Canonical and the Yahoo deal
Canonical recently signed up a deal with Yahoo and switched the default search engine of Mozilla Firefox from Google to Yahoo and it is a interesting move with many implications and I wanted to add my thoughts on this.
It is a fairly non intrusive change atleast for new users since Firefox does allow you to switch to a different search engine very easily and it could bring substantial revenue since they have a large user base. In this agreement users search results are being traded in return for cash even if the users dont click on any advertisements (ie) the aggregate data from the search by itself is very valuable for Yahoo. Some people have focused on the Microsoft angle and the argument is that since Microsoft’s Bing “decision engine” is powering Yahoo via the deal that Microsoft and Yahoo had made earlier in essence Canonical has sold access to their users searches to Microsoft and Microsoft is willing to trade some money to compete against Google.
What bugs me more is the process in which the decision has been made however with no discussion whatsoever and no input from anyone in their community and purely as a business decision from Canonical and the result is a inferior user experience if most of their user base is expecting Google to be the default and it also affects Firefox as upstream which is the platform for this whole deal since Firefox is going to lose money.
If Fedora was looking for revenue via commercial agreements with any search engine provider I would expect far more transparency in the process and the Fedora Board would definitely be held accountable for that. Canonical is in a tough position since there is not as much separation between their commercial product and their community project unlike Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux which has its own advantages and disadvantages. They already have made some controversial moves like integration of Ubuntu One (where the naming was itself a separate debate on usage of the Ubuntu brand) and Landscape which are proprietary services and more decisions like this are going to have ripple effects within their community and contributor base. There can only be so much community goodwill to trade on and the balance is going to be very difficult one. I will be watching from a safe distance.