Online Dash Search Update

A quick update on the online dash search feature.

The shopping lens feature is currently in the 12.10 development branch and undergoing extensive testing; thanks to Nick Skaggs for rallying folks around this additional testing to assure quality.

You will be able to disable the feature if you wish. There is work going on to have a toggle switch in the settings to disable it. Note that this will affect all online searches (e.g. Gwibber). The user interface looks like this (shown in French due to Didier’s campaign for French as a global first language):

As I mentioned the other day, the search traffic will be encrypted ready for release, and you can read more details on how the searches work here.

  • Martin Weißhaupt

    Very good.

    Was this planned from the start or was it added due to user complaints?

  • Dave Ewart

    Will it default to ON? If so, people may only disable it once its too late. That is, once their private, local search for their own document named, say, “Raging knob rot.doc”, has been sent out over the ‘net.

  • veryannoyed

    In my mind, this fiasco has seriously compromised the integrity of Canonical as a steward of Ubuntu. Little to no community involvement before trying to push this through, privacy concerns addressed really late in this cycle (partially? which is it – opt-in or opt out??), and ignoring obvious solutions which would have prevented the whole uproar (making shopping a separate lens that only would send data over the network when it is being used). I only hope Canonical is beginning to see that many, many Linux users care about their control over their own private information. Money making schemes that compromise this are not worth it.

  • Martin Karlsson

    I would hardly call it a “privacy concern”, after reading the different blog posts on the matter. No more than the other, already available lenses which also fetches results from the web (Video lens etc).

    This is a balance between privacy issues and usability. In this day and age I think the majority of users would want features like this, meaning that they are available out of the box (like the Gwibber online search), rather than having to opt-in of everything. I think most of “concern” from people is due to this having a commercial side to it. Had it been search results from Google, I would think the uproar had been smaller.

  • Martin Karlsson

    In what way would that be “too late”? There’s no one on the other and that would make use of that query.

    People who has a heightened concern over their privacy should not set the agenda for everyone else. I think they have a responsibility to find out these things and disable them if they see fit (I’m not saying that everything should default to ON, but rather that the local computer shouldn’t be a closed box from the start).

    But if there’s one thing that companies like Canonical has a responsibility to do, it is to inform the users of these features which some considers a threat to their privacy right. And I think the jury is still out on that one, since this is all in development. (Although, Mark and Jono and others have been open about this.)

  • k1fri

    just been playing with the new porn dash……amazing……until now i thought those americans were puritans 😉 sends me a nice couple of boobs directly to my desktop……….e.g. i can think of quite a bunch of very innocent german words that happen to start with the four letters “A N A L”….now guess what dash suggests to me while i’m still typing………

  • Allen Bethea

    It is possible to get Amazon search results which might be offensive. I found some that may upset a sensitive Christian. Imagine the uproar if a search returns some product that may insult Islam or the prophet.

  • Dave Ewart

    I think “There’s no one on the other and that would make use of that query.” misses the point and may not even be true. The fact that the query passes over the Internet without the user being aware of it is the problem. I don’t think that it’s fair to define this as an issue solely for those who you describe as having “a heightened concern over their privacy”: the names of local documents are private and are not something that most people would be happy sharing, unconditionally.

    The “informing the users” responsibility means making such features opt-in, in my opinion. That’s the classic “fail safe” approach.

  • Mick

    Well, the fact this was a problem before doesn’t mean this is not a problem, just that no one actually looked at it, or how it work in the past. However, I think this explain why Canonical didn’t feel that was a problem to their eyes, since this was not that different from the others.

  • Ivan Sagalaev

    Disabling all online access completely is like throwing away the baby with water :-(. Searching for things online is a good feature in many cases. The only wrong thing with Amazon search is that it gets in the way of the more relevant and more specific results. This switch looks like a knee-jerk reaction to satisfy control freaks who thinks Canonical betrayed their faith in Ubuntu, no less…

  • Martin Karlsson

    I don’t agree that “informing” should mean opt-in. The informing part is there whether you opt-in OR opt-out, and I consider it to be a requirement if a choice is to be made. I do agree that an opt-in can be considered “fail safe”, but only from the perspective of privacy. If the perspective is out-of-the-box experience it may very well be “fail” instead, depending on who you ask.

    I also agree that sharing of the names of local documents is something that most people doesn’t want. I don’t want that. (I’m not even gonna argue that very few people would enter the whole file name before the result is shown in the Dash, though.) But where our views differ is probably what constitutes “sharing”. For me, sharing means that someone is consuming it on another end, like a human. That doesn’t apply here. It’s not a conscious consuming taking place, and it doesn’t do anything with the data besides the one thing.

