On The Recent Dash Improvements

In the last few days there has been some discussion in the community about some improvements that have been added to the dash in Ubuntu 12.10. I wanted to take a few minutes to share some thoughts about these improvements and some of the concerns raised.

If you are anything like me, you are both a producer and consumer. At work and in your hobbies you are likely producing content, and Ubuntu and the many Open Source and commercial applications in the Ubuntu Software Center have long provided plenty of choice for producing great content. In recent years we at Canonical have also invested extensively in adding features in Unity to help make creating things as simple and effective as possible. In Ubuntu 12.04, a good example of this was the HUD, something that I used with the Gimp to produce this blog entry:

The HUD puts search at your fingertips to make operating your productivity applications and your desktop more efficient. Search is a core value in Ubuntu with Unity, and another core goal is that our users should be able to put the dash at the center of their world in being able to find content.

For the producers among you, Unity has long done this. Unity will search your computer and find documents, presentations, applications, and other content and the applications used to create and manage this content.

But we are not just producers. We are all consumers too. I love Breaking Bad, The West Wing, Mission Impossible, and The Allman Brothers. I love watching shows, listening to music, and watching content on YouTube and elsewhere. I enjoy being a consumer, and I want my desktop to be at the heart of where I not only work, but also where I also play.

The new features that have been added to the dash help to expand it’s functionality to not only searching your computer but also online too. The result of these improvements is that Ubuntu has now been improved to provide quick access to a wealth of consumer content available to me. Let’s take a quick look.

As an example, I have a lot of music on my computer and I listen to it with Rhythmbox, but there is a lot more music that I don’t have. On Friday night I went to see the awesome Gov’t Mule, and they remind me a lot of the Allman Brothers. So, I get back from the show and I want to listen them and maybe buy some Allman brothers music too. By searching in the dash I can find all the music I own but also see other albums that might interest me:

The More suggestions section at the bottom is part of the new feature that landed in the dash. I can now see content that relates to my search. This is not advertising: this is content related directly to something I am interested in.

I can now right-click an album and see more information:

Here I can see the songs that are on the album with a single click. If I hover over the songs I can click them and hear a quick snippet of the music.

Here Ubuntu has helped me find interesting and new content without having to perform countless Google searches, navigate through various music websites and all their advertising and other such nonsense. It was all integrated right into the Ubuntu desktop.

This also applies to videos, TV shows, and movies. I love to watch shows, and I can search for shows right within the video lens. As an example, I love Mission Impossible, and I can find related content right within the dash:

Again, this not only searches content on my computer, but also multiple online resources. As such I can see YouTube videos as well as paid content that I can purchase from Amazon. Once again, the content is related to whatever I am interested in and searching for. Again, if I right click an item I can see more information:

Both of these features are integrating content that I care about as a consumer right into my desktop. Speaking personally, I love this. This is helping me to browse and consume content more easily than ever before.

One aspect of this new feature that some folks have found a little controversial is that the dash also exposes content from Amazon in the home screen. As an example, as I have written about previously, I am getting really into BBQ right now. If I perform a search in my dash for BBQ I now see the following content:

Here you can see that the dash shows content on my computer (such as the photos I took of my recent cooks), but it also provides some recommendations of products that might relate to my search. Once again this allows the dash to provide visibility on the world both on my computer and outside it.

If any of you are like me and my wife, Amazon is part of our life. We buy products from there all the time (particularly with Amazon Prime), and as such, I often find myself browsing Amazon for products that I am interested in. We even get our coffee regularly shipped to us from Amazon. Now these products are integrated into my regular workflow and I can see products that might help me with the content or topics I am searching for in the dash. Of course, in many cases these products won’t be of interest, but you can simply ignore them; the dash is not intrusive and does not prioritize the product searches over your local content, it merely provides some suggestions of things you might be interested in.

All in all, I personally feel these features add a lot of value to Ubuntu; I feel they make the dash a lot more useful and interesting, and they save me time in finding the content I am interested in both on and offline.

Now, some folks have expressed some concerns about the fact that products are appearing in the dash. It is no secret that for each product sold (not searched) from Amazon or the Ubuntu One Music Store, Canonical takes a small cut. This affiliate revenue is a useful way in which we can generate revenue that we can continue to invest into the Ubuntu project to build new features, maintain our infrastructure, and improve Ubuntu.

Importantly, these music, video, and product suggestions are not advertising, they are search results that relate directly to the content you are searching for in the dash, and these results are presented in a non-intrusive manner.

