Desktop Dis-Unity: Ubuntu Adds Web-Search to the Desktop: Page 3

The problem isn't that Ubuntu introduced an affiliate program. It's the program's implementation that is attracting criticism.
Posted September 25, 2012

Bruce Byfield

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One particularly interesting suggestion is for a preference dialog for the dash, which has already been formally filed for development.

Should this suggestion be implemented, not only could local and online searches be separated, but the user could choose exactly which sites or local directories would be searched. These search specifications could be varied with each lens. Such a preference dialog would not only be far more powerful than what Ubuntu is implementing, but would answer the objections by placing control firmly in the hands of the users.

However, whether any of these suggestions will be implemented remains to be seen. Bacon suggested that giving separate permissions for each search "would be a pain," perhaps envisioning the annoyance of confirmation dialogs. Yet others might view confirmation dialogs as a small price to pay for greater control and security, while the other suggestions would make the proposed features even more powerful -- to say nothing of removing most of the objections.

The Example of KRunner

Ubuntu is not the first project to consider web integration on the Linux desktop. KDE has been doing it for several years.

Most of KDE's efforts have been in widgets, which are optional. However, as Sebastian Kugler points out, KRunner, a sort of advanced menu, implemented online search results into the desktop several years ago.

Kügle notes that the KRunner implementation included many of the principles suggested here. Although KDE does include the opportunity to link to some proprietary web services, Kügle says that "we'd never silently send them data when it's not clear to the user or explicitly asked for. Basically, we won't send anything across the net without the user explicitely requesting us to do so."

Kugler also notes that KDE has entered into an affiliate-agreement that makes DuckDuckGo the default search engine in Konqueror.

True, KRunner's implementation would need more of an interface before average users would use it. Still, it does show that a balance between security and convenience is possible.

Unity's integration of web searches on the desktop will undoubtedly improve. In fact, Shuttleworth hints at future expansions, lightly suggesting that critics might want to wait to see the final results.

I appreciate the warning, yet I'll also be rash and say what seems obvious. Unity's integration of web searches on the desktop is a promising idea, but has so many shortcomings that it deserves serious questioning. With any luck, in another release or two, that questioning will result in a feature that balances security and convenience more successfully than the current implementation.

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Tags: Linux, ecommerce, Ubuntu, Unity

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