Ubuntu User Surveys 2012 – Part 1


Ok, we got a lot of response to the user survey poll, so thank you to everybody that took part. I will publish access to all the results through the fantastic Survermonkey site on Monday, but to make it easier to digest, I’ll split the results out over three blog posts. Before I delve into the results we should discuss a little bit of the methodology in order to pre-empt some questions and also to help better understand the data.

I decided to run the poll in three languages – Spanish, Portuguese and English. There were a number of reasons for these choices. Firstly to do it in English only would obviously bias the poll to Anglophone responses so the US and UK would stand proxy for the whole world and that would be clearly unsatisfactory. Secondly those language groups (S,P,E let’s call them) tend to be disproportionately monolinguistic for those that have them as a mother tongue so seemed the most relevant to having a poll in their language. Thirdly, Latin America is a very hot location for open source and I wanted to capture usage in those nations as best as possible. Finally, we had to draw the line somewhere. If you add French then why not German, or Chinese, Japanese, or Hindi etc. Anyone interested in translating the poll into their language and promoting it to their language group need only contact me and I am more than happy to accommodate – the story need not end here.

I deliberately set out to contact existing users through existing channels for purposes of cost, speed and also because I think we can learn a lot from people who are at least minimally involved in the world of Ubuntu. So we reached out through Facebook, the forums, Planet, our Twitter feeds, UWN and OMGUbuntu. Thank you to all who helped make that happen. The result is that the response is broad but self-selecting. We are undoubtedly missing people who simply use Ubuntu as a ‘tool’ and have no engagement with the user of contributor community. But that’s cool. Even with a self-selected audience we have built up a pretty comprehensive picture.

Let’s see what we discovered
Firstly the number of responses. These numbers in each language groups give us terrific statistical confidence in the results, something we will see borne out by ‘normal’ distribution of responses to each question each survey – i.e. there are no huge or inexplicable variances in response which would lead me to question the validity.

Total responses to each survey:
English (15,653)
Spanish (1,825)
Portuguese (1,751)

How old are you?
If you are the mythical ‘average’ user you are between 25-35. That does not vary if you are Spanish or Portuguese speaking although you are less likely to be under 18 in those language blocks. In fact almost 70% of you are under 35 in each language group. And you are male. Overwhelmingly male. The average number of women responding is <4%. Here I do wonder how much the bias of the sampling methodology has affected the response rate  – i.e. is that for whatever reason the way we reached resulted in fewer women responding than is actually reflective of the user base. We can’t extrapolate from this data, but certainly such a hugely weighted response means we have to look at how we make the product, the community and probably both, more appealing to both genders.

Where do you live?

No great surprise that in the English language survey the US and UK were strongly represented. India appeared strongly too showing the growing user base in that country and we then once past the other anglophone nations of Canada and Australia we get quickly into the long tail of other nations responding. Northern Asia hardly appears at all which is not surprising but perhaps calls out for a survey in Chinese, Japanese and Korean to discover user preferences there.

The Portuguese Survey was 93% Brazilian and only 7% from Portugal. Spanish language is more interesting as I think we get a good picture of relative usage in various countries of that language block for the first time. And here it is.

Interesting to note (and again SURVEY BIAS ALERT) by population size for the top 5 it should read in order of population size (source http://www.spanishseo.org/resources/worldwide-spanish-speaking-population):


Mexico (23%)
Colombia (9.9%)
USA (9.80 %)
Argentina (8.99%)
Spain (8.95 %)

Allowing for relative IT infrastructure and broadband availability etc, the placement differences compared to population size are probably understandable with perhaps the exception of the US responding so low compared to its Spanish-speaking population. Use of Ubuntu is not so widespread that it should map 1 to1 with population spreads but again, like the gender bias these do perhaps offer insight into areas where, with some focus, we can help push Ubuntu into new ground.


More tomorrow

So that’s your taster for today. Tomorrow i will delve into the meat of the survey and look at the triggers for usage, satisfaction level, social media preferences of Ubuntu users across (as least part of) the world. And full results for everyone on Monday, I promise.

PS – a very special word of thanks to Tiago, David and Ayrton for the translation  and promotion help – gracias y obrigado!

Regards and thoughts welcome,



  1. Keith

    Hi Gerry,

    Would it be possible to have some sort of survey function ‘installed’ on each Ubuntu user’s machines by way of system update?

    What I mean is to have a prompt for participation in an online survey given to the user by way of a system update?

    It might give access to a better demographic of everyday users.

    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      Hi Keith

      Yes this has been discussed but not acted upon. I think you _might_ get a broader resposnse but on the basis that you could not make it compulsory you would still get selection bias. So you would definitely impose an intrusive prompt but you might not get better statistical results.
      I think we do need to continue to think of creative ways to get a full polling picture of Ubuntu use out there. It’s an industry problem by the way. Ask an OEM and they will have a limited view on their user base too as they are disintermediated through retailers etc so we are all dealing with imperfect information. So I thnk these results are pretty good, far from perfect and I would like to get them better. Polling on the system is an option but I would like to be surer of getting better results before pushing for it.

