mether's Fedora Blog

Random thoughts, usually on Fedora

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.

Written by mether

February 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Ditto. I’m not against adding any search provider as default option – unfortunate here is that it has no community decision. Ubuntu community accepts whatever comes from Canonical without any doubts and discussions which feels me somewhat uncomfortable.

    Kartik Mistry

    February 9, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    • Yes the almost complete lack of serious discussions is very telling even more so than the decision


      February 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    • That’s not true, there has been a lot of discussion this type of issues.

      John Doe

      February 10, 2010 at 12:35 am

      • Can you point to an archived public discussion or a call for community comment concerning the implications of this deal before the deal was put in place?

        All I have seen is post-announcement reaction. Most of it political commentary. But there is one reaction that I read that stands out as really highlighting what the impact of this change will be for users.

        Apparently Yahoo’s search engine does a really bad job of indexing Ubuntu related sites such as launchpad. Far far worse than Google’s search engine. If this were really in the best interest of users, and not just a desperate money grab.. you’d think Canonical would be working with Yahoo to make sure the Ubuntu search results are very relevant to Ubuntu users and contributors so that users would have a compelling reason to keep Yahoo as the default. As it stands, the word-of-mouth social nature of the ubuntu community is going to make quickly switching to Google search a cultural norm for incoming users. This only works as a revenue source if its a compelling default option.


        jef Spaleta

        February 10, 2010 at 2:38 am

  2. Well, how was the decision to use google as the default search provider made… Someone also did this for money, and I honestly cannot see the big difference.

    However, I would change to google immediately.

    Troels Kofoed Jacobsen

    February 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    • I have no problems with the money part but there are pretty big differences between the decision made by Firefox and Canonical One of them was that Firefox made the decision to use Google by default to provide the best user experience and the commercial agreement was signed later and there was transparency in the decision process and the money being made out of it

      Canonical has already articulated how decisions should be made in Ubuntu’s governance document at

      They did not follow it


      February 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm

  3. This was discussed for fedora : but the outcome was quite different.

    Regarding the money issue, Mozilla fundation get 57 millions from google, enough to pay a good part of their 250 employees ( around 80% or more, sine the budget was 75 millions in 2007 ). Since Canonical has 300 peoples ( source, wikipedia ), we can suppose they have a budget similar to the one of the fundation, and if they only receive 10% of what Mozilla is getting ( that’s a unfounded guess, maybe they get more, maybe they get less, no one know ), this can still pay around 20 peoples.

    To compare, let’s see how much UbuntuOne earn money. Dropbox has 3 000 000 users, on all os. So with 1% of linux desktop, we can say they have 30 000 linux users. If we suppose that Ubuntu One is as sucessful as Dropbox, ( and I think they are not ), they also have around 30 000 paying users. At 120$ per year, this would bring 3.6 millions of $, ie less than our estimation of the google search deal. But, unlike the search engine deal, UbuntuOne is not free in term of ressources. You have to pay sysadmin, code, servers and so on.

    So basically, even if Canonical did a deal with google of 10% of the one Mozilla did, they can still get more money than from UbuntuOne. No wonder why they are so secretive about it.


    February 9, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    • Pretty interesting analysis Thanks for pitching in


      February 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm

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