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01.27.10

Why Ubuntu GNU/Linux Should Not Make Microsoft Even Stronger

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Search, Ubuntu at 11:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Former Microsoft employee announces that Canonical will send Ubuntu users to Microsoft’s datacentres and herein we explain why it’s a big mistake that will alienate users

MANY readers have heard the news by now. It’s even in the front page of Slashdot. The short story is that Ubuntu will channel users towards Microsoft’s datacentre, via Yahoo! (bar EU approval for the search deal). “15 days of lost time,” calls it a reader of ours citing this comment. “Not that more than a single digit percent will change any default settings,” he adds, but the numbers cited there are US-only search numbers (thus incorrect) and Fedora claims 20 million installations.

My first reaction to this news goes almost a day back when Alan Pope (Popey from Ubuntu) announced the news:

Those of you testing out the development version of Ubuntu Lucid should notice a change in Firefox very soon. The default search provider for new installations of Ubuntu Lucid (10.04) and upgrades will be Yahoo! and not Google. Canonical have struck a revenue sharing deal with Yahoo! which generates income for the company. This revenue should help pay the wages of Ubuntu Developers employed by Canonical, and support the infrastructure required to develop and build the distribution.

It is worth noting that announcing this on behalf of Canonical was Rick Spencer, who came to Canonical from Microsoft. We warned about him before because the suggestion to remove GIMP from Ubuntu (under the excuse that a Mono program would replace it) came from him too. It was a grave mistake [1, 2, 3, 4] — a decision that most Ubuntu users are opposed to, based on a big poll at Ubuntu Forums.

I told Popey: ‘But Yahoo! is going to redirect to the convicted monopoly that called Ubuntu “cancer”‘

Popey then told me: ‘Deep irony if their dollars pay Ubuntu developers.’

“What Ubuntu has done is cut off funding to Mozilla to go into there own pockets, so damaging the upstream.”
      –Oiaohm
If Microsoft is funding Ubuntu developers, then they are becoming what Microsoft called “pawns in the battle” (in the battle against Google in this case).

“Yahoo is Bingo in disguise,” said our Hungarian reader MinceR. Our reader Kecskebak (also from Hungary) was more blunt. He wrote: “Well, seeing as Yahoo! has done a deal with Bing it’s Bing by proxy. Shuttlecock – say Bing!”

Mozilla makes money when it is Google in the search bar, so the old way (Firefox defaults) supported both Mozilla and Google, not Ubuntu and Microsoft.

Our reader Oiaohm wrote: “Ubuntu is getting more criminal. What Ubuntu has done is cut off funding to Mozilla to go into there own pockets, so damaging the upstream. Really it shows how much respect Ubuntu has for the open source world. None. Really it would not matter who they changed the search company to. I hope Mozilla hits Ubuntu for trademark infringement. Altering the search provider cutting of money normally pisses Mozilla off.”

Yahoo! search is becoming just a surrogate identity to Microsoft, just like Mono is a surrogate to Microsoft, developed by its ally Novell (same with Moonlight).

It is Ubuntu's crisis of democracy as Novell’s Banshee is still being promoted for Ubuntu by some people, despite the obvious problem with Microsoft's community promise (Banshee uses excluded components [1, 2, 3, 4]).

Another thing that Ubuntu is doing right now (which is quite benign in comparison) is development of Ubuntu One for Windows. That’s fine, it’s a very separate project constructed for other reasons, but a lot of people missed the news.

“Could Ubuntu maybe retract or withdraw this deal?”All the above was discussed in great length in our IRC channel since yesterday (starting here). We are still talking about it today. We think it is not worth making a huge scene out of it because it was discussed in IRC for hours (with Jono Bacon included) and clarified to the extent possible. It was never clearly insinuated that malicious intent led to such a deal, but Ubuntu is supporting Microsoft without saying so. Linspire signed such a search deal with Microsoft as part of the 2007 patent deal, sending their customers to essentially enrich Microsoft and share data with the company that’s almost alone in viciously attacking those very same users (or at least their operating system of choice). Could Ubuntu maybe retract or withdraw this deal? We sure hope so.

What do users think of the possibility that many (if not most) GNU/Linux users are to be redirected for Microsoft to spy on their search habits (and gather statistics/intelligence on the competition), not to mention that it would give them GNU/Linux-hostile search results (Bong [sic] is doctored for built-in bias, including thin and mostly negative results on the subject of GNU/Linux).

Verizon’s recent search deal with Microsoft shows that not giving users what they want simply makes them angry. This would not be smart for Ubuntu to do, either. Many people come to Ubuntu in order to escape Microsoft and even Firefox for Windows uses Google by default. This is a bizarre reversal of role.

“Gathering intelligence on enemy activities is critical to the success of the Slog.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

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19 Comments

  1. clayclamp said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Gravatar

    It was never clearly insinuated that malicious intent led to such a deal

    Your entire article clearly insinuates precisely that.

    your_friend Reply:

    Microsoft’s free software intentions are always malicious.

  2. clayclamp said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Gravatar

    Instead of deleting accounts now you’re selectively blocking comments made with them. Nice.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Gravatar

    There was just lag because of spam. No comments are ever deleted.

  4. Jose_X said,

    January 27, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Gravatar

    With the money going to Canonical developers, Microsoft isn’t just getting (a) increased brand exposure; (b) pricing power increase on adverizers; (c) management of more user’s search results (notably that of open source users); (d1) backup tracking on Windows users as well as (d2) tracking on Linux users left out of their Windows loop, (e) momentum towards their goal of eclipsing Google at some point and gaining much more powerful monopolies, (f) stock price support down the line, etc, but they will probably get as a side bonus (g) accelerated development of mono and other API, protocols, and standards that help Microsoft. Canonical is putting much of that money back into furthering other very important Microsoft goals.

