GNOME's Survey Results: A Window into User Behavior

GNOME’s Survey Results: A Window into User Behavior

GNOME has published the results of its last year August user survey. The findings are expected and telling. Here they are.

As our media reported in August, the GNOME project initiated a survey among users using a telemetry data-gathering tool (gnome-info-collect) to gain a better understanding of user habits, software installed, and overall desktop experience.

Five months later, the results were public, revealing both expected and surprising facts. So, without further ado, let’s analyze them.

GNOME’s Survey Results

GNOME Desktop Environment
GNOME Desktop Environment

The total number of users who have installed the gnome-info-collect tool and sent their system data back to the GNOME project is 2560. However, the number of participants is small, mainly because the campaign was primarily promoted through GNOME’s media channels, such as Discourse and Twitter. In other words, only those who are deeply passionate about the project and follow the official GNOME media channels participated.

However, while these data do not allow for general 100% valid conclusions for the entire GNOME community, they provide valuable information about GNOME users’ usage habits and preferences. Fedora users sent in more than half of the reports, followed by Arch, Ubuntu, and Manjaro.

Distro Number of responses %
Fedora 1376 54.69%
Arch Linux 469 18.64%
Ubuntu 267 10.61%
Manjaro 140 5.56%

Flatpak & Apps

Flatpak is a widely accepted and established software distribution format in the Linux world. Its native support is now almost always built-in by default into all of the most popular graphics software managers.

In this regard, the GNOME survey proves Flatpak’s popularity: it was installed on more than 90% of the user computers who submitted data about their systems.

Flatpak Status Responses %
Installed 2344 93.13%
Not installed 173 6.87%

There are some interesting results in browsers. Although living in a world dominated by Google Chrome, GNOME users favor Firefox as their web browser. Here are the top three spots.

Default Browser Responses %
Firefox 1797 73.14%
Google Chrome 286 11.64%
Brave 286 4.76%

GIMP, VLC, and Steam are the most popular client applications. This shows users’ tendency to rely on the Linux desktop’s multimedia and gaming capabilities. Below are the top ten.

App Installations % Systems
GIMP 1497 58.48%
VLC 1375 53.71%
Steam 1367 53.40%
htop 1184 46.25%
Dconf Editor 1108 43.28%
Extension Manager 984 38.44%
Inkscape 952 37.19%
Flatseal 942 36.80%
Discord 942 36.64%
Google Chrome 899 35.12%

GNOME Extensions

We come to the most exciting part – the GNOME extensions. As we know, the GNOME desktop environment has its views and understandings of how the user should interact with it. Unfortunately, many of these views are sometimes at odds with the users’ opinions, who, to tailor it to their needs, install additional extensions that extend its functionality.

In other words, the survey results clearly show where GNOME users want to see the desktop environment go. And the results show this – 83% of all systems reported using GNOME extensions.

All extensions that GNOME developers have grouped under the generic name “Appindicator support” came first, with more than 40%. But what does “Appindicator support” mean? For example, all of the many status icon extensions.

Given that most of them rely on the system tray area, which was removed after GNOME 3.26, we can confidently conclude that this is the functionality that GNOME users miss the most. So, please, dear GNOME devs, give it back to us!

Also notable is that nearly a quarter of users uses one of the two extensions, Dash to Dock or Dash to Panel, which indicates the lack of a constantly visible panel for quick access and launching apps. Another controversial decision by GNOME developers deprived users of such fundamental functionality that has proven helpful in virtually every operating system and desktop environment available today.

The survey’s top 10 GNOME extensions are shown below, with a note that some of them are grouped in so-called meta groups based on similar functionality.

Extension Enabled Systems % Systems
Appindicator support 1099 43.66%
Gsconnect 672 26.70%
User theme 666 26.46%
Dash to dock / panel 579 23.00%
Sound output chooser 576 22.88%
Blur my shell 530 21.06%
Clipboard manager 510 20.26%
Caffeine 445 17.68%
System monitor 346 13.75%
Just perfection 318 12.63%

Conclusion

Overall, the survey results offer valuable insight into the needs and habits of GNOME users, giving the project a better understanding of how to meet their needs. The study’s initiative is excellent, and we hope and believe that it will serve as a starting point for GNOME developers when making decisions about the desktop environment’s future growth.

GNOME deserves our sincere appreciation for making the survey results public! Anyone interested in reading them in detail can do so at the “gnome-info-collect: What we learned” article.

Bobby Borisov
Bobby Borisov

Bobby is an Editor-in-Chief at Linuxiac. He is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, Bobby has worked as a Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

One comment

  1. Interesting.

    Gnome seems to have same problems what they were when first 3 was released.
    …and the problem is: Gnome developers are arrogant and actually does not listen their users no matter what. They just believe in the mission to make gui somewhat osx mixed and without any menu structures. Also they think everyone wants to use huge amount of screen space for nonsense.
    Somehow they just think Gnome should be one and only without any modification options. Good idea, bad result.

    There is a reason to switch ie to Xfce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *