Shuttleworth defends Ubuntu Linux integrating Amazon

Shuttleworth defends Ubuntu Linux integrating Amazon

Summary: Canonical is integrating Amazon search results into Ubuntu Linux and some users hate the idea so Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth explained why he approved it.

Mark Shuttleworth, Canonical's founder, approves of Amazon search result integration into Ubuntu Linux and thinks you should too.

You'd think someone had just kicked some Ubuntu Linux fans' puppy. Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, has added Amazon search results to the upcoming Ubuntu 12.10 Unity Dash search function. Some users hate this and have declared Ubuntu to be adware. Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu's founder, has replied that this response is FUD. Here's what's really happening.

First, yes, when you do a search from Unity Dash in Ubuntu 12.10, besides the usual search results you'll also see a More Suggestions results box. This will contain, not ads, but search results from Amazon. This is part of the integration of Web apps into the Ubuntu desktop. In addition to the Amazon integration into Ubuntu search, there's also a separate Amazon search app. More than 40 other "Web site apps" such as BBC News, Facebook, and Reddit also will be available.

Amazon is the only such app that's being integrated into search. Why? Olli Ries, the Director of Technology at Canonical, explained, that this "more suggestions" results category is there to help users find "content available online in addition to what already resides on their device (thus continuing the maturation of the dash as a viewer to different types of offline and online content). As with the other lenses, a preview section --accessible by right clicking on the result --will allow users to instantly view descriptions, app ratings, music previews, purchasing options when relevant and more, directly from the dash."

And why has Canonical elected to do this? Well it's for the reason you'd think: To make money. Ries continued, "For some of this content, if a user clicks the item and purchases it, it will generate affiliate revenue that we can invest back into the project. … We have found affiliate revenue to be a good method of helping us to continue to invest in maturing and growing Ubuntu."

Some Ubuntu users have hated this, or at least they hated what they thought it was. You can read their complaints on Slashdot, Reddit, and other social networking sites. In fact, there's even been a bug report made to the Ubuntu developers objecting to remote searches being included in the Unity Dash home lens.

Shuttleworth has had enough of this. In his blog posting, Shuttleworth wrote, "It makes perfect sense to integrate Amazon search results in the Dash, because the Home Lens of the Dash should let you find 'anything' anywhere. Over time, we’ll make the Dash smarter and smarter, so you can just ask for whatever you want, and it will Just Work."

To those who ask, "Why would such results appear when searching what one expects to be one’s local machine? Is the distinction between 'places' such as file system, home, mounted drives, LAN, the internet and specific sites blurred for a reason?" Shuttleworth replied, the Home lens of the Dash is 'search everything'. If you want to search locally only, use the hotkey to specify the specific scope you want, like Super-A for apps, or Super-F for files.” In Ubuntu, the "Super" key is what's called the Windows key on most keyboards.

Shuttleworth explained, "In 12.10 we’ll take the first step of looking both online and locally for possible results. The Home lens will show you local things like apps and music, as it always has, as well as results from Amazon. Note – these are not ads, they are results to your search. We don’t promote any product or service speculatively; these are not banners or spyware. These are results from underlying scopes, surfaced to the Home lens, because you didn’t narrow the scope."

He then moves on to address what he calls the "main-FUD-points."

Why are you putting ads in Ubuntu?

We’re not putting ads in Ubuntu. We’re integrating online scope results into the home lens of the dash. This is to enable you to hit “Super” and then ask for anything you like, and over time, with all of the fantastic search scopes that people are creating, we should be able to give you the right answer.

These are not ads because they are not paid placement, they are straightforward Amazon search results for your search. So the Dash becomes a super-search of any number of different kinds of data. Right now, it’s not dynamically choosing what to search, it’s just searching local scopes and Amazon, but it will get smarter over time.

I don’t want to search Amazon for the Terminal

Use Super-A. You can tell Unity exactly what you want to search. And in future you’ll be able to do that from the home lens, too, more easily than the current Lens Bar at the bottom of the Dash.

I want to control what is searched on the Home Lens

So do I! Designs and patches welcome in the usual places. I’m pretty sure by 14.04 LTS we’ll have the kinks unkinked. Till then, come along for the ride, or stick with 12.04 LTS. We can’t wait till it’s perfect before landing everything, because the only way to learn what’s not perfect is to have other people – real people – use it.

I can’t believe you just changed Ubuntu. I liked it the way it was.

Looks like those six months are nearly up again. :-)

This is just a moneymaking scheme.

We picked Amazon as a first place to start because most of our users are also regular users of Amazon, and it pays us to make your Amazon journey  get off to a faster start. Typing Super “queen marking cage” Just Worked for me this morning. I am now looking forward to my game of Ultimate Where’s Waldo hunting down the queens in my bee colonies, Ubuntu will benefit from the fact that I chose to search Amazon that way, Amazon benefits from being more accessible to a very discerning, time-conscious and hotkey-friendly audience. But there are many more kinds of things you can search through with Unity scopes. Most of them won’t pay Ubuntu a cent, but we’ll still integrate them into the coolest just-ask-and-you’ll-receive experience. I want us to do this because I think we can make the desktop better.

