We made some mistakes in our handling of the discussion around revenue share with the Banshee team. Thanks to everyone who helped make sure we were aware of ’em 😉

Money is particularly contentious in a community that mixes volunteer and paid effort, we should have anticipated and been extra careful to have the difficult conversations that were inevitable up front and in public, at UDS, when we were talking about the possibility of Banshee being the default media player in Ubuntu. We didn’t, and I apologise for the consequential confusion and upset caused.

The principles from which we derive our policy are straightforward:

The bulk of the direct cost in creating the audience of Ubuntu users is carried by Canonical. There are many, many indirect costs and contributions that are carried by others, both inside the Ubuntu community and in other communities, without which Ubuntu would not be possible. But that doesn’t diminish the substantial investment made by Canonical in a product that is in turn made available free of charge to millions of users and developers.

The business model which justifies this investment, and which we hope will ultimately sustain that effort for the desktop without dependence on me, is that fee-generating services which are optional for users provide revenue to Canonical. This enables us to make the desktop available in a high quality, fully maintained form, without any royalties or license fees. By contrast, every other commercial Linux desktop is a licensed product – you can’t legally use it for free, the terms for binaries are similar to those for Windows or the MacOS. They’re entitled to do it their way, we think it’s good in the world that we choose to do it our way too.

We know that we need a healthy and vibrant ecosystem of application developers. We think services should work for them too, and we’re committed to sharing revenue with them. We want to be entirely aligned in our interests: better code means a better result for both of us, better revenue means more resources to do what we love even better. Our interests, and upstream interests, should be perfectly aligned in this. So we have consistently had the view that revenue we can attribute to a particular upstream should create a revenue share for that upstream. We support Mozilla in this way, for example. The numbers are not vast, but nor are they insubstantial, and while we are not obliged to do so, we do so happily.

Those are the principles, the policy is straightforward: Canonical seeks to earn revenue from services delivered to Ubuntu, and we will share a portion of that revenue with relevant projects who help make that possible. Our interests, and those of the projects, should be aligned to the greatest extent possible.

In engaging with Banshee leads at UDS, we should have been absolutely clear about our expectations and commitment. Apparently, we weren’t, and for that I apologise. There was certainly no conspiring or maliciousness, it apparently just never came up. But it was my expectation that we would share revenue with Banshee, I mentioned it briefly to someone closer to the conversation, but I failed to follow up until I heard rumours of a potential disagreement on the subject in recent days.

We also made a mistake, I believe, as this blew up in private conversations, when a well-meaning person presented a choice to the Banshee developers, who then of course made a choice. But our position isn’t at all what was communicated. Our position is that we’ll deliver the best overall experience to users, we’ll derive services revenue from that, and we’ll share it with upstreams where we can attribute it efficiently. It wasn’t in the mandate of that person to offer a choice outside of that framework, but it was an honest mistake.

So, every free software project out there should be confident of a few things:

Canonical would like you to succeed, would like to make it as easy as possible for many, many users to adopt your software, and is willing to share the benefits of that with you. Whether your software is promoted as the default in Ubuntu, or simply neatly packaged for easy consumption, we’d like our interests to be well aligned. We have a bug tracker that helps us pass issues to you if they are reported in Ubuntu first, we have a revenue model which matches that with passing through a share of revenues, too. And that goes for any kind of revenue that we can attribute to your project; for example, if we offer a support service specially tailored to people using your code, you can reasonably expect to agree a revenue share of that with us.

Canonical invests heavily in creating a big, addressable ecosystem that you can easily reach. That’s worth something. We also want a big, vibrant upstream community that innovates and makes its own investments. We know that contributions come both from volunteers and paid staff, and it’s good to be able to have a bit of both in the mix, for the sake of both the volunteers and the paid staff!

Documenting this position is obviously a priority; we should have done so previously, but we just relied on internal precedent, which is a dumb idea when you’ve grown as quickly as we have in the past few years. So we’ll do that.

As for the revenue share we’ve offered the Banshee team, I would love to see them use that to make Banshee even better. That’s what it should be for. Don’t be shy, don’t be nervous of taking the money and using it for your own project. Canonical has already provided much more in the way of funding to the Gnome Foundation than this is likely to, through initiatives like the bugzilla.gnome.org work that we funded, and many other forms of support. I think money generated by an app should go towards making that app rock even harder. But the offer stands for Banshee devs to take up if they’d like, and use as they’d like. If they don’t want it, we’ll put it to good use.

This certainly won’t be the last word on the subject. I expect these situations to become more common, not less. But I think that represents a great opportunity to see sustained investment in desktop free software, which we have been sorely lacking. I think our model gives projects a nice, clear roadmap: build awesome stuff, partner with Canonical and be confident you will share in the success of Ubuntu. This is the model which catalysed the founding of Ubuntu, seven years ago, this is what we’re here to do: make free software available freely, in the best quality, to the widest audience we can. That’s an opportunity for every project that cares about how many people get to use their stuff, and under what terms.

177 Responses to “Mistakes made, lessons learned, a principle clarified and upheld”

  1. George Notaras Says:

    I think the FOSS community, sooner or later, will have to face itself regarding the future and the evolution of a software development model that is currently mostly based on voluntary work. I think that the creation of economical connections between open source projects will further strengthen their current positions and also promote their quality. IMO, this is the right direction. Your efforts in creating a high quality product for the desktop are admirable. Thanks.

  2. Mark Murphy Says:

    Canonical having revenue-earning optional services in Ubuntu *for software that it wrote* is perfectly reasonable.

