Linux is an operating system that has gained more and more space in the datacenters of companies of all sizes and in the home of desktop users.
Using Linux on the desktop has become a real alternative to using Windows or macOS computers.
The desktop environments that can be installed in a desktop Linux computer are polished and stable enough to be used as the primary or sole computer.
In this article we will talk about some of the main reasons why people use Linux.
Table of Contents
- Personalization (Linux is Very Customizable)
- Linux is Free
- Linux is Enterprise Infrastructure
- The Internet Runs on Linux
- Linux is Small and Fast
- Linux is on Your Mobile Smartphone
- Code Auditing and Modification (Linux is Open Source)
- Open Source Community (Linux Has a Huge Community)
- Job Prospects (Linux is in High Demand)
- Linux is More Secure and Private
- Optimal Platform for Developers
- Linux is Great for Automation
- Minimal Bloat (Linux Comes with Fewer Pre-Installed Applications)
Personalization (Linux is Very Customizable)
When speaking about Linux it’s important to note the distinction of what Linux is.
A kernel is the lowest level of software that can interface with computer hardware.
In simpler terms the Linux kernel is the bones and nervous system of a Linux operating system that maintains the communication between hardware and software.
Then come the Linux distributions themselves. There are dozens upon dozens of Linux distributions. All sorts of distros, as they are popularly called, for all types of tastes and needs and uses. They all implement the Linux kernel and then customize everything that comes bundled in the installation.
They get their own names and brands, such as Ubuntu or Manjaro. They make bundles of package software that they have tested to work in conjunction well and with minimal bugs.
One of the main pieces of the bundled software is what’s called the desktop environment in non-server machines. The desktop environment is the graphical user interface of a desktop.
To start, there are dozens of desktop environments that users can choose from.
After having chosen a desktop environment users can modify almost all aspects of the graphical interface, desktop behavior, keyboard shortcuts, global menus, start up items, and dozens of others modifications.
Windows and macOS allow customization only at the basic cosmetic level, but what customization you can do on a Linux distribution is immense.
Users chose Linux because they can customize and personalize it to their likings a thousand different ways, and that is already coming from being able to choose from dozens of Linux distributions.
Rice/Ricing (Making Visual Improvements)
A fun thing that Linux users like to do is customize their desktops. This is known as “ricing”.
Ricing comes from the term “rice”, which is used to describe a car that has been modified to improve its performance, usually by adding aftermarket parts.
In Linux, compared to Windows or macOS, ricing is much easier because of the availability of various tools and the ability to modify system files without any restriction.
This is a great introductory article to ricing: https://thatnixguy.github.io/posts/ricing/
Linux is Free
The most striking fact about Linux operating systems is the fact that most distributions are free, where you can choose the distribution that best suits your needs and you don’t have to worry about piracy or license expiration.
There is a wide range of distributions, ranging from desktop use, servers and even systems aimed at network security.
There are numerous uses and applications for each case and a variation of distributions catering to them.
In the various Linux distributions there is a maintained native package repository where the operating system can pull software from and install it on your computer or server.
These software range from core functional utilities for the operation of the server or computer to more powerful software for a working environment.
Such as development software, games, office suites, video editors, photo editors and a lot more, all for free.
Linux is Enterprise Infrastructure
Linux is used by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Infrastructure solutions such as file, Email, Web, FTP and DHCP servers have long been used in companies with Linux as the main operating system.
To start, let’s understand that the whole infrastructure software used by internet service providers all run on Linux itself.
Meaning the whole basis of the internet is set up on Linux machines. These are the machines setup to peer internet connections in data centers.
With one service provider peering with another service provider. This is what the internet consists of, interconnecting computers, and they are all set to run on Linux.
Then let’s imagine all the infrastructure of an office environment of a Fortune 500 company. Just a single company can have upwards of 20 thousand employees. They all need to authenticate into their computers, they all have to send emails, they all have to share documents, and they all need restricted access to the internet.
All of that is managed by machines running Linux at some Fortune 500 companies.
These giant corporations choose Linux because of its stability in running massive enterprise infrastructure.
