribution still in use.

          • If you narrow the focus enough, you could pick anyone as the winner.

            The most important due to the number of users?

            The most important due to the number of commercial users?

            The most important due to the number of contributors?

            The most important due to the number of lines of code submitted back up?

            The most important due to longevity?

            The most important due to the number of commercially released versions?


            • by Lusa ( 153265 )

              The most important due to the number of ISO downloads?

              The most important due to the sheer size of the ISO downloads.. stable is 8 dvds or 52 cds? ;)

              I have no idea what is on most of those (nor likely care) but I like that someone does care enough to be the package maintainer. I'm sure other distributions also can say the same so I'm not saying Debian is best for that. I'm not even saying it's best, different distro's for different tastes and needs. I personally dislike the sheer number of distributions though. It's almost becoming a fashion statement and what

            • When looking at distros named "Ubuntu", it seems that Ubuntu is the oldest in the category!

    • Yes. Man has had dick measuring contests throughout history. It will continue to the future. When humans finally evolve into pure energy beings we will compare our energy space dicks.
  • Is Android considered linux?
    • Re:Android? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by migla ( 1099771 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:46AM (#35387394)

      >Is Android considered linux?

      In everyday usage the word Linux refers to the whole OS. And by that we mean the kernel, GNU stuff, (sometimes also X11 and whatnot). In light of that, Android is not Linux, even if it technically is.

      Kinda funny.

      • In everyday usage the word Linux refers to the whole OS. And by that we mean the kernel, GNU stuff, (sometimes also X11 and whatnot). In light of that, Android is not Linux, even if it technically is.

        Which might even validate the point of the people who insist that Linux distributions similar to desktop Linux be called GNU/Linux. This would at least serve to distinguish [] "GNU/Linux" on N900 from "embedded Linux" on Android phones.

    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @04:07AM (#35387456)

      Linux is officially just a kernel, and a "Linux distro" is any suite of user-side, open source software that provides a complete operating system based on that Linux kernel.

      That makes Android a totally kosher Linux distro, even if it is an unusual one with a special Java-based UI by default. It can't be suggested that lack of X11 means that it's not a Linux distro, since there are lots of other Linux distros without X11 too.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        I think officially you should call it: a Java-like language ?

      • To be a distribution would so of imply that it is being distributed. Android is trying to be an operating system, not a distribution of an operating system.

      • That makes Android a totally kosher Linux distro, even if it is an unusual one with a special Java-based UI by default. It can't be suggested that lack of X11 means that it's not a Linux distro, since there are lots of other Linux distros without X11 too.

        Sorry, Android is a "kosher Linux distro" as much as Phelps & WBC are "good christians".

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        It's Linux, but it's not GNU/Linux, which is what the term Linux distribution generally refers to, it has nothing to with X but with the GNU toolchain. More like Dalvik/Linux...

    • by mirix ( 1649853 )

      Not in the "GNU/Linux" sense, which most people mean when they say linux, no.

      In that sense, BSD is more linux than android is, and it isn't. If that makes sense.

    • I'd go with yes. But it is not a general purpose desktop nor server distribution, and doesn't come with the full user-space stack that you'd expect from those. Rather, it's a mobile Linux distribution with a Java-based user interface and application environment.

  • Debian (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward the natural "next step" from ubuntu for those looking for something less experimental.

    But one distro being more important than another? Ludicrous. All distros are essentially the same, except for minor variations in desktop environment, package installer, and selection of usermode programs loaded onto the install CD. If one distro were chosen at random and all others ceased to exist, the linux world would continue as usual.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Maybe nowadays, but debian did do apt before yum or anything else like it, and now that sort of capability is absolutely ubiquitous. In terms of things a "distribution" does inherently, that aspect of package management is very large.

  • by The Altruist ( 1448701 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:11AM (#35387296)

    This smells suspiciously like flame-bait. And if you look carefully, you'll see an army of trolls off in the horizon.