Why are you telling Amazon what I am searching for?

We are not telling Amazon what you are searching for. Your anonymity is preserved because we handle the query on your behalf. Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already. You trust us not to screw up on your machine with every update. You trust Debian, and you trust a large swathe of the open source community. And most importantly, you trust us to address it when, being human, we err. In summary – please don’t feed the trolls.

Personally, this change doesn't bother me. Ubuntu isn't showing ads. They're just giving you the option of seeing if your Ubuntu search also produced any results from Amazon. What's the big deal? Canonical is not a charity. If they can make some users happy and some revenue for the company at the same time, that's fine by me.

My one real objection is that this could have been handled better. This was a very late addition to Ubuntu 12.10 and the community should have been told what was going on earlier. Had that been the case, while I'm sure some people would still have objected,  I doubt they would have been quite so loud about it.

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Topics: Ubuntu, Amazon, E-Commerce, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, PCs

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  • I'm a big linux fan u know it and no buisness no improvement that's true!

    but i think the privacy is a big issue here!
    how and why we should trust a company like amazon and even cannonical? they are coming into our very own computers everything we are writing or searching in our own computers may go for some dude which we have no clue who he/she is!
    Where linux is going with google chrome cloud OS and cannonical and even fire fox mobile cloud OS has really made me worry....this may go into a very f*ed up situation i think some organization should come forward for protecting the privacy of users in the future of linux!
    • Not a fan of Ubuntu

      But you have to make money to invest money. Open source will never survive expecting the developers to always work for free. Distros must make enough money to continue work.

      So far, Amazon has shown no signs of being in the business of violating privacy (unlike Google and Facebook). If all you get is search of Amazon products, in exchange for an investment on the future of a distro, what is wrong with that?

      Open source users must learn that there is no such thing as free. Users must accept no company can exist if they don't make money and developers only give away time and talent for a short amount of time with out pay. Nobody can survive with just a name in the author field of a file header or hidden inside the metadata of the file in a repository.
      • Commercially Viable

        I agree that ultimately any organization needs funding some way, somehow. Even charities need funding, as do churches and any other organization.

        It seems that still a lot of people confusing 'FOSS' with communism, or communes inhabited by hippie programmers with flowers in their hair. (And even they need funding.)
        Han CNX
      • Right, but you've not been following the situation.

        "But you have to make money to invest money. Open source will never survive expecting the developers to always work for free. Distros must make enough money to continue work."

        Right, but if they want to make money on this, they have to make sure the users trust them. When we're a month away from release and the lens sends personal information "in the clear" and NSFW search results pop up, it's not a good situation. There are, surprisingly, people who use Ubuntu at work. If your response to the latter is "people need to grow up," run that one by your local feminist and let us know how that goes.

        Not to mention that there are bugs in Unity which have, at this point, literally existed for years...and they're adding shopping to the buggy interface. Thanks, guys.
        Shane Simmons
      • Acually you were wrong on one point.

        "Open source will never survive expecting the developers to always work for free. Distros must make enough money to continue work."

        Actually that is how Linux did survive and also began since its inception in 1991. Many think that the Opensource business model is a joke but it has allowed something that the Microsoft brainwash model didn't allow= competition& a way to make sales when offering a free product (hence i agree with the dash adition) Debian survives that way and many others (ubuntu is basically debian with many changes) Also research has shown that Linux users donate more to software than windows, ie a game that a name your own price Linux users generally give 5-6 times the amount widows users do.

        The difference here is that Debian survives while being free, but it really isnt a company. Canonical is a company and by extension Ubuntu is their main product of this company and there for it needs revenue.
        Shawn Eastman
    • Try Slackware!

      No ads in it, takes a bit of work though. Or try one of the
      live versions such as Slax (good for older hardware) or
      Porteus (based on Slax). I'm kind of partial to Slax,
      doesn't leave any traces if I don't want it to ("Always
      Fresh" mode)
    • I Agree, Privacy is the Problem.

      Shuttleworth has stated: "Your anonymity is preserved because we handle the query on your behalf. Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already. "

      But is that really the case? I store my own data on my own machine, and I trust Canonical to help me secure my data with good, open-source tools repackaged as Ubuntu. How does this translate to Canonical feeling like they should have access to my data?

      Trusting them to give me good tools that I can use to secure my own data on my own machine is the OPPOSITE of giving my data to them and trusting them with it.
  • Commercial content

    Let's not call them ads, but 'content that is there for commercial reasons' is creeping into the way we use computers, and not just in Ubuntu. For example if you open the new Weather app that comes with Windows 8 and scroll to the right, you will find an ad there. Currenlty only for other Microsoft offerings, but you can see where that leads.

    Of course the Amazon Kindle also shows ads, and I have a feeling we're going to see more and more of this.

    At least in Ubuntu I can "apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping". No such luck on other operating systems I use.
    Han CNX
    • RE: At least in Ubuntu I can "apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping"

      With Amazon's Kindle HD tablets, all you have to do is fork over $15 U.S. to opt-out of the ads.