The Internet Runs on Linux
Linux is the most popular server OS.
The two most popular web server software, Apache and Nginx, are both native to Linux. They both combine for over 65% of all the web sites hosted on the internet. A variation of other web servers, including Cloudflare Servers, Amazon Web Services Servers, Google Servers, all based on Linux make up the other 34%.
The only non-Linux web server with sizable market share is the Microsoft IIS server with a 6% market share of all the websites in the world.
So let’s recap, 94% of the world’s websites run on a Linux operating system.
People make use of Linux inadvertently because almost all the websites in the world are running on it.
Linux is Small and Fast
The latest macOS version Monterrey clocks in at 12 GB in size. While the Windows 11 installation takes around 20 GB of your storage space. Linux’s size varies by its distribution flavors but most of them don’t exceed 2GB. Some being as small as under 1GB.
The footprint of the operating system as well is small, some versions of Linux consume very little resources like memory. Some distributions are able to run with under 512 MB RAM.
Some Linux versions are so small that they can easily be run off a USB flash drive, all in memory without the need for installation. That is another reason people use Linux, they can test drive a Linux distribution without the hassle of a full installation.
Not only is Linux small out of the gate, it can be further stripped of many unnecessary bundles of software. There are Linux distributions that come bare bone with almost nothing pre-installed.
While it’s mind blowing for some to understand the appeal of such a broken down initial installation, the benefit of these types of distributions is that you only install what is absolutely necessary to perform the job that machine is there to do. One such Linux distribution is the Arch Linux distro.
Linux is on Your Mobile Smartphone
Smartphones, each day more and more, are accounting for a greater amount of our computing use.
We can do many things we used to need a full desktop computer for from the palm of our hand.
Google’s Android accounts for ~85% of the smartphone operating system market, while iOS accounts for the rest.
While Android is very locked down and written specifically for specialized hardware, at the heart of it it’s just another Linux distribution.
If you know your way around the Linux command line, you will be able to jailbreak any Android phone and be able to use it and run regular Linux utilities and distributions that have been ported to ARM architecture.
Linux smartphones are also available and keep being developed by various companies.
Code Auditing and Modification (Linux is Open Source)
Linux is an open source operating system.
This means that the code base is open for anyone to read, audit it and modify it to their liking without breaking any copyright law or requiring costly licensing.
Companies choose to use Linux because they can legally develop on top of Linux their company’s code base.
For example Netflix. Netflix uses vast amounts of servers to serve their hundreds of millions of streaming users. Netflix is huge and accounts for around 25% of all internet traffic in the United States. That is mind blowing huge.
Because they have to serve so many user’s video streams and data connections, they internally develop custom applications and kernel modifications to serve their needs for their servers to be more efficient than anything available in the open market.
They squeeze every ounce of resource out of every server with scripts and modifications down to the Linux kernel level.
They can do that legally because Linux is open source, and it’s why Netflix uses Linux.
Open Source Community (Linux Has a Huge Community)
Linux has perhaps the largest collaborative development community in the world.
As an open source system, it attracts a number of professionals who work together around the world, developing new solutions and seeking to improve existing ones. They do these on a volunteer basis, contributing to the community in any way possible.
- They contribute code to open source software. Like that the free software in Linux keeps getting updated for new features and bug fixing security updates.
- Another set of volunteers test all of the new changes to the software, for stability and bugs, in as many desktop or server environments as possible before being released to the repositories.
Some Linux distributions are centered around being distributed containing only 100% free open source software. For individuals it’s an ideological reason, and for enterprise it’s a legal reason why to use only 100% free open source software.
Linux knowledge also opens doors for professionals to have access to these communities, receiving support when needed and helping others.
This networking gives rise to a series of opportunities for expanding knowledge, participating in new projects or even identifying different options in the job market.
Job Prospects (Linux is in High Demand)
Taking a Linux course is a guarantee of more qualified opportunities in the job market.
More and more companies are looking for professionals with complementary knowledge, and knowing Linux can be an excellent tiebreaker in the search for a new opportunity, if mastering the system is not a prerequisite.
