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01.28.10

What the Yahoo! Deal Means for Ubuntu GNU/Linux (and Mono)

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Red Hat, Search, Ubuntu at 8:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

sudo apt-get remove mono-common

Summary: Further analysis of Canonical’s deal with Yahoo! and some thoughts or suggestions

THE Yahoo!-Ubuntu deal was being discussed for hours in our IRC channel. It’s a tricky one. It means that Canonical’s priorities become more complex, as they indirectly become dependent on Microsoft for revenue (Microsoft is paying Yahoo! like it pays Novell). There are other issues through. As The Source puts it:

If that wasn’t offensive enough for you, don’t worry – there’s more: it appears that upgrades will have the default changed to Yahoo!, even if the user has set it to something else. How helpful.

The comments in Linux Today are mostly negative and while some articles focus on Mozilla, others focus on the official message alone (that it’s just Yahoo!). From Ars Technica:

Rick Spencer, the leader of Canonical’s desktop team, announced the search engine change today on a public Ubuntu mailing list. The specific terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. According to Spencer, the new default will appear in the development version of the distribution “as soon as reasonably possible” and will be in place in time for Ubuntu 10.04, which is scheduled for release in April. They have not indicated whether the change will be applied retroactively to existing installations of the current stable version, but they have confirmed that it will be changed for existing users who upgrade from the current stable version to 10.04.

From The Inquirer:

Rick Spencer, leader of Canonical’s desktop team, announced the Yahooo deal yesterday. The deal is scheduled to take effect in April and means that the FireFox web browser will default to using Yahoo’s search engine under Ubuntu.

None of the above mentions that Spencer came from Microsoft (but to be fair, we don’t know whose idea this whole deal was) and there is also a refrain from saying that Yahoo! will be just a front end to Microsoft’s Bong [sic]. Yahoo! is just some bling on the Bing.

Chips B. Malroy says (in IRC) that “Microsoft is counting on enough users to not know that Yahoo has or is becoming Bing. It’s extension of the renaming ploy, just more dishonest

Jose X wrote last night:

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.

There are more such comments from Jose and it does raise some doubt. Any idea what this will mean for Mono? Is Canonical less likely to dump Mono now? Jeremy Allison opines that Mono needs to go [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], not the GIMP [1, 2, 3, 4]. Most of the polled users of Ubuntu are against the GIMP decision, the Free Software Foundation is still against Mono, and so are users and developers [1, 2, 3].

I am using Kubuntu at the moment; it comes without Mono (Microsoft) and Kubuntu 10.04 will reportedly come without the browser’s search bar pointing at Microsoft’s datacentres. In general, Ubuntu derivatives are of good use here and therein lies the value of choice.

“In general, Ubuntu derivatives are of good use here and therein lies the value of choice.”To reject something by uninstalling it from the default setup is still sending the distributor a message of endorsement. To use an analogy, if you order a hamburger with pickles and take out the pickles later at the table, the seller is still left with the impression that customers love pickles. Those pickles will never be removed by the seller as long as hamburgers are purchased without asking the seller to leave them out. The moral of our own story is that Ubuntu will continue spreading the perception that GNU/Linux users like Mono (which they don’t, according to polls) and are fine with downloading an operating system that uses Microsoft’s engine for search.

Someone from Red Hat went as far as asking me if I thought Canonical had sold out like Novell, but the immediate answer was “no”. The Ubuntu deal does not hurt rivals of Ubuntu (or GNU/Linux at large) in any way; Novell — by contrast — actively used its deal to destroy others in promise of a "safe haven" (SUSE).

Speaking of Red Hat, having created a new Web site called “Open Source”, Red Hat’s Richard Fontana does give a token of respect to “Free Software”, under the article “The Free Software Way” which Groklaw reposted and commented on:

I thought I’d introduce you to the website’s rich content by posting an article from the Law section. It’s by Richard Fontana, who is Red Hat’s Open Source Licensing and Patent Counsel, and I know him and trust him from being on the committee that he chaired in the revision of GPLv3. I can republish his article, because it’s under a Creative Commons license, Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which means you are free to republish it and share it with others under those terms as well. I think you’ll want to, because he explains very clearly the legal rights that are implied by free, not just open source, software, and its extension to other areas, and why open source, while necessary, is not enough.

This was also covered here at The Source:

There have been lots of “fauxpen source” efforts to pretend they are Open Source by simply exposing source code. I’m sure the Gentle Reader will be shocked that Microsoft leads the way in “innovating” here: Shared Source, the MS-LPL and MS-LRL licenses, “covenants” not to sue sub-sets of users and so forth.

To me, then, open source is not a development methodology, let alone a distillation of broadly-applicable principles seen as underlying such a methodology. Rather, open source is a specific legal model of property rights transfer. To put it differently, open source is about freedom to use, modify, and share creative material that could otherwise be severely legally restricted by the author. (Source code availability is relevant because otherwise the freedom of modification would be practically impossible to exercise.)

This encapsulates so well the failure of the term “Open Source”: if open source is about freedom, then say it. Call it “Free Software”. At least call it “Free and Open Source” or “FLOSS” or “FOSS” or something that acknowledges that Freedom is what it is really all about.

Those who think that Microsoft is not the key problem are simply not paying attention. GNU/Linux must not help Microsoft in any way.

“Shouldn’t we leave the [Microsoft] elephant alone and stop poking it with sticks? Well, the problem is they aren’t going to leave us alone.”

Jeremy Allison, LCA 2010

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3 Comments

  1. your_friend said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Gravatar

    It’s a sell out, a minor and self defeating one but a sell out none the less. Giving Microsoft control of new Linux user search results further’s Microsoft’s astroturfing goals, which undermine all of GNU/Linux, software freedom and community reporting as well as Google and competing GNU/Linux distributions. Microsoft has spent billions of dollars buying a TV network, newspapers and other “independent” analysts. In their own words, gaining “independent” praise and damnation of competitors is a key goal of the Slog. Community reporting and honest search engine results short circuit that investment to expose the general public to the truth about Microsoft business practices and products. This is the reason that Microsoft has always hated both Google and the Internet in general and spends all sorts of money trying to corrupt and control them both. Microsoft rewrites articles in Wikipedia and their search engine results are manually tweaked for Slog purposes. No one should ever trust Bing. If Ubuntu is about community, they should not endorse Bing. Changing user preferences is an abomination in any case. Doing it to promote Bing for money is a real sell out. Will Ubuntu really subvert user’s dot files or recompile Firefox to BingTool? It is so easy for Debian users to maintain their right click and toolbar search preferences that it is hard to imagine a GNU/Linux system based on Debian that mimics Internet Explorer in search engine subversion. Then again, I had a hard time believing they would dump GIMP for mono.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It turns out that PiTiVi will be installed, so it’s not all bad.

    Regarding search, I don’t like their decision, but ranting about it too much would not further the cause, I think.

    your_friend Reply:

    If people don’t complain, no one will know any better. There is not much to rant about, a Bing themed Ubuntu is farcical and should be condemned. Anyone can add Bing to their Firefox search if they like but the divisions widening losses show that no one really likes it. How ironic that Microsoft has bought market share with Ubuntu.

    This too will pass. I’m looking forward to your usual sharp reporting about Micrsoft’s latest quarter. I’ve read about deferred earnings used to pump up the apparent result to “market expectations”. I’ve also read that the Office Division took another decline in earnings. To me, it looks like Windows 7 has had it’s fanboy and channel stuffing run even quicker and less rewardingly than Vista did and the company is toast. They fired a large percentage of the company, their proffits should have shot up without additional revenue.

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