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Forced Changes In My Browser

As announced today Ubuntu Lucid will be changing Firefox to use Yahoo! search (powered by Bing) as the default search engine due to a revenue sharing deal. This financial deal will be good for Canonical to pay for developers and resources for Ubuntu. That’s all well and good.

The issue that I have is that the current default of Google is actually my preferred search engine. It works for me and is part of my work flow. According to Popey’s post about the topic because I use the current Ubuntu default of Google when I upgrade to Lucid my default will change to Yahoo(Bing) search.

I’m wondering why the change is being forced. Why can there not be a pop up when launching Firefox the first time after the upgrade to Lucid? Something simple that prompts with two buttons and asks ‘Would you like to change your default search engine to Yahoo! (powered by Bing) and support Canonical and the developers of Ubuntu or continue with your previous search engine?’ The buttons can read ‘Support Ubuntu’ and ‘Keep Current Selection’. You will probably get a better than even selection of ‘Support Ubuntu’ choices.

The other issue I see with this deal is that it is with Yahoo search powered by Bing. For those unaware Bing is the search engine owned by Microsoft. Microsoft is the company mentioned in bug #1 which is still open. While not dealing with Microsoft directly, we are relying on their search engine for the default searches of the Ubuntu user base which chooses Yahoo search powered by Bing to support the Ubuntu developers. And we all know that when companies deal with Microsoft it is always a fair deal (he says thinking of patents, Novell and all the other positive things Microsoft has done for FOSS).

So even eliminating the particular choice of default search engine that is not my main issue (Microsoft software and products are, after all, another choice). The main concern is changing the existing user’s choice of search. Yes, it is just a couple clicks to change it back. I have to wonder though how many people will switch to a different search engine after an upgrade just due to the change being implemented by default rather than being asked.

As Popey suggested in his post there will likely be many people who say ‘you broke my internet/browser’ with the upgrade. What about site deployments, small or large, that upgrade? The admins and help desk techs of the network will have to spend time and effort customizing the browser package or deal with their users calling asking ‘Where did my Google go?’

That’ll be a sad thing to deal with when all that has to be offered is a choice.

13 Comments

  1. Jono Bacon wrote:

    While I appreciate that it would be nice to respect upgrade settings, and I am in favor of that is it really that big of a deal to make two clicks to change it. It will take two seconds and you are done. You could change it quick than it took to write the title of your blog entry. 🙂

    As for the worry about whether people will change it, they will change it if they care. If they don’t care then they use Yahoo!, they get their search results and we get a little bit of money to fund Ubuntu development.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Permalink
  2. Look at it this way… Canonical pays talented Debian Developers full time to work on the distro you use and (I’ll assume) love. Having a multimillionaire philantrophist like sabdfl is great, but they need to be cash neutral or preferably profitable at some point.

    This requires making money 🙂

    I welcome this change if it helps Canonical become more profitable, but will still set it right back to google. You might just follow suit.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 12:38 am | Permalink
  3. DarwinSurvivor wrote:

    From what I’ve read, it only uses Yahoo as a last-resort fallback. If you already have a default set in Chrome (firefox preferences), it will use that instead. So if you keep your firefox profile across upgrades, your old default will override the yahoo fallback.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 1:20 am | Permalink
  4. Robert Wall wrote:

    > (powered by Bing)
    Actually, “possibly powered by Bing in the future if the regulators approve”, I believe.

    I really don’t see what the problem is with Canonical having a business arrangement with a company that also has one with Microsoft. The same is true of Dell and undoubtedly other companies Canonical already work with.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  5. LGB wrote:

    Yeah,I agree 100%. It’s maybe OK to have new default for new install. But it’s very bad, that an upgrade process modifies _my_ settings from the previous version (even if it’s “my setting” in the sense only that it was the default before).

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 4:36 am | Permalink
  6. Vitor wrote:

    nice post!
    totally agree with the pop-up thing 🙂

    people say “ohhh Google steals your data and make statistics with it.”

    I say “I rather be statistic and make the internet a better place to surf than being manipulated by Microsoft with their poor OS and applications.”

    I hope Canonical stops there… if they get too close on Microsoft… well, gonna use Fedora 😛

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 5:17 am | Permalink
  7. Soren wrote:

    Tons of things change in Ubuntu with each release. I’m doubtful any user would appreciate having to answer 320 questions, all to the tune of “So, you’re using the default . This may be because you prefer that one, or because you don’t care, don’t know any better, or maybe have never even used it, so obviously haven’t changed it. Ubuntu has a new default. Would you like to accept the new default, or do you want to stick with what was the default before?”

    I, myself, rather like not being bothered with a lot of questions during upgrades.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 7:11 am | Permalink
  8. Zac wrote:

    I do not like Yahoo because it is powered by Microsoft’s Bing.

    However, I do support this strategic move if it gives some revenue which then can be funnelled into Linux.

    Sometimes one has to give little in order to move forward, but never lose site of the goal. This is what Canonical is doing. I consider it a smart, yet bold move which is sure to rub some Linux users the wrong way.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink
  9. Chuck wrote:

    As you say, it is two clicks to change it after annoying the end user.

    With my suggestion it is one click, explains to the user why one selection would help the Ubuntu project and allow the user to make a choice. For those that don’t care about the particular search engine they’ll likely choose the one that supports the project.

    Simply changing the search to Yahoo will not explain to the user that it is a revenue sharing deal that will benefit the project. It will be an annoyance for those that prefer Google, their previous choice.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  10. Chuck wrote:

    My issue is not Canonical finding ways to profit. My issue is the lack of choice on the upgrade from the previous default.

    Defaults tend to be popular choices. Many people choose google as their search not only because it is the default option. Those people will be affected due to this change.

    On a fresh install the change is not a big deal. A different default for a new version. On an upgrade the user’s choices should be respected.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  11. Stephen Michael Kellat wrote:

    In light of Google possibly abandoning the Chinese market while Yahoo! is staying put, would this not instead be considered an inclusive measure? Staying with using Google in this instance does not make this human-friendly computing as it instead singles out an national grouping for exclusion.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  12. Fabian wrote:

    Hmm, so you guess the deal is only one sided for Ubuntu? Really nobel from Microsoft.

    But what if Ubuntu makes 1 cent per search through Yahoo/Bing but at the same time Microsoft makes 2 cents due to the delivered advertisement?

    Whom do you help more Ubuntu or Micrsoft?

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  13. Sebastian Thürrschmi wrote:

    people who say ‘you broke my internet/browser’

    Come one, GNU/Linux is not Windows, Ubuntu is not Microsoft (only getting there, veeery slowly ;)), and Firefox is not IE! The average Ubuntu user is much, much smarter than that. Maybe she’ll be slightly irritated when first searching the web after upgrading to Lucid, but for no longer than the few seconds it takes to change the default back to the right search engine.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink