Prompted in part by the critique of Canonical’s code contributions to the kernel and core GNOME infrastructure, I’ve been pondering whether or not I feel good about what I do every day, and how I do it. It’s important for me to feel that what I do is of service to others and makes the world a better place for it having been done. And in my case, that it’s a contribution commensurate with the good fortune I’ve had in life.

Two notes defined for me what I feel I contribute, in this last month. One was a thank-you from New Zealand, from someone who is watching Ubuntu 10.04 make a real difference in their family’s life. For them it seems like a small miracle of human generosity that this entire, integrated, working environment exists and is cared for by thousands of people. The other was a support contract for tens of thousands of desktops running Ubuntu 10.04 in a company. Between those two, we have the twin pillars of the Ubuntu Project and Canonical: to bring all the extraordinary generosity of the free software community to the world at large, as a gift, free of charge, unencumbered and uncrippled, and to do so sustainably.

The first story, from New Zealand, is about someone who is teaching their children to use computers from a young age, and who has observed how much more they get done with Ubuntu than with Windows, and how much more affordable it is to bring computing to all the kids in their community with Ubuntu. For them, the fact that Ubuntu brings them this whole world of free software in one neat package is extraordinary, a breakthrough, and something for which they are very grateful.

It’s a story that I hope to see replicated a hundred million times. And it’s a story which brings credit and satisfaction not just to me, and not just to the people who make Ubuntu the focus of their love and energy, but to all of those who participate in free software at large. Ubuntu doesn’t deserve all the credit, it’s part of a big and complex ecosystem, but without it that delivery of free software just wouldn’t have the same reach and values.

We all understand that the body of free software needs many organs, many cells, each of which has their own priorities and interests. The body can only exist thanks to all of them. We are one small part of the whole, it’s a privilege for us to take up the responsibilities that we do as a distribution. We have the responsibility of choosing a starting point for those who will begin their free software journey with Ubuntu, and we work hard to make sure that all of those pieces fit well together.

Ubuntu, and the possibilities it creates, could not have come about without the extraordinary Linux community, which wouldn’t exist without the GNU community, and couldn’t have risen to prominence without the efforts of companies like IBM and Red Hat. And it would be a very different story if it weren’t for the Mozilla folks and Netscape before them, and GNOME and KDE, and Debian, and Google and everyone else who have exercised that stack in so many different ways, making it better along the way. There are tens of thousands of people who are not in any way shape or form associated with Ubuntu, who make this story real. Many of them have been working at it for more than a decade – it takes a long time to make an overnight success 🙂 while Ubuntu has only been on the scene six years. So Ubuntu cannot be credited solely for the delight of its users.

Nevertheless, the Ubuntu Project does bring something unique, special and important to free software: a total commitment to everyday users and use cases, the idea that free software should be “for everyone” both economically and in ease of use, and a willingness to chase down the problems that stand between here and there. I feel that commitment is a gift back to the people who built every one of those packages. If we can bring free software to ten times the audience, we have amplified the value of your generosity by a factor of ten, we have made every hour spent fixing an issue or making something amazing, ten times as valuable. I’m very proud to be spending the time and energy on Ubuntu that I do. Yes, I could do many other things, but I can’t think of another course which would have the same impact on the world.

I recognize that not everybody will feel the same way. Bringing their work to ten times the audience without contributing features might just feel like leeching, or increasing the flow of bug reports 10x. I suppose you could say that no matter how generous we are to downstream users, if upstream is only measuring code, then any generosity other than code won’t be registered. I don’t really know what to do about that – I didn’t found Ubuntu as a vehicle for getting lots of code written, that didn’t seem to me to be what the world needed. It needed a vehicle for getting it out there, that cares about delivering the code we already have in a state of high quality and reliability. Most of the pieces of the desktop were in place – and code was flowing in – it just wasn’t being delivered in a way that would take it beyond the server, or to the general public.

The second email I can’t quote from, but it was essentially a contract for services from Canonical to help a company move more than 20,000 desktops from Windows to Ubuntu. There have been several engagements recently of a similar scale, the pace is accelerating as confidence in Ubuntu grows. While Linux has long proven itself a fine desktop for the inspired and self-motivated developer, there is a gap between that and the needs of large-scale organisations. There isn’t another company that I’m aware of which is definitively committed to the free software desktop, and so I’m very proud that Canonical is playing that role in the free software ecosystem. It would be sad for me if all the effort the free software community puts into desktop applications didn’t have a conduit to those users.

There’s nothing proprietary or secret that goes into the desktops that Canonical supports inside large organisations. The true wonder for me is that the story from New Zealand, and the corporate story, both involve exactly the same code. That to me is the true promise of free software; when I have participated in open source projects myself, I’ve always been delighted that my work might serve my needs but then also be of use to as many other people as possible.

Ubuntu is a small part of that huge ecosystem, but I feel proud that we have stepped up to tackle these challenges.

Canonical takes a different approach to the other companies that work in Linux, not as an implicit criticism of the others, but simply because that’s the set of values we hold. Open source is strengthened by the fact that there are so many different companies pursuing so many different, important goals.

In recent weeks it’s been suggested that Canonical’s efforts are self-directed and not of benefit to the broader open source community. That’s a stinging criticism because most of us feel completely the opposite, we’re motivated to do as much as we can to further the cause of free software to the benefit both of end-users and the community that makes it, and we’re convinced that building Ubuntu and working for Canonical are the best ways to achieve that end. It’s prompted a lot of discussion and consideration for each of us and for Canonical as a whole. And this post is a product of that consideration: a statement for myself of what I feel I contribute, and why I feel proud of the effort I put in every day.

What do we do for free software? And what do I do myself?

