I’m generally wary of posting controversial opinions online. Backlash can be orders of magnitudes worse than expected, and dissension is not possible, but probable. Nevertheless, I will be describing what went through my head when I installed Ubuntu desktop recently for the first time since high school (some eight odd years ago or so).
I decided to install Ubuntu to gain some additional familiarity with the package manager. After all, I planned on running a cluster of tens of Ubuntu servers in the cloud. In addition, Ubuntu introduced me to the world of Linux in a fairly accessible manner. I remain grateful to Ubuntu for this to this day.
The first thing I noticed was that the installation seemed professional and “neat.” However, beyond letting me set up the partitions as I would have liked (which is something even Windows lets the user do), I had no way to know what was being installed, let alone change it. “Fine,” I thought. This is just Canonical’s way of making the operating system more usable for the average user, and while I might have preferred a more transparent installation process, I was ok with it as it was.
Admittedly, I’ve had my head under a rock when it comes to Ubuntu news. Needless to say, my jaw dropped when I saw the Amazon icon on the left toolbar. I removed it immediately and attempted to launch a terminal from the Ubuntu launcher.
Are those ADS under the launcher search result?
I clicked one of the links. Sure enough the browser opened to an Amazon product page.
Why this is sad
This is sad for a number of reasons.
- Ubuntu is no longer free. I had generally thought of Ubuntu before as the flagship Linux distro for the average consumer. It was to be the “canonical” example of a distro that would appeal to the masses, proving that FOSS principles work. However, with the inclusion of ads, Ubuntu is no longer FOSS.
- This means that Canonical’s business model could not sustain itself. I can only imagine that this move was their last card. But was it necessary even then? In traditional economics, a lack of demand for something doesn’t mean you “raise the price” of that thing (which is effectively what has been done here). It means that perhaps a downsize was necessary, or a refocusing to services that actually make sense. As a server engineer, I am interested in cluster management and monitoring for example. I would gladly pay for those services. Couldn’t they have attempted to provide that? If they are, advertise it to me!
- Ubuntu desktop misrepresents the Linux world and the FOSS world as a whole. Being a prominent choice among a plethora of distros, it is sad that Ubuntu cannot uphold FOSS ideals (this is probably a whole series of blog posts).
I have since gone back to my trusty old Arch install. I’m not sure that I will use that platform to run my server code just yet (due to its rolling release system), but I don’t want to support what I consider a defilement of what was once a great operating system.
Rest in peace, Ubuntu.