Patch to Fix Unity Shopping Lens Bug Ignored

I have to really commend Kees Cook who has made the most sensible suggestions to address the issues that the EFF and others raised about the Unity Shopping Lens. In fact Kees submitted a patch back in November which would fix this bug and the patch as you can see below is quite sane but it has been ignored. Why?
[cc lang=”python”]
=== modified file ‘data/’
— data/ 2012-09-25 15:10:07 +0000
+++ data/ 2012-11-13 19:36:25 +0000
@@ -1,7 +1,7 @@

– ‘all’
+ ‘none’

Content fetching from remote source preference.

“all” is to enable the supported default lens to search from remote and commercial sources. “none” will indicate the lenses to not perform that remote search at all.

Why is the Unity Team not accepting this patch? If they disagree with it they can comment and reject but to just let it sit there for months seems like they have no interest in addressing a valid bug.


  1. Shane Quigley says

    Because it’s not a good or right solution to the problem. Users have control over their own experience they can turn it off if they want or uninstall the shopping lens. A real solution might change the settings dialogue to to selectively disable online sources or suggest to canonical to not have it on by default for all images downloaded after you donate a certain amount before downloading you disk image. Mark Shuttleworth may be a millionaire but eventually Canonical are going to have to stand on their own two feet and unless users pay for the software this is an alternative to allow them to continue producing Ubuntu while paying their employees.

    • says

      I think you lack a understanding of how Ubuntu is made and that its not just a product. It is also a community of hundreds of developers and thousands of other contributors who do not get paid by Canonical but are equal stakeholders in making Ubuntu.

      What has happened here is Canonical has made a bad decision in implementing this the way they did and a core Ubuntu Developer has proposed a very reasonable fix and Canonical is ignoring it.

      I do not believe the Amazon monetization is anything near what it costs to pay even a single employee so using that to defend their decision is somewhat null since we know this is not going to make them rich let alone pay for a single employees salary.

      I do not object to the feature but I do object to invading user privacy and ignoring the community of contributors who tirelessly work each cycle for free because we love what were working on.

      • Shane Quigley says

        I am an open source developer for several projects. I know how Ubuntu is made and I also know that if you put an Amazon cookie on millions of machines world wide you will make a lot of money but for either you or I to speculate on how much is made is silly because neither of us has hard data to back it up.

        I am a contributor to Ubuntu as part of a translation team on Launchpad and I make the dolphin plugin to allow a good user experience for UbuntuOne on KDE so they are not ignoring all there community of contributors. Its a check box for a user to turn off and if your smart enough to use Linux your probably smart enough to turn it off or uninstall it.

        Also Kees was a core developer now his main focus is ChromeOS since he moved to Google & regardless just because one dev wants something doesn’t mean he will get it.

      • says

        Canonical is not an equal stakeholder in making Ubuntu, they’re the team that’s hired by the SABDFL. Their decision is final. This is one of a long list of controversial decisions that the community did not accept, and I’m surprised that you haven’t realised that Ubuntu is not community first yet. It’s Canonical first, community follow.

        The controversial decision that irked me personally was Ubuntu One’s name, but other people have been irked by Launchpad’s centralised nature, the buttons being moved, Ubuntu One itself, the contributor license agreement, proprietary apps in the USC, the move to Unity, the move away from GNOME, and now the opt-out adware shopping lens, criticised by both the FSF and the EFF. IMO, some of these decisions were brave and necessary, and some were down right wrong. All were badly communicated to the community.

        It’s disappointing, but you learn to live with it. I still think Ubuntu has the best shot at bringing free software to the masses, but I’m not as excited as I used to be.

  2. Randall says

    There is a collection of community ideas and design proposals here:
    (Some of them are quite good.)

    I personally don’t think we should fixate on a single proposed patch until we’ve weighed all our options, as a community.

    Encouraging you and others to contribute every crazy idea that’s ever been dreamt of to the link above. That way, we’ll have a range of options to present at the next UDS, or sooner.