  • by mhotchin ( 791085 ) <> on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:11AM (#35387298)

    Isn't 'Number of descendent distributions' a crappy metric for 'Importance'? Wouldn't something like 'Installed base' be humongously better?

    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:38AM (#35387370) Homepage Journal

      Isn't 'Number of descendent distributions' a crappy metric for 'Importance'?

      No. It's perfectly adequate for starting a flamewar among ignorant zealots and obsessive fanboys in order to generate page hits and advertising revenue.

      P.S. Ubuntu sucks.

      • P.S. Ubuntu sucks.

        Not really biting, but on the subject of Ubuntu:

        What I really love about Ubuntu is having a Debian stack underneath, with a nice desktop setup on top. I can do normal desktopy things without extra fuzz, but when I happen to need backend-component-x for our webdev stack I can just apt-get install it with a 95% probability.

        I really like the blend of user friendlyness and a solid foundation that Ubuntu provides, and a lot of it is really thanks to Debian. For me, it's a win-win.

    • And how would you obtain any reliable numbers for counting installed base? Most people do not register themselves as a user of any distro or such and since most Linux distros don't call home you really have no reliable way of counting them. Atleast number of descendent distributions is known, with installed base all you have is guesses.

      • But 'easy to measure' is not the same as 'useful to measure'. We could measure the size of each distribution, but it doesn't really tell us anything.

        I threw in 'installed base' just because it was the first thing that came to mind - my real point is that descendent distributions just doesn't imply much, no matter how easy it is to determine.

    • by jgrahn ( 181062 )

      Isn't 'Number of descendent distributions' a crappy metric for 'Importance'? Wouldn't something like 'Installed base' be humongously better?

      Yes. But TFA started out by saying 3/4 of the most downloaded distros were Debian-based. The "number of descendent distributions" was just something that looked nifty and quotable.

      The killer features of Debian though are that it's driven by *people*, not shareholder profits, and that these guys work in the Unix tradition. Kind of like a *BSD, I imagine.

  • Oldest? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SilverJets ( 131916 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:12AM (#35387304) Homepage

    I think Slackware is just slightly older than Debian and this graph [] seems to indicate that as well.

  • by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson @ g> on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:40AM (#35387376) Homepage Journal

    If you go by the importance of infrastructure run, I would guess that CentOS (binary compatible with Red Hat, without Red Hat fees) is is the most important Linux distro out there. The last three companies I worked at that use Linux in the data center used CentOS.

    • by hdparm ( 575302 )

      CentOS is not binary compatible with RHEL, CentOS is RHEL, sans RH branding stuff.

      I agree with you - since Debian inception, lot has changed in where and how Linux is used. So Fedora, being the base upon which RHEL is built seems to be the the most important one these days. Some will argue that it's not community driven though.

    • It is somewhat naive to try to say ''best'' across all domains. Red Hat (and to a lesser extent) SUSE are very important in the commercial sphere. This is because of the nature of PAID support - something that large companies demand. It all depends on where you are viewing things from.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Except by the logic of the article, that would make RHEL the most important, since without it there wouldn't be CentOS. But if you're first going down that line you might as well go one more step, without the individual apps there wouldn't be anything to make a distro of.

      I think the article is confusing convenience with importance. As long as Debian does the job well, it's very convenient for the other distros to not do the same job and just work off that. I think many employees have discovered that as well

  • show us the stats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bguiz ( 1627491 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @03:51AM (#35387408)

    When laying claim to a statment that "X is the most important of Y", one would expect that to be backed up my statisitics proving that point.

    The only half-serious attempt that the author has made at this is in the 3rd paragraph. And even then, he is merely quoting select figures from distrowatch, without further derivation or detail, let alone an attempt to paint a balanced picture. The rest of the article is basically a listing of the various distros based off debian.

    That is precisely what the title of this article should have been: "List of distros based on debian"

    Instead, the author has chosen to go for the dramatic, attention grabbing headline - and has in some respects succeeded, in that as he has gotten his article slashdotted.