    I do acknowledge the fact that data is being sent over the internet, but to me this is no different than a Google search or even entering something in the address bar in Google Chrome. And while does things might be private, I wouldn’t go so far as call the sharing of it an “issue” or a “concern”.

    I do appreciate the fact that this can be turned off, and I will be doing that myself. But I also like the idea that the Dash collects information from different sources, both local and online.

  • Martin Karlsson

    There’s no denying the logic of that reasoning, but what I’m saying is that if the majority considered this to be a problem before, then it would (very likely) have been brought to attention.

    I have yet to see the masses arguing for removal of all online searches from the Dash. It seems to me that most want some of that functionality and that’s why I don’t want to call it a “concern”.

  • Uber Dudditz

    I don’t think the Amazon results would have been in the way since they go below local results, but yea just making online results a black and white subject is not the best solution to the problem… I would expect for specific control of scopes and lenses, in addition to an on/off switch for ALL networked results. So this is really only solving half the issue for me personally. But hey, maybe the tool will get more refined with these features and backported :3 I can always hope.

  • Uber Dudditz

    It’s not that a lot of them don’t want the feature at all. Just maybe not packed into the home lens like this. That actually could be considered a usability issue eventually, unless they have plans for a dedicated lens in 13.04.

  • Martin Karlsson

    It’s definitely not a good idea in the long run. Ofcourse they’ve made this decision to make some money too. A dedicated shopping lens would make more sense when there is multiple sources. But I definitely want online sources in the dash’ home lens.

  • Uber Dudditz

    Yea, that’s also true, some don’t mind Home lens shopping. Creating a option to keep that enabled would be possible too without just having a single on-off switch.

  • Uber Dudditz

    Yea, that’s also true, some don’t mind Home lens shopping. Creating a option to keep that enabled would be possible too without just having a single on-off switch.

  • K_Peignot

    On t’aime Didrocks !

    I think it would be better to have a “disable online results” AND a “disable commercial results”. THat’s my thought but it seems some other people would prefer that.

  • Jeremy Allison

    Thanks Jono. Everyone makes mistakes, the real sign of a trustworthy organization is how quickly they address them.

    This change is much appreciated and means I can continue to recommend Ubuntu to all my friends/relations as the safe alternative to Windows/MacOSX.

  • Luke

    Your comparison to Google makes no sense. I don’t remember ever typing my personal, private information into a Google search box and I never would! I have however used local searching of my file system to find files, some of which contain file names with private information. So yeah, it’s exactly NOTHING like using a web search.

  • Luke

    As a follow up, I don’t see any issue in having a shopping lens, just don’t leak my local searches to a third party by default.

  • Yummy Cardbored

    If people have privacy problems with the amazon search they should have problems with youtube etc

  • Martin Karlsson

    So you wouldn’t consider your browsing history to be private information? I find that very strange. I’ll consider your point proven if you send me a copy of your browsing history 😉

    (I on the other hand consider my search queries on Google to be as private as my local file names. Perhaps even more so, considering what files I have locally, ie they aren’t very secret.)

  • Oliver

    I think is great news, is shows that Cannoical are listening on the concern of the community.

  • xguest

    I don’t think many people were using the video and music lenses or knew about the all the keyboard shortcuts for the dash.

    Most people–only–use: Super>search term>enter. The only reason most had to go to other lenses was to browse or discover files and applications. (Also, “Ctrl-tab” is too difficult to switch lenses quickly. And remembering a bunch of “Super-A”-like shortcuts is impractical.)

    I’ve suggested making the Caps Lock key an “internet search” key, while leaving Super key a “local” key. (Or, since Tab should really do something useful in the Dash, have Super search local-only by default but have Tab or Super-Tab switch to an internet enabled search.)

  • xguest

    While I agree that Google searches are very private, the fact that we have to trust Google (or any company) with our privacy (and other tin foil concerns) is not exactly a feature of the system.

    We put up with it because it works and there’s currently no good (or easy) alternative. Maybe a decentralized private web will take hold, maybe not, but saying “you do it with Google” is not an excuse unless you think all desktop operating systems should be thin clients whose data is managed on a central server “in the cloud” like Chrome OS.

  • Martin Karlsson

    I’m not arguing that this is the right way or only way. I very much welcome the option to disable this. My argument is that it’s not a given that this should be opt in and considered bad practice (ie saying it’s a privacy concern/issue). And my basis for that is that people accept this in other areas, without (much) questioning. And then they may even consider it a good option. I’m not making excuses, rather I’m trying to point at the faulty reasoning. How would the system look like if all outbound queries should be opt in? Even software updates?

    I would argue that it can be considered a feature of the system (as Mark and Jonos usecases show). The same goes for google, but it always is a trade off.

