Open Ballot: Should searches within Ubuntu return results from Amazon?


Just in time for next month’s release, Ubuntu is adding Amazon search results to the Home Lens of its Dash. Mark Shuttleworth, in his blog, has staunchly defended this decision, saying, “It makes perfect sense to integrate Amazon search results in the Dash, because the Home Lens of the Dash should let you find *anything* anywhere.”

But others disagree, with many suggesting this is just another move to monetize the distribution whilst raising some serious concerns about privacy. So, for this week’s podcast, we’re asking whether or not you think it is a good idea. And if not, what better alternatives exist for financing a distribution. All comments gratefully received, well, except for those from Anonymous Penguins.

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Your comments

Why not?

From what I've read searches are going to be encrypted now (at least that's what Jono Bacon suggested on his G+ page), it's only a suggested package so can easily be removed from the system and to be honest so long as it's not too intrusive I'm open to it.

I use Ubuntu on a lot of things and if it helps them fund development great, it's still their first attempt at this so it could be badly implemented, but if it is then no doubt it'll be refined and improved.

I hated Unity in it's first two releases 12.04 is perfect for my work flow and I enjoy working inside it. So the Amazon thing might be a bit rough around the edges at first but hey it's not an LTS so I say let them experiment!

We are often too critical of each other in the community, lets be supportive and let everyone try crazy things and see how it turns out before we judge too harshly.

not a problem

How is this really any different from selling software in the channel? Or skimming revenue from mp3 files bought through Banshee?

Monetising a distro isn't a problem for me (and not because I don't use Ubuntu anymore). I only have a problem with enforced monetisation. By that I mean forcing you to buy when you install.

You don't have to shop at Amazon. You don't have to buy mp3s through Banshee. Plus I have heard that there is an option to turn this off (I'm not sure of the truth behind this, but I think it's reasonable).

And doesn't it only affect Unity? I'm a KDE user. Go KDE!!!

No Problem

I think it might be an alright idea,Just hoping that they will allow you to disable it without going through hell and back though if someone does not like it.
Ubuntu 10.04(KDE)

Yes but...

Include anything you like as long as there is an easy, obvious and flexible way to turn filters on and off so that I can choose what I include.

Hell NO!

If I want to buy stuff online from Amazon, I'll go direct to Amazon. If I want to buy stuff online from, I'll go directly to their website. I don't want an intermediary in between me and the company I'm transacting online with.

No middleman, not even if the middleman promise not to watch my data/privacy, or promise won't sell my data away, or even if they promise they are not storing my data in their servers, or whatever. For online transaction, no middleman, no compromise.

As for monetization, I don't have anything concrete but I think Ubuntu should really work on it's branding rather than trying all things weird and crazy.

Don't get me wrong, I like the thrill of novelty, and being innovative is certainly a virtue - but shoving too many new things in too short a time-frame down people's throat is a sure way to lose brand identity - AND current user base!

Canonical have managed to sail away from traditional "XP-ish" desktop interface - that is a good significant achievement for the time being ~ let it sink down and get absorbed naturally into the masses please dont spoil it by overdoing it - Instead of continuing to tweak Unity (software), why not embark on something more hardware-ish (like introduce a new Human Interface Device that works naturally with Unity and is open-source and is "crowd-developable" something like how Nintendo moved away from directional pad controller into wii+nunchuck ) ?

Yes, but the results must be pertinant

If I search "Nine Inch Nails" on the Dash, I consider results linking to Amazon albums convenient. Getting spammed with offers for George Foreman grills for "Grilo", on the other hand, will kill the experience.

Also, the system shouldn't just blindly display Amazon links. This feature wouldn't have sparked such a brushfire on the internet if (a) their query service also returned useful stuff from non-commercial sites (eg AskUbuntu, Wikipedia) and (b) the lens didn't display when lacking anything useful to show.

Dodo voting for hunting?

Ubuntu (or rather Canonical) seems to be desperately trying to kill the distribution with progressively less acceptable unilateral developments.

Mr Shuttleworth has spent enough of his own money to be able to force his decisions on Canonical, so good luck to him, in as far as he does not damage the Linux ecosystem.

His underlings do not seem altogether confident that Mr S. actually knows what he is doing - he sure is no developer, despite sitting on that seat - so something will give as Ubuntu's (well-earned) popularity continues to plummet.

It's a good thing

It's a good thing. Ubuntu can, and should, be funded by its users. I'm sure the displayed results will get refined and more relevant over time. I'd like to see Amazon results be a separate lens eventually. Getting a small amount from online purchases is a win-win for everyone.


