[kwlug-disc] Re-thinking the Ubuntu/Yahoo deal

Chris Irwin chris at chrisirwin.ca
Tue Feb 2 23:29:34 EST 2010

On Tue, 2010-02-02 at 14:00 -0800, Raul Suarez wrote:
> In a previous email I was dismissive of the people that showed discomfort with this deal but this just dawned on me:
> http://rarsa.blogspot.com/2010/02/re-thinking-ubuntuyahoo-deal.html

/me puts on his flame-retardant suit.

There is a common misconception that if you're not the only party
benefiting from a situation, then the situation is not desirable. But
the Internet functions on the very idea that things are not always
zero-sum. Ubuntu will be getting funding from Yahoo. Yahoo gets some
users from Ubuntu, which they will attempt to monetize via ads, paid
flickr accounts, whatever. It's a trade. Yahoo happens to have an ad and
search partnership with Microsoft/Bing, but even RedHat has some deals
with Microsoft. The point is that it is a situation in that everybody
benefits. You don't need to be shoving Microsoft's face in the dirt to
get ahead (We're supposed to be better than that, right?).

Musings about backdoor deals and secret agendas are captivating, but I
think we're all over-analyzing situation. Google currently pays for
search, so they are the default. Yahoo offers to pay more. I'd accept
the deal too, especially since Canonical isn't cashflow-positive yet.
Furthermore, the changes for the default home page in Firefox for Lucid
will actually search based on *your* search preference. Currently if you
change your search to Yahoo, the home page still searches Google. So
there is a usability win here that wasn't considered previously.

If you want to get concerned about anything, it's more worthwhile to
consider whether Ubuntu is really a community project supported by
Canonical (which is what Canonical indicates on their projects page) or
whether it is a Canonical project with a community. This is relevant
since they can unilaterally push in sponsorship changes without going
through the community council. You could also take into account the
current debacle around commits to some core Ubuntu projects requiring
copyright assignment to the commercial Canonical entity rather than a
non-profit foundation built around Ubuntu (like the model the FSF and
Mozilla use). There is also a recent commotion about possibly-shady
non-public shenanigans with regards to community "elections" and silent
dropping of candidates. The default search change is a minor symptom of
much larger issues.

(In case I haven't posted enough flammable material above, I'm also
going to start nit-picking. Feel free to stop reading)

Saying Google is more open source friendly isn't fair to Yahoo. Yahoo
supports several open source projects, but they are also slightly
smaller than Google ($21.5B vs $168.5B according to market
capitalization. I don't know how to "properly" compare two companies).
By measurement of funding and participation, none of us are as
open-source friendly as Yahoo. Even as a group, KWLug (including the
FLOSS fund) will never compare with Yahoo. Sure, they tend to support
software they use, but that's what I do too ;). Granted, I admire
Google's efforts in funding things like the summer of code. It is rare
for companies to dedicate so much money on a recurring basis to
third-party projects without a direct method to recuperate any of it. I
just wish they did it when I was in College. Google definitely scores a
few points for that.

But even saying Google is a good company ignores the bad things they've
done. Google's privacy policy is reportedly not as good as Yahoo,  and
apparently even the Bing privacy policy is supposed to be favourable --
though I'll admit I have not personally read either. They use their
clout to try and ignore current requirements (The recent and ongoing
book-scanning fiasco, for example).

They are also essentially paying handset makers to use android. Note
that they "Payment" is essentially search revenue sharing, similar to
our discussion regarding Ubuntu. But if Microsoft were to do that with
Windows Mobile and Bing you'd have all sorts of news about unfair
competition. (It probably helps Google's case that their platform
doesn't completely suck).

Chris Irwin
e:  chris at chrisirwin.ca
w: http://chrisirwin.ca
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