    Canonical altering affiliate codes or similar identifiers, to hijack revenues from software that Canonical did not write, is simply unethical and immoral.

    When Web sites are accused of altering affiliate codes on links from user-generated content, the outrage is palpable. When Web sites copy other sites’ content and slap their own ads on, adding no additional value, people complain about “content spam” and Google rejiggers their search algorithms to punish the copiers. When ISPs inject ads in Web sites its users surf to, negative press is frequently just the starting point. Why is Canonical changing affiliate codes in open source applications any different?

    Yes, it is permitted by license, and hence it is not a breach of copyright. However, that should represent a *floor* for ethics, not a ceiling.

    If Canonical truly believes that, because of the size of its user base, it is entitled to revenue from packages it distributes, then at least be up-front and even-handed about it, and charge a marketing fee to each and every application and library that Ubuntu ships. Of course, you will find that many developers will be disinterested in paying such a fee, resulting in a smaller, weaker Ubuntu. But at least you will be documenting your expectations and applying them across the board, not on a selective basis.

    I write this on an Ubuntu 10.10-powered notebook. I have frequently looked for ways to contribute to Ubuntu, but I never saw a donation area, and last I looked the Ubuntu merchandise store didn’t seem to be set up for US customers. I apologize for using your product without contributing to you, but you haven’t given me a simple way to do that. Perhaps Canonical should focus on those sorts of efforts, to improve the usability of ways to give you money, so that you can leave applications’ affiliate codes alone.

  3. Andreas Kuckartz Says:

    You write “every other commercial Linux desktop is a licensed product – you can’t legally use it for free, the terms for binaries are similar to those for Windows or the MacOS.”

    What?! Please name those “other commercial Linux desktops”.

  4. srinivas v Says:

    Mark, Please do note the following.
    1. Ur explanation of the whole situation is most confusing.
    2. U have not taken any stand.
    3. Ignorance of law is also a crime. Ignorance of the banshee scenario is no explanation for such a heavily debated topic
    4. Banshee or any other “free as in freedom” developers do not need ur advice. They very well know how to make money or not from their favorite project.
    5. Your re-iteration of telling the banshee developers to develop “their” project, improve “their” project, think about only “their” projects is something that will not be taken easily by the “free as in freedom” developers.
    6. Ubuntu is “your” project. So go ahead and do whatever u want with it.
    7. Since u dont like nasty comments here please head out to my blog, If u have time(And if u think that it might give ur monetary returns).
    8. “U” and “U”buntu are here at this commanding position because of the “free as in freedom” developers(gnome, linux kernel, open office, kvm, qemu, firefox, X, all the plethora of window managers, GNU/Debian and all the fantastic “free as in freedom” developers.
    9. U seem to be interested only in the beatification of GNU/Linux.
    10. U have spent only “dollars” in making brand ubuntu known(If allowed, u might have a windows kernel if it was free.)
    11. U in fact should have spent those “dollars” in making the world understand “free as in freedom” software.
    12. stop aping Apple.

  5. Martin Owens Says:

    The percentages and specifics are really a distraction. So long as Canonical is clear about it’s position regarding non-direct funding sources (incidental money) like referral fees. It would also be helpful to know whether Canonical would put direct funding into upstream projects that it includes by default; should the company become more profitable. Much like OEMs are currently putting money into Canonical for inclusion in their products.

    This issue, like so many before, has been more about communication and a regard for the community, than for any specifics.

  6. David Says:

    So I want to make sure I understand your position. You wait for a group of volunteers to create a great piece of software that you believe will provide the best experience for the users of your product. You add it to your your product because it adds that value. You then take the revenue stream from the original developers and pretend your doing them a favor.

  7. mark Says:

    @David, no, you clearly don’t understand my position, but I don’t think that was your real goal for the comment 😉

  8. mark Says:

    @ Srini, I did go to your blog, and was very glad that the proprietary ATI drivers appear to be working well for you.

  9. Jan Gutter Says:

    Notwithstanding the arguments about ethics, morality, free software and commercial software, this raises an important question: which model of funding would be the most sustainable to foster open source and free software in the future?

    The model that Red Hat, Novell, Oracle and others use is to sell a high-end, server-class support contract to fund development. As a byproduct they cannot help but to contribute to some of the more fundamental infrastructure in Linux (the kernel, glibc, plumbing, etc.) The fact is that this plumbing work is HARD to do correctly, and a lot of individuals able to do have to be paid.

    The model that Debian and Gentoo use is almost entirely based on volunteers and donations. This means that development is driven more by (for lack of a better term) developer ego and a desire to code something beautiful. Monetary gain *seems* to be secondary here, but the fact is that talented developers donate their personal time to the system.

    Then there’s the model Ubuntu is pioneering. Trying to monetize systems in and around a Linux distribution to provide funding for developing and extending the same systems. At first glance this would seem to be the least likely way to be sustainable. Apple with iTunes and the various cellphone App markets have decidedly shown otherwise.

    I’m positing that there’s two major factors that will make or break such a micro-sales system:

    The first is monopoly. If you are the only game in town (let’s face it, that’s most probably the reason the iTunes store dominates music sales) then there’s very little that prevents you from growing.

    The second is trust. Apple, PayPal, Amazon, I would not trust any of them to act other than big, monopolistic companies. Because of the massive userbase they have, I do trust that most people, however, are suckered or forced into being their clients. My emotional response to this is “they must be doing something right”. Gaining reputation and trust is obviously very important (as the former owner of Thawte should know!)

