Easier Financial Contributions To Ubuntu

I just want to let you folks know about a new addition to ubuntu.com.

For a long time now, many of our users have wanted to financially contribute to the Ubuntu project. For some of our users who don’t have the time to contribute in other areas (such as development, documentation, translations etc), this provides a nice means of supporting the project.

Although these contributions to Ubuntu were possible, the details of how to do so was pretty much buried in a growing ubuntu.com and many folks missed the link. In addition to this, the granularity of how you could contribute was limited; you could contribute an amount of money to the project, but there wasn’t really a way to indicate how you wished that money to be used (such as using it for growing Debian/upstream relations, for desktop improvements, or other areas).

Inspired by the wonderful folks at the Humble Indie Bundle, we now have a contributions page that provides a clearer means in which you can not only contribute but also where you want the money to be used. It looks like this:

Now helping to financially support Ubuntu is easier than ever.

The way the page works is that you can use the sliders to select how much you contribute to the following areas:

  • Make the desktop more amazing
  • Performance optimisation for games and apps
  • Improve hardware support on more PCs
  • Phone and tablet versions of Ubuntu
  • Community participation in Ubuntu development
  • Better coordination with Debian and upstreams
  • Better support for flavours like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu
  • Tip to Canonical – they help make it happen

Currently the page only accepts PayPal, but other payment mechanisms are currently being explored as we speak. The page appears on the site before you download an ISO (thus making it easier to find) and it provides the opportunity to contribute. For those who don’t wish to contribute in this way you can simply click the Not now, take me to the download › to bypass the page. Obviously our users are not required contribute. You can download Ubuntu here and see the page in action.

When a contribution occurs, Canonical will act as a steward for the money and ensure it is managed fairly and in accordance of the user’s wishes…ensuring it goes to the part of the project outlined in the form. Importantly, Canonical will not be using the money for any Canonical business-orientated functions; all of the contributions will be used to fund the Ubuntu project and continue it’s growth and development.

Some of you may have preferred there to be a finer-grained set of places to contribute, but in the interests of efficiency, the above areas were chosen to ensure that it covers the major areas that our users will be interested in financially supporting.

Naturally I would like to encourage you all to contribute. Over the years Ubuntu has grown to serve more people around the world than ever before with a powerful Free Software Operating System. For us to continue to grow, improve, and evolve Ubuntu we need to ensure we have the resources available to do this work. On one hand Canonical contributes extensively to this work, and this contributions page provides an opportunity in which you can contribute too. Your money will help go towards improving the areas of Ubuntu that you are passionate about, and help us to continue to bring a simple, efficient, safe, and elegant Free Software platform to the world. Thanks!

If you folks have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    Is there no way to steer a donation towards LoCo’s that being the cost of hosting LoCo sites (for those that are hosted by Canonical) or CD’s and Event Packs? Also what about steering donations towards UDS Sponsorships too?

  • http://twitter.com/tehhanz Hans

    My god that’s intrusive. It’s seriously bothersome and is going to deter people.

    Canonical should seriously consider setting the default to zero.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    I think it should be presented after the download not beforehand and maybe once a year a stripe placement can occur throughout all Ubuntu.com sites to encourage donations and Jono’s mug can be there like Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) 😛

  • Anonymous

    I disagree. It merely provides an opportunity to contribute and if the user wishes to not contribute they simply click the link and go to the download. Thus, it serves all use-cases: people who do and don’t wish to contribute.

  • Anonymous

    I think having those banner donations drives is waaaay more intrusive and annoying – how often do you donate Ubuntu and how often do you visit our various sites? I would much prefer to see the contributions page only when I go to download rather than everytime I visit the site.

  • http://twitter.com/tehhanz Hans

    The download link for those who don’t wish to pay isn’t presented as a button. It’s de-emhpasized. It isn’t even visible without scrolling down on a 1080p monitor.

    I agree with benjamin’s suggestion that the download should start and then the user should be presented with the option to donate. This way you can cater to both use cases without scaring anyone off.

    I really do appreciate the added control over donations, but they’re making the interface to download more complicated than it has to be.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    I would wager though that most existing users only go to the site when they actually need to download a ISO so that means they will see the page every time… Any consideration to add a cookie so its not presented to users unlimited times?

  • Anonymous

    Odd, it seems Disqus ate my previous comment.

    This isn’t intrusive – if someone does not want to donate they can simply click the link to bypass the page. As such, the page serves all needs: those who wish to donate and help build an awesome OS that everyone gets for free, can contribute, and those who don’t wish to contribute (or can’t afford to) can simply bypass the page and download it.