Now, some of you may have a fundamental objection to Canonical making money from Ubuntu. When I hear this feedback, I usually translate it in my mind to “I have an objection to a company abusing a Free Software Operating System with revenue-generating content“. While I am certainly sympathetic to us not abusing Ubuntu and filling it with adware, bloatware, and crapware, I don’t think there is anything wrong with providing services and content that is strongly related to the needs and interests of Ubuntu users and that can generate revenue to continue the investment in Ubuntu.

If we are going to continue to pay the salaries of hundreds of developers to build new features, continue to maintain and improve Ubuntu, and provide the infrastructure, support, security updates and other content, we need to find ways of making the project self-sustaining from a revenue perspective. Making money is not a bug, abusing Ubuntu with crass irrelevant revenue-generating crap-ware is, and this is why we feel these new features are appropriate: they provide related content and opportunity for our users to acquire those products and help support the project.

I can understand some of the concerns from our community about these features, but I would encourage you to try Ubuntu 12.10 before you make your mind up. These features are neatly and unobtrusively integrated into the dash, and they not only provide a more useful and comprehensive dash in giving you visibility on this content, but it also generates revenue to help continue to grow and improve Ubuntu. :-)

UPDATE: For more details on the privacy side of this feature, see this post.

  • http://www.vishnupadmanabhan.in/ Vishnu Padmanabhan

    You are right, these features do add a lot more value to the dash. I think that this is headed the right way and this is the way it should go. I am just waiting for the release to try 12.10. I am sure it is going to blow my mind!

    As with anything, opinions do come from either side. But I trust Canonical. They have done a lot for the community in the past and they will continue to do so.

  • Andy Bleaden

    All going in the right direction if you ask me. (mind you after this years summer I have forgotten what a BBQ is :-(

    Unity is getting so much more polished.

  • @papfox

    Ubuntu 12 has been terribly unreliable for me and I’m absolutely not using any OS that shares my local searches off the machine. Been with Ubuntu for 7 years. This is starting to feel like the end.

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    For the users out there who do not believe in superiority of the always-on, always-connected computing lifestyle…. how do they take control of the search functionality in the dash so that they control exactly which search queries use network search services and which search only locally inside of private datastores on their computer?

    Is there perhaps a bright line being crossed here with regard to comfort level for some users with regard to informed consent on exactly when their computer interactions are being sent out to external services and when they are not?

    Yes its much more convenient to not have to open up a browser window and pull down the amazon search box in firefox and to explicitly do an amazon product search using the retailer’s own search services. But perhaps the explicit nature of having to open up the browser application and select amazon’s search is an important part of making sure users stay in control of the transaction. The fact that you have to very obviously and explicitly ask to search network resources is something a portion of users care about…care about deeply… perhaps not everyone is comfortable broadcasting every query to every possible search vendor on the internet by default.

    Perhaps integrating external search services in to default desktop UI like that breaks an implicit assumption that some users have with regard to feeling in control of their computer activities. Unless its obviously explicitly requested to send information to a 3rd party, then the request should only be handled by local search.

    Can the design of the dash provide that level of control for users? Can it deeply integrate with external search resources “on-demand” instead of all the time?


  • wvarner

    What you say above I largely agree with, but Canonical can get all (or most) of the benefits you mention by making shopping a separate lens (and then I don’t even think opt-in vs. opt out is so much of an issue – i just don’t have to use the lens if i don’t want to). The benefits of this solution:

    1) I have much less privacy concerns (I do not want everything I type in the Dash to be sent to Canonical. This is probably my main concern, because it feels like a violation of privacy).

    2) It is less cluttered – seeing items from Amazon popping up in the dash just doesn’t look all that good right now (especially when unrelated items pop up). I’m sure this will be improved, and in fact, I am suggesting one way to improve it. :)

    3) It is less confusing – imagine you don’t know a lot about computers and you were just introduced by your nerdy friend to Ubuntu and now sit down to use it. In the Dash, you type in a song you think is on your hard drive, and along with this pops up related content. What is going on? Is this something I have on my hard drive? How does Amazon know that I just typed in this info? It raises lots of questions. Separating it out to a separate shopping lens makes it very clear what is happening – I am choosing to browse Amazon (or whatever store), and I know that the information is being sent out online. (On a personal note, it makes me want to use it because it can generate some revenue for Canonical. But as things stand, I do not want to use it. I want to uninstall it and fast!)

    4) It shows you want to listen to your community of users and respond to their feedback. Your users are by in large reasonable and understand the need to generate revenue. We want to support and advocate for Ubuntu, and we want to do so without reservation. Show us that our concerns are valid and that a good solution can be crafted.

    Thanks for your time.

