Why Are There So Many Linux Distros?

There are over 600 Linux distros! Why so many? This answer is actually a lot simpler than you think...

Why Are There So Many Linux Distros?

This is part of my Linux for Beginners series. In this video I try to explain a bit of context on why there are so many distros.


I have also posted the script below. I tend to ad-lib some while recording, but the gist is the same.


It's estimated that there are over 600 actively maintained Linux distros. The sheer number can be overwhelming. This may lead you to ask, Why are there so many distros?
I posed this very question in my what is a distro video.

In this video, I want to dig deeper into this question and provide more context to help you understand why there are so many distros. I also hope, this will provide some insight into why sometimes it seems like we have several apps that are doing the same thing.

Since the core of Linux distribution is open source software, anyone can create a Linux distro. Due to this, many different distros have been created, some serious, some a little less so (Rebeecca Black Linux).

The fact that Linux is open source means that people can make decisions about how a Linux distribution is put together. Distro maintainers can decide what desktop environment, window manager, and installed application are included by default. This means if someone whats a distro that accomplishes a specific use case, they can build it. In fact, often times this is the case. Here, we see the end of the Nobara Project FAQ, of particular note:

It started because I needed something both myself and my father could easily use from clean install without, time consuming troubleshooting or extra package and repo installation.

This tends to be a common theme. Someone wants a distro that is a good starting point for their computing needs. For a while, creating easy to install Arch distros was a big thing.

However, I think this glosses over a key element. The point is, with Linux, we get to make these decisions. In Mac OS or Windows, this is a much more difficult thing to do. In other words, we have so many distros because the opportunity exists to make those distros. This to me, is why people are so passionate about their desktop environment, window manager or distro of choice. They chose it, it fits their needs.

People can have a much more opinionated approach to how they want their computer to work in Linux.

You may sometimes here that Linux is too fragmented, this is why. Some see this as a negative because resources are split between so many distros, Desktop environments, apps, etc. and they all seemingly do the same thing. But to me, the choice is what drives innovation and draws people into Linux. Source code is public so developers can look at the code and think of how to improve it on that project or come up with new ideas for their own projects.

The next question you may have is, How does that affect me? Which distro should I choose?

Most of the time, a distro will be based off another distro. So you may hear that a  distro is Arch-based or Ubuntu-Based. This likely means it’s going to start with the repos from that base as well as use the same package manager. But there may differences in how things fit together or the approach a distro takes. One key thing to note, is a distro is not a desktop environment, we'll touch more on desktop environments in another video.

That being said, many will recommend you stick with the major distros for two reasons. First, more mainstream distros often have better support documentation. Secondly, If distro maintainers decide they can no longer support a distro, the distro may be abandoned if nobody else can take up the helm.

My personal recommendation for those looking to try Linux is Linux Mint or Pop OS. Linux Mint for me was an excellent starting point to get into Linux. There are some similiarities in layout to Windows and that helped me find the settings and options I needed. On the other hand, if you're coming from Mac or you want to try something a bit different than Windows, that's where I'd recommend Pop OS. Both are great introductions to Linux.

I hope this provides some perspective on why there are so many distros and apps. If you have any other questions you think would be good in the Linux for Beginners series sound off in the comments below. If you liked this video consider liking it, sharing it or even subscribing to the channel.
Thanks for watching have a great day and I'll see you next time.