    • says


      Great effort.

      On the other hand I was told by a Canonical employee that they consider the feature to be a internal product (seperate from Ubuntu which makes sense because Unity is a CLA required project) that is basically not subject to discussion or proposed change by the community.

        • says

          They do already to some degree… There is no requirement for a CLA to contribute to most development of Ubuntu while Canonical does require a CLA for contributing to projects that they consider to be exclusive products that they run of which Unity is among

          In fact based on the CLA any contributions to projects that require you to sign the CLA also have a caveat that says that any source code you submit can be re-licensed (2.3 Outbound License) under any license they choose including packaged up as proprietary non-free software.

          • says

            Canonical generally requires a CLA for project they originate, including non-Unity things. The CLA isn’t very different from that required by the FSF for their projects.

            • says

              The FSF and other projects like OpenStack do not have any wording in the agreement that allows for contributions to be closed-sourced or made into a proprietary product down the road. In fact the FSF suggests contributors demand that such agreements include the requirement for them to always be licensed as free software.


              In fact FSF, OpenStack and most other projects do not have a outbound licensing portion at all since they always will keep it open source.

              • says

                Do either of those license make explicit guarantees that contributed code will not be redistributed under a non-free/non-open license, and if so what do they use to define “free” or “open” when it comes to future licenses? As far as I know, they provide no more legal guarantee than Canonical, and have no less history of closing off source than Canonical.

                • says

                  They do not grant rights for outbound or re-licensing of contributions so whatever the project is already licensed under is the only licensing the contributions can be issued under. In this case the FSF uses the GPL and OpenStack uses an Apache License.

  3. says

    Incorrect. The problem is the lack of giving user choice in how their searches are handled. This makes it opt-in only which means it respects the users ability to make a choice on their own which removes any privacy issue because it is consent based.

  4. says

    “Canonical claim over 20 million users”

    Notice the second word you used… Claiming is different than reality often and unfortunately there does not appear to be any accurate way for Canonical to measure that 20 million people use Ubuntu. I personally have five devices that run Ubuntu? Are each of these devices which get a clean install every six months counted as users? Do you see where I’m going with this?

    I think 20 million is a best guess based on the data they do have. I’m unsure that 1% of users use the feature I think with that level of API calls Canonical would have to make special arrangement with Amazon and its my understanding that Canonical’s relationship with Amazon is currently no different than other Amazon Associates.

    • says

      I believe they use unique IP accesses to their update servers on a rolling six month period. What’s invalid about that? Errors would skew toward understating use, since not all Ubuntu machines are Internet-connected, so 20 million would be a reasonably well-supported baseline number.

      • says

        Canonical only has access to logs from its repos… I personally do not use repos owned/hosted by Canonical but instead use local mirrors as such its hard to think that that is a good metric.

        Better yet think of all the third party distros that cannot afford to maintain their own repos so still use Ubuntu’s that also fuzzes the metric even more.

        • says

          Of 20,000,000 unique IPs, you believe that enough people have set up their own mirrors to invalidate the metric? So you anticipate what – 2,000,000 mirrors?

          Your second point seems more reasonable to me, but I’m perfectly fine with asserting that someone running a variant of Ubuntu that can reuse their repositories is using Ubuntu for most practical purposes. This would probably NOT include Amazon revenue, of course, but that will fall where it falls.

          Be careful presuming how much revenue they can generate via programs such as this. Google was widely ridiculed for claiming they could build a business on Internet advertising, but I hear they’re doing ok…

          • says

            Canonical has never substantiated where they get those numbers from and to my knowledge the community and third parties have asked where they get the figures.

            So in reality we do not know where the metrics come from.