    Nothing interesting here, don't waste your time RTFA, move on.

    • "323 currently active distributions listed on Distrowatch, 128 are based on Debian, and another 74 on Ubuntu. In other words, just under 63% of all distributions now being developed come ultimately from Debian. By comparison, 50 (15%) are based on Fedora or Red Hat, 28 (9%) on Slackware, and 12 (4%) on Gentoo."

      Almost 2/3 of the distros are based on Debian, as it includes Mint and Ubuntu. Given the assumed popularity of Ubuntu, that is a lot.

      However, should you turn your head to commercial server space, I gu

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Yeah, but isn't the whole draw of RHEL the fact that it isn't one of 500 splintered forks? There is only one RHEL, and that is why companies all over the place use it.

        This is an interesting metric, but it points more to what random groups of devs use when they decide to create their own novelty distro rather than the "importance" of the distro itself.

        Now, don't get me wrong - if there were some objective way of determining which was the "most" important linux distro out there Debian would be right up there

  • I don't care what you say about Linux - just spell it correctly.

    Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat, Android, Gentoo, Mandriva, Knoppix, SUSE, Slackware, Puppy, Slax, Freespire...

    Who cares?

    As long as you don't spell it Microsoft

    p.s. The Kernel is Linux - the rest of the stuff is Open Source. Even Apple's OS/X gets it 95% right - they just use MACH instead of Linux and then apply a different GUI.

    No matter what - Redmond loses.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    “I’ve tried it a couple of times over the years, mainly because the thing Ubuntu did so well was make Debian usable. I always felt that Debian was a pointless exercise because to me, the point of a distribution is to make everything easy. Easy to install, to be pretty and to be friendly and Ubuntu did that to Debian.”

    That must hurt.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      He also says:

      “I’ve always had a few problems [with Ubuntu.] It’s not very friendly to kernel developers, and I just end up giving up. That’s kind of okay, because clearly I am not the target audience.”

      I guess the same goes for Debian. For example Debian does really well on servers.

      But Linus obviously is not a 'user' anyway, as he had no clue which distros are the first ones that popularised live-cd usage.

    • by Synn ( 6288 )

      > That must hurt.

      Not really. Linus can be pretty stupid. He likes things to be easy and often makes dumb choices in regards to that(hello BitKeeper). In this case saying Debian is "pointless" because Ubuntu make it easier is stupid. Ubuntu wouldn't exist without Debian and the "point" of Debian is to be a stable 100% free open source distribution that will always be there for you.

      And it's funny considering the shit that Ubuntu is pulling these days and how people now are looking to move away from that di

  • Every company I've worked at and virtually every ISP I've utilized have used CentOS as their main Linux distro. Maybe Debian is tops for hobbyist use, but CentOS / Redhat Enterprise is king of the corporate world.

    In other words, there is no one distro to rule them all - depends on the context.


    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      That depends on where you look. Many, many places run Debian servers.

      And if it wasn't for CentOS I don't think people would be using as many RPM-based distributions on servers. I don't think many people run Fedora or OpenSUSE on production servers. Because all the other big RPM-based distros are for-pay. And with for-pay distros you don't get such as much community support.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Well, to be fair, CentOS isn't 'driven' by a communtity (other than the mostly simplistic mission of 'rebadge RHEL'. Indirectly, RedHat does the 'driving' for CentOS. That is explicitly why it is so popular, the users piggy back on the hardware vendor and ISV support RedHat has.

      Debian is largest among distributions that are not ultimately beholden to a commercial entity and not following the lead of another distribution.

  • The most important distro line to me is the one that's been sitting in my data center generating my paycheck for about half a decade. That would be Centos. Before that it was RHE. Before that it was RedHat 9.

    Desktop distro pissing matches are irrelevant. I have bills to pay. Any desktop/OS combo that provides SSH and a modern graphical browser is adequate for my business needs.
    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      Coincidentally many, many run Debian servers.