      Why the rush to Microsoft Windows 8, especially if you're wary of ads? Stick with Windows 7 until 2020.

      With Debian, you don't have to run "apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping" because the package isn't in Debian's repos. Same is true for many other GNU/Linux distros.

      And in 2020, when the world ends, you can switch to a BSD.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Why the rush to Win 8

        I rush to Win 8 for the same reason I rush to Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal: I enjoy toying with new developments.

        Also I hate to say it but the basic design philosophy of the Metro interface has grown on me, for *touch* interfaces. And ignoring the obvious truths of forcing it on desktop users, and ignoring that all current Metro apps suck a golf ball through a garden hose. But I can see the thoughts behind it and I can see where it's going.
        Han CNX
      • I switched to Debian

        Since 2005 I was a die hard Ubuntu user, on servers and desktops. I was in love with Ubu! Then Unity was introduced in ver 11.04 and it made Ubuntu slower and more cumbersome to use and customize. I was very bummed out to say the least.

        I can see that Ubuntu is positioning itself for the tablet market, but the consequence is speed and I am sad to say that they will also lose Desktops and Laptop users.

        I made the switch to Debian, even though it is missing two extremely awesome Ubuntu only apps: 1. The Ubiquity Installer & 2. The Additional Drivers/aka Jockey-gtk

        But here is what I gained with Debian:

        1. A completely un-bloated OS that runs in 3d with only 220MB vs Ubuntu at 800MB.
        2. A much faster user experience, feels like it runs 3 times faster than Ubuntu.
        3. An extremely stable, bug free OS.

        I must also note that Linux Mint did the same thing as me, they now have a Debian only Dsitro too.

        I still think Ubuntu is a far better OS than WindoZe 7 or the soon to be released MEGA-FLOP
        Metro/Non-Modern Microklunk DOS/Windows 8 OS.

        I wish Ubuntu the best of luck and I will always have an affinity for Shuttleworth and his amazing company, I just won't use it anymore. ):
        • Switch to Unity

          I was concerned to switch from 10.04 to 12.04. And indeed it took me one day to setup Unity in a way that I like it. After this effort I like my desktop even much more than Gnome 2. Unity is clearly a progress although there is still room for improvment. I am an old dog who is working since more than 30 years on a PC and I dislike changes in my working environment. But from time to time you need to dive into something new for not working in an outdated environment. I am under the impression that all the Unity complainers never showed a serious effort to "digest" Unity and to customize it. After working some weeks with Unity (I switched to 12.04.1 when it was released) I don't miss anything in 10.04 and I am working now faster then before. Unfortunately - and that is one big disadvantage of the Linux world - many Linux users are too "religious" and not factual. The future of Linux is not a further fragmentation. I understand if users prefer Debian but that is not for the majority of PC users. Ubuntu represents the right balance between respecting the Linux roots and targeting to a broader audience. And seen from the efficiency perspective I like to work with a system which is - beside my desktop customizations - ready-to-go. Many other distros have been for me nothing else then eternal building plots. That I don't want to see longer in my IT environment. Therfore Ubunut is the perfect solution for me. Comparing Ubuntu with Windows is a joke. Working with Windows makes me only depressive.
        • You didn't have to switch from Ubuntu...

          I'm a happy user of Canonical's OS, but I use the Xubuntu variant. It's snappy, with a clean blue Windows 2000-like look and feel, and no Unity. In fact none of the variants--including Kubuntu and Lubuntu--have Unity, only the main distro.
        • Good One

          Well said my friend....
          Just A Blank Screen
      • Interesting

        So OS X is basically honoring its users better than both Ubuntu and Windows. Interesting. :)
        Håvard Pedersen
    • Correction to self

      Spoke to soon about Microsoft-only ads.. Checked again and we're getting all kinds of ads now:
      Han CNX
  • Internal politics not helping them . . .

    Internal politics isn't really helping the Linux cause . . .
    • Internal politics isn't really helping the Linux cause

      Why don't you read more carefully next time, the title reads "Shuttleworth defends Ubuntu Linux integrating Amazon" not "Shuttleworth defends Linux integrating Amazon"

      Or are you just trolling again?
  • Perfect Troll Scenario

    One reason why Linux based desktops are so behind (in getting a significant market share) is the lack of data integration and easy access to services. Therefore it is the right step to implement a direct Amazon search into Unity. But this step might be difficult to understand for all the ivory-tower located trolls who have zero understanding that even a project like Ubuntu must break-even one day. I do not want to see the Linux world getting heavily commercialized but some economic rules can't get ignored on the long run. I trust Ubuntu not to (ab)use my search data like Google & Co. That's it. Otherwise any extension of the service quality on the desktop is welcomed. Who dislikes it can compile his own desktop version without these features. That is the freedom of the Linux world. So instead of complaining change things to your convenience. Period.
    • Not trolling

      ....and ubuntu is not linux, it was based on debian but hell yeah it's not debian.
      Just A Blank Screen