    Novell took the noisy direct path. For how long has Canonical had plans on taking the quiet subtle path? Was this support of Microsoft why Dell chose to deal with them? When will Canonical eat Novell’s dinner?

    People need to understand that Canonical has “developers to feed and investors to satisfy” and should not be hesitant to question to what degree this or any other company has decided to fight monopolies or instead to try to suckle up to them.

    The enemy of high profit seekers is customer choice and customer leverage.

    Jose_X Reply:

    We know aggressive monopolists give some candy along their way to seizing power. Why would a presumed decent Linux capitalist company decide to help Microsoft become stronger instead of working to knock them out, knowing the large void will be filled with them likely playing a prominent role?

    I don’t work for Canonical, so I plan and play defensively. Canonical and Novell can do what they want. I promote the opposite of these things they are supporting. In my eyes, these two are bad brands to support. It’s up to users to vote for brands that serve their interests. Do we want to promote competition from vendors or want to accept more of the narrow strong control structure?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The point about Mono escaped me at first. We’ll need to investigate this further.

    your_friend Reply:

    Yes, this is a good point. Microsoft money always has strings attached to seemingly unrelated things. If what you say about the poll is true than this is not democracy gone bad, it’s community ignored.

  5. satipera said,

    January 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Gravatar

    As a windows refugee I can remember thinking if only there was one linux distro how much better and simpler life would be. I soon realised that what I thought made so much sense did not. I still use Ubuntu but now it is comforting to know that should canonical push anything too far one day then they can be dropped like a hot brick with plenty of alternatives available. This in itself is reason to love gnu/linux.

  6. Jose_X said,

    January 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Gravatar

    Businesses take risks.

    Businesses can make mistakes; however, each such mistake that does occur does have a price. Down the line, if risks don’t work out, the door is opened for enthusiasm to gather strongly around a *different* desktop product and company.

    Mark knows what he is doing by trying to distance his name from Canonical. He’d likely want to have his money still play a role tomorrow if the Canonical experiment doesn’t work out.

    Jose_X Reply:

    If SCOTUS manages to cut software patents down significantly, Mark might reason that he’d better have his deck set ahead of time to get a jump on the competition and likely unavoidable fall of Microsoft at some point in the not too distant future.

    I don’t know how significant would be such a loss of patent leverage to Microsoft since they have mostly relied on trade secret to manage interop with their monopolies.

    Canonical can be assumed to keep in mind worries about Google, Red Hat, some other smaller players, the well entrenched Java ecosystem, patents in the EU, and a number of other things.

    It’s just business risks for them. For me, it’s separation from Ubuntu/Canonical until the Microsoft picture isn’t significantly more in our favor. I can afford to wait because the big prize for users isn’t a few more bucks but a really open platform and control.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    What do you suggest that users adopt?

    Jose_X Reply:

    Do you mean of the 1000 other distros out there?

    A lot of people might prefer to adopt something that already has a large community.

    I don’t mind playing with different things. I can’t speak for other people.

    Thinking about a more typical user…

    I will say that **Mandriva** has also had a focus on the desktop for a long time. They seem more KDE centric and this might translate to less mono centric.

    There are a number of interesting **Debian** deriv distros that aim to be easy to use. Actually there are many distros that aim to be easy to use no matter what they use as their base.

    There is **Fedora** which many people might like as well. I would not want to skip trying this one.

    I don’t trust the SuSE path and don’t want to promote that family of distros, certainly not today. I counter Novell’s business risk with my own risk management.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    When Novell signed the deal with Microsoft in 2006, SUSE was IMHO the best distro available for desktops (I had it installed at home and at work). Others felt similarly, not just in the SUSE crowd I was a part of (newsgroups, mailing lists, et cetera).

    Microsoft has eliminated Linspire/Xandros and I worry that we should try to help Ubuntu rather than bin it. Ubuntu’s deal — unlike Novell’s and Linspire’s and Xandros’ — does not in any direct way harm other distributors of GNU/Linux.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Gravatar

    @satipera

    Canonical employs many bright developers. I don’t think we should harm the company’s reputation; instead, let’s make suggestions.

    Maybe the Yahoo! deal is revocable.

    Does Mozilla have veto power here?

    your_friend Reply:

    Users have veto power because search engine choice is not difficult in any gnu/linux browser. The deal is not so much a technical problem as it is an endorsement of evil at the expense of users and a bad sign. I’m entirely surprised.

  8. Jose_X said,

    January 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Gravatar

    If a company is already today working to help Microsoft’s position, I don’t reward them, today, and will even be hesitant tomorrow.

    Which community you are a part of helps that distro evolve. I am not going to help an evolution I think is problematic. I see no point in being a part of that community in any meaningful way.

    Do I want other communities to weaken relative to a community/brand/company/etc whose direction is not in sync with my goals and views? Of course not.

    Canonical has been on this path for a while. If their risks work out tomorrow, if Microsoft is weak tomorrow, I will be more open with them. Tomorrow (perhaps) is not today.

    Jose_X Reply:

    Roy, parent was intended to be a reply to satipera a little higher in the thread. I am not sure what happened.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It’s a bug that occurs when a message/comments gets wrongly flagged as “spam”. We’ve had filter issues recently, due to technical reasons.

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