  • Anonymous

    So if the link was made to look more like a button would you be satisfied?

  • http://twitter.com/tehhanz Hans

    disqus didn’t eat it. it’s still there. but if it does get eaten here’s my response:


    download link for those who don’t wish to pay isn’t presented as a button. It’s de-emhpasized. It isn’t even visible without scrolling down on a 1080p monitor.

    I agree with benjamin’s suggestion that the download should start and then the user should be presented with the option to donate. This way you can cater to both use cases without scaring anyone off.

    I really do appreciate the added control over donations, but they’re making the interface to download more complicated than it has to be.

  • Alan Bell

    loving the range of things that appear in “The price of” I would never have guessed at the top price item :)

  • http://www.dylanmccall.com/ dylan-m

    Hm, nice start, and I love the “the price of” thing, and I really appreciate the clarification for how donations are used.

    However, those sliders seem to be very broken. If you’re modelling this after the Humble Bundle, you’re doing it wrong. With the Humble Bundle, the text field with the donation is on top. It is editable, and only by the user. The user sets it, and it stays where it is. The sliders control the percentage of the donation that goes to each place.

    Of course, you can do this another way, but this way doesn’t strike me as particularly nice. It’s really tedious to set all those sliders to 0 and just proceed to the download. Also, if I decide I want to be really generous and donate $126 for coordination with upstreams, the interface arbitrarily blocks me from doing so.

    Basically, this form doesn’t seem to respect that people are on a set budget. It’s optimized towards upselling, and I don’t think I would be comfortable using a donation form like that.

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

    And while I think this is a good start, especially tying feedback to contributed dollars and making those dollars act as surrogates for votes in the consumer sense of voting with your wallet. I’d would also encourage you to think about taking this further…in a kickstarter direction. Have a defined output goal, with defined cost of production at the outset, and run pledge based development experiments for that specific goal. For example on how to use a kickstarter like funding drive. Is there enough interest in the form of pledgable funding dollars out in the community to entirely fund the development of a particular new and innovative feature idea that could show up in 13.04? Could for example the Unity team make a sales pitch to the external community to capture enough pledges to fund the dev for a specific feature on the roadmap?

    -jef”I’m glad you changed the title of the entry. “Donate” tends to have charitable giving connotation which doesn’t really apply well in this situation.”spaleta

  • http://twitter.com/tehhanz Hans

    I’d be satisfied if people who just read the string “Ubuntu is completely free to download, use and share” Weren’t greeted by “pay what you think it’s worth” on the next page. The conflict between those strings feels dishonest and like it isn’t actually free. I think that would scare away a portion of users, and canonical should do user testing before this is accepted.

    I’d say that the best solution would be something that the page should say “download started” (or use a download counter like sourceforge to get people to stay on the page for a few seconds) then present the contribution form beneath.

  • http://twitter.com/tehhanz Hans

    In response to my previous comment, something like this: http://i.imgur.com/5DDFx.png

  • seb24

    Good idea, and now we need : – Annual report about this financial contributions – And it would be interesting to have some financial information about Canonical

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure I agree. Let’s assume I have a budget of $10. All I need to do is slide the sliders until my $10 is distributed across the areas I care about. It seems pretty simple enough to me.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting idea, Jef. It could be interesting for teams to have financial drives to generate money for their projects – I can imagine LoCo Teams for example doing this to fund their events.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair though, if the only time they are going to go to the site is to download the ISO, then we should put the form there otherwise they won’t see it, and not have the opportunity to contribute to the project.

    The goal here is not to put a form online and have no one see it. 😉

  • Anonymous

    Where does it say “pay what you think it’s worth”?

    The important distinction here is that just because something is free it doesn’t mean people can’t pay for it; the important point is that we should not require people to pay for it. We don’t require it, we provide it as an opportunity.

    Also bear in mind that the strings are likely to change as we do more user testing and get further feedback on the page.

  • Peter Frandsen

    I like to contribute. Will do when Google Checkout is supported – I do not want a paypal account.

  • Anon

    I hope the strings change – please remove the terrible “Pay, pal”, because oh god does it sound theratening. Who came up with that one?

  • bdrung

    Instead of showing the donation before the download, it should be shown while the download is running. You see the dontation page in both cases, but you save one click in case you do not want to donate. Secondly, it’s less demanding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominic.blakey Dominic Blakey

    Will definitely contribute some money when I get paid :)

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

    FYI: a little brick and mortar case study of a cultivated “pay what you think its worth” concept in action.


  • Martin Owens

    This is a good starting point and I appreciate the experimentation with funding.