For a start, we deliver it. We reduce the friction and inertia that prevent people trying free software and deciding for themselves if they like it enough to immerse themselves in it. Hundreds of today’s free software developers, translators, designers, advocates got the opportunity to be part of our movement because it was easy for them to dip their toe in the water. And that’s not easy work. Consider the effort over many years to produce a simple installer for Linux like which is the culmination of huge amounts of work from many groups, but which simply would not have happened without Canonical and Ubuntu.

There are thousands of people who are content to build free software for themselves, and that’s no crime. But the willingness to shape it into something that others will find, explore and delight in needs to be celebrated too. And that’s a value which is celebrated very highly in the Ubuntu community: if you read you’ll see a celebration of *people using free software*. As a community we are deeply satisfied to see people *using* it to solve problems in their lives. That’s more satisfying to us than stories about how we made it faster or added a feature. Of course we do bits of both, but this is a community that measures impact in the world rather than impact on the code. They are very generous with their time and expertise, with that as the reward. I’m proud of the fact that Ubuntu attracts people who are generous in their contributions: they feel their contributions are worth more if they are remixed by others, not less. So we celebrate Kubuntu and Xubuntu and Puppy and Linux Mint. They don’t ride on our coattails, they stand on our shoulders, just as we stand on the shoulders of giants. And that’s a good thing. Our work is more meaningful and more valuable because their work reaches users that ours alone could not.

What else?

We fix it, too. Consider the Papercuts project, born of the recognition that all the incredible technology and effort that goes into making something as complex as the Linux kernel is somehow diminished if the average user gets an incomprehensible result when they do something that should Just Work. Hundreds of Papercuts have been fixed, across many different applications, benefiting not just Ubuntu but also every other distribution that ships those applications. If you think that’s easy, consider the effort involved to triage and consider each of thousands of suggestions, coordinating a fix and the sharing of it. The tireless efforts of a large team have made an enormous difference. Consider this: saving millions of users one hour a week is a treasury of energy saved to do better things with free software. While the Canonical Design team played a leading role in setting up the Papercuts project, the real stars are people like Vish and Sense who rally the broader papercuts team to make a difference. Every fix makes a difference, on the desktop and the server.

At a more personal level, a key thing I put energy into is leadership, governance and community structure. When we started Ubuntu, I spent a lot of time looking at different communities that existed at the time, and how they managed the inevitable tensions and differences of opinion that arise when you have lots of sharp people collaborating. We conceived the idea of a code of conduct that would ensure that our passions for the technology or the work never overwhelmed the primary goal of bringing diverse people together to collaborate on a common platform. I’m delighted that the idea has spread to other projects: we don’t want to hoard ideas or designs or concepts, that would be contrary to our very purpose.

We setup a simple structure: a technical board and a community council. That approach is now common in many other projects too. As Ubuntu has grown, so that governance has evolved, there are now multiple leadership teams for groups like Kubuntu and the Forums and IRC, who provide counsel and guidance for teams of LoCo’s and moderators and ops and developers, who in turn strive for technical perfection and social agility as part of an enormous global community. That’s amazing. When people start participating in Ubuntu they are usually motivated as much by the desire to be part of a wonderful community as they are to fix a specific problem or ease a specific burden. Over time, some of those folks find that they have a gift for helping others be more productive, resolving differences of opinion, doing the work to organise a group so that much more can be achieved than any one individual could hope to do. Ubuntu’s governance structures create opportunities for those folks to shine: they provide the backbone and structure which makes this community able to scale and stay productive and happy.

A project like Ubuntu needs constant care in order to defend its values. When you are tiny and you put up a flag saying “this is what we care about” you tend to attract only people who care about those things. When the project grows into something potent and visible, though, you tend to attract EVERYONE, because people want to be where the action is. And then the values can easily be watered down. So I continue to put energy into working with the Ubuntu community council, and the Canonical community team, both of which are profoundly insightful and hard-working which makes that part of my work a real pleasure. The Ubuntu community council take their responsibility as custodian of the projects community values very seriously indeed. The CC is largely composed of people who are not affiliated with Canonical, but who nevertheless believe that the Ubuntu project is important to free software as a whole. And the awesome Jono Bacon, the delightful Daniel Holbach, and unflappable Jorge Castro are professionals who understand how to make communities productive and happy places to work.

Something as big as the Ubuntu community cannot be to the credit of me or any other individual, but I’m proud of the role I’ve played, and motivated to continue to play a role as needed.

In more recent years I’ve come to focus more on championing the role of design in free software. I believe that open source produces the best quality software over time, but I think we need a lot more cogent conversations about the experiences we want to create for our users, whether it’s on the desktop, the netbook or the server. So I’ve put a lot of my leadership energy into encouraging various communities – both Ubuntu and upstream – to be welcoming of those who see software through the eyes of the new user rather than the experienced hacker. This is a sea change in the values of open source, and is not something I can hope to achieve alone, but I’m nevertheless proud to be a champion of that approach and glad that it’s steadily becoming accepted.

There were designers working in free software before we made this push. I hope they feel that Canonical’s emphasis on the design-lead approach has made their lives easier, and the community at large more appreciative of their efforts and receptive to their ideas. But still, if you *really* care about design in free software, the Canonical design team is the place to be.

I do some design work myself, and have participated most heavily in the detailed design of Unity, the interface for Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.10. That’s an evolution of the older UNR interface; most importantly, it’s a statement that Linux desktops don’t need to be stuck in the 90’s, we can and will attempt to build new and efficient ways of working with computers. I’ve been delighted with the speed at which some of Unity’s facilities have been adopted by hundreds of projects, their goal is to make using Linux easier and classier for everyone, so that pace of adoption is a measure of the speed at which we are reducing the friction for new users discovering a better way to use their PC’s.

