For a Linux newbie, one of the most disorienting aspects is: why are there so many versions? You just want to use Linux, but which one? Linux itself seems to be nowhere—all there are to be found are distributions.
That is quite true, but the real question you should be asking yourself is: what do I want to do with Linux? Answer that question, and the perfect distribution (or at least a short list of them) should emerge naturally.
Distributions appeared at first as a way to make Linux installation easy by integrating all the required software plus additional applications that made that distribution unique. There were some original distributions, and then many that spawned from there in order to achieve a particular goal, and this makes Linux history resemble a tree-like structure. There are commercial distributions, sponsored by companies that sell services associated with their products, and there are completely free distributions. There are even free distributions that are almost 100% copies of commercial distributions! Thus Linux is a never-ending story, like human history, because there will always be new objectives and goals. This dispersion is not a liability for Linux, but one of its major strengths: you’ll always have a distribution that matches your exact needs… and if not, you can create your own!