Ubuntu Linux has more than one billion users -- or at least people who "benefit" from it, whether they know it or not -- according to a recent statement from a Canonical executive about how many people actually run its open source operating system.
Dustin Kirkland, who works on Ubuntu Product and Strategy for Canonical, said in a blog post that "more people use Ubuntu than anyone actually knows." That language seems to be an admission that Canonical actually has relatively little idea how many people run Ubuntu, and Kirkland offered few hard statistics.
He did, however, provide some figures that give a sense of just how widely used Ubuntu is. The most concrete ones center on the cloud, where 20 million instances of Ubuntu were launched in 2015, according to Kirkland. He also remarked that Docker users have created Ubuntu images more than 35 million times.
Noting that Ubuntu is also in use on smartphones, Google's self-driving cars, the servers of lots of companies and plenty of other places, Kirkland concluded, "I bet there are over a billion people today, using Ubuntu -- both directly and indirectly. Without a doubt, there are over a billion people on the planet benefiting from the services, security, and availability of Ubuntu today."
A billion may sound like an unreasonably large number. And if Kirkland had meant only people who use Ubuntu directly on the computers they run, the smartphone they carry or the servers they administer, it would be.
But if one speaks also of people who access resources that are served by Ubuntu in some way -- including, for example, anyone who shops at Walmart, whose cloud servers, as Kirkland noted, rely on Ubuntu -- the one billion figure is probably not off the mark. In fact, it may be low, by that measure.
Of course, by that logic I also benefit from Honda because that's the type of car the delivery man uses to bring me pizza. That doesn't make me a Honda user.
But that's not to say that Kirkland's point is invalid. Many, many people do use Ubuntu in indirect ways. They also benefit from every other major operating system -- which makes Ubuntu more or less as popular, in a way, as Windows.