Design without implementation would leave us open to accusations of wanting others to do our work for us, so I’m proud also to lead a wonderful team that is doing the implementation of some of those key components. Things like dbusmenu have proven useful for bringing consistency to the interfaces of both GNOME and KDE applications running under Unity, and I very much hope they are adopted by other projects that need exactly the facilities they provide. I’d credit that engineering team with their focus on quality and testability and their desire to provide developers with clean API’s and good guidance on how best to use them. If you’ve used the full set of Indicators in 10.10 then you know how this quiet, persistent work that has engaged many different projects has transformed the panel into something crisp and efficient. Utouch is coming up for its first release, and will continue to evolve, so that Ubuntu and GNOME and KDE can have an easy road to multi-touch gesture interface goodness.

Beyond my own personal time, I also support various projects through funding. Putting money into free software needs to meet a key test: could that money achieve a better outcome for more people if it were directed elsewhere? There are lots of ways to help people: $100,000 can put a lot of people through school, clothed and fed. So I really need to be confident that the money is having a real, measurable impact on people’s lives. The thank you notes I get every week for Ubuntu help sustain that confidence. More importantly, my own observation of the catalytic effect that Ubuntu has had on the broader open source ecosystem, in terms of new developers attracted, new platforms created, new businesses launched and new participants acknowledged, make me certain that the funding I provide is having a meaningful consequence.

When Ubuntu was conceived, the Linux ecosystem was in a sense fully formed. We had a kernel. We had GNOME and KDE. We had X and libc and GCC and all the other familiar tools. Sure they had bugs and they had shortcomings and they had roadmaps to address them. But there was something missing: sometimes it got articulated as “marketing”, sometimes as “end-user focus”. I remember thinking “that’s what I could bring”. So Ubuntu, and Canonical, have quite explicitly NOT put effort into things which are obviously working quite well, instead, we’ve tried to focus on new ideas and new tools and new components. I see that as an invigorating contribution to the broader open source ecosystem, and I hear from many people that they perceive it the same way. Those who say “but Canonical doesn’t do X” may be right, but that misses all the things we do, which weren’t on the map beforehand. Of course, there’s little that we do exclusively, and little that we do that others couldn’t if they made that their mission, but I think the passion of the Ubuntu community, and the enthusiasm of its users, reflects the fact that there is something definitively new and distinctive about the project. That’s something to celebrate, something to be proud of, and something to motivate us to continue.

Free software is bigger than any one project. It’s bigger than the Linux kernel, it’s bigger than GNU, it’s bigger than GNOME and KDE, it’s bigger than Ubuntu and Fedora and Debian. Each of those projects plays a role, but it is the whole which is really changing the world. So when we start to argue with one another from the perspective of any one slice of free software, we run the risk of missing the bigger picture. That’s a bit like an auto-immune disease, where the body starts to attack itself. By definition, someone else who is working hard all day long to bring free software to a wider audience is on the same side as me, compared to 99% of the rest of the world, if I want to think in terms of sides. I admire and respect everyone who puts energy into advancing the cause of free software, even if occasionally I might differ on the detail of how it can be done.

234 Responses to “Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption”

  1. Cosmicharade Says:

    All very nice, makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But at the end of the day, people need to eat and houses to live in, and that includes the developers that work on Ubuntu. Will Canonical ever turn a profit? It is in everyone’s interest to see Canonical continue, and I am concerned that a profit is yet to be seen and this worries me about the future of Ubuntu. Can you provide reassurance that either Canonical will soon be profitable through some real well marketed and designed products and services (hire someone from Apple?) or that the ongoing losses are not an issue to the health and ongoing viability of Ubuntu? More information about Canonical’s business strategies please. It’s a glaring hole in my humble opinion.

  2. Ubuntu-grundare möter kritiska röster | Ubuntuportalen's Blog Says:

    […] mer och hela inlägget finns på Mark Shuttleworths blogg. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Novell säljs Vem […]

  3. ‘Ubuntu lift niet mee op werk van anderen’ « Linux Steunpunt Rozenburg ZH eo Says:

    […] schrijft op zijn webblog dat mensen die zeggen dat Canonical dit soort dingen nalaat te doen misschien gelijk hebben. Maar […]

  4. Edward Says:


    Although I agree with what your doing and I think Ubuntu has had a fantastic effect on OpenSource.

    I would have to say it would be nice if Canonical, which has an amount of resources that others do not, put one or two people at work ‘hardening’ and ridding the bug riddled X11 server from some bugs. This would only benefit not only Ubuntu however many other distributions on the BSD side of the world..

    Xorg needs some seriously more attention, for which it very much lacks considering it is the next biggest subsystem to the kernel its self!

    So this is a request, Please Mark, could Canonical please donate some more resources to improving the stability of Xorg?

    Many Thanks,
    Edward O’Callaghan.

  5. A lovely silk robe Says:

    “But there are two types of people in every country. Those who admire success, and those who hate success with a passion.”

    “Nice article Mark and don’t bother to much with the critics – a great part of them are just jealous.”

    It’s this sort of insulation that makes me wonder if you even know your “critics” or what their concerns are.
    There is no denying that you, and everyone involved with Ubuntu, have made a wonderful impact on this world. There is fear for the future though as Ubuntu appears to be at a turning point. These concerns need to be considered and addressed, not set upon with feverent attack dogs who twist words and silence beacons. Listen within.

