When you start using Linux on your desktop, you probably stick with the beginner-friendly distros like Ubuntu or Linux Mint.
As you get familiar with Linux and start loving it, you join Linux related communities on various social channels, follow websites that share Linux content (like It’s FOSS). And when you do that, you also start discovering new, rather unknown distributions.
Since you are new to the scene, you may get tempted to try one distro after another and fell down the ‘distrohopping’ slope.
This is when you start asking this question, “should I use an unknown distro or should I stay with the popular distributions like most people”?
The simpler answer is to stay with the mainstream distributions but the real answer needs some thinking from your end.
The problem with using the new, obscure distributions
The major problem with the ‘brand new, lone developer distro’ is the uncertainty. You don’t know how long the project will live. It could be a year, it could be a month.
I have seen this with several distributions. There was SemiCode OS that got popular because it was created for programmers. A similar distribution called Emperor OS disappeared recently. These are just a few examples from the long list of distros that were discontinued within a couple of years of their inception.
You may say the same could happen with an older distribution with decent user base as well. That’s true, but usually, there is a community and more than one developer working on the project. You have some assurance there.
Due to the lack of experience from the developer(s), the new distros may miss out on crucial features. For example, the astonishing looking Garuda Linux doesn’t officially recommend dual booting at the time of writing this article.
This is when Garuda Linux has a decent following and a few developers involved with the project.
Most new distros don’t offer anything of substance
You’ll often come across brand new distributions that are based on some other popular distributions like Ubuntu or Arch Linux. The only thing that differs is probably the default applications, theme and wallpapers.
If it’s a ‘distro for programmers’, it will have a few programming applications installed by default. If it’s a ‘gaming distribution’, it probably will be coming with a few tools like Steam, Wine, Lutris installed. You are not likely to see some real optimization on the graphics or hardware part.
This is the reason many people say that we don’t need more distributions in an already crowded space with hundreds of distributions. After all, it’s not that difficult to install the required applications in the mainstream distributions.
Am I against these new distros?
You may feel like there is no need for new distros that hardly add anything of value. You maybe right because those projects might not matter to you, but they do matter to the person who is developing it.
Have you ever tried to learn a programming language? The first tutorial is often a ‘hello world’ program. Even the advanced programmers start from the ‘hello world’.
Babies don’t start running straight away. It takes time to go to that stage.
I see the projects in the same way. If someone loves Linux and is excited to create their own ‘operating system’, let them do that. If you prefer not to encourage them, don’t discourage them as well.
Most project starts the same way. Linux Mint is a hugely popular Linux distribution. It was started back in 2006 and based itself on Kubuntu.
Was there really a need of ‘a similar distro based on Ubuntu’? Not really. But look where Linux Mint stands today.
So, should you use new distros or not?
Overall, it all depends on you.
If you don’t like formatting your systems all the time and would like to continue with your life, stay with the mainstream distros.
If you like to experiment and don’t mind messing up with your system and change operating systems frequently, you may very well try the new distros. Personally, I would advise trying them in virtual machines. If you can have a spare system just for the experimentation, even better.
You may also use distributions that have been on the scene for years but they are not as popular as the likes of Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora and Debian. Projects like PCLinuxOS, Puppy Linux, Peppermint OS etc. have a smaller but active community. They are definitely a dependable choice, even for your main system.
While choosing a distribution, apart from the base distro, you should also see if the distro gets regular updates and has an active community. You just have to check the project forum and see if there are enough activities in the community.
What do you prefer?
That’s what I think and suggest when it comes to choosing between new, obscure distros and the popular, mainstream ones.
How about you? What kind of distributions do you prefer?