I often search for consumer products, and whether or not I ultimately buy from Amazon, they've got a massive database of information, and to integrate such results in an Ubuntu search makes sense. Yes, it should be contextual, and the option to filter results (or switch off) as required should be included, but there's nothing wrong with having the facility. What some dissenters might have forgotten is, like all things FLOSS, the end-user always has a CHOICE. If you think Canonical might be snooping on your searches, then just don't use it. Simple as.

If, then

If it can be turned off, who cares: Then it is just like the crappy search engine choices made to pay the bills.
If not, Ubuntu is adware. You still get it for free - now you need to make the choice.

Software freedom from adverts!

After using Ubuntu for years I stopped when payware started appearing in the software centre. It's antithesis of software freedom.

One of the biggest appeals of the Linux desktop as a user is the lack of commercialisation. I don't want adverts wasting my precious time and space on the very tools that I want for working as efficiently as possible.

I mean the internet is bad enough, with every page trying to sell me stuff when I mainly want to know stuff, now they want our desktops.

And another thing, it's an insult to developers who have given their time voluntarily to do great work and have their code given away by open-source charlatans who are actually hustlers seeking to profit from the work of others.

Marketers have beaten science, art, culture and honesty and dominate the internet for their own venal purposes, keep the annoying devils off our desktops!

Is Ubuntu the John Terry of Linux distros?

Because he isn't in the news every bloody day as a result of his ability as a football player!

Sure, if they let me turn it off

I guess this is useful to some people, particularly the non-poweruser, which is the market that Ubuntu caters to. Personally, if I wanted to search for something on Amazon, I would search for something on Amazon. All these efforts by Google, Microsoft, Apple and now Ubuntu to integrate all my sites are, for me, just annoying. However, I think to an average user, it might be a useful time saver.

Online shopping results in the dash fine in principle...

...but I thought Linux was all about choice? And I would like the freedom not just to see results from UK tax dodging monopolies.

A Fantastic Idea - for where it may take us, with provisors

I think this is a potentially fantastic idea - not for the Amazon searching itself, but for where it could take us. This is something new and that has great potential for other, more inventive uses of it. I don't know of this sort of functionality anywhere else (actually baked into the OS, rather than as a search addon) and I'm sure some hackers could come up with some really inventive uses for it. The big provisors are, of course, privacy: this search should go to Amazon (or wherever) without any identifying information - and also it should be easily disabled or uninstalled, if people don't want it in there.
Personally, I have no problem with Canonical getting a cut of stuff I buy from Amazon - I get a lot from their software and I don't mind giving something back. Of course there is the free software argument, but people still need to pay bills and companies still need to keep their bottom line going and if you can turn it off, you have the choice of using it, or not.

His Distro

It is really his distro (he doesn't own others' code obviously) and he funds it... He therefore can do what he likes within the allowances/restrictions of licenses that he needs to create the distro. If he annoys/neglects users through his decisions, then he should expect people to jump ship... oh they already have, I forgot that Linux Mint is now seeing more interest on distrowatch ;-) Seriously though, what user who *knowingly* chooses Ubuntu can complain about the decisions Mark Shuttleworth makes when there are so many alternatives???

I'm gonna jump ship

That's it! I'm jumping away... back to mother Debian


As long as no one uses Ubuntu any more. I moved my parents over to Mint.

Yes, why not

Like Morten Juhl-Johansen Zölde-Fejer, as long as it can be disabled fairly easily, not buried under a tonne of menu options, then why not.

Ubuntu is aimed less at the experienced power user and more to a general public. Amazon is the most popular online store, this can only help those users. This ability shown to users of other systems may encourage them to switch to what they may find is a superior product for them.

I'm not a user who feels Linux distributions are for everyone, so I'm not going to bang on about things that may or may not turn off users from Linux. If this is a feature that people find useful, then it should be included, however there should be a choice too to turn it off.

Hi Distro?

@Ubiquitous1980 (not verified)

Is it really his (Mark Shuttleworth's) distro? Ubuntu purport to have a community with which they engage (I presume) and a community manager. Shuttleworth may be instrumental in financing Ubuntu, but those who contribute in the form of packaging, documentation, artwork, testing, bug reporting, designing and coding should get a say. From my use of openSUSE, I started out as a user but pretty soon became a contributor, too. I assume that many Ubuntu users should be able to tell a similar story with their use of their distro of choice.