  • xguest

    Well, I’d rather software updates be opt-in as well, but maybe I’m weird. (Or consider the difference between update notifications and automatic background updates in Chrome and Chrome OS.)

    I agree though that many people would indeed consider it a good or “cool” option, but don’t think it’s a very difficult thing to add for those who want it.

    Having it opt-in by default empowers the end-user to make up their own mind. (And by opt-in I don’t mean a question at installation or first use.)

    Adding lenses and scopes to the Dash should be like adding extensions and applications to Chrome. (And as they add more stores later on, I imagine people will be customizing the dash anyway. Do you want pre-loaded bookmarks like Safari or no bookmarks by default like Chrome?)

    (Note that I think it’s fine to inform the user of all the options at first use, but they should have to go somewhere else to apply the option. Else they’d think, “my computer might not work right without this, better do it just in case.”)

  • Martin Karlsson

    I’d say that opt-in software updates due to privacy concerns is a bit paradoxical. I’m thinking that if a user for privacy concerns doesn’t opt-in for software updates, they would have a less secure system, and potentially get their whole computer taken over. THAT is a privacy concern 😛

    I do think that an out-of-the-box experience is important, and that some Lenses is needed. I consider this a middle ground. I know many computer users who have no idea about extensions in Firefox and Chrome, and thus misses out. Now, a commercial default extension/lens is controversial, but like Google Canonical has to make money too. And I think this step is a harmless one.

    Say what you want about this addition, but it did result in a new settings pane in Ubuntu that lets users turn of online searches altogether. So if people did have a problem with the old lenses doing online searches, but didn’t think of it, they now have the option to easily turn if of. Canonical and Ubuntu will only be better for having this discussion, and in my opinion they’ve handled the “controversy” very well.

    While even me (as some sort of devils advocate in this discussion) doesn’t want this in my Dash, I actually feel more comfortable with Canonical after their way of handling this.

  • Anon

    I hope that what appears in home lens will be introduced. The shopping lens is completely useless for me right now (no Amazon here), but I’d love to see relevant results from the video lens (youtube), news lens and others.

  • Anon

    Whoops, I meant a setting for what appears in home lens.

  • Guest

    How are those impractical? Ctrl-Tab is also in Firefox, and suepr-a, super-f make sense – applications, files.

    Super-tab already has a use – choosing between applications on the launcher. I think it’s fine as it is, just introducing some sort of settings as to what appears in the home dash.

  • xguest

    Well, better typists with better keyboards and memories maybe have no problem, but you’re right it is very logical.

    Thanks, I forgot about super-tab, but last time I checked hitting tab after opening the dash was basically useless. It could be used to cycle scopes, and the default scope could be local. I don’t know.

    Anyway, I’m resigning myself to this, now.

  • Bravo

    This is too little too late. I have just finished installing Arch GNU/Linux over my Ubuntu partition. I still believe that Ubuntu is the most easy to use distro with a great UI (Unity) but I will not put it back on my hard drive again.

  • Nicola Jelmorini

    Hi @jono like a couple of other comments here, I want to share with you the possible problem with the results of a search in the Dash home. For example if you search for the “disk analyzer” and you start searching with “anal”, you’ll get some “hot” results from Amazon. And this is valid for Italian and other languages too. Here an example: This can be a problem if Ubuntu is used by a child, or in a school, or in a company, or by a different culture, etc. So I would suggest that in the Unity Dash you may introduce the concept of “search filter” like in youtube. In this way it’s possible to filter the result. (sorry for my english).

  • No

    What an challenged person this Didier is! English is and should remain the global language! Either that or Finnish.

  • dakira

    This makes it even worse and doesn’t address any of the issues people have. What is the problem with making Shopping a seperate lens?

    90% of the lenses I have installed pull stuff from the internet. I don’t want to search Amazon every time I open an app (especially because I often am on a bandwidth-capped 3G connection). What your switch offers me is to lose pretty much all of (my) Dashs capabilities. That’s a bit of all-or-nothing, isn’t it?

    I know I can still uninstall the Amazon lens. But I want to use it. I hate to have to open a browser just to check a price on Amazon. But I don’t want to send everything to Amazon (even if proxied).

  • Matthew R Chase

    That’s making a point to cut of users’ noses in spite of their faces. Some online content is useful; we just don’t want the ads. Soliciting in the desktop experience is not cool. This causes me to loose a lot of confidence in the overall direction of ubuntu. Moreover, the ads aren’t acceptible because the generate unwanted results. I searched for “rec” as in “record my desktop,” and received results for “rec.tom” with a rather risque picture. Searching for “mov” as in “movie player” generates two album art pictures with scantily clad women. This feature must not be enabled by default, and it should be easily disabled without disrupting desired online results.