  6. A lovely silk robe Says:

    Aww sheesh! Y’know what? There’s a whole lot of clutter from last night when your wp was trying to give .php files rather than post. I played around with it for a while thinking that the comments weren’t posting at all. I just noticed this morning after trying again. Sorry about the big mess 🙁

  7. Shuttleworth回应对Ubuntu的批评 | Ubuntu Home Says:

    […] Canonical创始人Mark Shuttleworth在博客上回应了Ubuntu没有对开源软件贡献太多代码的批评。 […]

  8. Lars Says:

    The justified criticism of Ubuntu is:
    – Everyone can create improvements according to their own capabilities
    – Bug reports
    – Feature suggestions
    – Artwork (wallpapers, skins, themes, etc)
    – Documents (wiki articles, howtos, etc)
    – Code (improvements, bug fixes, new features, etc)
    – Help (answering mail and forum questions)
    – Creating any of the above improvements, big or small, in your area of
    choice for Ubuntu and only Ubuntu and not contributing
    them to upstream is being a good collaborator in the Ubuntu community,
    not a good collaborator in the Open Source community.
    – Ubuntu can either be a good collaborator in the Open Source community,
    or accept the critisism that they are not.

  9. Basil Fernie Says:

    Mark, I applaud the work and achievements of Canonical to make Linux more accessible and usable to ordinary people. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, I am still writing this from the Windows 7 side of my dual-boot.

    The reason is that Ubuntu doesn’t have a slick self-installing connection via Bluetooth and cell-phone modem to the internet. Not even via a Neotel Prime 1G connection which offers quite reasonable speeds at 7c/MB out-of-bundle. It seems to me that this kind of connectivity is a much-overlooked essential for vast numbers of third-worlders for whom cellphones are the only feasible web-connection method and who may as a result not be using Linux despite all its other advantages. Not everybody has a direct landline connection to a fat pipe! It also seems like the kind of gap which could probably be filled quite easily by packaging and streamlining, maybe some scripting, as you do so well with Ubuntu in other areas. Any possibility of early attention to this issue?

    Regarding points raised by some critics: I must say that there does seem to be an increasing risk of forking Linux development, either in the kernel or in some apps, unless you assign more effort to strengthening the feedback loop to your upstreams. Doing this will indeed in turn strengthen your Ubuntu offerings. Yes, you guys are doing a great thing for the pervasiveness of Linux, but please keep an eye on the storm-clouds.

    Sincere and deserved regards,


  10. David Kerr Says:

    Hey Mr. Shuttleworth, we can’t all work on the kernel, so don’t feel bummed.

    I don’t feel any shame for not contributing enough kernel patches, but I greatly admire those who do contribute to it. I also admire your achievements with Ubuntu.

    Recently I wrote a sci-fi novel with Ubuntu, AbiWord, and a little book-planning tool I coded to help out: Kabikaboo, which is now a package in the Ubuntu repositories as of 10.04! See, I didn’t write a kernel patch, and I didn’t throw around millions of dollars, but in my own small way I contributed, and I feel no guilt; rather I feel good to have done something, even if it’s not glamorous like those elite kernel coders on their expensive machines driving limousines everywhere drinking champaigne toasting to how genius they are while throwing floppies in the air as if it were money (yes, that’s what they really do).

    Whew. Anyways, keep up the good work and noble efforts!

  11. rodin Says:

    Well said. This is exactly what I thought when I was starting to use Ubuntu (I guess it’s 6.10). Ubuntu does the marketing very well. I was remembering everyone around me so excited when CDs from ShipIt arrived.

  12. PaGer Says:

    “What do we do for free software? And what do I do myself?

    Consider the effort over many years to produce a simple installer for Linux like which is the culmination of huge amounts of work from many groups, but which simply would not have happened without Canonical and Ubuntu.”

    Remember Corel, a Debian-based distribution in the 90’s?

    “And that’s a value which is celebrated very highly in the Ubuntu community: if you read you’ll see a celebration of *people using free software*.”

    Yeah yeah yeah… On Ubuntu, which is Open Source (not Free Software) and encourages the use of closed source software. And take a look at, you will see the last few days/weeks an outbreak of Canonical employees trying to restore the image of Ubuntu, Canonical’s prestige, and of course, their personal image/prestige/reputation. It’s worse that an epidemic, it’s a pandemic…

    Whether you like it or not, Ubuntu loses feathers and Canonical gets a pretty bad reputation.

  13. bigthinker Says:

    great post, you writing is a pleasure to read. Im not certain if its your ability to write, or the topics of which your writing that i feel so strongly about. Im pretty sure its both.

    I have a basic general question. There doesn’t seem be much action on the Edubuntu project and I feel that they are missing some valuable opportunities. Giving students a linux operating system to use doesn’t work when the teachers, almost all college books, and online courses require proprietary software.

  14. delinquents Says:

    open source allowed me to learn everything I know about computers and IT. (k)Ubuntu on the other hand made me use open source on my everyday machines not just my servers.

    Thanks for your time and money invested into this. Keep it up, from Greece 🙂

  15. More on Canonical’s Contributions | Says:

    […] GNOME contributors given at July’s GUADEC convention, Mark Shuttleworth, posted his “Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption.” As I reporte […]

  16. Travis Says:

    Ubuntu is a fantastic distro, and Canonical has contributed immensely to FOSS and Linux. I know plenty of people have said this too, but I wanted to add my voice. Thanks for all you do.

  17. Prekates Alexandros Says:

    I Recognize Ubuntu contributions and congratulations for your and ubuntu’s community great efforts. But an issue not touched is the problem of monetary returns distribution in that ecosystem. Take a look at .
    Debian community is starting to embrace it..Why?

    The core issue that put negative sentiments towards ubuntu (in my opinion) is not necessarily code distribution but that ubuntu is part of the businness side of foss ecosystem that tries or achieves to monetize the foss ecosystem’s efforts.

