Ubuntu Users To Get To Vote With Their Wallets In Support Of New Features

from the probably-a-good-investment dept

Free software is famously close to its users, drawing on them for warnings about bugs (and sometimes fixes), as well as ideas and suggestions for future developments. But I don’t think any project has previously gone so far as to encourage ordinary users to make financial contributions directly in support of new features they want. That’s precisely what Canonical, the company that oversees the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution, plans to do:

Today, we’re making it easier for people to financially contribute to Ubuntu if they want to. By introducing a ‘contribute’ screen as part of the desktop download process, people can choose to financially support different aspects of Canonical’s work: from gaming and apps, developing the desktop, phone and tablet, to co-ordination of upstreams or supporting Ubuntu flavours. It’s important to note that Ubuntu remains absolutely free, financial contribution remains optional and it is not required in order to download the software.

By allowing Ubuntu users to choose which elements of Ubuntu they’re most excited about, we’ll get direct feedback on which favourite features or projects deserve the bulk of our attention. We’re letting users name their price — depending on the value that they put on the operating system or other aspects of our work. That price can, of course, be zero — but every last cent helps make Ubuntu better.

As this notes, even if people don’t offer money, their views on what’s important to them can still be gathered, and that’s valuable information for developers who need to prioritize their work.

In principle, letting people support new features of interest sounds like a good idea, since it gives users a chance to vote with their wallets. But it comes in the wake of a plan to let people search for items on sites like Amazon from within the Ubuntu operating system, for which Canonical would presumably get paid if purchases were made as a result. As the hundreds of comments on the blog of Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Canonical and Ubuntu, indicate, this has raised a number of concerns about privacy and the direction of the Ubuntu project.

Some might see both moves as evidence that Canonical still isn’t making as much money from the Ubuntu ecosystem as it needs to, and that Shuttleworth is looking to bolster income. Four years ago, he admitted that Canonical was “not close” to breaking even, and that it would “require time and ongoing investment” to make it do so. Given Ubuntu’s place as probably the most popular GNU/Linux distribution, users must hope that Shuttleworth will still be happy to invest in Canonical, and hence in Ubuntu, for a while yet. Perhaps that’s another good reason for Ubuntu fans to start paying at least some of the development costs under the new scheme.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

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Comments on “Ubuntu Users To Get To Vote With Their Wallets In Support Of New Features”

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TheBigH (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Agree. Unity is dreadful and I would gladly pay to see it buried forever, but I doubt that’s something they’d let you pay for.

I do scientific work on my machine, and I need stability and functionality, not uncustomizable unintuitive crap in gaudy colours. I have a computer, not a glorified mobile phone, so I’ve moved on from Ubuntu and probably won’t be back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I liked Mint, which is a Ubuntu fork. They removed/tweaked a lot of the nonsense from Ubuntu, and made it a pretty good distro. I’d say that Mint is now what Ubuntu used to be a few years ago: a nice distro for newbies that works out of the box. The community is nice too.

Mint also has a Debian fork with some nice things, but it seems that every time I run “apt-get upgrade”, the system gets more and more messed up. I still prefer pure Debian because of this.

I liked CentOS too, mostly due to the fact that it will be supported, like, forever. It is nice and super-stable, but doesn’t have newer packages that you might want.

One day, I might try Arch. I figure it won’t be a smooth ride, but I’ve been hearing/reading good things about it.

Zakida Paul says:

Ubuntu bashing seems to be becoming an international past time, bring people together in vitriolic hatred. Isn’t that sweet?

I wonder how many people complaining have contributed to the community themselves with code or bug reports or suggestions for improvement?

I have tried many distros (Opensuse, Fedora, Mint, Mandriva….) and I always keep coming back to Ubuntu because it is the most intuitive and user friendly, not to mention the most innovative.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have mixed feelings. If they make such things an optional package while you download (as some sort of “support Ubuntu” package) then it’s ok but hard-wiring it is not nice.