    • damien duncan says

      Their is much i agree with you on with this subject. I just can’t write off the potential money that can be made now and far into the future for canonical as an amazon associate. If you direct sales up to 20k worth of product per 30 days you are allowed 5 api calls per second.However, if you exceed more than 20k you can be exempt from call throttling. Since an advertising API the more calls the better NO??.Maybe they made a deal to exclude throttling from get go.The higher the persuasion the more sales amazon make as well as canonicals cut . With direct marketing, or better known as letterbox junk mail, the average persuasion rate is around 10-15% so 1 % is on the very low side.A user only spending $10 is also on the very low side since most buying from amazon do so on a regular basis .The numbers are hard considering the ubuntu user base could also be split through many versions,eg how many are still using 10.04 of that 20 million?People eventually upgrade though. I personally dislike the way the feature is currently implemented, i think canonical would of had everyone use this feature as a way of support, whenever they were shopping, if implemented properly from the get go. Folk have said its not advertising yet an interesting bit from the API License Agreement says “We may reject your enrollment form if we determine that your application is unsuitable.” Unsuitable applications include those that:(a) do not have as their principal purpose advertising and marketing the Amazon Site and driving sales of products and services on the Amazon Site;” Yet we are told its not advertising…. to funny.

  5. 0sConstruction says

    I believe upon installation/upgrade the option should be presented, but be off by default. I am hoping 4 many user control tweaks 2 the lenses out of this next cycle. I bedlieve that a dialog box from the settings menu should be able to enable/disable lenses w/o having to completely un-install-re-install lenses rarely used or unliked. I also believe that lenses should have the ability 4 users to set custom hotkeys/lens, and that the shopping lens should be confined to a shopping lens icon(so the user chooses when to see shopping results)…just my 2 cents…:/

  6. Winfried Maus says

    Maybe Ubuntu, among other things, is also a world-wide community, but let’s face the reality: First and foremost, Ubuntu is a PRODUCT owned and distributed by Canonical, developed by Canonical with the voluntary assistance of said Ubuntu community.

    This is where the real difference between Debian and Ubuntu lies. Debian truly is a community-driven project without any financial interests, while Ubuntu is a commercial product with a contributing community that wants to have a say in the product’s development.

    Canonical is not a charity, but a business, and Canonical badly needs to break even and to no longer rely on Mark Shuttleworth’s private money.

    I don’t see you guys pumping millions of your own dollars every year into Ubuntu and the company and infrastructure behind it. And no matter how much work you guys might do for the project, this simple fact remains: Without money, there won’t be an Ubuntu. Full stop.
    Canonical stays true to its promise that Ubuntu will always be free (as in beer, that is). But in order to survive as a business, the company needs to find ways to generate revenue with Ubuntu nonetheless.

    Having a feature like the shopping lens in Ubuntu might eventually help Canonical to reach the goal of becoming financially independent. But disabling that feature by default most certainly does not. So, naturally, such a patch gets ignored by Canonical. It’s simply naive to expect otherwise.

    Everybody who feels bothered by the shopping lens can easily turn it off. I think it’s safe to assume that this option is not going away. But you should accept the simple facts of life and get used to the idea that more features like shopping lens will be installed and turned on by default in future Ubuntu releases.
    If you don’t want something like that in Ubuntu, you should propose feasible patches for Canonical’s business model. Your technical support alone does not fix the fundamental problem.

    • says

      “I don’t see you guys pumping millions of your own dollars every year into Ubuntu and the company and infrastructure behind it.”

      How much do you think a developers time is worth? Half if not more of Ubuntu’s development is done by the community for free. I would wager that that time if it had to be paid for would be in the millions.

  7. says

    I don’t think it is a shitty hack and I think its quite a insult for someone who is well respected in the Ubuntu and Debian community to call his contribution such.

    • Shane Quigley says

      It’s a one line fix that was never going to be accepted. I didn’t insult him in anyway because guess what all he did was change one variable to disable someone else’s code to fix what wasn’t a valid bug report in the first place. I’m sure he’s a great programmer that does some great work but this isn’t it and to pretend like this is some amazing contribution and not a hack is ridiculous and undermines some of the really awesome contributions going on in open source.