I think the problem here is that it appears that either the community and the SABDFL are on the same page here, with all the recent changes made, or that their community manager's role is actually to try and sell these changes to the community. Just my tuppen'orth.


Go ahead Canonical that's a good direction but I'll bet this turns out like another zeitgeist. ;)

Amazon? No!

Canonical should be hung, drawn and quartered for putting Amazon in our beloved dash! Now if it were Thinkgeek, that would be an entirely different matter...

I don't care.

Ubuntu chased me away long time ago and I haven't find a single reason to go back to it. They can put any spice they want in it to make it tasty, but they can never make it taste as good as it once did. Not to mention that they put in it all the wrong spices. Like this one.

I don't care... for different reasons

I really like Ubuntu lately (12.04 and 12.10, wasn't keen on 11.x). I've actually returned to Ubuntu as my main distro (from Arch, via Debian). I'm even enjoying Unity now, it's actually getting good.

Cannonical is a commercial company and they have to make money or there'll be no Ubuntu in the future. This seems to me a pretty inoffensive way to try that.

I realise it's become fashionable to dislike Ubuntu (I don't mean to imply by that that all criticism directed towards Ubuntu is superficial, but I do think a great deal of it is), but do people really believe that we'd be better off had it not existed? And will be better in the future without it?

And this is Linux, after all. If you don't want Amazon searches in the lens then I'm pretty sure you'll be able to replace/get rid of them. Declaiming the customisability of linux one minute and then crying over easy-to-subvert stuff the next is silly.

Having said all that, I doubt this will make them much money and they really do seem to be struggling for ideas on that front (unsurprisingly, it's a tough problem). I don't have any better ideas.

I don't see why its possibly a bad thing

I use Ubuntu on a daily basis, I also use Amazon to buy/sell items almost every day. I pull all of my music purchases straight from amazon too. So in my eyes, its a great idea as long as 2 criteria are met:
1. Traffic gets properly encrypted.
2. There is a clear clean easy method to turn it off.

I totally understand where Mark is coming from when he wants to be able to search and find anything everywhere, if they can make dash intelligent enough to be able to filter between multiple search engine results to find what I need faster than before straight from the desktop then that sounds good to me!


If canonical wants to give

If canonical wants to give results for anything that's typed into the lens, why don't they create their own search engine. Better yet, team up with an established privacy-respecting one like duckduckgo?

Keeping with that duckduckgo idea, wouldn't it be awesome to have the !bang syntax integrated at the desktop level? Directly search for [product] on amazon by entering "!a [product]". Directly search youtube by entering !yt before a query. I'd love to hear what you guys think of this concept.

As a side note, I haven't touched unity in ages so, please forgive me of my possible ignorance.

It should be an opt-in arrangement ..

I, personally, love shopping with Amazon so I would opt-in for this but I would not be willing to impose this choice on others who may have other favorite shopping sources.

A Horrible Default Security Breach

This leaks information from a private system to an outside organization.

It is intolerable, particularly since it is turned on by default. I have been using Linux since the 1.0 kernel, and this is easily one of the worst ideas I have ever seen.

Ubuntu was my default distribution. No more. I will not use a distribution with so little regard for my privacy.

NO to Amazon in Ubuntu

I find that a Linux operating System using Amazon search results for marketing Statistics etc to be Vile ! Many Linux users that I know appreciate their browsing privacy...

Ask those who install Ubuntu and use it.

For some /assumably the majority/ it can be anoying, but a few may find it useful. I didn't upgrade from 11.10 upwards for this reason only, as I can't be bothered to review all the changes in every new version that might compromize security and privacy.
Most people are using Linux for security reasons and/or because they don't want to pay for every single upgrade of the common "advert machine"-OSes, hence the majority of users want to have a vault- or fortress-like system at first installation.

The commercial aspect of the distro should be second to the expectations of the majority of users and be offered as an option during installation or at first start, of mainly the browser but also other standard apps.

I could imagine a short list popping up with various "security, privacy and feature" options next to a radio buttons and/or at first start of their chosen web-browser /firefox, seamonkey, abrowser branding, chromium etc./ they would be offered another three level security and feature option list one of them maybe even "Customizable".

If the commercialization goes on, the distro will lose most of its power users /of which many already left for Mint and others/, yet they are the ones who give it a real chance to promote the OS to enterprises as a desktop alternative to all other overpriced "Pro" OS'es.

It's not a big stretch to realize and I would definitely consider it!

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