    Canonical has traditionally been a very closed and opaque private company that shares less about it’s financial arrangements than most businesses that have real share holders. On the other hand here we have a solicitation for money for use by the community.

    The community doesn’t have open accounts, we’re not using the Ubuntu Foundation and no one disaccociated with Canonical is allowed to track or check up on what is happening with the money. There are no provisions for transparency.

    Basically Canonical is not in a position to claim ownership of the Ubuntu Community (and has always claimed to be in symbiosis, not incorporation of) and thus a self appointed, unilateral decision to act as treasurer to a method of soliciting donations from the corporate controlled website during the process of downloading the free software product.

    Please send this to the Community Council and deliberate on the best situation to derive a community based financial situation with at least semi-autonomy from Canonical’s business goals. We should at least be able to ring fence this money from Canonical’s possible bancrupsey, even if we never expect any corruption.

  • Scott K

    People interested in supporting Kubuntu can contribute directly to Kubuntu. You should make it clear that the money Canonical is collecting for the other flavors isn’t going outside Canonical. This is really contribute to Canonical, which is only part of Ubuntu.

  • http://twitter.com/da_ravioli da_ravioli

    Great idea! Little off-topic: If I buy a Ubuntu DVD via the shop at http://www.ubuntu.com, does Ubuntu also get a share of the price or is this strictly non-profit? I would buy a DVD if I can support Ubuntu this way.

  • Marcappuccino

    Yes, but it would be rather inconvinient to add up or subtract what makes £10 if you want to distribute the money across targets…

  • Anonymous

    “Canonical has traditionally been a very closed and opaque private company that shares less about it’s financial arrangements than most businesses that have real share holders”.

    This is because Canonical is a private company who does not have shareholders.

    “Please send this to the Community Council and deliberate on the best situation to derive a community based financial situation with at least semi-autonomy from Canonical’s business goals”.

    If you have these concerns, I suggest you share your concerns directly with the Community Council. Feel free to CC me if you want me to be abreast of the discussion (as I am not on the Community Council).

  • Anonymous

    It is not that of a inconvenience, just drag sliders until you have the distribution you desire.

  • Fanbuntu

    Interesting post on how to generate revenue via the Dash at http://www.linuxbsdos.com/2012/10/07/amazon-and-ubuntu-a-match-made-for-profit/

  • damien duncan

    I wont use paypal ever!! Its mind boggling that credit card payments aren’t set up from the get go.Surely canonical has a merchant account

    Where does it say “pay what you think it’s worth”

    Seriously ??

  • Stephen Albert

    I think this is a really great idea. I’ll be contributing when I download 12.10. However, I do think the sliders determining percentages is the way to go. Not because it’s tedious, though. The Humble Bundle has a “default split” with recommended percentages. If want to contribute to Ubuntu but I don’t know a lot about the technical aspects of development, I won’t know where the money is needed most. And I will feel better about donating if I don’t feel like any money is wasted. However, I do realize that recommendations like this could cause a big debate within the community, and that’s not something Canonical wants to worry about right now.

    I hope a lot of users contribute!

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

    I think the phrase you are looking for is “Trust but verify”

    And just as an aside. The same concerns you bring up existed inside the Fedora/Red Hat relationship when I was on the Fedora Board. Even though Red Hat was a public company..with shareholders.. we couldn’t figure out a way to drive a reasonable amount of transparency into Red Hat’s corporate internal financing to feel comfortable asking Red Hat to take on the role of treasury for this sort of financial contribution process. Doing it right would have required heaps of internal restructuring overhead costs to provide transparent tracking of a relatively small amount of revenue (compared to customer contracts) flowing in through the contribution mechanism.

    We kept cycling back and trying to understand the problem we were trying to solve by having a single Fedora project blessed financial contribution mechanism. And it doing it became clear the mechanism we had in our heads was a solution looking for a problem.. not a solution to a well defined problem. Asking Red Hat to be a financial services company for a wide ranging set of useful community activities and interests never clicked as a good answer to the real problem.

    I would argue that the same is true for Ubuntu the community project. But perhaps not Ubuntu, the Canonical product.

    At the product level, what has been implemented may make sense. A “pay for what you value” approach to Ubuntu, the gratis product offering, is not a bad idea on its face. It’s only problematic if it feels like the product taking potential resources away from non-commercially viable interests in the larger project space. If Ubuntu as a brand was more cleanly constructed as either a product or a project (but not both) there’d be very little to wring ones hands over with this implementation, I would think.