    But who decides how that will be distributed? For now the answer is ‘that who gets the money!'(as you says above ‘Beyond my own personal time, I also support various projects through funding.’). Well,… thats doesnt sound very democratic. Is short of like giving tax collectors the power to spent the tax income at will!.Is all that money ubuntu’s people money? Is economically sound to make such a claim? Of course a part is , but i think a significant part isnot.

    I think a first solution to that problem is a flattr like system embedded in ubuntu. Analogous to use of packages a part of a foss monetizer entity should be distributed back to the developers. Such a structure would be a good base to alleviate the economical core problem. Although i would understand if someone said to me that it’s really hard for the moment to achieve even the current monetary returns so that issue must be postponed for a more mature and stable monetaty future. But from another optic that issue deserves more current attention since its in a sense part of the foss’s community architecture.

    Also it would be interesting to learn how ubuntu currently makes donations. For example, does gnu,kde,gnome get the biggest donations due to their core position (acknoledged by mark) or is there another thinking for donations . For example:(‘Putting money into free software needs to meet a key test: could that money achieve a better outcome for more people if it were directed elsewhere?’). I understand that monetary issues could create friction in an ecosystem but sooner or later must be faced.
    For example wikipedia foundation has an annually report for public. Does ubuntu has one? (i havent search it thoroughly , i just ask 🙂

    ps: sorry if sent more than once. i got errors from firefox, and non feedback from other browser

  18. Cloyd Steve Wiseman Says:

    I am as much a computer technician as someone is a mechanic who can only change his own oil or change a tire. I was able to partition a drive, dual boot with Ubuntu and Vista, and eventually decide to get rid of Vista. Thanks for Ubuntu. I dearly wish that more people knew about it . . . TV ads here in the US, I don’t know what else. The sticker on the back of my car just isn’t enough. Ubuntu isn’t hard, it works, it makes my life easier just to do things like surfing the net, watching videos, burning cd’s, listening to music, balancing my checkbook, and most of all, word processing and email. It is great, dependable, easy, stable . . . what else can I say. Ok, the compiz cube is great to show off, but I really don’t get much productivity out of it. But it is fun to play with. THANKS FOR UBUNTU!!! I am a dedicated fan of UBUNTU and Linux.

  19. meforubu Says:

    Ubuntu was a wonderful surprise when I tried it for the first time. I could not imagine that it was possible to exist anywhere in the world, an Operating System that was as good as the dominant existing one. In fact, in many key aspects, Ubuntu was still better for me, and I’m not even thinking about it’s freedom, at cost and in usage.

    Of course, at that time, it come to my mind that Ubuntu would pose a very serious threat to that O/S.

    Today, after reading a few comments placed here, I’m almost in shock realising that at the end, it’s inside the Linux / Open Source campus where people are coming to publicly state that Ubuntu does pose a real threat, but… to the FLOSS. And they react to this fact in a more virulent way than what I could expect from a well known micro software company. Strange position’s….

    The reason, they say, it’s because Mark Shuthleworth does not contribute back with code, and is looking to make money with Ubuntu, at the cost of the work of the Open Source community of developers. I thought that the Open Source community did not include only developers, but… OK.

    Going back to that micro software company. To face the threat and the concern they felt about the growing Linux and Canonical’s reach, at the beginning of this year they started hiring high profile employees directly from the Open Source communities, with no less than 10 years of experience inside it. Certainly, this happened because they thought that it was more easy to compete and win against Linux and the Open Source from inside it, than in the way it should be done: writing better code.

    This issue was largely commented in the net, at that time, with some people predicting that someday we would face those boys around us. It makes each day more difficult to know who is who and what each one is up to.

    For those who may be in doubt, just think about this: from whose pockets would Canonical find money enough to generate inside it, two or three of the most rich persons in the world, in the years to come?

    To end with, I’d like to congratulate Mark for bringing choice and freedom to the PC market. And also, to encourage him to keep his altruistic attitude among people, although it’s assured that unexpected fights may come in the way, from where no one would expect them to come.

    To know more about the shameless job description of the boys hired by that micro software company, please follow this link, or google it and press “cached”:

  20. Bhaskar Chowdhury Says:

    Hey Mark,

    I am running Arch,Gentoo,Fedora,Debian and Slackware in my laptop for ages and at the work places I am bound to use RHEL and SLES for quite some time.So there is no sign of Ubuntu!!!! Yes you are right I am not so fond of it and I must say I have tried few version of Ubuntu for certain months personally don’t find it exciting..may be my fault.

    But kudos to you and your thinking.You have done a great job by making it so popular(honestly).Everyone talking about it around me and I am left stranded,because I have seen it lees.I have a principle that if I have less knowledge about something I prefer to keep shut my mouth and listen to others.That exactly what I do when people talk about Ubuntu in front of me.

    Ubuntu community is growing like anything and I am pleased to see that more people using GNU/Linux then other OS.

    Great post and it seems you are a wonderful human being.I have seen lot of monied person and really detest them,but your work and thinking stand out man.

    Cheers Mark!

  21. kikl Says:

    I would like to add a few words of praise.

    First of all many projects contribute to the ubuntu experience. Therefore, all the upstream projects such as openoffice, evolution, firefox,… must be praised. But, ubuntu’s job is to tie all these bits and pieces together into a coherent experience. A couple of ubuntu projects are outstanding: 1. The installer, 2. The notification system, 3 Ubuntu one service and last but not least the 4. software center.

    I have been testing the maverik beta for a couple of days. It is extremely stable for a beta release, running smoothly on my netbook. I love the way chat, e-mail and broadcasting are tied together. I appreciate the way ubuntu one lets me synchronize key files, contacts and bookmarks in a very simple way across multiple computers.

