We may never know every detail about Ubuntu's user base. But some of its characteristics became a little clearer this week as Canonical's Gerry Carr began releasing the results of the company's recent survey of people running Ubuntu, the Linux distribution. Don't get too excited just yet, as we'll have to wait a few more days for the full survey findings. But if you're interested in what's been learned so far, keep reading...

First of all, the announcement of the survey results cleared up beyond a doubt the mystery of who exactly was behind the initiative. (Thanks to Elizabeth Krumbach for pointing out previously that Canonical had announced the survey on Twitter, which I'd missed.) I was uncertain at first since the questionnaire was run on a third-party site and had a slightly less-than-official feel to it, but there's no question now that it was indeed an official Ubuntu operation -- unless, of course, someone has hacked the Canonical blog and impersonated Gerry Carr, but as much as I enjoy ludicrous conspiracy theories, that one would be too far-fetched even for me.

Carr also explained Canonical's strategy in running the survey, and acknowledged that the respondents were a highly self-selected group of active Ubuntu community members and enthusiasts -- not to mention that the survey was available only in English, Spanish and Portuguese. That seemed clear from the beginning, but it's great nonetheless to see openness about the limitations of the survey findings, and an avoidance of attempts to pretend that they represent a comprehensive profile of everyone using Ubuntu anywhere.

Who's Running Ubuntu?

But enough about who was running the survey and what the methodology was. Let's take a look at the actual results.

So far, answers to only a few questions of the survey have been made available. But the basic picture of the "average" Ubuntu user -- or the average user among the self-selected group that responded to the survey, at least -- that emerges from this data can be summed up as follows: he's male, around thirty years old and could live in pretty much any part of the world.

In fact, at least among survey respondents, the average user is very male: only four percent were women. But as Carr noted, that probably reflects the limitations of the survey methodology, and there are likely more women out there using Ubuntu than this statistic suggests.

The geographic locations of Ubuntu users were also revealing. Although a majority were in the places you'd expect -- the United States and Britain for the anglophones, with large Latin American nations at the top of the list for Spanish and Portuguese-speakers -- the list of countries represented is quite diverse. (Predictably, since the survey has not yet been conducted in Asia, that part of the world was underrepresented, but in reality Ubuntu is probably more popular there than the survey lets on.)

Thus Ubuntu is spread quite thoroughly across the planet. It may be spread thicker in some regions than others, but it seems clear that the operating system has done a good job of pervading the globe, which is no mean feat for an open-source project whose internationalization is conducted largely by volunteers.

And speaking of location, the prevalence of Ubuntu use among Spanish and Portuguese-speakers in Latin America, as compared to those in Europe, is worth noting. As Carr pointed out, open-source appears to be growing in Latin America, an important trend for observers of the channel to keep in mind.

So far, this about sums up what Canonical has revealed. The full survey results are promised by next Monday, however. Check back then for more details.