    So, if you haven’t fallen asleep at this point, you might be expecting some kind of point or summary, or at least something you can take as a constructive comment. Unfortunately there’s none of that here. When dealing with humans, and especially humans /en masse/, there are just too many parameters to predict anything.

    Hindsight, I presume, will be the only way to determine what actually works and what doesn’t. Which is the EXACT opposite of engineering. Which is why engineers are so easily agitated by the ethics and morality of free and open source software.

  10. mark Says:

    @Andreas: Red Hat Workstation, Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop.

  11. David Says:

    The point of my comment was to try to get to the bottom line of the situation in a very direct fashion. If my comment shows a lack of understanding of your position, it’s because I find it difficult to find what your position is. As far I can tell you believe you have dedicated a large sum of money to Ubuntu and the community and want to see return on that money. I agree that you should see return on your investment. I question whether your taking money that doesn’t belong to you to get that return.

  12. Jonathan Carter Says:

    (trying to keep this short)

    Mark, can you remember when Ubuntu started out there was much more of “Ubuntu is a community project backed by Canonical” and how that changed more to “Ubuntu is a Canonical project with some community involvement”. It’s not said like that directly anywhere, but if you look at Ubuntu and Canonical now and then there’s a clear difference in how the project is delivered to people who are new to it.

    I don’t know who I should talk to about this but I also think that the community manager role should be reviewed. Currently the tasks seem to be stuff like “Make sure community has buy-in for Unity” and other tasks that seem more marketing related for Canonical than actual Ubuntu community building work.

    Honestly, Ubuntu just doesn’t feel like a community project at all anymore. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a bug or feature. I can assure you that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

    Having said that, I’m still happy to contribute to Edubuntu and for people using Ubuntu and all it’s derivatives, and I’ll continue to chug along doing my little bits toward the project. I also think that Canonical plays an important role in the bigger eco-system and hope that it does things right and succeeds. I also believe that if you want to fix a system you have to be a part of it, which is why I wouldn’t leave the project just because I’m unhappy with some grey areas and which is also why I applied for sponsorship for UDS again.

    “Only a sith deals in absolutes” -Obi-wan Kenobi

  13. João Pinto Says:

    if you believe that this hard conversation should had happened at UDS, why did Canonical follow-up with the affiliate code change after the initial meeting ? At that time it was already known that a) there was an error on part of Canonical management, b) this aspect of the change was not properly communicate to the Community.
    It would be much more respectful to the community to keep the banshee code untouched for this cycle, and to take whatever measures would be appropriate for a more constructive and effective dialog until the next release.
    In my opinion the main issue is not about the money, it is more how Canonical business engagement takes priority over Community engagement

    And I am sorry but the sentence the policy is NOT straightforward. “Canonical seeks to earn revenue from services delivered to Ubuntu, and we will share a portion of that revenue with relevant projects who help make that possible. “.
    There are many ways to deliver services do a product which do not require direct changes to the product. Be very clear that those services can include random changes to the Ubuntu product as dictated by Canonical.

  14. Max Kanat-Alexander Says:

    Hey Mark. As usual, your point is made with great clarity and intelligence. I agree that money is a contentious issue in mixed volunteer/paid communities, but I hope that that sort of conflict doesn’t prevent your proposed model from taking off. Open source volunteer developers very much need a revenue stream, Canonical needs a way to support itself forever, and your model sounds frankly brilliant and extremely practical. I for one am all for it! 🙂


  15. IGnatius T Foobar Says:

    Quite frankly, I think Canonical has every right to keep *all* the revenue.

  16. Vincent Untz Says:

    Mark: feel free to use SLED for free: http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/eval.html 😉 “The only limitation of this evaluation software is the duration of your free access to update.novell.com.”

  17. shlomil Says:

    This whole debate is silly.
    When you release your source you should always take into account that it will be used in ways you may not approve.
    Canonical and Ubuntu contributed to the Linux increased popularity we see in recent years and is entitled, IMHO, to change the source code and use Ubuntu’s user base to generate profit. However, Banshee devs should be motivated to improve their software and that’s why profit sharing is the prefect solution. I have a feeling that 25% will be worth much more (than the current 100% with smaller user base) for GNOME and Banshee devs after it become default.

    I would go even further with this idea: let the users define (during first purchase) which percentage of the generated revenue should go to Canonical like those guy with the Humble Bundle did. This will surly make all these bad feeling go away.

  18. Nick Mailer Says:

    Mark, would you re/affirm that you believe you were accurate in your claim that RHEL and Suse’s “terms for binaries are similar to those for Windows or the MacOS”?

    As far as I can tell, this represents a distortion, even taking into account the “binaries” caveat.

    Have I missed something?

    PS: You need to update the copyright boilerplate at the bottom of this page which, telling, stalls in 2007 😉

  19. Mateusz Mucha Says:


    These situations are bound to happen – there’s no such thing as a successful project that doesn’t receive any criticism. You guys make a lot of decisions and many of them in regard to problems that don’t have a perfect solution (free drivers / users’ convenience, to name one problem). I’ve been using Ubuntu since Hoary and didn’t love everything you did, but I’ve always felt Ubuntu’s getting way more crap than it deserves when it comes to FOSS community.
    As long as your intentions are clean (I don’t doubt it), we should be fine.

  20. mark Says:

    @Vincent: sounds like a free eval for a proprietary product, to me 😉

  21. Cheryl Says:

    I find the whole topic rather annoying. And not from the perspective of the Gnome/Banshee community. Banshee is released under the MIT license, if they have an obligation to their software being used commercially then they should have chosen another license type.

