Ubuntu User Surveys 2012 – Part 2


Yesterday we looked at the demographics of the respondents to the survey and some observations about the validity of the date. I recommend you read that post first. Today though we are going to dive a little more into how people first discovered Ubuntu and installed it.

How long have you used Ubuntu?
I wanted to establish if there were changing patterns depending on the length of time and/or the age of the respondent. That is, do relative newcomers to the platform or younger users use different tools to acquire the platform.

First of all the length of time that people have used the platform was remarkably consistent across the surveys. Given this level of consistency and for simplicity I will focus on the English language version.


Table: Length of time for which people have used Ubuntu

<2 year 2 to 5 years 5 years or more
English Survey 19.6% 42.7% 37.7%
Spanish 20% 43% 36.9%
Portuguese 21.1% 43.2% 35.6%


How did people first hear about Ubuntu?
So do people who have come to the platform more recently discover it in different ways to to the those who have been on the platform longer?  Well let’s see:



Table: How did new versus more more experienced Ubuntu users first hear of Ubuntu

< 2years 2-4 years 5 years or more
Magazines, etc 6.9% 7.9% 9.4%
Work 3.9% 4.8% 4.9%
Friends/Family 27.2% 25.2% 20.5%
School/College 11.7% 11.2% 8.9%
Forums, irc etc 46.2% 48.5% 54.8%
Social Media 4.2% 2.4% 1.5%



So the shifts are not seismic but we are looking at shifts information sources over a fairly short time period (approx 5-7 years) so I think we are justified in picking out patterns. The traditional tech forums of irc, chat rooms etc are becoming less influential as a first contact for Ubuntu. Social media as you might expect is increasing  as its reach becomes more pervasive. We might also conclude with qualifications, that this indicates a slight shift in the type of user coming in to  one that is less likely to hang out in a tech forum. But these shifts are slight and will be interesting to track over time. If we run it for age of user – do we discover anything there?



Table: How did different age groups first hear of Ubuntu?

<18 19-24 25-35 36-45 46-54 55+
Magazines etc 8.1% 6.0% 6.9% 10.2% 14.8% 18.7%
Work 0.8% 1.4% 5.5% 8.6% 9.1% 6.9%
Friends/Family 31.9% 28.1% 23.2% 18.1% 13.2% 18.6%
School College 7.2% 18.1% 11.4% 2.6% 1.8% 1.2%
Forums 47.6 44.2% 51% 57.7% 58.9% 53.2%
Social Media 4.4% 2.1% 2.0% 2.8% 2.2% 1.4%



We certainly see the trends repeated with regard to the remaining great importance of the tech forums but that the diminish at the younger and older end of the spectrum. Social media is still small but much more important for the under 18s – again in line with broader terms. The significant importance of school and college for 18-24 years olds versus the under 18s shows that Ubuntu has so far been more successful at permeating tertiary education than it has at high schools especially in developed markets. India for instance has 16% of under 18 respondents discovering Ubuntu at school showing its greater penetration in high schools there.

How did you acquire the version of Ubuntu that you have?

The result here is consistent across the survey and across age groups so there is no value in breaking this out. It does however put a number on a question that we have wondered for some time – how many users do a fresh install of Ubuntu versus upgrades in place. And now we know that is roughly 2:1 that do a fresh install. The low number of pre-loads is certainly a concern – reflecting the continuing lack of availability in the market. We also probably under-counted this as we asked about the version users are currently running versus how they originally acquired a version. Still the good news from the sales team in Canonical is that 2012 should see a turnaround in this availability issue at least in many markets so again, a figure that is worth tracking over time.

How easy/difficult was the installation process? 

Something our platform engineering team and the web team have always put considerable focus on is the ability to install Ubuntu easily. After all, the work in making a great product is wasted is people cannot install it. The good news is that the people have in general expressed a strong degree of satisfaction with the install process.Again there was no significant difference in either the Portuguese or Spanish response so for those languages at least there appears to be no  translation hurdle.

More to come

On Monday if I can get it all in one blog post I am going to look at the reasons for choosing Ubuntu and we will look at regional and age differences in response to that question. Also interesting in other and upcoming Ubuntu products such as Ubuntu One and the more recent announcements like Ubuntu TV and Ubuntu for Android. And we will look at the all important satisfaction questions, just how happy are existing users with Ubuntu.