  • lord drachenblut

    it would be nice if the shopping integration had to be enabled by the user instead of just turned on by default, and how does one turn this get disabled if the user chooses

  • Anonymous

    What do you mean with Ubuntu 12? 12.04 or 12.10? There is no Ubuntu 12.

    Secondly, all search queries remain anonymous. Amazon won’t collect any data.

  • bitblokes

    This is an explanation I can accept. There is nothing wrong with making some money – but at least be honest about it – what you did – thanks for that. What I really hate is this crap about “It’s only the best for the users bla bla” – it’s advertisement and again – as long as it doesn’t jump right into my face – be my guest.

    Free stuff also costs money and this has to come from somewhere – but I really hate the statement of Mark Shuttleworth “It’s not advertisement”. Most Linux users are imho quite intelligent people and a statement like this – I almost feel insulted.

    Cheers …

  • andresimi

    Perfect comment

  • http://www.facebook.com/allen.bethea Allen Bethea

    Jono you are quite good at your job. What do you think Mark meant by “Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root.” Other than updates, how does Canonical use root privileges? To override settings? Monitor software we install and how we use it? Add, modify or remove services? Search for copyright or IP violations?

  • Thomas Kluyver

    This is pretty much exactly my position. I’ve been happily using Ubuntu until now, but I don’t want to recommend it if Canonical are listening in every time the user searches for an application or a file in the dash.

    In addition, the whole process looks biased – the feature freeze exception was rushed through because “This is a sabdfl driven project”, despite some major problems, like the way it can show decidedly adult-themed results. And now that the community can discuss it, there seems to be little willingness to listen to genuine concerns, which Mark Shuttleworth apparently sees as ‘FUD’.

  • Thomas Kluyver

    ” … not advertising, they are search results that relate directly to the content you are searching for in the dash, and these results are presented in a non-intrusive manner.”

    The same qualifiers are also true of the adverts that appear to the right when I do a Google search: they are related to the search and non-intrusive. Yet Google themselves call those ads. The distinction you’re making seems somewhat strained.

  • dsas

    He meant that by installing Ubuntu you are giving them complete power over your installation and so are already trusting canonical and the rest of the ubuntu maintainers.

    He most definitely didn’t mean “we are abusing our power on your machine muhahaha”. Mark Shuttleworth is not a bond villain.

  • Jonathan Jesse

    Jono, THe comment “some of you may have a fundamental objection to Canonical making money from Ubuntu” is completly false for the reason on why I don’t want this in Ubuntu. In fact I think this might be a little offensive to some people.

    The reason I object to is that this is not an opt-in part of the system it is an opt-out. In fact I would feel more comfortable opting-in to the Amazon affiliate code. Just like I opt-in to the Ubuntu Music store if I choose to pay/buy stuff from that store.

    Sorry JOno I think you are mischaracterizing the whole issue w/ this

  • Jonathan Jesse

    How much badwidth is used by this search? Alsowhat happens when I am disconnected from the internet and try to search? Does this throw an error or handle things gracefuly?

    Once agin if I don’t live the always on lifestyle it would make sense to be an opt-in

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jef.

    Thanks for the comment. I think you raise a good point: it would be useful if our users could effectively choose which services they search. As an example, some of our users may not use Amazon, but may use Target, and it would be useful if they could set this as their default in a ‘Shopping Preferences’ application in the Ubuntu Settings or something. This would then also provide a means for folks to disable all shopping services if they are uninterested.

    Maybe this would be a good project to work on for 13.04?

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    A Lens Control Center under System Settings would be nice.

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    not exactly the picture i was trying to draw. I’m not suggestion the big hammer of “always do retailer searches” or “never search retailers” I’m saying… on a query by query basis find a way to let the user choose if any external services are queried or not. Let them opt-in to the network activity and the exchange of information on a query by query basis.

    Hell man, you don’t even have to be paranoid about retailers. Some people aren’t going to be keen on sending every single local file search query they do to someone like Google to tabulate and profit from. I mean you could do that, and roll in web search, google drive search, or youtube search or google new search, or all sorts of google service suggestions when you fire off a query with the intent to find a local file on disk. Looking for a local filename could easily bring up all sorts of interesting things from google (especially any filename of the form kitten.pdf). But is that really a good idea to do any of the networked searching by defaullt? I’m pretty sure a lot of people, even people who use google day in and day out, don’t want to give google all that query information by default.

    I think a lot of people want to use internet services…selectively..on a query by query basis. It’s not an all or nothing sort of thing. It’s not a big hammer, its more subtle than that…integrated search..on-demand.

