With the new version of Ubuntu 12.10 still being worked on in the labs for a mid October release, Unity 6.6 arrived in Ubuntu 12.10 with a lot of additions, most notably the new Unity Shopping Lens.
How does it work, what does it mean? When a user clicks the Ubuntu icon on the top left and opens the Unity dash, their search results will also feature matched Amazon products in the results. Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth explained what the benefits of this are and tried to calm some naysayers.
Back in the day when I started using Ubuntu things were discussed. Kinks worked out, and then features released. Somewhere around the beginning of the Unity era we've seen a more direct approach of releasing stuff users might not be a fan of, and then working out the kinks later. Kinks like uhhh... data privacy & encryption.
A lot of the debate online already has revolved around not only privacy issues, but people not wanting advertising everywhere. User want a clean desktop experience. Things like search results will undoubtedly slow searches done on the Dash.
My poppa always used to say to me... "If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck. Son, it probably IS a duck." Meaning, its not technically an ad (its a result of your search), but it looks like an ad and the end result is the same.
Hey, I get it that Canonical needs to generate revenue. There should be an option TO install the Unity Shopping Lens, not to have to uninstall it.
There should be a pop up flag telling people the benefits of Amazon search results and then ask if they want it. But having it added by default will make this just the start of more of this type of stuff. In 10 years Ubuntu will still be free but our Unity launcher bar will be filled with income generating apps or links. Heck, why not cover the the desktop with free for 60 days apps too? That seems like a great idea! Just splash a blue theme and a green rolling hills wallpaper and end users probably wont be able to tell the difference between windows and ubuntu. YIKES!
Popular tech blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols summed it up by saying its not that big of a deal showing some possibe matches to your personal searches on your personal computer. I dont agree with his assessment, but I do agree with him this whole thing could have been handled better.
There are many ways to go about generating revenue and I think this method is a cheap shot at intelligent users as well as privacy advocates. Why not lower the base price of Ubuntu apps in the app store so developers can sell games for $1? You would get a lot more revenue doing that than by the once every few million clicks equaling an Amazon sale.
What I see from my point of a view... the majority of linux users used to be very concerned with privacy and now we have entered a new generation. A generation where users have grown up with social media and dont really take privacy into any consideration anymore.
I'll leave the commenting to you folks and let you ponder some comments from various websites regarding this new "feature"...
Open source users must learn that there is no such thing as free.
You say, if we trust you to ship uncompromised binary packages, we should trust you to handle search-queries as well. So, if we gave you the needed data/passwords, you may handle our banking also — that would make an even more “smooth user experience”…
The communication between the lens and your servers is sent plain text, aka no SSL. This opens up every search to man in the middle attacks and similar privacy and security hacks. It doesn’t matter if the “home” searches go to Amazon or only Canonical servers, they shouldn’t go anywhere, they should stay local. It’s non of Canonicals or Amazons business what Ubuntu users do on their desktops. My desktop doesn’t have to be smart, my browser already is. Did you research EU data protection laws yet? I am fairly certain you’ll be having some problems soon in countries like Germany. You do not have root on my machines. I cannot believe you just said that you do have root and implied you can do whatever you want on your users machines. What a mistake. You lost all my trust, you lost a longtime Ubuntu user, and thereby future potential users who I will send somewhere else too.
This is a step in the wrong direction. Ubuntu users are technical, privacy and security aware, they won’t stand for this. They’ll just move on to another distribution, it’s easy for them. You guys didn’t think this through one bit, did you?