    The software center is evolving wonderfully. Finally, software can be purchased, albeit hardly any software is available for purchase at the moment. A history button lets you track the changes to your system. I would be glad, if this history could be backed up with ubuntu one, such that setting up a new computer with the same configuration would be a very simple one-click procedure. But, this may come with time. There are many subtle changes to the software center. I just noticed that it now tells you where the application is found in the applications folder…

    In my opinion, the user experience of ubuntu is superior to the windows operating system.

    Keep up the great work. We ubuntu users appreciate it a lot!

  22. More on Canonical’s Contributions | @tuxguru Says:

    […] GNOME contributors given at July’s GUADEC convention, Mark Shuttleworth, posted his “Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption.” As I reporte […]

  23. Linux News Watch | More on Canonical’s Contributions Says:

    […] GNOME contributors given at July’s GUADEC convention, Mark Shuttleworth, posted his “Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption.” As I reporte […]

  24. sllih Says:

    I think that software moves very fast this days. I recently saw Internet Explorer 9 beta and its ability to put Web(site) application into task bar. It is very important for Ubuntu and free desktop to move even faster.

    I consider GNOME Shell as a real milestone that shoud be made as soon as possible. I am sad about cooperation on Shell that goes so hard. So everyone who whant to make free desktop really competitive: please support GNOME Shell and bringing the Web into desktop.

  25. anzan Says:

    As always, thank you to Mark, Canonical, and the Ubunutu community.

  26. roger Says:

    Linux desktop share is stuck around 1%, and it’s not showing any signs of improving. Shouldn’t the Linux community be discussing about that instead of the usual blame-shifting and ideology that users don’t care about?

  27. Andrei Says:

    Well, let’s rant… Mark, thank you for being honest. Thank you for throwing off the Ubuntu mask.

    “I recognize that not everybody will feel the same way. Bringing their work to ten times the audience without contributing features might just feel like leeching, or increasing the flow of bug reports 10x.”

    So you admit that Ubuntu is a leecher of other projects and almost a marketing organization… The reason for all criticism and the big flamewars in the last months. You don’t need to ask any more, You have the response in your words.

    Contributors to GNOME – your REAL mainstream -, Debian – Ubuntu source – and many other projects see that Ubuntu takes their work, “polishes” some aesthetics and “sell” their work like “being the ones who made it all”… They feel like scrap, Mark, and your beautiful diatribe about “we sell it very well” doesn’t hide that Ubuntu people had bad attitude with the sources of the project, and they have now.

    Ubuntu Papercuts project is ONLY an Ubuntu Project. The results could be used by other projects, but the spirit would remain “Ubuntu-only”, and other Ubuntu projects – Unity, for example – are Ubuntu-only too. The new word: “Ubuntucentrism”

    Like me, many old-school linux users thank Ubuntu project for its marketing and usability – aesthetics above all -; but the project is closing itself in its own ecosystem, like Debian did too many times. And the number of fanatic Ubuntards are growing dangerously… I’m really tired of fanatics from all sides, and tired of ubuntu over-hype too.

    Mark, Ubuntu is getting close to a civil war in the free software world. Be careful, if you and the other Ubuntu guys really care abot Free Software.

  28. Andy Says:

    I am a true believer in Open Source. But maybe I’m a bit of a stuck in the mud. To me Karmic desktop was as close to perfect functional style as it gets and Lucid gave me pause for thought. It took me some time to decide to upgrade to lucid. In the end I upgraded and kept my old desktop style. But now I have come to terms with the new Lucid style I like it. BTW I always liked the netbook style interface on my Eeepc 701 on Karmic or Lucid. I wonder what Maverick will be like? MAC style or keep it unique?

  29. Andrei Says:

  30. Andrei Says:

    I must agree to this excellent comment

  31. zelrik Says:

    @Prekates Alexandros,

    I am not sure you understand FOSS. First of all, this is not a democracy, Canonical is not a democracy, it’s ultimately a for-profit organization. Secondly, Open Source doesn’t belong to anybody: GNU, KDE, Gnome, Debian, if they don’t have a business model monetize their work, it shouldn’t be Canonical’s problem. The code if for everybody to use, profit or non-profit doesn’t matter as long as you do not violate the GPL (or other) license (It doesn’t say that you should give money back to Gnome in their license).

    There is nothing new here, if you have the money, you get to chose how to use it.
    If you code on your spare time and decide to release the code under GPL, nobody owes you anything, people might like your work and support you but that’s it.

    So to conclude, I think it’s very nice that Mr Mark Shuttleworth is investing his money/time into open source projects and where the money goes is mostly Mark’s problem :).

  32. Dazza Says:

    I think the answer you seek is that people don’t trust you.

  33. David Says:

    @ Mark

    Thank you for your reply. I’ll relay the gist of it to others who share(ed) my concerns. Unfortunately Humphrey’s own site gave no indication to its viewers that action had been taken to address these concerns and his stance appeared to be that he had widespread support from within Ubuntu projects…I accept that you’ve stated this not to be the case but a misconception was, and is, given by the statements on his site.

    A further issue is in play regarding dissatisfaction amongst 3PD (third party developers) regarding requests being made by Cannonical regarding copyright assignments…please see Aaron Siego’s blog posting for details

    In brief Cannonical is asking 3PD to give virtual signatures to copyright assignment legal agreements when they contribute to Cannonical funded projects but these legal agreements contain terms that fall far short of the standard agreements from the likes of the FSFE or KDE (also in that their terms are flawed:

    To quote Aaron Siego:

    “Para 3 allows Canonical to adjust what is covered at their discretion with no boundaries. By adding an entry to http:// Canonical gains access to my copyrights in that project. There is no express boundary or definition to what Canonical can add to that list. As a result I can not guarantee that my contributions to any possible project listed there could be held under this contract. Therefore, I can not in good conscience sign the document.