If I were to use Linux today I”d go for that Mint fork or Open Suse. I heard Slackware improved in terms of how user friendly it is but I have bad memories of my attempt at it as a not-so-experienced user heh


Re: The shrill cry of the wounded fanboy.

> I wonder how many people complaining have contributed to the community themselves

A jackass response to valid criticism.

Whether or not I contribute does not alter the fact that Canonical is as much of a leech as any of us. They are not the ones that deserve most of the credit, gratitude, or money.

I suspect you are in no position to be sanctimonious.

Austin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I code, but only PHP (I can read C, JAVA, a few others, but can’t go beyond a “hello world” without a quick reference close at hand) so my ability to contribute patches is minimal. However, I have contributed 20+ WINE compatibility reports, at least 3 Apache bug reports, and I wrote the manual entry for a utility I used because man kept telling me it wasn’t found – then I found out it was just missing from my system and the existing man page was much better.

So yes, I contribute. And yes, even I hate Unity. I suppose in a way it is living up to its name, though – Unity has a way of unifying everyone in their desire to return to GNOME 2, i.e. what just plain worked, period.

Jamie Clark (user link) says:

Commenting on the donations concept, as Glyn did, not so much specifically about Ubuntu.
At first glance, it seems like a positive development to me. Open source work always is influenced by resource constraints in the form of $??? or personhours. Users and contributors always “vote with their feet”, whether by donating time or money.
Devices that will bring more resources to bear, generally speaking, are good. Some of the objections to this plan (posted elsewhere) may be explained by the old saw about confusing the two meetings of the word “free.” #FOSS #freeasinbeer

Ben S (profile) says:

Not good enough

Not good enough. Would like to see kickstarter-style fundraising for individual bugs on launchpad, with Canonical giving at least half of the proceeds to whoever manages to fix the bug.

There are a number of Ubuntu bug reports that I follow with little hope of ever seeing fixed, and this new fundraising scheme is not going to help their chances in any way.

Casey says:

Re: Re:

You can also use KDE, XFCE, Fluxbox, etc. That’s not the point. The point is that Canonical forces their own agenda upon their community and then goes to asking for donations. Ubuntu has proven incapable of working with others and only wishes to satisfy their own needs. Granted it is their product and they do need money. But it is also their users choice whether or not they want to support them.

Anonymous Coward says:

you see now the problems you encounter when you try, or have to compete with free versions of yourself.. sure, one linux is as good as another, but all linux’s are not very good (generaly speaking)..

if all these different distro’s and developers just tried to develop new technology, not just re-invent the wheel then linux would have progressed much further in the past 20+ years than it has.

the only thing that has really held back GNU/Linux/FOSS is ‘the community’, it all sounds good, “give back” and “many eyes fix bus” and “unbreakable security” all sound good !! in lala land.. but reality has never met idealogy..

even FOSS (FREE SHIT), is finally understanding you need MONEY to PAY people to create things. that means people willing to pay for it… usually customers, you’ve had it free for 20 years, it’s only a few steps away from making it just like windows, where it will have to compete fairly on an open market, where the product will actually have to be WORTH paying for, to make it worth paying for you will have to hire professional people to do that work..

Same applies to music, movies just the same, you have to create a product people are willing to pay for. If they are willing to pay for it, but can get it for free, the money it costs to pay the person (or group) to make is is not there, ipso fatso,, it’s not made. (or its rubbish)..

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Contributions to Canonical

Being pretty close to “broke” (I lost several million on a scam, and gave most of the rest to my kids to “jump-start” them; and, of course, refuse to take any of it back), I am pretty careful with my money. I am beginning to do okay with my IP business, but I am far from being able to contribute much.
That said, I think this is a GREAT idea, and I intend to give till it hurts; even without a reason.


Re: I'll pay money

MacOS is only usable if you limit yourself to those pre-authorized things that the hive mind is expecting you to do.

Beyond that, things can get hairy with MacOS very quickly.

It’s a preloaded quasi-Unix. That’s it’s only real advantage and you can find those elsewhere.

It suffers as much from “not being the monopoly product” as Linux does.

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