Ubuntu Linux 20.04 Ditches A Feature That’s Been Annoying You For Years

You install Ubuntu and there it is: the familiar app dock with Firefox, Thunderbird, Files, the Software Center and the seemingly permanent, much-derided shortcut to Amazon.com. It’s been a fixture on the dock since 2012, but it’s about to make an exit. Yep, when Canonical’s upcoming Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (Long-Term Support) release lands this April, that Amazon icon will be no more.

A preview screenshot from the upcoming Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release. But something has changed since this was published...

A preview screenshot from the upcoming Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release. But something has changed since … [+] this was published…


As spotted by the eagle-eyed Joey Sneddon, the change was implemented on Monday with the developers removing “ubuntu-web-launchers” from the ubuntu-meta package.

Canonical’s Alan Pope tells me he requested its removal this week, and Ubuntu Desktop Director Martin Wimpress put the change into motion immediately.

I never viewed the Amazon shortcut as something egregious — though I, like many, never used it and instantly zapped it from my dock. The icon’s sole purpose at present is being an Amazon Affiliate link for Canonical.

“It was just a low-impact way for people to passively donate to Ubuntu without actually having to do anything but shop at Amazon,” Pope says.

But Amazon’s presence on past Ubuntu releases left a bitter taste in the mouths of open source and privacy advocates. Several years ago (when Ubuntu used the Unity desktop), Amazon.com shopping results would populate the results of a search in the Unity dash. So, you’d search for your Firefox app and also be greeted by relevant and far less relevant products over at Amazon.

As OMG! Ubuntu’s Sneddon writes in an excellent piece highlighting memorable moments from Ubuntu’s last 10 years: “While all data ferried to and from Amazon was stripped of any identifying personal information, none of this was opt-in. Amazon got your queries (and you got their shopping results) out of the box, by default, as designed.”

If there’s two things the open source community frowns upon, it’s sending data to mega-corps and not having the option to opt-in to a program like this.

But all’s well that ends well! Canonical has heard — and acted upon — user feedback and made a great decision here.

There is, of course, still a way to contribute money to the Ubuntu project if you’re so inclined. You can give a donation here.

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