    Para 4 does not provide sufficient definition of what “submited to Canonical by me” means. In this case, I committed code to a repository. How is that submitting it to Canonical? The problem here is that, due to it being so vague, that nearly anything I commit to a repo that Canonical claims maintainership of (regardless of where it is hosted, it’s previous history, etc.) could fall under this wording.

    Para 6 says, “Canonical may also, in its discretion, make the Assigned Contributions available to the public under other license terms.” This means that the “ordinarily” wording of the first sentence in the paragraph is a “gentleman’s agreement” and not actually meaningful in the least. Canonical is fully within its rights to release such code under, for example, a proprietary license. It could hand those rights over to another party as well, given how this agreement is worded. That runs counter to the ethics I hold which have led me to dedicate my professional life to Free Software.

    Para 8 would put a legal requirement on me to notify Canonical if I even become _aware_ of any possible patent (or other IP) issues relating to my contributions. That is highly onerous, and I do not have the time or financial resources to be able to commit to such an absurd burden.

    There are no termination clauses, meaning that no matter how I feel about Canonical (or Canonical about me) or what actions Canonical (or I) perpetrate in the future, there is no clear provision for how to terminate the agreement cleanly.”

    As this seems, to me, to be a genuine grievance and needs to be sorted out at a high level within Cannonical I bring it to your attention…let’s see if we can put this one to bed too please!

  34. Mackenzie Says:

    There are no stockholders. Canonical is not publicly traded.

  35. Mackenzie Says:

    Jef Spaleta does not work for Red Hat and (according to a bunch of Red Hat employees I was hanging out with last weekend) never has.

  36. Marketing et ergonomie, la touche finale d’Ubuntu qui fait avancer le logiciel libre « Injazz Consulting's blog Says:

    […] Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption […]

  37. crazyPenguin Says:

    OMG canonical doesn’t contribute upstream to GNOME! it’s funny because other distros don’t even use GNOME! Gnome is so popular because Ubuntu

  38. Peter Popov Says:

    The arguments against Ubuntu are only too familiar in the software industry. Developers just don’t dig non-developers, period. Those of us in the industry know how much more difficult it is for a dev team to be managed, led, or even coached by someone who doesn’t write code for a living. They just don’t earn developers’ trust that easily. That the person in question might have a mindset, education, skills and education that make them a much better leader, tutor, mentor, coach, or manager than any CS course would have, seems to evade them. That this is the case seems to evade everyone else about as often 🙂 Take it from someone who’s been through QA, HMI/UI, Support, project management, product management, and who’s also been coding on and off for over twenty years.

    Mark, you hit the nail on the head with this post. I’ve been a Linux user since Slackware 2.0, then switched to Debian when I grew tired of managing packages manually, then to Warty as soon as it came out. I never liked DE choice but have always respected it and appreciate what it’s doing for the average user. I’ve introduced several people to computing via Ubuntu on computers too old to run or at least be supported by Windows, and it’s been working wonders for them out-of-the-box (with the sole exception of restricted extras which I installed for them). Ubuntu has made its mark on the world (pun intended).

  39. Adam Williamson Says:

    foxoman: Um, if you read my comment and think that I’m ‘bashing’ something, I’m really not sure what to say. I’m clearly not, and bent over backwards to make it *clear* that I’m not. Offering suggestions and different interpretations is not, at all, in any way, bashing. What do you want? A world where no-one is allowed to disagree with Mark, Canonical, or anyone involved in Ubuntu?

  40. faical Says:

    thanks mark your are the best 🙂

    faical from algeria

  41. Peter Down Says:

    Thank you for this blog. I know that there are many ways of being part of the free software movement. But fore Ubuntu it is unlikely that I would be a member of that movement. And although I do not have programming skills to contribute code I do contribute by encouraging others to consider using free software and, where I can, helping them to do that.

    Ubuntu has done a great job in getting free software used and in setting a standard for all in the movement to aspire to. There are many people like me out there who will use free software if it “just works”.

    Many thanks for Ubuntu.

  42. Putu Wiramaswara Widya Says:

    I’m proud with you, Mark.

    You have made an ugly free and open source software to be more user friendly for anyone 😀

  43. tz Says:

    If it only were true. Wifi is broken – it can’t roam, often misdetects cards, and upon installation will say all it needs to do is download a driver – which it can’t because it is a wireless driver. The last few versions have had at least one critical flaw in Bluetooth. Grub2 is still badly broken – I can’t boot my Mac partitions in either 32 or 64 bit (without manually editing the files), nor can I prevent the clutter. Nor does it find DOS.

    The 100 papercuts were YOUR idea of which 100 defects were most important, not mine or anyone I know. Is having major pains with any wireless technology not important to fix – for over TWO YEARS? Apparently clarifying some obscure and rare error message takes priority.

    Also replacing a fully functional but clunky part of the system with some broken early alpha attempt makes it harder whatever you may belive. Grub1 works, you moved to grub2 – fine, but you didn’t and I expect will NEVER FIX it for several years if at all. Notification worked and still work (e.g. on Fedora). Yours has serious problems and breakages and incompatibilities, was done without asking, consulting, or enlisting the community to figure out how to preserve the functionality and produce something that actually works better in all cases with all programs. When notifications are designed for interaction, you just break.

    I wish I could use Ubuntu on older hardware, but some of those have wierd drivers and need the old manual configuration (e.g. to say use VESA at 1024×768) but all those are gone. A few versions ago – “HH” it actually fixed more things than it broke and I was hopeful that I would end up with a series of versons that just got better. Instead the next was at best a break-even, and then it just got worse and worse. Old bugs were not fixed, and new problems and incompatible (broken/breaking) changes were introduced – and eventhose weren’t fixed. Some of the bugs are well over 2 years old and serious, but you prefer the badly integrated vanity UI changes to expend effort – at least enough to introduce them but not enough to even fix them enough to be both functional and beautiful – they are like a sleek sports car that belches acrid smoke when you press the accelerator. No matter how much prettier, the purpose is not aesthetics but to accomplish a task.

