So if you’re someone who watches Slashdot, Hacker News or Reddit you would see news that Canonical will be shipping a Shopping Lens for Unity in Ubuntu 12.10. This has resulted in a bit of public outrage from people who are concerned about advertisements in open source applications or even a Linux Distribution.
I think the article on Slashdot has sensationalized a new feature that I would not consider an advertisement but instead suggestions. But lets take a look for ourselves and see if any ads really come up for a search term on Ubuntu 12.10 shall we?
But lets also make sure that I am fully up to date with all my packages and that I am running Ubuntu 12.10 and have this controversial shopping lens installed that everyone is panicking over.
In any case, there have been suggestions for music and movies since Ubuntu 12.04 landed. So the fact that product suggestions are made in a highly precise manner based on your search is not something new coming to 12.10. Suggesting something is much different from blatantly advertising products. After all, we’re talking about a desktop that is integrated into the web and brings the web to your desktop.
So enough with this FUD and take my advice below and heck feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts on Ubuntu and why you like it or dislike it!
Update 9/22/12 1:10 PM: an employee at Canonical shared a screenshot of him doing the same search and he is getting some suggestions despite us both having the same version of the unity lens installed. But I still stand by my assertion that the article on Slashdot is hype because I do not think integrated search results is the same thing as an advertisement and if you do not want these suggestions you can opt-out by removing the lens. This feature is still very much in beta and if you do not want it you do not have to have it and can remove it by running “sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping” in terminal much like you can also remove and replace unity with a different Desktop Environment that may be more suitable for your needs if you dislike Unity.
Update 9/22/12 4:05 PM: A user has filed a bug citing privacy concerns and the default nature of the Amazon results co-mingled into Unity dash searches.
Update 9/23/12 11:10 AM: A user has opened an AskUbuntu Question about whether Amazon will get all the search queries and any other information. Additionally a boat load of new bugs have been reported about this feature: #1054782, #1054776, #1054746, #1054677, #1054282, #1053678 (Everything from Security Issues, Adult Content Being Offered, Incompatible Software suggested for sale etc). Joey Sneddon (OMG! Ubuntu!) and Ryan Paul (Ars Technica) both said on twitter they do not feel the feature will stick around very long.
Update 9/23/12 11:36 AM: Mark Shuttleworth has blogged about the new feature.
Update 9/25/12 4:38PM: I have drawn up a Technical Diagram of How I understand the Shopping Lens to work.