The web site DistroWatch.com ranks the most popular Linux distributions based on how many clicks each distribution get by visitors to the site. Ubuntu has been the most popular Linux version for the last several years, seemingly with no competition by the others.

But now Linux Mint has sailed in as the new favorite.

The list can be set for different time span, and as you can see above, if you select a horizon of six months, Linux Mint has barely taken the top spot.

However, if you change the view to the last 7 days, Mint is miles ahead of Ubuntu. Even Fedora and openSUSE is more popular than Ubuntu.

One of the reasons of the increased popularity of Linux Mint, is believed to be Ubuntu’s decision to throw out Gnome 2 and let users choose between Gnome 3 and Unity (below).

Linux Mint writes on their blog that the developers think it was the choice to stick with Gnome 2.32 for Linux Mint 11 that has been an important reason for their growth.

In Linux Mint 11 we made the decision to keep Gnome 2.32. The traditional Gnome desktop, although it’s not actively developed by the Gnome development team anymore, is still by far the most popular desktop within the Linux community. As other distributions adopted new desktops such as Unity and Gnome 3, many users felt alienated and consequently migrated to Linux Mint. We recorded a 40% increase in a single month and we’re now quickly catching up with Ubuntu for the number #1 spot within the Linux desktop market.

Linux Mint has not yet taken the step to Gnome 3, but will sooner or later be forced to change because Linux Mint download their software from Ubuntu.

They are, however, looking into what they can do to make Gnome 3 as similar to the old Gnome 2 as possible.