    Even on the developer side. ./configure is horrible – and it always returns the same settings even if it is going to spend another 15 minutes getting to the fixed failure on an ARM system. No restarts, no preserved Makefile so it takes longer to ./configure than to make.

    There is a big difference between improving the actual quality of something and merely making it more marketable.

    And a lot of others including me are trying to fix these problems. And that is probably where I think the accusation of leeching has some truth. You are picking and choosing what you want to contribute, and it is often not the most significant bug, the most difficult problem, or even the most important one. And when your ideas break something you seem to expect the community to fix it or otherwise change their thousands of lines of code to adapt to your pet idea. You are the Steve Jobs of GNU/Linux and Launchpad is the AppStore.

    And no, it is not a democracy – it is your dime, so it is your song. But at some point it is also no longer a community, unless a collection of sycophants and their object are a community.

  44. Is Ubuntu contributing to Open Source or not? – Robert's blog Says:

    […] Ubuntu contributing to Open Source or not? Mark Shuttleworth wrote an interesting piece as a rebuttal for complaints from the community that Ubuntu and Canonical are not contributing enough. He states […]

  45. Με αφορμή τις πρόσφατες σκέψεις του Mark Shuttleworth. | Libre Bytes Says:

    […] ‘Reflections on Ubuntu, Canonical and the march to free software adoption.’ […]

  46. John Cockroft Says:

    I’ll start this by saying thank you – although those words are not enough.

    You have given the Linux community a distribution which is better than anything that Microsoft have to offer and better than most of the commercial Linux distributions (such as Red Hat, SUSE Enterprise, Mandriva and SimplyMEPIS).

    Why is this?

    It just WORKS on the vast majority of hardware, is easy to install and understand (both my children use (Ed)ubuntu as they are doing this morning) and is free to use – but you have to use your BRAINS when installing any software.

    When you use any operating system, whether it be Ubuntu, Windows 7, Windows XP, HP-UX, Solaris, Red Hat Enterprise Linux – you make sure that you buy hardware which is supported on that software not just hope that it MIGHT work. There are plenty of pieces of hardware (for instance) which worked on Windows XP but no longer work on Windows 7. People are not complaining about that – they just accept what the great God Microsoft tells them 🙁 throw away the old and buy kit which is supported. When something doesn’t work under a Linux distribution, the usual comment is “what a pile of trash” (or something similar). Whoa! Check things out first with a Live CD (can’t do THAT under Windows and no BART-PE doesn’t count as it isn’t the full Windows ‘kernel’/HAL) and see if things work FIRST!

    I buy hardware I know runs under Linux (by checking hardware compatibility lists, Linux kernel notes and blogs), I don’t buy hardware and then HOPE I can get it working (except when I’m feeling lucky 😉 ). This IS a problem for new users (I am a Technical Architect and have written device drivers both for Linux and Windows) and some sort of ‘Penguin Mark’ is needed on hardware along with a minimum Kernel/Xorg version on which it works. Getting hardware manufacturers to buy into this is another matter – it is always hard to break into a monopoly/established market.

    What is needed is to increase MINDSHARE – i.e. let users SEE what that they don’t HAVE to run Windows and that running Linux has many advantages. The best way (I think) would be some sort of TV advert comparing Linux (say Ubuntu) and Windows run when the most people would see it. This will cost money so perhaps the solution is to have some sort of donation portal on the Ubuntu site labeled clearly as going toward a TV Linux promotion. I for one would contribute!

    I’ll just finish off by saying that I used to work in the Microsoft team for a large corporation and am now self-employed and work almost exclusively with Linux (both Red Hat/CentOS and Ubuntu/Debian) and do not regret for a second that I made the move. Linux is FAR more stable and easier to work on than Windows and Ubuntu (or derivations) are FAR more suitable for the work/home than Windows in ALL circumstances. If only more major governments would make the switch. (I am typing this on a Lenovo laptop running 64 bit Ubuntu 10.04 of course 🙂 )

    Lets all try and get Linux in the mainstream (for instance if I am at a ‘standard’ computer shop such as PCWorld – I ALWAYS ask why they don’t offer laptops/desktops with a choice of operating system e.g. Linux pre-installed and usually get stupid stony silence). I was also asked (by other customers) what Linux was – I told them and gave web links – and was then asked to leave for being disruptive (as they were trying to sell Windows 7 to one of these customers)! Information (such as an advertising campaign) is the only way I think.

    The Linux/Open Source way of doing things is to get us all to help – perhaps someone with a less ugly mug than my own could star in the advert!

    Keep up the fantastic work. Ubuntu is NOT perfect but is better than most of the competition (beware of Mono by the way – we have better alternatives). Microsoft IS very worried about Linux and is fighting back. That is a very good sign – it means we are starting to win.

  47. stjohnmedrano Says:

    Mark thank you very much, in return ive created a community here in cebu city philippines the goal is very simple spread ubuntu in cebu city.

    Thank you again.

  48. Shuttleworth responde às críticas pelas contribuições do Ubuntu | Linux Ajuda Says:

    […] a resposta é bem longa e cheia de informações sobre qual é a contribuição que a Canonical e seu fundador buscam […]

  49. Christian Hudon Says:

    Very well written. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Mark.

  50. Tiago Vignatti Says:

    Mark, you forgot about one of the most important communities, X and all low-level graphics development. Recently I published an article about this community in my blog, and I hope you’ll find it interesting.