For professionals who are already at a job, a Linux course can open up a series of possibilities to improve the IT management of your current company.
Proactive professionals who seek and suggest new solutions are always well regarded and more valued.
Taking a Linux course is undoubtedly a differential for the development of those who want to pursue a career in the IT area, especially for those professionals who work directly in system infrastructure.
Even if your future job is not directly related to system infrastructure, such as a programming developer, to know your way around the Linux environment is a huge plus. As most likely whatever you develop in the future will run on a Linux server to serve the application.
Learning and using Linux gets you a big advantage at job prospecting.
Linux is More Secure and Private
Linux-based servers have the ability to be flexible enough to meet a range of needs running from firewall services to web servers.
Distributions make it clear to the user what is being used in the system. It is very difficult for the average user to be able to execute something that destroys the system completely.
Another factor taken into account by companies when using Linux is the low existence of functional viruses when compared to the Microsoft Windows system, since due to its permission system, the common user is more restricted to executing actions and scripts that may be harmful to the operating system.
Anti-privacy features of other operating systems are absent in Linux. That is because we can see pretty clearly what is running in our Linux machines.
And because the open source community developing and maintaining Linux are ideologically opposed to telemetry spying on users.
While every year other operating systems are getting more troublesome with the amount of spying done to their users, Linux has been spared of them for the most part.
We often hear that corporations may cooperate with governments, as far as having backdoor access to infiltrate your computers and extract your files and turn on devices like cameras and microphones remotely.
The level of insecurity and spying telemetry purposely designed and implemented by these giant corporations in their operating systems is a threat to a stable society.
The more people learn about this topic the more they are willing to opt out of being spied on, and one way to do that is by running Linux as their primary computer.
In this day and age it’s one of the few things we consumers can do to combat the power of these mega corporations.
Optimal Platform for Developers
We briefly mentioned before that it’s in the interest of developers to learn Linux for their professional training. But it’s not just about being familiar with Linux, it’s the fact that using most desktop environments in Linux are excellent to develop in.
Linux comes by default with interpreters and compilers for several languages, for example gcc, Python, Bash, and some distributions already have a native development environment by default. If you are looking to learn programming, using Linux is a great option.
Not only programming applications, graphical editing applications as well, like DaVinci Resolve. DaVinci Resolve on Linux is the professional tool used by Hollywood studios for editing and color correction of the filmed media used in Hollywood blockbuster movies like the Marvel saga.
There’s also Blender that is used for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback. Also GIMP, Inkscape, and Krita that are widely used in the graphic design industry.
Empowering software like Unreal Engine 5 can run natively on Linux and can be developed for the Unreal Editor on Linux. A good part of game development now happens on Linux machines.
Linux is Great for Automation
Linux also has perfect environments for automating tasks.
Powerful tools like Ansible, Puppet, Chef and Terraform have the ability to perform tasks that were previously performed manually for a new fully configured environment from a configuration script.
These are all tools used in system administration.
This installation will have all the configuration that you specified exactly as you want.
Imagine if you had to launch hundreds of these machines per day. Imagine doing all that manually, it would take you ages. Luckily with these automation tools in Linux we can facilitate our job and our life.
People that want their computers working for them instead of them working for their computers use Linux.
Minimal Bloat (Linux Comes with Fewer Pre-Installed Applications)
Nowadays Windows, macOS, Android smartphones, and smart TVs come pre-installed with pay-for sponsored applications that at times can’t even be removed.
They install so much CPU, memory and battery intensive applications to run on startup that can’t be disabled. Brand new hardware struggles to run swiftly.
Not everyone can afford a new smartphone every year or computer every few years.
Even though that is what the corporations are training the market for. Corporations now design hardware and software for planned obsolescence so that you more frequently buy their computing equipment.
If you have an older computer you can easily install a Linux distribution and continue to make use of it for a long time to come because Linux doesn’t have that bloat problem.
Running Linux on a 10 year old computer that is struggling when running Windows is a way to save your still functioning hardware.
That computer that can’t handle Windows will fly under Linux.