    That was their choice and now they have to live with the decision.

    The community around Gnome acts as if Ubuntu is the only platform that Banshee is available for. It isn’t. But it is the only one that will be replacing the ID. That means whatever other revenue that Banshee generates will be theirs to do with as they see fit.

    If they decide to donate 100% of that to Gnome then that is their right. However, to say that it is a Gnome application and that 100% of all revenue generated through it, regardless of the platform, belongs to Gnome is pretty short sighted.

    Ubuntu, while free, incurs expenses and goodwill doesn’t pay the bills. I would much rather fund Ubuntu and Gnome through purchasing music rather than other models available.

    As a closing observation, I wonder how many users Banshee has if they are afraid to lose the Ubuntu platform.

  22. linuxuser Says:

    Mark, I fully support you! Many here do not know that as Red Hat have a commercial distribution, together with the operating system, SUSE and Ubuntu as opposed to those operating systems offer full support!

    In the near future we hope to Ubuntu for my graphics card ATI Radeon 9000 to provide support for full 3D view, so he could enjoy the benefits of Unity Compiz Fusion.

  23. Jan Gutter Says:

    Unfortunately perception, not the “truth”, and certainly not facts normally rule these kinds of debates. Take, for example the Xemacs vs Emacs wars: people fighting over very fine points of principle that simply do not make sense to other people. And thus, great religious wars were ignited…

    So, the bottom line is that the following perceptions about this whole sordid affair has permeated the blogosphere:

    1. Banshee’s developers explicitly ask, in the source code of the Amazon plugin not to change the referrer ID. They seem to have no intention of enforcing it, but politely ask people not to.
    2. Banshee’s plugin donates ALL the money to the GNOME foundation. Not to the Banshee developers.
    3. Canonical and Banshee’s developers had behind-the-scenes discussions. Banshee’s developers requested that the plugin be deactivated by default and the referrer stay the same. This was in response to Canonical misrepresenting that there would be a choice.
    4. The plugin will be modified so that 25% of the revenue goes to GNOME, and 75% to Canonical.
    5. Mark Shuttleworth explains that this is because of Canonical’s principles, and proclaims them upheld.

    Again, these are highly slanted perceptions. Here’s some perceptions to counter them:

    1. Canonical has spent a large amount of money, not only to promote Ubuntu, but to give it mainstream appeal.
    2. In order to continue this, Canonical requires a form of revenue.
    3. Canonical implements new forms of revenue gathering regularly, and shares this revenue with the projects that underpin Ubuntu.

    In conclusion:

    It’s very easy to describe Canonical and Ubuntu as merely packagers of code that hard-working coders wrote for breadcrumbs and the occasional tepid splash of water. Canonical is also, by no means, a philanthropic organization dedicated to free code, Linux on every desktop and hippies everywhere. The truth is somewhere between. Unfortunately, this whole affair has shifted public perception (mine included) somewhat to the wrong side.

    It’s not going to be as easy as to put up a blog post to repair the reputational damage here. But here’s the kicker: Canonical has only suffered reputational damage on a small subset of its users. The subset of developers annoyed by this might be larger, but short-term they cannot do damage to Ubuntu’s marketshare.

    So Canonical has a choice to make: repair the damage, or just shrug it off. A community-please-everyone decision here would have bottom-line impact. A corporation with shareholders will never, ever, think twice about this… stuff the vocal minority, all hail the bottom line!

  24. Trevor Williams Says:

    I’ve been reading many articles and comments related to this issue, but I have not heard anyone comment on the potential upside for the Banshee developer’s by giving Banshee the default music player position on the desktop. Though many of you do not care for Apple as a company and some of you may not care for their products, there is a lot to be learned from their strategies, especially their App Store. When an application is promoted on the App Store (i.e., placed in their “Top 25”, “Featured”, or “Recommended” lists, the sales of those apps goes up considerably. Likewise, it stands to reason, that by promoting Banshee as the default (i.e., best or recommended) music player in Ubuntu, usage of it should, in theory, increase significantly, increasing the rate in which sales are made through it. So it’s entirely conceivable that more money will be given to the Banshee development team than they are currently receiving. It can’t be proven until it occurs and one can argue with the percentages given to Canonical and Banshee (personally, I think it should be the other way around if these numbers are maintained). Just something to offer that may provide a slightly different perspective on the situation.

  25. mark Says:


    This is interesting. I can understand the experience you’re having; it seems there have been a number of issues where a decision has been taken by me, or someone else at Canonical, and that’s been controversial. But remember, the mere existence of Ubuntu was controversial to many people at the beginning. Most decisions have both proponents and detractors, which is why a lot of open source projects, which depend to some extent on harmony within the bounds of the community, struggle to take decisions at all.

    As for the impression that there has been a change, I think that’s because the most high-profile decisions taken appear to place Canonical and non-Canonical folks at loggerheads. But let me ask you this: don’t you think that most of the people who work at Canonical want the best for Ubuntu? It’s a very tough place to work – lots of intellectual debate, lots of travel, huge numbers of bugs to fix, the relentless cadence of releases. As far as I can tell, it is still true that the majority of people at Canonical are here because they love Ubuntu, they want free software to succeed, and they think being part of this company is the best way to achieve that. It’s premature to talk of a deep divide between the interests of the company and the community – because most people in the company think of themselves as being in the community too.

    Let’s look at some of the decisions.