    Sometimes they’ll want to ask the tubes, sometime they don’t want the tubes knowing what they are doing. query by query control. Sometimes they’ll want to refrain from using the tubes because they are on a low bandwidth connection or a metered connection and they want to conserve resources for other already active data streams unrelated to their dash query. So many ways to need apply network search selectively on a query by query basis.

    If I were going to integrate it, I’d make the internet search suggestions a 2nd tier push to activate sort of thing.

    When I type “allman”, I’d expect the internet search “suggestions” area to be unpopulated by default. Then a click on the suggestions heading to activate the internet search. Doesn’t matter if its shopping or just google response. No network traffic on a query until I take an affirmative action to start the network query. Make the suggestions text glow or dance or something to entice people to pull the trigger and fire that search off..but don’t actually fire it off until they affirm they want it.

    For users who are “all-in” on this whole always connected lifestyle and have no qualms throwing every single keystroke into the void in exchange for a chance to be tempted by targetted impulse purchasing opportunities…then have some sort of context or preference ui to opt-in to the network search suggestions by default to short-circuit the selectivity.

    -jef”let me know know if you need an updated mailing address to send me the previously agreed on consulting fee of $0.02 for the above analysis”spaleta

  • Craig Maloney

    The big problem I have isn’t with this change, or with some of the other changes that have come down through the development cycles. What I have a problem with is the how far the community can get pushed before we snap. Sure, Amazon searching might not be so bad now, but what happens when a more invasive search or privacy intrusion is brought about to the community in the name of convenience? What if Ubuntu locks into your Facebook or Google+ account, downloads your contacts, and starts sending them recommendations based on your searches? Sure, today that might be reprehensible, but if later it’s somehow deemed to be a net-benefit for a subset of users and Canonical, then what? Do we all get to hold our noses and hope for the stench to clear in the next release?

    Canonical owes nothing to the users of Ubuntu, and folks shouldn’t feel entitled to anything with Ubuntu. But there is a fine line between treating folks respectfully, and expecting them to just grin and bear it (or just uninstall it).

    I’m still a fan of Ubuntu, but it seems there’s always something each cycle that keeps pushing me to reconsider my position.For the sake of the community, please keep the community in mind when making these sorts of changes.

  • Israel Dahl
  • Guest

    I agree. I’m mostly indifferent of this change. I feel it can be really useful as Jono pointed out, and even if it isn’t for me, it’s not hard to remove for a seasoned Ubuntu user. But, pushing it into the dash home by default can be seen as troubling to some users. I don’t share all of the sentiments, but including a shopping lens for all sorts of shopping scopes to play in would probably be a better implementation. And then having a control panel for what scopes are visible in the home lens would then allow users like Jono to keep his amazon scope visible without relying on a separate lens if he wants. The point is, more control is never a bad thing if it doesn’t cause issues. And this shouldn’t be a harmful level of control… seems rather basic to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/uber.dudditz Uber Dudditz

    I tried to delete this and make it a reply to wvarner, but that didn’t work out too well lol…

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    I wonder about that myself from time to time. Why isn’t he a Bond villain? South African business man turned philanthropist, secreted brained washed by the Soviets when he went into space in their rocket and is now a yet to be activated sleeper agent.

    C’mon he’d be a GREAT Bond villain. And Jono Bacon as his microphone wielding, rock & roll henchman who special ability is to turn his voice into a sonic weapon that incapacitates. C’mon… the movie writes itself.


  • Anonymous

    I don’t think this is the same. This new feature has the potential to be much more. Now it shows only Amazon results but in the future Steam and Desura games and other stores/places may be eventually included. I like it, though I think some security issues should be solved.

  • Anonymous

    Jono, i have to disagree off your point of view. The problem isnt canonical making some money, thats a very important and dificult goal (Speak with Bryam Lunduke fromthe linuxaction show about this), the problem is that NOBODY wants a god dam advvertising when trying to find a file or a program to finish his job. By the way 90% of the time users are on thebrowser, its just easier and better opena new tab and make a google search. For me the whole dash is a bad wheel reinvention, i give it atry on 11.04 until now, but this to much for me. I really apreciate your work at canonical but i think that ubuntu Project has choosen a realy bad path. If you pay atention the elementary guys has taken the old core values of ubuntu (linux for humans and nothing else. After many years i have to say that i m a ex_user.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    Thats what I had in mind.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, I like Unity and the dash. It’s so much better then in 11.04. But if you don’t like it you are welcome to use different desktop environment.

  • http://twitter.com/jonthysell Jon Thysell

    I think you’d have more money if you hadn’t wasted it rebuilding the wheel with Unity to start with.

