Jan 31 2010

Yahoo and Ubuntu: An Odd Couple

A peculiar announcement came from Ubuntu’s development staff earlier this week.  On Tuesday, Rick Spencer of Canonical posted that it planned on making several minor and ultimately cosmetic changes to Firefox on Ubuntu’s next release.  The first is relatively benign, making the default Firefox homepage be the selected default search engine for Firefox’s search bar. However, the interesting part is that the new default search engine for Ubuntu will no longer be Google, but instead Yahoo!. This also effectively makes Yahoo! the new default home page.

So what’s Canonical’s explanation for this sudden and strange shift? It seems to be that the company has established a new revenue sharing deal with Yahoo! in order to help fund the Ubuntu project.  However, this will undoubtedly be unsavory to much of the original Ubuntu base for a number of reasons.

First of all, it arguably shows  that Canonical is caving into corporatism and losing the puritanical openness it’s known for.  Secondly, Yahoo! is now powered by Bing, which means this effectively becomes a revenue sharing deal between Canonical and Microsoft.

Google already has two distributions of Linux (albeit each is far from traditional distros) in the works –  Android and Chrome OS – and Microsoft has ownership over one of the most major players of Linux, Novell’s SUSE.  Whether or not Microsoft has some sort of interest in Ubuntu is unsure at best, and is probably unlikely.  However one thing is evident: major corporations will play a role in shaping Linux and open-source’s fate, regardless of what its users and adherents would wish.

Via Canonical Development Boards, image via Yahoo!.

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