    I decided, as part of my job in design, that we would move the window controls to the left. That was very controversial at the time, but there has been hardly a peep about it since. It was played out as “Canonical vs the Community”, but it wasn’t. This is how I think Ubuntu will be best, it has nothing to do with corporate interests. Yes, I have the authority to make a change like that, and yes, that change happens despite being controversial. But in order to tackle Microsoft, Apple and Google, I’m pretty certain we’ll need to be controversial 🙂 So it was an easy decision, I believed it was the right thing to do, and it does not make Ubuntu one bit less community-centric.

    We decided to include Ubuntu One as part of Ubuntu. Now, services delivered to the desktop are the rationale for our investment in Ubuntu. A framework for those services is a good thing – it enables them to be consistent and coherent. All of the major OS’s are building those. The free communities have been unable to agree on how to do so, because they are not well setup to deal with commerce, which is at the heart of such frameworks. Should we shy away from that controversy, or should we move forward and get it done? Has Ubuntu One made it any more difficult for a member of the community – specifically someone who does not work for Ubuntu – to participate in Ubuntu, to make changes that express their creativity and their expertise and make the platform better for the millions of users who enjoy it free of charge? I would say not.

    We committed to build Unity, despite the fact that we have no need of control of a shell (obviously – we grew quite well thank you just shipping vanilla GNOME previously). We did so because we had ample reason to believe that the trajectory of the alternatives was going to fail. And it did fail – Gnome 3 looks much more like the vision we painted with Unity than the original vision, and it would not have done so unless we had the guts to commit to, and deliver, an alternative picture of the future. I am sorry that a few Gnome leaders have blocked Gnome’s adoption of Unity API’s, and the stress that will cause, but I feel proud that we had the guts, and the capacity, to design and deliver something wonderful. We have a vibrant community around Unity – both in design, discussion, quality and development.

    We decided that we would ensure that Qt was a first class toolkit on Ubuntu. Has that created any barriers to participation? You could well argue it has *reduced* those barriers, but enabling developers who like Qt to participate and contribute directly. Time will tell, of course, because that’s only going to be done in the future. But it’s an example of a decision described as “tension between Canonical and the Community”. Nonsense. We have lots of community members who use Qt every day and love it, what about them? Are you going to bring another community’s dogma into Ubuntu, and say we should serve that toolkit ideology rather than our users and developers?

    We offered to share revenue with Banshee. We are confident that Banshee will do very well, and that the offer reflects the value we create in making an audience of millions of users for that code. Other projects would be delighted to replace Banshee in that equation, and we have similar arrangements with existing, professional open source organisations. Yes, this is highly controversial, but does it make it more difficult to participate? Does it prevent someone from doing wonderful work and enjoying it? Will it prevent rich and open and frank conversations at UDS or on -devel? I don’t think so at all.

    Controversy is difficult.

    But without the willingness to make tough decisions, I am certain we will fail. Tough decisions are always controversial. And what would you think if I, or any other leader in Ubuntu, was afraid to make a tough decision, and in the process made the work of thousands of contributors less relevant, or less useful? You’d say we had failed in our obligations.

    We are principled, we have stuck to our principles.

    Everything we put into Ubuntu is open source. All of our investments in Unity are freely available for competitors and collaborators alike. We have gone to great lengths to support champions of free software, both under the Ubuntu banner, and directly in their various pursuits and projects. Our business model is risky, unproven, and if successful it will ensure that free software is freely available to the whole world. I think that’s worth supporting, I think that’s why so many people participate in Ubuntu – they know that the muscle that Canonical can bring, while it is likely to create a few bruises, is also the best chance to see free software *really* change the world of software, and they want to be part of it. That’s why Ubuntu has a community of extraordinary diversity and talent and generosity and energy – and that’s not changed at all.

  26. Conscious User Says:


    I think another big problem, other than communication, is rush. I’m going to assume the financial situation of Canonical is still comfortable enough for you not to be *desperate* for money, so I personally believe things would go better if handled with more calm.

    Why not give Banshee at least one release cycle of unedited affiliate code, and then take the six months of concrete usage statistics as the basis for future decisions concerning revenue?

    Accusations involving moral and ethics aside, this whole business sounded like an admission that the Ubuntu One Music Store has little to offer compared to Amazon, and that Canonical chose the easy path instead of the hard one, which would be making U1MS more attractive.

  27. mark Says:

    @Nick: Oh yes. https://www.redhat.com/licenses/ For a start:

    5.1 Reporting. Client will notify Red Hat (or the Business Partner from whom Client purchased Software or Services) promptly if the actual number of Units of Software or Services utilized by Client exceeds the number of Units for which Client has paid the applicable Fees. In its notice, Client will include the number of additional Units and the date(s) on which such Units were first utilized. Red Hat (or the Business Partner) will invoice Client for the applicable Services for such Units and Client will pay for such Services no later than thirty (30) days from the date of the invoice.

    5.2 Inspection. During the term of this Agreement and for one (1) year thereafter, Red Hat or its designated agent may inspect Client’s facilities and records to verify Client’s compliance with this Agreement. Any such inspection will take place only during Client’s normal business hours and upon no less than ten (10) days prior written notice from Red Hat. Red Hat will give Client written notice of any noncompliance, including the number of underreported Units of Software or Services, and Client will have fifteen (15) days from the date of this notice to make payment to Red Hat for the applicable Services provided with respect to the underreported Units. If Client underreports the number of Units utilized by more than five percent (5%) of the number of Units for which Client paid, Client will also pay Red Hat for the cost of such inspection.

