Canonical has added a step to the process of downloading the Ubuntu Linux operating system. When you visit the Ubuntu website and choose to download the latest version of the popular OS, you’ll first be taken to a donation page where you can opt to make a contribution… or not.
You can still download Ubuntu for free, but if you do make a donation, you can vote with your dollars to help Canonical decide what users care most about.
If you don’t want to make a donation, you can just click the “not now” button to proceed to the download page. But if you do choose to make a donation, you can allocate your money toward a number of items, including:
- Performance optimization for games and apps
- Improve hardware support on more PCs
- Better support for flavors like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu
- Phone and tablet versions of Ubuntu
I don’t expect Canonical to cease development on any of these areas if the company doesn’t raise enough money — but this does provide one way for the company to figure out which development areas to focus on.
Of course, it also provides a new revenue stream for Canonical. While the company produces free, open source software that’s developed with community input from independent developers, Canonical is still a for-profit company.
The company makes some money by providing support to enterprise customers, and over the the past few years we’ve seen the Canonical launch a number of projects that could generate revenue, including the Ubuntu One online file storage and music service, integration of Amazon affiliate links into search results.
Pay-what-you-want contributions could be another revenue stream for Ubuntu users that may not have the time or skills to contribute code to the operating system.
As sites like Humble Bundle have shown, when you ask people to pay what they think something is worth (or what they can afford), people are often happy to part with some cash to support developers, authors, or other content creators. The difference is that with the Humble Bundle and similar service you usually have to spend something, while Ubuntu will continue to be available as a free download.
via Ars Technica