    I’d further argue that the subdued reaction to Mint’s donation and sponsorship concepts make an interesting contrast. Since Mint isn’t engaging in commercial activities yet there’s no inherent feeling of conflict between Mint as a product and Mint as a project.

    At the wider Ubuntu community project level there are a lot of competing interests (beyond what Canonical would choose to prioritize) that could stake a claim on incoming goodwill financial support. It would be inappropriate to ask Canonical to be the shepard for financial support for things they legitimately aren’t supporters of. Doing so just puts everyone out of position in terms of self-interest. “To thy ownself be true” holds for corporate entities.

    So if you are going to champion something at the project-wide level, I think at best what you can hope for is to create a space where different interests compete for potential crowdsourcing support dollars. In my brain that looks a lot like Kickstarter meets brainstorm. Or perhaps it would look like DonorsChoose, but scoped entirely for the Ubuntu project. Whatever the details of the implementation, the goal would be to fund specific ideas inside the community project scope that have critical mass momentum in terms of funding support. And do it in such a way that you can use a professional financial services entity to collect and distribute the money. I’m keen on seeing a solution in FLOSS space that could grow to support both distribution and upstream project needs in an equitable manner. If the U Community Council can spin something up that works for the Ubuntu project, it would serve as an interesting model.


  • Divan Santana

    Another excellent idea. Love the focus and direction of Ubuntu/Canonical.

  • http://www.dylanmccall.com/ dylan-m

    I agree it isn’t a big inconvenience, but the point of a great user interface is to be as convenient as possible 😉

    This design is great if the majority of users are going to choose what to give money to and then go ahead and contribute the total, wherever it ends up, on the assumption that what they selected is effectively what they need (sort of like shopping for groceries). On the other hand, if a lot of users are seeing the total and then going back to adjust a bunch of different sliders to reach the correct total contribution, there’s a little bit of a problem. I’m just warning that could happen, but I must admit I have no data to prove it.

  • Robert Pogson

    I’m missing an option: “Don’t let Mark S. make any more ‘design’ decisions.”

  • Lucas Betschart

    Why should I donate to a company then to an non-profit organisation like Mozilla or The Document Foundation? Even if you say you won’t use the money for any Canonical business-orientated functions, is improving Ubuntu not part of your business? You will earn morn money with a better Ubuntu (more Users [Ubuntu One / Software Center / Music sell increase], more company support, etc.).

  • http://twitter.com/bisexcellent bisexcellent

    I have a concern that the top of the screen when I see it says “Pay, pal”. Here is a screenshot, for convenience: http://i.imgur.com/9bhj8.png

    The wording of “Pay, pal” is a bit… confronting? It’s something a shopkeeper might say to somebody trying to steal something. It doesn’t come across as friendly. I think that “Please consider donating to this project” is a lot more pleasant, despite the lack of wordplay. :)

  • Serge Broslavsky

    Great idea. Especially the funny part with goods equivalent to the donation size. BTW, why did you stop on “an eight year-old dromedary camel” at $1000? 😀

    PS. Was it isnpired by the way how Humble Bundle is doing that? :)

  • Simone

    I like it. It would be nice to have a way to finance Open Source applications straight from the Software Center too.

  • Anonymous

    Good move. In the future, can we have a more precise system for donations too?

    A system which provides the ability to put money for solving precise problems or to add special features in an app. Something just like bounties but with the ability to add rules on what users can put money on. (if >500 users fill a bug on something which is not a high priority for the team, then open that feature for bounty donation)

  • Anonymous

    so coool, donate for what You want to see :), very good idea , love this !

  • Anonymous

    It’s a great idea, but I’m with Dylan, I think is more usefull first to set the total amount and then change the percentague as desired. I think is much less agressive to the user fill an input that “play” with 8 sliders, when he only want to download Ubuntu.

    In my experience with cross-sellings and ecommerce sites (It’s not the same, I know, but it’s kind of similar) the “fast” solutions are the better ones.

    Un saludo

  • http://twitter.com/da_ravioli da_ravioli

    Why would you need financial information about Canonical?

  • Lars Vogel

    Maybe you can add the Donation link also directly to the home page? Took me a while to find it on the download page.

    Finally a good way to give back a little for my favorite Linux Distribution.

  • Michael

    I can only add that this sort of tension between Commercial and Community is what fueled the fork of Mandriva ( at least partially ). For years, we tried to have a separate entity to handle the community, but in the end, the only way to have it is just to do it. The company was in a such bad shape that it didn’t brought much anymore.