  28. mark Says:

    @Vincent: a free trial is not “use of the solution”. It’s an evaluation of a proprietary product, just like you can get a free trial version of Microsoft Office. By contrast, Ubuntu includes all updates without requiring a subscription or license fee. You can actually deploy it in production, safely, and have no obligation to pay or subscribe, or notify anybody of your usage.

  29. sadig Says:

    @Mark: those “agreements” are included since ages by RedHat, that’s why several companies I worked for didn’t want to use RHEL/RH Network.

    External People inside a private held datacenter is a no go.


  30. sadig Says:


    Honestly, I never saw Ubuntu as a community driven project in the first place.
    Community can do some work for Ubuntu and can change some bits and pieces, yes.

    But mostly I saw Ubuntu always a “free” product of Canonical.

    That’s why this actually works.

    But this whole story is really a problem with the point of view of the people involved.
    Indeed, I think this is the first time Mark said explicitly that Ubuntu is a product of Canonical (Mark, when I’m wrong just state it here), and this statement was missing for quite sometime.
    The public slogan “Ubuntu, Linux for Human Beings” was never meant to say that Ubuntu is not a product, and only community driven.

    Community driven distros, besides Debian and Gentoo, are not real. There is always a catch when companies are sponsoring and are involved in the development or even in providing the infrastructure.

    Nevertheless, with Ubuntu we (the non paid contributors) do have a possibility to change parts of it, and we do so.



  31. Fanen Says:

    Methinks a “pay any price you want” model will work quite well for ubuntu, and still retain its core values.

    When a user clicks download, give them a textbox that defaults to perhaps ‘$0’ and give them the option of paying something before downloading.

    I’m the kind of person that will pay for a good product, and thus far, ubuntu has been a great product. I can’t pay for it presently, because i can’t afford to buy the support which I don’t need, and know of no other means of paying (I lack the time to contribute effectively in non-financial ways).

    [cheap diversion]: i don’t like the idea of unity though, and i have personally concluded that my relationship with ubuntu will come to an end if Gnome3 is not packaged with the usual quality I have come to expect of ubuntu. That’s not a threat, I’m just someone who recognises when something is out of my control.

  32. yungchin Says:

    Thank you for writing this up. You’re obviously right (and very understating) in that there’s value in providing all the infrastructure, organisation, and vision that make Ubuntu a polished, powerful, and comprehensive solution for people like me. Hence the position of revenue-sharing as articulated here sounds very reasonable and sensible: any piece of software is worth that much more to me coming as part of Ubuntu than standing on its own. The whole is greater than the parts, and all that.

    For the specific case of the Banshee plug-in that you were referring to, I suppose matters are however a bit delicate because the revenue stream had originally been “ear-marked” for a non-profit (ie the Gnome Foundation). Can you comment on that?

  33. Jonathan Blackhall Says:

    “But the offer stands for Banshee devs to take up if they’d like, and use as they’d like. If they don’t want it, we’ll put it to good use.”

    I am curious if I’m understanding the end of your post correctly. Are you saying that if Banshee developers were to keep the money for themselves to help fund Banshee development, they would be getting a larger percentage (or even all) of the revenue, but since they’re donating it to the GNOME Foundation, then you’re only giving them a (smaller) percentage of the profits? If so, that’s a ballsy statement. Not saying I completely disagree, but I can see it pissing some people off.

  34. Gareth Says:

    So, RE The Banshee issue: “Take the 25% or don’t, we don’t care. We’re taking either 75% or 100% of the revenue. We’ve done lots of other stuff that has benefited you, so be damn grateful for that and that we’re offering you the 25% at all!”

  35. Anonymous Says:

    > every other commercial Linux desktop is a licensed product – you can’t legally use it for free

    I am using Slackware Linux for about ten years and I always saw it as a commercial Linux desktop which I can legally use for free.

    I admit I may be wrong about it, because I’m not a lawyer, but neither I am sure that your above quote is correct. Can you comment on this please?

    My point is that extreme sentences like this one of yours only harm Ubuntu. Even if you are right, there are lots of people (zealots and other kinds of “extremists”) which will see this whole situation as “Mark is trying again to justify himself and Canonical by bashing the other Linux distros”. I think Canonical is doing something certainly wrong, and I don’t mean episodes like “Ubuntu vs Debian”, “Ubuntu vs Fedora” or this “bansheegate”. There must be some wrong general strategy.

  36. Paradiesstaub Says:

    Mark, I like your Ubuntu leadership.

    The commander takes decisions for the best of all, even if the crowd dose not understand why.

  37. Allan Day Says:


    “Gnome 3 looks much more like the vision we painted with Unity than the original vision, and it would not have done so unless we had the guts to commit to, and deliver, an alternative picture of the future.”

    As someone who has been closely involved with the GNOME 3 design process, I can tell you that that statement just isn’t true.

  38. Canonical se justifica y trata de sobornar al proyecto Banshee | el mundo según Linux Says:

    […] La discusión ha llegado a un punto tan critico, que el mismo Mark Shuttleworth, fundador de Canonical ha hecho una declaración por medio de su blog, con la que intenta justificar la posición de Canonical en todo este asunto, titulado “Mistakes made, lessons learned, a principle clarified and upheld”. […]

  39. TheGhost Says:

    To my mind you have made the right decision. Both, Ubuntu and Banshee (and also Gnome) benefit from the decision made. There are always critical voices but as you said, choices have to be done. The number of Ubuntu users proved that Ubuntu (including Canonical’s decisions) is on the right way. But it is clear that this way also needs revenues to keep up the great work. Most of the users know that, it seems that the most critical voices are from “outside”.

