Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Downfall of Ubuntu

Everything that's wrong with Ubuntu.
Desktop Linux has always been a weird and wonderful world. Ten years ago, it was mostly weird. From that murky soup of Linux distributions emerged a little underdog created by a tiny company in South Africa called Canonical. That Linux distribution was Ubuntu, and it was amazing. It was the first Linux distribution that could make a genuine claim at being usable by non-techies. It just worked.

Ubuntu was also one of the first really major distributions to go for a Debian core instead the Red Hat system. It made a lot of waves, for nearly all universally good reasons. A lot of people didn't like how commercial Red Hat had become, and Debian was still pure, still 100% open source and not in the least bit commercialized. Red Hat spun off the fully open source project called Fedora, but by then the damage was already done. Fedora has never obtained the same level of popularity Red Hat had back in its heyday.

Sadly, Canonical didn't learn from that history. At some point, I forget which version, they decided it would be a good idea to add a search sponsored by Amazon directly into their desktop manager system. There is a way to turn it off, but just the fact that it's there and enabled by default... the open source community didn't take it well. It was essentially bloatware in Linux, not to mention the privacy concerns. There are few bigger sins that a Linux distribution can commit.

As a result, Ubuntu has dropped to a distant second below the community favorite Mint Linux on the popular Linux distribution tracker, Mint, notably, comes completely free of any commercialization. It also offers a more traditional and less demanding desktop manager, which many users prefer. Both Ubuntu and Mint are very good distributions; Ubuntu more so once you remove the Amazon software. But there are certain things you simply do not do when it comes to Linux.

Take this lesson to heart, Canonical. The dark side is easier, quicker, more seductive. But it's not better. Especially not when it comes to Linux.

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