    Why not just develop these search lenses for one of the major, well-supported, stable, and more easily customizable desktop environments? Or even better, make something that can plug into any them?

    The desktop UI is what people think of when they think of an OS. The Ubuntu devs may be doing great work pushing code upstream for the “hidden in Software Center” technical packages, but it’s work like this, walled-garden projects like Unity, that risk alienating your key proponents: core Linux users.

  • Anonymous

    The reason I said “some of you” is that it means not everyone. This means it might include you. :-)

    The simple reality is that some people flat-out object to companies making money from the software they invest millions of dollars in improving and giving away for free. This is not just the case with Canonical, this has also been the case with folks working on Red Hat, SuSE, with the kernel, and various other projects.

  • Anonymous

    I think Unity was a wise investment. While it took a while to mature and policy, I think it vastly improved over our previous GNOME 2.0 interface. We will have to agree to disagree. :-)

  • Anonymous

    Interesting points, Craig, but to be fair, the same risks can occur with all companies and all software. It all basically boils down to trust. Do we trust Canonical? Some folks will and some folks won’t.

    If you look at the history of Ubuntu, Canonical have actually been pretty responsible. We have invested heavily in building a large engineering team, we have invested in building new upstream software, we have contributed extensively to infrastructure projects such as Launchpad and Bazaar, and we give pretty much everything away for free. We have also refused to have a special Enterprise version of Ubuntu and a cut-down community edition.

    What you are referring to is making bold and opinionated choices and sticking with them. You make a good point about the community flipping out on every release over something, and while in some cases that was valid, let’s not forget that the community can sometimes have unrealistic and unreasonable expectations from time to time. 😉

    To me this is a balance. Canonical is not perfect…far from it, and we do make mistakes from time to time. The most important thing for us to do is to admit to out mistakes and try and improve on them. Despite these improvements though, sometimes people will just simple disagree, and that is fine.

    Speaking personally, the thing that frustrated me most about this is that it landed after feature freeze; I wish it had landed earlier. As to the dash showing relavent results from Amazon..if this small feature helps to support years of Ubuntu development in the future, I think that is a reasonable deal. :-)

  • Anonymous

    He simply makes the point that we create the software you get on your computer when you install Ubuntu, and you we and our community can be trusted to deliver a secure experience.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Benjamin,

    You are judging Unity based on 11.04? Really? A year in software terms is an eternity. I would strongly encourage you to upgrade to 12.04 and give it a decent try. Unfortunately I find all too many folks who are critical of Unity and the last time they used it was 11.04.

    As for comparing us to Elementary…that is like comparing apples and oranges. Does the Elementary project employ hundreds of developers and therefore need to pay their salaries? Have they got millions of users to take care of? Hardly, they have an interesting project that has few users and no commercial overhead to support.

    My point here is not to bag on Elementary…quite the opposite, I think they are doing a great job. My point is that Ubuntu needs to support itself, and as such generating affiliate revenue is an important function here.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think most users want what you are referring to. I agree that some folks may want to say “don’t search online for me” or “only search X, Y, and Z”, but a per-request permission thing would be a pain.

  • Anonymous

    Just an idea…..make a separate hotkey for this search. Don’t integrate it. For example, Super-Key – S…..or at least allow it. Make it totally transparent that when you are doing a local file search what you are searching for doesn’t get fed to Amazon, Google or whoever. Make sense??

  • http://www.twm-kd.com/ BigWhale

    I’ll just ‘voice’ my opinion on this. The biggest problem of all is that all the searches are being sent to Ubuntu over http and not https. I personally don’t care about this, but people are freaking out: “what??? all file names that I search for are sent to Canonical unencrypted?? I have to rename my ‘top_secret_plan_to_take_over_the_world’ and fast!”

    Privacy is a big concern and using http really feels like a rookie mistake. This should be fixed before 12.10 is released.

    The second, opt-in, argument is something that I didn’t figure out how I’d want it implemented. I really don’t mind shopping search hits displayed in Dash. Sometimes I might even use them. Some people will prefer a separate lens for shopping results and some will prefer integrated results.

    A simple check-box list of retailers where users would like to search is something that people will appreciate.

  • Hartmut Noack

    Why 13.4? Is it really that complicated to implement a switch that allows to choose from a list of adresses to be searched including “none”? I am just a puny little web-dev but if my customer wants something like that I do it within 1h and for a nice customer I do it without an extra-fee….

  • Hartmut Noack

    @jonobacon:disqus The reasonabe people here do know, that salaries dont grow on trees, so there is if at all a small faction that hates the shopping-offers alltogether.

