Today I was reading a response to a SuSE 3.1 review. The responder commented on how "Linux" has too many versions that work differently and that they should all amalgamate.
That made me reflect on one of the main difficulties of explaining GNU/Linux based distributions: We (Free software advocates) haven't been able to properly explain that "Linux" is not an operating system, It is the kernel that drives many Distributions mostly based on the GNU/Linux operating system.
When people say "Linux has many versions" it shows that even people that use one of them don't fully understand that they are talking about many different Distributions. Some more experimental, some more free (as in freedom), some more stable, some more mass market appealing.
- SuSE and Ubuntu with commercial support and proprietary extensions
- Debian is one of the most stable and more free (as in freedom), but at the expense of older software
- Linux Miint is in between both
- gNewSense is mean to be totally free or proprietary extensions.
"Development teams" for the different distributions are mainly responsible for the packaging and polishing the configuration. That's why the packaging and configuration tools tend to be different. But for the most part they all follow the same standards and moving from one to the other is not a difficult task.
If you are new to Free software, just try a few of them. Stick to one you like. After a while, you will be able to do things in any of them with little difficulty.
If you are a seasoned Free software user, I ask that, when speaking to other people, you to use the name of the Distribution you are using and maybe adding "which is a GNU/linux operating system".
This may help new users understand how we don't have fragmentation, we have options.