What is Your Favorite Desktop?

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 02, 2011

Every few years I run a poll on my personal website to gauge Linux users' favorite desktop. When analyzing the results over the years, some trends do emerge. Is KDE or GNOME king? What has come in third or fourth consistently over the years? How about you, what is your favorite desktop?

The first poll was taken in November of 2005 and received 1234 responses. The second was in June 2008 and got 1502 votes. The latest got 1701 votes last month.

KDE and GNOME were always the two top favorites. In 2005 KDE got 53% of the votes while GNOME received 27%. In 2008 KDE got 46% and GNOME 39%. Last month KDE earned 41% of the vote in contrast to GNOME which got 37%. We can conclude that for a while GNOME was catching up with KDE as it gained in popularity while KDE declined. This could probably be attributed to the rise of Ubuntu and the release of KDE 4. But the anomaly of GNOME's recent slight recline could reflect on diminishing use of Ubuntu in response to their move to Unity or perhaps users are moving to other desktops again in response to the move to Unity. We can only speculate. However, it is interesting to note that the new addition, Unity, to the poll this year netted a 2% take. While that would make up the decrease in GNOME this year, KDE still decreased as well by 5%.

The interesting numbers for KDE and GNOME make the third, fourth, and fifth placements even more relevant. Xfce came in third all three years of polling. In 2005 it got 8% of the vote, 6% in 2008, and 6% in 2011. So while it lost 2% between 2005 and 2008, it remained the same this year as it did in 2008. Could that 2% have moved to GNOME?

The fourth position reflects another new addition to the poll choices this year. LXDE made its debut last month and earned 5% of the vote. In previous years the fourth position was held by the *box term. This encompasses Fluxbox, OpenBox, Blackbox, and all the other *boxes. In 2005 it got 8% of the vote and 4% in 2008. This year it received 3%. Even though LXDE entered the market, it probably didn't put too much of a dent into *box usage. Something else caused a more significant decline between 2005 and 2008. One might be tempted to suggest those users probably moved to GNOME as well.

In 2005 Enlightenment came in sixth with 3% behind Other which got 4%. In 2008 it received 3% again, but that time ahead of Other with 2%. This year it tied with Other and *box with 3% of the vote. Enlightenment user numbers have remained consistent over the years.

So, we can conclude that KDE is still hanging on to the lead amongst visitors to my website. I'd like to think it's a good representation of Linux users in general, but other polls have put GNOME in the lead or tied. For example, in the last Linux Journal's Readers' Choice Awards taken in late 2010, KDE and GNOME tied. In 2008, Linux Journal found that GNOME surpassed KDE with 45.7% of the vote to KDE's 42.5%. In 2005, KDE came in first and GNOME second; no percentages were published.

LinuxQuestions.org runs a poll every year on many aspects of open source software. In 2005 KDE was the winner with 64.86%. In 2008 KDE had a slight lead with 43.57% of the vote while GNOME got 40.39%. KDE was way down in 2010 with only 33.05% of the vote with GNOME pulling ahead with 45%.

So, no matter the source, KDE has been in decline the last several years and GNOME has been rising in popularity. Few would argue that was due to Ubuntu. Next year's results will be even more interesting given Ubuntu's move to Unity.

The Numbers

Desktop    2005    2008    2011   
KDE 53% 46% 41%
GNOME 27% 39% 37%
Xfce 8% 6% 6%
LXDE - - 5%
*box 8% 4% 3%
Enlightenment 3% 3% 3%
Unity - - 2%
Other 4% 2% 3%