      I personally think Debian is a server operating system first and a good base for desktop distros second.

  • I could care less what it is, debian, centos, solaris, aix etc etc etc, just give me a root prompt and I am at home. Oh and just for the record no, I don't give a damn about you sudo troopers.

    • by bmo ( 77928 )


      You can change it so you can login as root. It's not a good idea from a security standpoint, but you can. It takes about 5 seconds if you're a slow typist.

      Also sudo -i will get you a root shell so you don't have to keep refreshing root privs with a password after they expire.


  • then ? its currently ubuntu. dual boot with xp.
  • Debian isn't even in the ballpark. The most important linux is FreeBSD, but nobody wants to admit it.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      Let's see, they create new drivers which are used in the other BSD and the Linux kernel, they are used as a base for Junos for the Juniper routers. I guess FreeBSD like the Linux kernel is used for TCP/IP-research.

      But OpenBSD maintains OpenSSH which is used in pretty much all Unix-like environment and embedded system like routers and managed switches.

      I still think it makes Debian interresting because they adopted FreeBSD as their second kernel, having the same environment on all systems is very useful.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      We'll see Netcraft confirms...

    • Re:Totally off base (Score:5, Interesting)

      by micheas ( 231635 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @11:37AM (#35388978) Homepage Journal

      I suspect that debian is going to make FreeBSD a lot better for FreeBSD users.

      Debian does a lot of work making sure that all of software works on all the architectures that it supports

      Mozilla claims that Firefox runs on Linux, but debian had to jump through hoops to get Firefox to compile, much less run on the MIPS platform.

      By making Kfreebsd a first class platform, a lot of fixes for FreeBSD should make it upstream, which should improve the quality of the software in the ports tree.

      The big contribution debian makes is debian policy and the QA on all the architectures that it supports.

      Some of the billion respins are probably interesting, but the copyright fights, and the code improvements to support cross compiling are things that leak into other distributions. Debian was one of the reasons that AMD64 support is as good as it is under Linux. The Redhat, gentoo, and slackware users that use the 64bit versions are benefiting from Debian getting their distribution to run on 64 bit platforms for years.

      Personally, I think the title of the article is true, but that the article provided no evidence about all the contributions that Debian brings to Linux users and just argued "it's the parent" Which if that is the case, BSD386 is the most important OS, as it is in many ways the ancestor of Solaris, OSX, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, The GNU project and all the GNU systems. In other words, everything other than Windows. And Windows has some FTP and telnet code from BSD386 in it, and at one time the windows TCP/IP stack was based on the BSD386 network stack.

      Gentoo, Redhat, SuSE, Slackware, Canonical and others contribute in ways that help build the Linux ecosystem, but it is hard to overstate Debian's importance to the ecosystem by being an large, neutral, cross platform distribution, that is very transparent. Unfortunately it is possible to completely miss this and ramble on and on about the number of respins that exist.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Saturday March 05, 2011 @02:04PM (#35390042)

    Everyone knows deep down that "most important of" originates from the part of the brain responsible for mating behaviours and penis size comparisons. People are attracted to the dialog in the aspiration to become one of the lucky lekkers. And even if the lek has nubility factor zero, it's good practice just in case if your prospects are poor and you have nothing better to do.

    At a certain age, you tire of the loud clatter of penis rulers and you just want to hand the participants a scalpel and a bassinet labelled "least important" to find out whether they really believe that every infinite series can be approximated (for the purpose of getting laid) by the first term alone.

    I sometimes wonder if the donning the coat of arms of truncated approximation functions as a sexual status symbol. If the well runs deep, no need to bother with second order effects; leave those worries to the mincing greybeards whose primary term has shrivelled up.

    For me the miracle of conception is how quickly the brain reprises all those forgotten terms, if there were any in there to begin with.

    Congratulations to the person posting this story for telling the world that your swimmers have yet to enter the pool.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.