    It is all about control and who has it: I understand, that it is easier to keep the control with the devs but in this very case it is simply not ethical to take it away from the user completely.

  • http://redhotchilipython.com k_bx

    But there are websites that do the job much better. I can choose a website from which I want to consume, it will have rich interface for all it’s features, I won’t do 100 http requests on every dash searches, I don’t need to upgrade operation system to get new/updated sources/design/mechanisms.

    It’s such a bullshit to put web into dash. Everyone want to help ubuntu to give revenue, but it looks like Canonical is just blinded by “opportunities to get $$$$$”.

  • http://sheller.posterous.com Št?pán Heller

    I have no problem with ads in dash. But please stop with those arguments “these are not ads, it’s related content”. No it’s not. Google’s AdWords or Facebook ads are also someway related to what you are searching for but they are still ads. As I said I have no problem with it in dash, it can be useful sometimes but please call things their real names.

  • http://twitter.com/alourie Alex Lourie

    “…if this small feature helps to support years of Ubuntu development in the future”,

    then why not make all the revenue go to Ubuntu Foundation instead of Canonical, the company? It would make the point of the affiliate sales more transparent and clear for everyone that the money REALLY goes to Ubuntu development.

  • chuck

    You’re a consumer of Amazon. Many of us aren’t (for whatever reasons), and I think your reaction would be similar if you were shown “choices” via the underlying operating system that have nothing whatsoever to do with the reasons people choose to use that operating system in the first place — if anything, it’s why people avoid certain operating systems.

    This is exactly why I’ve avoided Apple products: I don’t want someone else locking me into their ecosystem of services and “partners.” Cathedral versus bazaar, Canonical is going full-stop cathedral and giving me a f*cking good reason to choose another distro. Uhh, thanks a lot.

    I appreciate that Canonical has to monetize Ubuntu to make its development worthwhile but this kind of “service” is something that users should have to opt-in via a plug in or by having to manually install it. It shouldn’t be a default.

  • http://twitter.com/YummyCardbored Yummy Cardbored

    100% absolutely agree with you, but I would have liked you to address the privacy issues.

  • http://twitter.com/YummyCardbored Yummy Cardbored

    “I think you’d have more money if you hadn’t wasted it rebuilding the wheel with Unity to start with.”

    Someone developed Unity already? Before Ubuntu?

  • Alain

    “If any of you are like me and my wife, Amazon is part of our life.”

    Well, if you live in America or Europe, possibly this is true. For the rest of the world it’s just going to be needless junk cluttering the UI.

  • Anonymous

    I think i didn´t express my self very well. I mean, i use Unity since 11.04 (today i use the daily build 12.10), just from the beginning i thought that Unity was lacking in many areas, but i knew it was a first iteration and that it would evolute as time and releases passes and the output from ubuntu users would be a good drive way to improve it. It always concerns me the problem of Canonical revenue, it´s a really big problem for opensource software as a hole, how to make money and distribute it for free ? It´s almost a paradox. I agree that marketing/Advertisement is a good strategy, it works pretty well for google and facebook, but the only reason that they work is that they are not intrusive. Canonical has better weapons to use like: 1- Make the softwarecenter easy to use, easy to submit paid apps and make it Fast… 2 – Contests for good applications like one we had sometime ago (OS is nothing without good apps) 3 – Make a better Cloud Application than the competition (Ubuntuone < dropbox) 4 – The most important, listen to users feedback, if nobody uses it there´s no reason to ubuntu exist.

  • http://blastfromthepast.se/ Tommy Brunn

    I think we pretty much all agree on the privacy front. It’s not cool to send every single query, unencrypted, to your servers (and then to Amazon et al.) But I have no doubts that will be fixed before release. As for monetizing on my purchases, I have absolutely no problem with that. Go for it.

    I’m more confused about the user experience here. In any given month, I do maybe 10 product searches. By comparison, I probably do 100 dash queries (for apps and files) every day. So if the product search is a use case that’s only relevant in 0.3% of all my searches, why is it done every single time? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the default action be whatever is the most common use case, and then have the much less common use cases be handled by a dedicated lens?

    Then again, I haven’t used 12.10 yet, so maybe the shopping suggestions aren’t that in-your-face and maybe they’re done in the background so that I don’t have to wait for the search to finish before the results I’m actually interested in become available. Still, it feels like an odd decision to make it a default action. Or maybe most people just shop a hell of a lot more than I do.