    Another lesson learned from this area is that as soon as you bring money on the table, some people will start to act as consumers. And that was bad, because then those people started to act as if the community owned them something, thus creating a cultural clash between them and others more keen on contributing. A NGO was even created because some people wanted to have more information about the financial state of the company.

  • Michael

    Because some people may be interested into making sure the company can be sustainable. If tomorow, Canonical is forced to close, how long would the fundation be able to sustain the current level of developpement ? How can we know if we do not have enough data ?

    Canonical is not yet profitable, revenue were around 30 millions 3 years ago for around 300/400 employees. That was not enough to be sustainable ( ie didn’t make a profit ). How many people can be paid with the 10 millions set aside for the fundation, and for how long, and how would it impact the distribution ?

  • Philipp Gassmann

    The whole user interface is not designed with “user first” but to get most money out of it.

    If it was user first:

    • Donating would not hinder access to the download, but it would come after downloading starts.

    • The download button would be more or equally prominent as the Paypal button

    • Sliders would not suggest that 16$ is “almost nothing” worth. For a free product donating 16$ is more than almost nothing.

    • Text would encourage you to support the project not try to make you feel guilty if you don’t donate money.

    See Dark UX Patterns: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/dark-patterns-deception-vs.-honesty-in-ui-design

    this post was additionally encouraged by following blog post (German): http://www.onli-blogging.de/index.php?/1220/Ubuntu-fordert-beim-Download-zum-Spenden-auf.html

  • Marcappuccino

    I think, at least a little more of an inconvenience than the Humble Bundle method. 😉

  • noname

    Why 8 * TWO $ for Unity&Amazon?

    “I wouldn’t even give a $chilling to a pathetic guy like you, no, wait, I’ll give you two, ’cause you’re a twin Because one person alone can’t possibly be that dorky Jump into the sludge and dig yourself in…” (© Georg Danzer, http://lyricstranslate.com/en/hupf-gatsch-jump-sludge-get-lost.html)

  • Timothy Arceri

    One suggestion I have is to have donations go directly to hiring developers to work on the open source graphics card drivers I know this is one place people would be willing to constantly donate money for. It has come up many times before and many thousands of dollars pledged but no one has been willing to accept the money/hire the developers.

    Also will the amounts raised for each of the goals be shared? As well as what the money has been spent on. I will not donate unless it is more transparent where my money has gone and I have a feel for what others are donating towards.

    Its none of my business what Canonical does with the money it earns, but it is my business to know about money that I’ve donated. If Canonical wants people to donate more than once they have to make people feel like its been worth while by being transparent. This is not really modelled off the Humble Bundle, there is no totals or average donations displayed, top contributor, and I have no idea where my money is really going.

  • Pavel

    Considering the recent development with ads from Amazon in the Dash, how much do I have to donate to get the ad-free version of Ubuntu?

  • Mike B

    I would love to pay monthly, yearly, or per release for things like landscape that make managing my home systems easier. Unfortunately, the price is too high for that use. :/

  • Michael

    The main issue with coder for open source is not to invest in them, company like Red Hat, Google, Intel do invest. The problem is to find them. Writing graphical drivers is hard, and few people spend the time to have the skills needed. I do not know one single unemployed xorg coder

    And yes, being more transparent is needed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timrcc Tim Chavez

    Will people get an Ubuntu Trophy for contributing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/timrcc Tim Chavez

    My personal opinion is that $1 is conceptually equivalent to one ticket. A ticket is associated with a particular area of interest. Every 6 months at UDS, a ticket is drawn at random. The area of interest associated with the ticket that’s drawn gets all the funds from the previous 6 months applied to it. I think that makes for easy accounting and it gives the most popular areas of interest a better chance of being funding with user contributions.

  • 6205

    this should be done years ago…

  • Anonymous

    I think is a good idea, maybe in the wrong place: why don’t you create a brand new page “Donate” with a big and blinker link in the ubuntu.com home page? I’d like to see the annual (or monthly/weekly/dayly) report of these contributions, and what they are used for.

  • rautec2

    Would like to see a general donation to allowed equally among the options

  • Geza Csikasz

    Finally – an “easy” way of endorsing this important venture. Why didn’t you do this before? Yes, it would be easier with more payment options, but this is a start.

    I am baffled by the number of people finding really obscure “arguments” for why this is wrong – ranging from UX issues to whatnot.

    Seriously – just hit the “no thanks” button if you don’t like it. Jesus Christ.

    On my part, I feel good about sending som appreciation upstream, after 4-5 years of completely free access to marvellous software. Thanks for that, and keep up the good work!

  • Miggs

    Can we please get some reports on donations made?