    My mind as an Ubuntu user is, as long as all participants benefit from this decision, the decision is right.

    The benefits are clear:

    – To provide both music stores instead of disabling one as default is the best experience for the users of Ubuntu. That is my opinion as Ubuntu user.
    – Gnome gains shares from U1MS as well as the Amazon sales. Probably this means, Gnome gains more money than before (let time show).
    – Banshee benefits from the wider audience, which means more supporters etc.

    So as you have seen, there is no real problem.
    A lot of discussions for a lot of benefits. 🙂

    Ok, the only flaw was how the information of this decision came to publicity, but I think people at Canonical learned their lessons, that it is not always the best to do these things behind closed doors.

    Btw, you should keep in mind that Canonical supported Gnome as well as KDE in much more than just upstream work. So keeping some shares is the one side of the medal.

  40. TheGh0st Says:

    To my mind you have made the right decision. Both, Ubuntu and Banshee (and also Gnome) benefit from the decision made. There are always critical voices but as you said, choices have to be done. The number of Ubuntu users proved that Ubuntu (including Canonical’s decisions) is on the right way. But it is clear that this way also needs revenues to keep up the great work. Most of the users know that, it seems that the most critical voices are from “outside”.

    My mind as an Ubuntu user is, as long as all participants benefit from this decision, the decision is right.

    The benefits are clear:

    – To provide both music stores instead of disabling one as default is the best experience for the users of Ubuntu. That is my opinion as Ubuntu user.
    – Gnome gains shares from U1MS as well as the Amazon sales. Probably this means, Gnome gains more money than before (let time show).
    – Banshee benefits from the wider audience, which means more supporters etc.

    So as you have seen, there is no real problem.
    A lot of discussions for a lot of benefits. 🙂

    Ok, the only flaw was how the information of this decision came to publicity, but I think people at Canonical learned their lessons, that it is not always the best to do these things behind closed doors.

    Btw, you should keep in mind that Canonical supported Gnome as well as KDE in much more than just upstream work. So keeping some shares is the one side of the medal.

  41. lzap Says:

    @Mark Murphy: Instead of philosophical paragraphs do simple math. An upstream projects makes a little money (ads, partnership). Then Canonical comes, take their work, invest in the marketing, do the “last mile” and earns a lot of money. Canonical shares the money. The upstream team now earns 10 times more with great possibilities to growh (hundred of times more). They can focus what they can do – engineering. Not marketing.

    Just do the math. Think about it. It is a real world out there. People work, people earn. No offence.

  42. Jason D. Clinton Says:


    You are entitled to your opinion but taking credit for GNOME’s design work is utterly reprehensible behavior.

  43. lzap Says:

    @sadig: About the RH license. Did you ever heard about NDA? You think other vendors including Canonical has no such agreements? Do you think it’s abnormal to allow your vendor to come in (and help you)? How do you think vendors should support their customers when >real< problems come into the picture? Over the phone? How often you think these visits occur?

    Life is not black or white. You can disagree, but this is the only thing you can do.

  44. Justyn Says:


    I support your attempts (including this Banshee situation) to create new revenue streams and create a sustainable business model for a consumer-oriented Linux desktop. I agree that you’re going to have to be gutsy to compete with the likes of Apple etc, and I hope that Canonical will be able to improve its handling of the complex company-community relationship in the future, and anticipate these issues in advance. PR is hard.

    “People will forget what you said
    People will forget what you did
    But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.

    On a different note: in the interests of free desktop community harmony, I implore you to make a minor change to this post, where you compare other commercial Linux desktop offerings to Windows and OS X. I know exactly the point you are making but while accurate what you have written is misleading. These distributions release the source, and are therefore very different to those proprietary operating systems – see the existence of CentOS for example.

    I know you were not intending to misrepresent anyone and you clearly use the word “binaries”, but it will cause many people to get the wrong idea, and that is a shame. Ubuntu has suffered quite a lot of rather slanted coverage in the media/blogosphere recently, we do not want to start perpetrating it ourselves.

    I genuinely ask you to please, make a simple clarification like:
    “although the sources are released, you can’t legally use the distribution itself for free, the terms for binaries are similar to those for Windows or the MacOS”. Or similar.

    Thank you.

  45. Dylan McCall Says:

    I think one problem on both sides is we don’t really tell our users where their money is going (or even that someone other than the store is _earning_ money). Did you happen to look at the Humble Bundle a while ago? (This thingy: http://www.humblebundle.com/)
    They have a really cool slider thing so you can choose exactly who your donation goes to. I imagine it all feeds into a single average in their database, so pretty straight-forward to implement. It’s a neat way of handling the VERY contentious issue of how you split a donation between multiple entities, not all of whom are non-profit.

    We also kind of fail at communication sometimes. I think a lot of the recent “Canonical is evil!” debacles have been about communication. People writing things to mailing lists in ways that end up being misinterpreted, features landing that the community didn’t see coming, that kind of thing. Of course, the beautiful thing with free software is we’re all people, but does Canonical happen to have a go-to person for communications? Not necessarily marketing; just someone to help ensure that the really significant messages like “guys, we want to change the Amazon music store’s referral code” are in their best possible state to avoid confusion or unhappiness.

  46. Adam Williamson Says:

    mark: “@Andreas: Red Hat Workstation, Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop.”

