Yesterday I passingly mentioned on a post that stats show the Fedora user base is shrinking (looking back, I probably should have said "seems to be shrinking"), which made for a later conversation with someone genuinely asking for the numbers, someone else challenging my conclusion and someone else not taking a solid stance either way.
First, I want to make it even clearer, I was not talking about contributors or project health, which can be measured with completely different metrics, but just about the users base, which was relevant in the context of my post (users will have to inflict UEFI with Secure Boot).
Second, there is no absolute way to count the user base for a Linux distro, you can't do it the Windows way by counting sold licenses or pre-installed computers (well, neither that is accurate, not counting the unlicensed installs), nor you can use web usage statistics (not every computer is online, Linux desktop market share is too small and easily affected by rounding errors), so the best way our community was able to come with was counting package updated via yum (the wiki statistics page has explanations about the methodology and its flaws).
Based on the plain, raw, data in the page I made a simple chart and then added a few annotations on top, to have a little context, is easier to read this way
- There was an absolute peak with Fedora 8, which is possibly attributed by the statistics page to a massive Amazon EC2 presence with images provided by various entities/companies. Community-wise, the distro was then at a Maximum, with everything opening left and right, people being enthusiastic. Is the time you will see past and present contributors remembering as "good old times".
- Another, much smaller, peak happened with Fedora 14, which can also be attributed to the Amazon EC2 presence.
- The chart shows a big dive with Fedora 15, the numbers where still have time to increase but not much, it will be EOL-ed in a few weeks.
- Fedora 16 is mid-life, until December when it will reach End Of Life, more installs will happen, is too early to tell if it will surpass F15 or not, we'll talk about that in half a year.
- Of course Fedora 17 is near the bottom, is a fresh release with statistics for after only one week, so far it shows, according with the statistics page, more yum connections and less direct downloads compared with the previous release.
Any more disclaimers needed?