Scopes, the controversial feature in Ubuntu, is being “gracefully retired”, says Canonical.
The "commercial" search app, which combines product data from Amazon with data from your desktop and phone, is to be turned off by default in 16.04 LTS in April and in Unity 7 and 8.
The Scopes in question are for Amazon and Skimlinks.
The change will affect Ubuntu desktops and mobile phones running the GNU Linux distro. This means it’ll be down to individual users of Ubuntu phones and PCS to opt into the service, which marries up their search terms with Amazon product information.
Canonical is also killing six plug-ins that integrated desktop-based apps with online shopping results.
Scopes that integrated Ubuntu’s music player and recipe manager with web returns will be removed from the Ubuntu universe from 16.04 LTS onwards. The Ubuntu Music Store will be completely removed from 16.04 onwards, too.
Canonical’s Ubuntu Desktop engineering manager, Will Cook, who announced the news in a blog post, reckoned the changes are being introduced now so that Canonical can: “Better manage our development priorities, servers, network bandwidth etc throughout the LTS period.”
“We allow ourselves more freedom to make changes without further affecting the LTS release (e.g SRUs),” he continued, adding: “Specifically, we can better manage the eventual transition to Unity 8 and not have to maintain two sets of scope infrastructure for the duration of the LTS support period of five years.”
It’s a massive U-turn for Canonical, which was flamed by unhappy Ubuntu users upon its introduction of Scopes four years ago in Unity 7 and 12.10.
Scopes were justified as making Ubuntu more of a web-friendly client – letting you find “anything anywhere” according to Ubuntu daddy Mark Shuttleworth.
Canonical also reckoned the marriage of your desktop returns with product information from the Amazon warehouse would generate money from Amazon affiliates that could be used to support the development of Ubuntu Linux.
Scopes worked through a Home Lens universal search feature built into the Unity Dash. A search of your local hard drive would send a signal to a Canonical server, which contacted Amazon and returned product information deemed “relevant.”
Shuttleworth had sought to dampen inevitable fears over privacy, saying Ubuntu users' privacy was preserved because of the interceding Canonical server.
But, reeling from the outcry, Canonical was soon forced to offer a kill switch allowing users to turn off the adware search feature. ®