Readers' Choice Awards 2009
The Linux Journal Readers' Choice Awards have become an annual ritual, almost as fun as the holiday season. Our editorial team members can't wait to get their hands on the results to see what products and tools from the Linux space are keeping you productive, satisfied and wowed. And, who better to ask than our readers, the most talented, informed and (nearly always for the better) opinionated group of Linux experts anywhere? These characteristics are what make the awards such a great snapshot of what's hot and what's not in Linux.
Before diving into the results, let me explain that the results, although insightful, inherently fail to capture the true diversity of preferences that exist in our community. I wish we had space to show you the chaotic yet amazing mish-mash of responses to each question. As we try to lasso you into organized responses, you are curiously galloping off in pursuit of your category-busting solution as we hang on to the rope for dear life. The reality is that you are always experimenting; your opinions are fluid, and filling in virtual bubbles doesn't fully explain the nuance of your relationship to your tools.
This is a survey of big trends, and the trend underlying them all is that you embrace lots of tools. One respondent summed it up with “All of the above, many of the above”, and another exclaimed, “Variety is the spice, baby!”
Once again, in this year's competition, we designated only one winner per category, with strong contenders receiving Honorable Mention awards. For instance, in the categories where a cluster of formidable contenders followed the outright winner, we designated up to three honorable mentions. Besides a few exceptions, a product or service had to get at least 10% of the vote for Honorable Mention status.
Here then, ladies and gentlemen, are your 2009 Linux Journal Readers' Choice Awards.
The Ubuntu phenomenon, even by Linux standards, is truly paradigm-shifting and it doesn't appear that it will be tanking any time soon. In the 2008 Readers' Choice Awards, we dubbed the ubiquitous Ubuntu “the big distro that did” for unexpectedly leaving its myriad rivals as mere dots in the rear-view mirror. In the 2009 tally, Ubuntu deserves an “Energizer Bunny Award” for winning the Favorite Primary Linux Distro category, increasing its popularity and becoming untouchable for the time being. Ubuntu and its related Kubuntu and Edubuntu siblings raised their vote tally from 37% in last year's awards to 45% this year. At whose expense is Ubuntu gaining? Although Mandriva tumbled most dramatically from 14% to 2%, Fedora and Novell/SUSE hemorrhaged more than a few percentage points. Meanwhile, Red Hat, CentOS and Debian ticked up a few points from last year, the latter enough to warrant Honorable Mention with its 10% share of your vote.
During the past year, GNOME has reached majority rule status, with 53% of you electing it your favorite desktop environment. This trend is despite the breakneck development of KDE 4 during the past year. Although GNOME garnered only a few more votes than it did in 2008, KDE's vote count slipped as you've warmed to Xfce, Fluxbox and Enlightenment. The long and influential coattails of Ubuntu can only make any presidential candidate green with envy.
Firefox takes first prize as both your Favorite Web Browser for 2009 and the most extreme “category crusher” of this competition. No other application (besides the competitor-less Apache) racked up a higher share of votes (87%) than Firefox, although OpenOffice.org wasn't far behind. Who can argue, as Firefox keeps getting faster and accumulates more useful extensions? This year's surprise gainer was the historically underappreciated Opera browser, which ratcheted up from 5% to 8% on the heels of its impressive 9.5 and 9.6 releases. The worthy Konqueror and the browsers based on the Firefox Gecko engine (for example, Flock and Epiphany) were left behind in the catchall “Other” category. How will this category look next year? Look for an inevitable battle royale if Google can deliver a polished Chrome for Linux in time for you to give it a test drive.
James Gray is Products Editor for Linux Journal
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