  • http://yourethemannowdog.com Shasta McShasta

    Hey Jono,

    Thank you for the rational explanation. My question is this: Is there an alternate way to support Ubuntu with my Amazon purchases? Ubuntu does need to make some kind of revenue, and I would love to give back to Canonical for what they’ve given me over the years. Still, the idea of my dash searches not remaining local to my machine – even to companies I trust, like Canonical and Amazon – makes me very uncomfortable. Is there a way to give Canonical their cut if I don’t have the shopping package installed on my Ubuntu?

  • krs

    Let us choose to op-in or out.

    Implement it this way. You do a search with a “#” character in front of the search term, it will also search the internet. (EG: “#Radiohead” will search local and internet also, “Radiohead” only local).

  • Anonymous HardCow

    You know, When I search my hard drive for “Top Secret file or document. Possibly embarrasing porn”, I really don’t want neither you, Amazon or the random dude with Wireshark in the coffee shop to know what I searched for, when all I wanted to do was to find a file before doing a scp to a private server.

    I’m glad I’ve left Ubuntu for greener pastures.

  • Waspinator

    Im not always ready to buy. There should be an option for showing 1 only local content 2 local + free cloud content and 3 local + all cloud content

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthewjbauman Matthew J. Bauman

    Seriously, Mr. Bacon, if you really loved the Allman Brothers, you wouldn’t be downloading a greatest hits cd.

  • dakira

    I’m sorry Jono, but you’re missing the point that many are making. The question is not if this is useful and produces relevant results when you use it. The point is, that it produces results even when you don’t want to use it. A search for the “mycompany_chapter11” document will be sent to Canonical and – ultimately in some way or another – to Amazon. Currently unencrypted (which is probably a bug).

    Also every use of the Dash produces data traffic. In a time where people use 3G and many have bandwidth caps.

    There are so many other problems which all would go away but just putting this in a seperate lens. For me this is especially sad because I totally love this feature, but have to remove it because I don’t want to remember to hit super+a to open apps and super+f to find files and only hit super if I want to search amazon or the Ubuntu One musicstore. This is a nice feature that many just won’t be able to use just for the decision to put this in home (and not make it optional).

  • http://twitter.com/jspaleta Jef Spaleta

    I don’t think either one of us can reasonably argue about what “most” users want. If I were going to attempt it, I would say that “most” users frankly don’t care either way, as “most” computer users will never interact with Unity in any incarnation.

    But I also think that the median experience in existing linux userbase, across pretty much all linux distributions, cares a bit more about taking control of their computer experience than the median computer user more generally do. Perhaps there is a way to work within the scope of that emotional desire to be in control, and craft a product that builds on that theme of personal freedom and liberation. Or not, whatever, not my problem.

  • Anonymous

    Want to make money? It is all right. Could we please stop making such herculean efforts to pretend that these are not ads though? As long as they are an opt-out thing rather than opt-in and as long as they appear unannounced when you could possibly not intend to find Amazon offers, they are advertisements. And Canonical makes money for the effort. It is really bugging me that Canonical want to have their cake and eat it too. Want ads in ubuntu? Admit it. But please do not add ads to ubuntu and yet at the same time pretend it does not have ads :/ It does not work that way…

    If Canonical would address this by saying that they really need money and that showing these ads may be their most effective way to monetize ubuntu, I would even leave it enabled by default. But Canonical keeps saying how monetization is not the primary objective and that this is supposed to be useful for us. Well, ads are useful every-once in a while . But since Canonical keep saying that they are not ads and that they do not need them. I will disable them and encourage everyone to do it as well.

  • Connor

    It wouldn’t be a pain if there was a single button on the lens which, when clicked, loaded the “More Suggestions”. And, obviously, this could be optionally defined behaviour rather than the recommended behaviour. I think I would personally also prefer this, because while I find it a useful system, I am often tethered by phone and don’t want to waste bandwidth on something trivial like Internet search results.

  • samvimes

    But why is the Amazon Webapp integrated into unity? I’m sure, there are plenty of web services users use more often, e.g. facebook, Googlemail, Wikipedia, etc…. Also, I don’t see many users supporting it, and 12.10 is still beta – why don’t you just make it opt-in. If you then see, that the majority of users use it, make it the default for 13.04.

  • dakira

    It’s be cool if that included a setting where I could chose which lenses contents would appear in the home screen and which in a seperate screen.

  • dakira

    TCP is by definition not anonymous. I send my search terms to Canonical. They search Amazon and send me results and links to pictures, I (or rather my dash) loads the pictures from Amazon. Amazon could now correlate the images I requested with the search from Canonical and if I’m currently logged into Amazon, they’d even have my identity. Am I missing something?