Gracias, obrigado and thanks for reading





  1. Rafał Cieślak

    It might me interesting to analyse the results of “How easy the installation was” question in a subgroup of people who choose that their current installation was “a fresh install by you”, and have used Ubuntu for less than 2 years. That would exclude from the last chart those people, who had their Ubuntu installed by someone else, and those who are familiar with the installer since a longer time. This might provide more accurate result about how easy the installation process is.

  2. Luis

    How many people are using Ubuntu (or *buntu)? Do you have any estimates on the total number of Linux users?

  3. Adriano

    Maybe a important question, was about Unity and option the windows manager on Ubuntu (KDE, LXDE, GNOME, etc).
    Maybe, what did you prefer: Unity or Gnome Shell? Or Both?

    This is a important question.

    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      I think way too much of the energy of the community has been expended on this question. I thought it would be more interesting to ask some differnt questions. Whatever the resultt of that question had been do you think Ubuntu is going to abandon Unity? I think it is clear that it will not.

  4. garry

    I expect you already know this, but I think selection bias will also (probably) have skewed the numbers on fresh install versus upgrade.

    I came to the survey because I’m quite techy and follow the Ubuntu twitter feed. My wife also uses Ubuntu, but to her it’s just a word that appears while her computer boots up. She would never dream of engaging socially with her splash screen so she never heard about the survey (I didn’t think to tell her).

    My point is that, as you know, more technical users are likely to be over-represented, and are also more likely to do a fresh install when they upgrade since non-technical people probably wouldn’t want the extra hassle, whereas people like me positively enjoy the extra hassle!

    Not sure it’s a useful or original observation but thought I’d throw in my tuppence worth anyway. Keep up the excellent work, and thank you to all at Canonical and in the wider Ubuntu community for your fantastic products.

    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      It’s a good observation and will be true (that bias) across lots of our reposnses and also, unfortunately goes a long way to explain the bias towards males whcih surely can’t be true in the general Ubuntu population. There is other research going on to look at Ubuntu awarenenss in the general consumer markets in different geos, but that is unlikely to be deep. There is no a perfect way yo to do this without getting some bias. I thnk at least as long as we recognise that bias we still get some useful results.

  5. Vincent

    Good thing that you realise the under-counting, it felt a shame to have to check the box that I obtained Ubuntu by upgrading, whereas it came preinstalled with Ubuntu netbook edition when that first arrived with Unity.

    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      Thanks and yes in retrospect that question was badly phrased. Lesson learned for next time.

  6. manny

    “pre-loaded ubuntu into the machine you bought”: 0.1% …

    hmm, canonical should work hard on that one, specially now with win8 making it hard to install another OS.

    in a few years the survey results for installing ubuntu will go from “very easy” to “quite difficult”.

    1. Gerry's photo Gerry Carr

      Sure – three things though

      1. We asked the question badly. We asked about the current version not the original versioin
      2. We surveyed language groups with poor pre-install supply today. I expect that to change and if we re-take thiss survey in one year let’s see that picture again.
      3. To get a _much_ better picture of pre-install a pan-Asian version of this survey would be great

  7. Paradiesstaub

    I would love to see a survey about the user satisfaction of the default Ubuntu applications (UI only).

    Rate on:
    usability, speed, appearance, integration in the Ubuntu ecosystem

    Additional integrate the 5 most used none default programs too. I think the result would be interesting and enlightening.

  8. Hunter

    Change being the one ‘thing’ that the majority of people avoid: I am different; with a fundamental bases of expectations. Recognizing this for myself has not hindered my use of Ubuntu (Visual Variations). Does the newest released version load faster than Windows/ Apple OS’s; From my perspective: Yes. Are the ‘pre-installed’ applications good enough? My response is mostly. Ubuntu is very comfortable is extreme customization’s if the ‘desktop environment’ but out of the box: A small number of ‘driver’ issues require additional tweaking. This might be one of the biggest obstacles; ‘Driver’ inconsistency. Proprietorial hardware is nothing new to the PC (Electronic) realm. How the makers of Debain/ Ubuntu and its variants address this in the past is not as ‘pro active’ for the users as it needs to be; for a wider audience.

  9. philip

    Carry on surveying.

  10. pigsflew

    It would be interesting to find out *why* people overwhelmingly choose to do fresh installs instead of upgrades. I know that I do fresh installs because I had a lot of problems in the earlier days (I started using Ubuntu in 2005), and the fear continues.

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