For anybody that follows all the GNU/Linux drama that always happen one day or the other, the Amazon search on Ubuntu’s dash is not news. But for those who aren’t informed, here we have some context:
Ubuntu 12.10 brought us a polemic new feature on Ubuntu’s dash. When you type your search on dash, where previously you had only files and applications, now you also have Amazon’s shopping suggestions. This brought rage and privacy concerns to its users, because the terms were not encrypted before being send to Canonical, and because it was enabled by default.
They solved the encryption concern. But not the default enabling. Nor they warn or inform the user in any way during the installation process.
A lot of users tried to suggest solutions to this issue, but Canonical only made it possible to disable this with an option (but it was still enabled by default).
Now, Richard M. Stallman himself published an article, calling this feature a “spyware”, and also suggesting how to address the problem.
As a response, one of Ubuntu’s contributor made his own article saying that people should stop complaining and should instead help make Ubuntu better.
Also, Ubuntu’s Community Manager, Jono Bacon, made another response saying that RMS is actually spreading FUD.
Now, my personal opinion on this issue:
First, linking to launchpad does not address the issue. As I said before, lots of people tried to propose a solution for this problem on launchpad, but they were ignored. Even some satires appeared (saying that using “find” on the CLI did not return Amazon’s results). If Canonical does not want to accept user’s suggestions, how is it true that WE make Ubuntu better? Canonical must accept patches and valid suggestions if it really wants to be free and open.
Also, the “linking to launchpad” is actually very, very dismissive. It seems that Mr. Randall is trying to say that all this are user’s fault. No. It’s not.
When he said that everybody should try to help, he seemed to ignore that Stallman gave his own suggestion on how to make dash better (a button for “search locally” and another for “search on the web”). What’s so difficult about this?
And also, why should Stallman still worry about coding this? Ubuntu runs on top of his Operating System. There wouldn’t be Ubuntu if there wasn’t Stallman. Mr. Randall shouldn’t have forgotten this.
About Bacon’s response, I’ll only say one thing: this is not FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Stallman is very well informed about dash. Stallman’s readers are also well informed. The group of people that isn’t informed is anybody that didn’t deactivate this feature because they wasn’t informed of its existence, nor how to deactivate that.
This feature is even worse than all the free applications that try to install the Ask toolbar on a Windows machine. At least they ask the user if he wants to install the toolbar. Ubuntu is not even doing this.
Concluding, this is NOT a coding issue, this is NOT a help absence issue, this is an ETHICAL issue, and should be addressed as one. Canonical’s dismisses only make it looks worse.