I waited and debated on what, if anything, to post on this topic. I didn’t want to chime in and just be another voice but every voice should be heard if it wants to speak. I was hoping that after Mark Shuttleworth spoke his thoughts on the matter of the naming of the Ubuntu One project that something would clear up in my head on this and keep this post from being needed in my mind. Unfortunately Mark’s response was as I thought it might be, as I read it, that the Ubuntu trademark belongs to him via Canonical and they’ll do as they see fit with the name. That is a fair response as it reflects the rights of the trademark owner.
My issue with the project is not, as others have expressed, that the back end of Ubuntu One is closed source. Canonical as a company has a track record of closed source web services. These are reflected in the Launchpad product and the Landscape service. The community was told early on that Launchpad would eventually be open sourced after it aged and components stabilized and matured. This promise from Canonical is about to be realized at least in part with the majority of Launchpad opening up on July 21st.
The Ubuntu One project is carrying no such promises of opening it up or hints of it to come. It is at this point simply a closed source ‘cloud’ product with an open source client. I’m sure that already there are some open source groups looking at the client to see how it integrates into the back end and how the server might be cloned via reverse engineering. After all the FLOSS world has some very smart people among us. I think that the iFolder people are looking at this with some interest to see how others are implementing the same ideas they have going in their existing project. This is another reason that I’m surprised Canonical labeled this as ‘Ubuntu’ when there is obviously more people and groups that would like to take advantage of the product without being limited to the Ubuntu desktop in reality or perception.
This Ubuntu One product I think creates a break of trust between Canonical and the Ubuntu community at large when it comes to how the Ubuntu name is used. Up until now I have felt and explained that the Ubuntu brand and name stands for software freedom. The distribution is as free as you can get and adds the closed options to play with the vendors who do not understand what is gained by opening their drivers and software. The Ubuntu logo is a way to show that you believe that Free software is the right way to do things. Yes, I explain Canonical provides closed commercial web services and projects but they do so under their name and express their Free software stance by supporting the Ubuntu project. Yes Mark, when it comes to this project you are the daddy. You’ve raised this kids to believe in free software, standing up for what we believe in and we’re letting you know we learned the lesson. This means even family can be called out when they do the wrong thing in spirit if not in law.
Now as an advocate and member of the Ubuntu project I have to go an extra step when explaining Ubuntu. That it is Free on the desktop but when you reach the clouds you may lose sight of that freedom when you see the Ubuntu name, at least to some extent.
I hope the skies clear up and we see a nice patch of blue but I’m packing a small umbrella because there looks to be a touch of grey to the clouds…