  2. Julian Alarcon

    Ubuntu Colombia Rulez!!!!

    http://www.ubuntu-co.com 🙂

  3. Akshay Mohan

    Introduce a simple Menu system for make user friendly

  4. Akshay Mohan

    introduce simple menu system to make user friendly

    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      What has this got to do with the user survey Akshay?

  5. Jasna

    I’d like to comment about female/male part… How to make it appealing to more genders hmmm.. that’s a difficult part… You just have to go for “how to keep it simple for everyone”… This might sound like a stereotype but females are less likely to involve themselves into tech world than males… It’s a hypotesis which might be tested from your side (If you’re interested to involve yourself into precise stats like using Chi square)… These frequencies might show you something but I wouldn’t take it for granted… Neither I would take it for granted if I had statistics methods in the background….You can only assume…



    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      As I said in reply to Garry’s question this survey probably make the problem look worse than it is from a user perspective (i.e. there are probably more women using Ubuntu as a proportion than replied to this survey). So maybe it is more a community problem – I don’t know, I was just surprised how stark the disparity was.

  6. Philipp

    In your comment you seem to mistake Australia for Germany that’s third, before India. The legend is sorted by rank!
    Note, that also the size of a Country plays a crucial role. US, Germany, and India are quite big countries.

  7. Andres Mujica

    Congrats on such amazing effort. This survey was a long time need for feedback. I`m glad how it’d turned out and I’m Thrilled by the ongoing future.

    I was wondering if you can elaborate a bit more about the population size stats vs the where do you live in question for the spanish language world. It wasn’t clear for me if those stats came from the survey or…??

    thanks for yor comments on this.

    best regards,


    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      They came from here, I should haqve sourced it apologies.
      Done now

  8. tuhaihe

    I think it’s a good idea to issue a Chinese version survery. What aout ?
    If so, you can email me and I’d like to translate it into Chinese.

  9. oKtosiTe

    Cool pie charts, for people who are not color blind.

  10. Tom

    Your argument for the chosen Spanish, Portuguese and English being generally monolinguistic for native speakers also stands for French – perhaps it would be worth considering French as a fourth language option for the next poll? I can think of several countries where this is relevant.

  11. barry

    I just don’t know about this. Out of everyone that I know that uses ubuntu, nobody knew that there was a poll and I just happened to have found it by accident. It may be that it was a poll of users that read a lot of blogs and everyone else is too busy doing stuff. I use ubuntu for work and home, hope to never see windows again and BTW, my age group wasn’t even listed on the results chart.

  12. James

    At 65, My family thinks i,m mad to even attempt to understand Linux Ubuntu, I can switich back to MicroSoft if I keep playing with my system, but im having a ball figuring things out, and i love the upgrades. MAN DO i HAVE A LOT TO LEARN:0

  13. SH

    It would be interesting to see in future surveys more meaningful groups like Nordic countries counted together, rather than large Other.

  14. jim stokes

    User experience to ubuntu
    I was looking for another operating system that was simple to use. My family machine came with Vista as a low end family machine…. as more updates were released , the machine appeared slower. A friend gave me the idea to try Ubuntu. I was already using Open Office and Mozilla… my personal files were in separate folders. Then, I took the plunge. Had to increase RAM to 4GB. Trade out a 5 yr old printer for a HP all-in-one; Then discovered, GnomeBaker, sbackup to an external, python and Postgresql and Viola !! I haven’t looked back since . Now going on 2 yrs and I love it. BTW used rsync to move my folder structure(s) from my external hard drives to Ubuntu

    My home machine is a 7yrs old Gateway and running like a bandit !!

    I am a believer of a linux based system both for home and the enterprise. As part of my paid profession , I am a Sql Server / Oracle dba ,I have never seen such a thin profile of an OS in the last 15yrs of IT. Ho ray for the penguin!!!

  15. Shiv Kumar

    Did people tell you Ubuntu is far more cost effective than Windows?

    In India a legal edition of Windows would account for around half the cost of an assembled machine. So it is little wonder that most of the machines use pirated versions of the MS OS.

    After years of running pirated software I decided to dump Windows for good and installed Ubuntu a few months ago. I do not have any complaints. In fact I get irritated at cybercafes that run Windows whenever the browser freezes!

  16. Hanako

    您好,我目前按照您的方式設定連線,但是第一種方式設定完還是沒辦法連線,使用第二種方式,一開始出現I found 1 ethernet diceve :eth0我按YES以後他卻出現Sorry, I scanned 1 interface, but the Access Concentrator of your provider did not respond.然後叫我檢查網路之類的,想請教您曉不曉得這種情況該如何處理呢?

  17. David Parsons

    I am 69 years of age and have been using Ubuntu 10.04 since it came out and have found it and get on with it fine. Prior to this I started with and worked through all Ubuntu versions from 6. I will almost certainly abandon Ubuntu when LTS for 10.04 runs out because I find the Unity interface unhelpful in a number of ways. Most probably the choice will be between Zorin 5 and Mint 13 which has 4 years LTS. I often have a lot of documents open plus other programs and switch between them frequently so the multiple workspace facility has been a massive blessing. Zorin and Mint also have good multimedia support.

  18. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read

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