  • Dark

    This is the final nail in Ubuntu’s coffin for me. I’ve been using Ubuntu since Karmic. I think since Unity came in things have got worse. This is a great shame. It seems with this ‘solution’ that no online lens searches will be possible. How does this fit with Linux being about choice? Why not have this lens as a PPA (or Synaptic package) so that if users want the ads and so forth they ‘opt in’ and pull it down. Some internet searches are useful but I’ll aver the vast majority of Ubuntu’s core users do not want ‘sell-out’ ads appearing on their desktop. Whilst I’m sure it’s true that users could download the source and remove this feature if they wished, this is not something that the vast majority of hobbyists or newbie’s will be able to do easily. It seems to me that Cananical and Ubuntu are fast becoming Linux’s equivalent of Microsoft and Windows: starting to restrict choice and foist what it thinks is best upon the community. It’s sad but I have now switched distros. I’m now running Linux Mint Debian 64-bit. If you look at Distro Watch Mint has had the higher page hit ranking for quite some time. Linux Mint allows me to keep my productivity up while Ubuntu seems to hinder me now more than when I first started using Karmic and was getting to know this OS. A newbie coming to Ubuntu now has to figure out how to use the Unity metaphor and HUD further complicates things in my opinion. Lenses are not pretty or functional for me – they simply get in the way. I sincerely hope Ubuntu changes the way it does things and if they fail to do so then I hope the community votes with their feet and abandon it and get another distro on their machines. Ubuntu has dropped the ball and lost its way. It is interesting that in the latest edition of Ubuntu User their was some feedback on Unity – there wasn’t much positive about it. Come on Ubuntu, please start listening to the community.

  • Jay Lane

    Just disgraceful from the start. I’d rather pay $30 for Ubuntu than have this Amazon garbage foisted on me regardless of opt-in opt-out options. I really wish Mark et al would just be honest and say “Hey, in all honesty we need the revenue for Ubuntu so we are doing this with Amazon.” Not his smart ass prickly comments that salve only his conscience.

    Why should Amazon even get my ip address unless I choose? This should be entirely separate to the dash home search. Amazon is not my home. I choose my home. A reasonable thing to do would be to separate this from the home altogether and have a separate lense.

    You know Windows 7 for all it’s failing doesn’t do this kind of thing from the start menu!! I’m not a fan boy at all. But this is the worst thing to ever happen to Ubuntu. Just plain disrespectful.

    Mark/Jono just sell your OS as a commercial product from now on and stop all this garbage. I love Unity/Ubuntu but hate this. I know Mark won’t change. He didn’t even listen to his users. See below a comment from his blog. “maybe, if the experience is great, yes” How Many did you ask? I really don’t get this attitude.

    mark says: (permalink)

      September 23rd, 2012 at 3:09 pm


    1. Yes, we asked a few users. The response was complicated – “maybe, if the experience is great, yes”. And so we have to work on the experience and iterate and address concerns. There is enough of a justification to start.

    This is only going to go one way folks. Ubuntu will continue to adsense their OS with advertising from as many companies as possible. Yes there may well be an opt-out feature but you’ve already lost our trust.

    This is not Linux, this is Ubuntu OS. As I said I’d happily pay for Ubuntu, but this garbage is plain upsetting.

    Really disheartened and disappointed.

    Sermon over


  • S

    Sending people’s hard drive searches across the internet to Mr. Shuttleworth’s secret volcano lair, in PLAIN TEXT, without warning people in advance or making it opt in instead of opt out, is not just a privacy concern for ‘control freaks’ as you put it, it is an outright betrayal of any Ubuntu user living in a country where their government monitors internet connections for subversive behavior or thought crimes. Chinese and searched your HDD for a Falun Gong text? Iranian or from much of the Mideast and you searched your pro democracy materials, or religious texts in a country where that religion is an oppressed minority, or LGBT anything in a country where it’s illegal to be gay? Welcome to being a marked person for the rest of your life, or prison, or torture, or being ‘disappeared’ in the night. And all so that one of the richest men in the world can get just barely, slightly, infinitesimally richer, by getting a small percentage of Ubuntu users’ dildo and sex toy expenditures. This boneheaded move, and Mr. Shuttleworth’s hamfisted handling of it on his blog, single handedly reduced my esteem for Ubuntu from something I wouldn’t use for free, to something I wouldn’t use even you paid me by the hour.

  • Dopey

    If I want to find stuff online I just open a web browser. I will be waiting before upgrading anyway as I am getting a new high-spec laptop, but these features really annoy me to be honest. I care about privacy, and happy to manage that as required. But just like I hate spam and junk mail, I don’t want this crap on my desktop as well…