    You appear to be forgetting at least Mandriva (most of whose commercial editions are free-as-in-speech; only the non-free components that are provided as part of the commercial edition are not so) and the non-enterprise Suse, which you can still buy boxes of:


    it comes with DVDs of openSUSE itself (which is of course free-as-in-speech) and a supplementary CD of non-free apps which are probably non-redistributable.

    There’s a few others, still, too.

  47. Justin Says:

    Mark, I believe that two things have contributed to the amount of heat that this topic has generated.

    One, the lack of communication from Canonical about the change to Banshee. You’ve covered a lot of this in your post and apologized many times about it. One can see that the lack of communication is a big point with all the calls for “wait a cycle” and then general sense of confusion by a lot of users of GNU/Linux, not just Ubuntu users’, about this whole episode. The up side of this is, an apology was given, hopefully lessons will be learned, some people will finally just let it go (like the moving control buttons on the left side of a window), and the rest, well, haters gonna hate.

    Two, the feeling that you are taking someone’s revenue. Basically, the view of Canonical is that they are promoting Banshee and that entitles them to a cut of the revenue. Some people take exception about this promoting fee because it sound a lot like how (random industry being pulled here) the recording industry works. Others take exception to it because Canonical didn’t write the software. Honestly, if the Banshee team took large exception about the issue they very well could have asked that their software not be part of Ubuntu. I think that if Canonical wanted to change this so bad maybe they should have instead made Ubunshee (fork of Banshee). Forking or just going their own way has been almost the norm for Ubuntu (the biggest I can think of being Unity over Gnome Shell or Wayland over X.org) so I am not sure, actually surprised, why Canonical didn’t just make a Ubunshee client.

    Just to come clean, I am not a Ubuntu user (Slackware user) but I totally understand that projects, no matter who backs them, have to be funded to continue. Tough calls have to be made for every project (you can only imaging the upheaval that came with the removal of GNOME from Slackware) and there is going to be people who are pretty vocal about it, communication only softens the blow. Canonical has position itself as a company to promote free software, provide packaging services for their platform (Ubuntu), and acts as the customer/community rep for issues with that platform. I get more and more the feeling (and I could be wrong) that Ubuntu is less about the individual items that make it and more about the Ubuntu platform as a whole (much how Android is less about GNU/Linux that it uses and more about the platform it provides). I sometimes help people understand that by saying that tomorrow Canonical could decide that Linux doesn’t work for them anymore and that everything will be based on BSD, it would then be up to Canonical that the switch did not change the over experience that users of Ubuntu would have. That’s not to say Canonical has beef with Linus but just to make a point that any part of the Ubuntu platform can be switched out because it is more about the platform than the underlying tools that make that platform (of course I could be very wrong about all of that).

    I feel Canonical has to do what they’ve got to do, and just try to weather the storm that comes from it. You all have a platform that you have to sustain and that’s going to require making money and making tough calls to make that money. I still don’t understand though why Ubuntu doesn’t have its own media player to promote its own music store?


  48. nnonix Says:

    Keep doing what you’re doing. Your plan is unique and daring and more importantly, necessary.

    People were comfortable with their idea of Ubuntu being a type of Debian v2 or similar. As they realize it is not, you are likely to shed some hippies, like the body sheds a virus. This is a good thing and necessary to move forward. No drum circles. No compromises. Those of us paying attention have always known this day was coming. We signed on because of the promise that you would never pull the rug out from under us and charge for the OS and/or updates (MS, Apple, SLED) or make us agree to some type of warrant-less body-cavity search (Redhat). We still retain our rights. The right to uninstall Banshee and install from source if we absolutely MUST respect the wishes of Banshee Developers. The right to modify Ubuntu in any way we see fit. You don’t & won’t stand in the way of that ability. You are, simply, making good common sense decisions about the default state of Ubuntu.

    The vocal minority are just that. Vocal, a minority and often inconsolable. Push on.

  49. Chris Says:

    Here is what, from my prespective, a healthy FOSS affiliated corporation would do in the banshee occassion:
    a) add only the code to interfere with its services and leave the rest of the application untouched (defaults & everything)
    b) make its services better than the competitors (Amazon store)
    That would force the banshee developers to change the defaults themselves.
    There would also be pressure from the users towards that direction.
    But thats the most difficult part isnt it?

    Which steps are being done towards that direction besides “shoving your services down users throats”?

    PS1. Mark, you referred to “Ubuntu shipping a vanilla GNOME”. From what i remember this has never been true, maybe besides the 4.04 release.
    Ubuntu’s GNOME offering was always largely modified from upstream.
    If you want to know what a vanilla GNOME looks like, grab the latest Fedora release. Its very close.
    PS2. Mark, will reply comments on your blog ever be added under the post your reply to? Its very hard to keep track of conversations the way it is now. Thanks for considering it.

  50. Steffen Schaumburg Says:

    Hi Mark,
    Whilst I appreciate your contributions to free-as-in-freedom software I want to correct you on the license of commercial distros. Here’s the relevant section section 2 of the GPL3 as an example:
    “You may make, run and propagate covered works […] without conditions […]”

    Some companies do indeed abuse trademark law to restrict distribution, so the above quote isn’t the end of this topic. Now, I’m no lawyer, and my interpretation of the license on binaries could be wrong, but I am certain of one thing: The Windows and OSX licenses do not include any section requiring the seller to provide the source code to the buyer. Therefore, comparing the license of e.g. Red Hat or Suse to that of Windows or OSX is outrageous. When was the last time you got a written offer of source code with your new copy of Windows? Ubuntu is a good distro, you’re doing it and yourself a great disservice by bashing the competition with blatantly false statements like the one about licenses.