  • Anonymous

    Check David Callé’s comment on this thread. He’s more qualified than me. Actually, I’m not even qualified. :)


  • http://www.iheartubuntu.com iheartubuntu.com

    Im not inherently against this recent move by Ubuntu, but it should have been done differently. There should be a pop up explaining the benefits, assuring users all data is secure and then asking if they would like this cool new feature installed. This, IMO is the respectable way to go about all of this. Not DO IT and then make users live with it or jump around trying to figure out how to remove it. The current attitude Ubuntu has been portraying is probably the biggest reason Ubuntu users are jumping ship and looking at other distros.

  • Robert Trance

    Priority, whatever you implement in Ubuntu, whatever bloat: encrypted data transmission, not unencrypted, plain text mode!!! From the start!

    not that Ubu would concern me anymore…..

  • Waspinator

    It shouldnt only be easy to remove to a seasoned ubunt user. There should be a stright forward option in control panel to disable.

  • http://berk.es/ berkes

    We are all different consumers and all use different software. I for example, buy my music at e-music since it offers the best deal for me (in my country). I don’t use libre-office, am not a fan of Gwibber nor Shotwell. And I never use Ubuntu-one.

    By your reasoning I should have a f* good reason to move elsewhere, since the default choices made by Canonical for me, don’t fit me. That is nonsense, and you know it too.

    I have all Freedom to remove software, ignore it, or replace it with whatever I prefer. Nothing in the past years has taken that freedom from you either. Whether that freedom was handed over to you via a Cathedral or a Bazaar matters nothing. You still have it. And you also have the freedom to join whatever other distro and community when that fits you better. But I think the reason you are here, making strong points shows that you actually care a lot about your Ubuntu Desktop, handed to you trough a Cathedral-alike company.

  • gitarr

    Just PR and damage controll.

    The title is already a punch in the face of critics, calling the new “feature” an “improvement”. – It isn’t. The implementation was rushed and has multiple security and privacy holes.

    Then the author states that the critics are not ok with Canonical making money, which is a lie and just outright wrong. – I want(ed) Ubuntu to grow/make money and I would even pay for a good product, but the Amazon “feature”, aka disaster, is a deal breaker.

    Statements like the ones of Shuttleworth yesterday saying he has root, and the ones by Mr. Bacon don’t help.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rich97 Richard Vanbergen

    Opt-in rather than opt-out is more important than what service we usually use.

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor


  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

    Just include Andrew King’s Lens Toggler in 12.10. Problem solved. (Please, actually do that).

  • dakira

    Well, read my comment again. I’ll say I am qualified. TCP is not anonymous because in every communication you have a source and a destination IP address. The data is send to Canonical which sends results and links to images back to me. If I’m logged in with any Canonical service they could now identify me which is the opposite of anonymous. I trust Canonical so I don’t care about that really. So Canonical performs the search at Amazon, then my PC loads the images from Amazon (it does, you can check yourself).

    So Amazon has a search from Canonical and an instance later another IP (mine) requests images for the products of that search. If Amazon wanted to, they could work this out and use this (I’m not saying they would). Now if I’m logged in at Amazon, they’d also have my exact identity (because I’m logged in with the same IP that requested the images).

    I’m not saying any of this really bothers me. But by no means, any of this is anonymous.

  • Wolf Rogner

    I have no objection to making money developing software. There are just two issues that I find irritating:

    1. Not everyone is a prosumer. Some people have to work using their computers.

    2. The feature might be unobtrusive and you might even have encrypted http logs. However, I don’t trust neither you nor Canonical to not sell my personal information when your company or jobs are at stake.

    If you really want to build a second business besides corporate support, start building a decent development platform (in the quality of XCode or Visual Studio). This would make Ubuntu THE preferred development tool for software engineers.

  • dakira

    There is now a very thorough blogpost on my concerns. Read it here: https://perot.me/ubuntu-privacy-blunder-over-amazon-ads-continues

  • Allen

    I don’t see it as a real issue since user still have the option to ignore the suggestions as Google does the exact same thing when doing a search. However, I think that offering results with other vendors would be a plus and even perhaps that preferential treatment could be given to those vendors that are willing to allow Canonical a cut in the sales of a product.

  • Marcus

    I understand entirely that Canonical needs to make money. I am also happy to use affiliate programs with online stores to create revenue for Canonical be it Amazon or any other shop. But please stop giving us iStyle bullshit – the shopping lens IS adware and it’s justifiable to call it a spyware.What I really don’t understand is why this has to be incorporated right into the OS. Most Ubuntu users are perfectly willing to help Canonical – but please, please do it in a open, unintrusive manner. You don’t have root on my computer. I ALLOW you to have root because I trust you – for the time being. Features like the shopping lens are underminding this trust.