We can combat planned obsolescence of perfectly good hardware and reduce electronic waste that is polluting the planet. It’s another reason people are using Linux.
Most of the world uses Linux inadvertently in a way that they don’t even realize.
- Every time they unlock their smartphone they are using Linux.
- Every time they open an app on their smartphone they are using Linux.
- Every time they browse a website on their Windows and macOS computer they are still using Linux because it is, in the most likely scenario, hosted on a Linux server.
What attracts people to Linux is the open source ideology, that it is free as in freedom but that it is also free as in a free beer.
Considering that, that desktop environment is maintained, updated, secured and polished on an on-going basis and we get to use it for free.
People are attracted and use Linux because it’s a battle tested operating system wide enough to run business critical infrastructure. Secure, private, minimal.
If a bank software fails people can’t get their money, if a hospital software fails people’s health will be at risk. So they need a really solid foundation and they find it in Linux.
One of the most important parts of the Linux world is its open source community of contributors. Regular people, technologists, developers, capitalist, anarchists all coming together to cooperate in the development, testing and distribution of applications.
This community is an integral part of keeping the open source philosophy going. A philosophy that not only is self beneficial and rewarding but it’s also a huge resource to wealth generation.
At a personal level by gaining employment from networking, and at a society level by rising industries, that are ultimately beneficial to a functioning society.
At the core of this philosophy is Linux as a steward of this ideology.
And this is the main reason people use Linux.
Freedom. Linux and GNU give freedom to the user and the developer. Proprietary software gives freedom to neither, only to the IP OWNER. That freedom is a greater factor, and an enabler, of all of the other items you mention.
# Linux is Free – what a sad and desperate excuse.At least you changed the title from “Why Linux is Better” to “compelling reasons”. I’ve given that an extra half a point – for a total of 3!
The reason [some] people use Linux is because they are not in a work environment and do not require the Office suite.
You can run these bloated space filling articles as often as you like but we will never come close to penetrating the market until we have a Linux office suite that works!
You know by that statement that I mean we can have interchangeable documents [Word and Excel] which render identically on either OS.
I have used Linux as my main OS for over 10 years, but still have a laptop with Windows for this very reason.
PS: I realise this comment comes 18 days after the original post, but it just showed up this morning on my LXer rss feed.
Thank you for your comment.
It does make sense that Linux is not as widely used as it could be because there is not a Linux office suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office. It’s a valid point and it’s a pain point that I also experience.
However, I would argue that there are many compelling reasons to use Linux even despite this inconvenience, as outlined in the article.
The article is meant to provide a helpful overview for beginners who are interested in learning more about Linux, and why people use it, as many people are not aware of some of these reasons.
Perhaps it would make sense to also write about the challenges of using Linux as well, to provide a more balanced view.
Your feedback is very much appreciated.
“Perhaps it would make sense to also write about the challenges of using Linux”
That would make a great article, but as I made the switch many years ago, many have been forgotten.
It’s not an easy transition, especially if you know your way around a computer. Quite often it’s what some may call the small things…
W: C drive – D Drive – E drive
L: nvmeOn1p1 – nvmeOn1p2 – sda – sdb
I had nightmares working all that out
W: .exe – just so easy to work with
L: Total nightmare – for the newbie
If it’s not in the Software Manager then try the Synaptic Package Manager. The what?
You can see where I’m heading.
And of course the ‘fait accompli’…
There are currently hundreds of Linux distros in active development. 72 of those employ the GNOME desktop environment, and 77 use KDE. There are 51 Linux distributions based on Ubuntu. And Searching Google with the phrase “Linux distro for beginners” returns an astounding 9 million results.
If you think it’s challenging for new Linux users to make the right choice, then you are correct.
I think I’m done but you now have the basis for another article.
“While the Apple iOS operating system is the biggest player in the mobile smartphone market, Google’s Android accounts for the rest.”
is completely false. Android has 85% of the market and iOS only 15%. It affects the credibility of this article.
Hello. You’re absolutely right. I’m not sure how I let that happen. It’s fixed now and sourced to Statista.com global smartphone shipments by operating system.
Thank you very much for your comment.