A few days ago another Canonical shit story hit the fan. According to some articles – e. g. at Muktware, TechDirt and Ars Technica – Canonical got accused to (ab)use the Ubuntu trademark for trying to shut a website down which was/is criticizing the Ubuntu lenses which are transmitting anonymized user data to 3rd parties (e.g. Amazon) and is providing some instructions to disable these functions in Ubuntu.
These articles are good examples of an irresponsible journalism which seems to be part of a currently popular chivvy at Canonical. It seems to me that there are many people in the Linux community (like a new Spanish Inquisition) who are just waiting for any incident which can get interpreted that Canonical is “evil” and to vent their spleen at Canonical. Muktware e. g. writes:
“…We have seen companies like Apple doing such things but this is the first time a company active in Open Source has gone to such an extent to shut down critics…”
This statement is factually wrong and not based on any factual evidence. FOSS projects like e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and many more rely on the integrity of their brand perception. In the FOSS world the brand (trademark) is a highly important asset to maintain a distinctive project perception and to generate a revenue stream for re-financing. All these as an example listed FOSS projects are pursuing proactivily violations of their trademarks and have a quite harsh policy (see here). And that is legally and ethically correct and not to criticize. Beside this legitimate attempt to protect the Ubuntu trademark zero evidence can be found that Canonical had or has any intention to stop with this trademark related request any criticism. Publishing such interpretations is fueling oil into the already highly irrational Canonical chivvy. For community members who can’t differentiate the legal status of Pirate Bay from a FOSS project (just expecting everything should be free of copyrights and cost) such articels are highly welcomed to cement the picture of Canonical as the black-sheep of the Linux community.
Bitching about Canonical has become a popular sport in the Linux world. During a long period of time Microsoft was the main enemy of Linux geeks. But now it looks like that Canonical became the main target of most haters in the Linux community. The hatred which is filling Ubuntu related forums and posts is quite scary and reminds me (as a German) to some tendencies during the 3rd Reich. The Linux community gets here the character of an intolerant, prejudical and highly ideologized clique which is repelling more moderate mainstream users.
Factually all this is a storm in the water glass. Disabling the shopping lens cures all privacy related concerns (use WireShark to check it). Disabling the feature takes only a few seconds. This is basically the whole point of fixubuntu.com. But the website owner could have posted his tips in a more informative manner instead of bitching about Canonical.
I wrote on Ubuntube.com already an article where I was criticizing the hostile position of FOSS fundamentalists against Canonical and the inability of Canonical to communicate with the Linux community in a more appropriate and cooperative manner. I further directly criticized the communication style of Canonical which was part of the problem. Therefore I was satisfied that Canonical has shown quickly a more appropriate attempt to deal with the current situation than in the past (in form of an apology from Mark himself).
It needs to be clear to everybody in the Linux community that the popular Canonical chivvy is destructive for Ubuntu and for Linux in general. Ubuntu is the only hope we have to break into the mainstream market. I agree that gaining market share should not be done at huge cost. Having an awareness regarding privacy protection and the freedom of software is imperative. Related criticism is great – so far it is constructive. But such a constructiveness I am missing still too often in the Linux community. Only enjoying cost-free software and blaming manufacturers for their commercial decisions makes no positive difference. There comes a day where each FOSS project needs to cover the cost. For this a revenue stream is required. Canonical is trying hard to find a way to keep the pace of development ongoing but to ensure that one day enough money is coming in to finance the development cost of Ubuntu. Canonical and the Linux community need to find a common ground which is suited to satisfy both camps. Hatred and undifferentiated Ubuntu bitching will ensure only that Linux remains a niche product or becomes a powerful tool of companies like Google and IBM which have enough financial resources to create their own interpretation of Linux dominance (e. g. in the form of Android). Decreasing the success of Ubuntu means for me to decrease at the same time the chances of Linux to be one day a reasonable alternative for the masses to Windows and Mac OSX. But probably the loss of “exclusivity” is one reason of many Linux Geeks to defend nowadays Ubuntu so strongly. But this is grave digging for Ubuntu and probably also for Linux in the form how we are loving it. Imagine that one day Google will decide to put all their power into the development of a Linux based desktop OS (so far Andy Rubin & Co. are not already working on that). Google is quite familiar with Linux as a desktop OS. Then the opportunity for getting a distro like Ubuntu into the mainstream will decline significantly. How “free” such a Linux distro from a company like Google will be I leave to your own imagination.
I am sure that the guys at Canonical are learning their lessons and that they will work hard to find acceptable compromises. We as members of the Linux community should stop the irrational and counter-productive Ubuntu bitching. If you do not like Ubuntu – just chose another distro and resist the temptations to create disrespectful and defamatory communication in the Linux community. If you can provide a constructive contribution together with your criticism I am sure that this is highly appreciated on the side of the Ubuntu community and its sponsor Canonical. If only trash is falling out of your mouth please shut-up for the sake of the Linux community. Journalists and blog authors should remind themselves to their responsibility not to judge on basis of interpretations and prejudice.
And check the by Richard Stallman compiled complete (and ridiculous) list of ethical Linux distributions (all not listed distros are considered to violate FOSS principles):
Stallman’s Linux recommendations