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Shuttleworth urged to rethink Ubuntu names

By   |  January 18, 2008

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Or, more importantly, would as many people stop to smell a rose by a different name? In an open letter to Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth, published yesterday, the suggestion was made to rebrand all the forms of Ubuntu as different editions of the distribution.

In the letter, posted on the DeviceGuru blog, Rick Lehrbaum recommends this be done to maximise brand awareness. What he suggests is to rebrand Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu and Xubuntu as Ubuntu Gnome Edition, Ubuntu KDE Edition, Ubuntu Educational Edition and Ubuntu Xfce Edition, respectively.

The thinking behind this suggestion is that it would prevent confusion and improve adoption. The letter poses the question: “Given the already fragmented nature of Linux, why fragment a specific distribution unnecessarily?”

The comments posted on the site are mixed, but seem to lean towards support for the suggestion. To my mind, however, I don’t see at as being necessary – all the versions are already based around the Ubuntu name, as are the logos based on the original Ubuntu theme with their own distinctive flavour.

Post a comment to let us know what you think.


31 Responses to “Shuttleworth urged to rethink Ubuntu names”

  1. Vincent
    January 18th, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

    And how would he go about doing this? Xubuntu for one is quite independent and I’m not sure whether Mark Shuttleworth would be able to change its name. In fact, I’m sure he can’t, it’d have to be Canonical for that. But Xubuntu is still a community project.

    Besides, it would take a lot of work in renaming e.g. that mailinglists, the IRC channel, etc. Rebranding really hurts its adoption – that’s why companies almost never change their names, unless they’re involved in some scandal or something and want to start afresh.

  2. Jonathan
    January 18th, 2008 @ 2:07 pm

    Oh no, yet another person that wants to turn Ubuntu into Winbuntu Ultimate Edition!

  3. Richard Lamb
    January 18th, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

    Ubuntu is the most successful Linux distribution to date and one of the reasons for this is certainly branding. Re-branding poses serious risks to companies and have on many occasions backfired.

    I agree with Mr. Archibald, Ubuntu is a name that sticks, unlike Feroda or Red Hat.

    Ubuntu does not need a name change, a few television spots would probably do the trick.

  4. VelocityWebDev
    January 18th, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

    Why is it that people – and especially those that think they are tech savvy gurus – think there is a need to rebrand something that already works? The idea that the fragmented Linux distributions somehow is translated to Ubuntu is just crap. Those that are Ubuntu users are very familiar with what the Ubuntu distributions are. The whole point is missed as to why Ubuntu packages the way they do! I am not a Windows user, but am somewhat familiar with the distributions of Vista – you know, home user, pro user, etc. etc.

    Hopefully Shuttleworth listens and files in the round file on the floor!

    Note to those that think they have a better idea of an already successful product – keep it to yourself.

  5. Comment
    January 20th, 2008 @ 8:27 am

    It’s funny how people react drastically to a suggestion. Asking someone to keep an idea to one’s self simply defeats the purpose of community. It’s like discouraging people to share their ideas in an open forum discussion; it’s like asking people to shut up in a chat room.

    There’s really nothing wrong with the name change, but some of the arguments posted here are valid, such as the need to alter mailing lists, etc.

    Ubuntu Gnome Edition, Ubuntu KDE Edition, Ubuntu Educational Edition and Ubuntu Xfce Edition sound commercial to me, really reminiscent of Microsoft products.

    I’d still go with Ubuntu, even it was renamed to YuDonHavTu.

  6. Philipppe
    January 21st, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

    I agree with suggestion. There are already way to many linux distributions and thoses names are confusing. Adding to the fragmentation are the version numbers, 10-04, 06,06 etc…

    I am sticking to windows.

  7. Travis
    January 21st, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

    When I first saw the title, I thought it would be about renaming the Ubuntu distros to make them more different. To a new user, it might be better to rename them to be even more similar, but I thought I’ve heard that the “spin off” distros (Kubuntu specifically) were trying to be more independent and not just be “a version of Ubuntu without Gnome.” So, to me, it’s really all about where the projects are heading and whether the developers want Ubuntu, Kubuntu, etc., to seem more similar or more different.

  8. Kellito
    January 21st, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

    Last year I proposed Mark to do just that. I believe he has to do it. Marketing wise it makes a lot of sense if you believe a CEO of an established marketing company. Mark largely ignored my comment on his blog. I believe he will ignore the open letter as well.

  9. J
    January 21st, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

    When I saw the title, I thought it would be about the “funny animal-related” names…

    But since it is about Ubuntu x Kubuntu x Xubuntu x … I have a sneaking suspicion that they have seen the potential of KDE 4 (it’s somewhat raw right now, but you can see it’s going to be great when done), and thought to themselves: “now, what if we decide to change the default Ubuntu desktop environment to KDE 4, if there is a thing called Kubuntu?” You see, such a change would be much easier and less disruptive if ALL versions were called Ubuntu “something”.

    Now, Ubuntu Gnome Edition does really sound commercial, “Microsoftiesh” in a way. Why not call them Ubuntu G, Ubuntu K, Ubuntu X, Ubuntu E… Would be shorter and more original.

    Digressing a little… I use Ubuntu at work and Kubuntu at home, and it’s clear to me how much of a “second class” citizen Kubuntu is. Not all features are as well polished and integrated as in Ubuntu. E.g. the graphical effects (compiz) were really buggy in Kubuntu 7.10, while they worked fine in Ubuntu 7.10. So I do hope they change the default DE to KDE in Ubuntu. Gnome is OK, and there are things I enjoy about it, but I’m starting to feel a straight-jacketed, Mac-like sensation when using Gnome when it does not give me the option to do things MY way.

  10. Vincent
    January 21st, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

    @J – whaha, that’s the most absurd idea I’ve heard. GNOME fits Ubuntu’s goals much more than KDE does. If you want KDE to be treated like a first-class citizen then you’d need to look for another distro that does use KDE as default, like PCLinuxOS. I do recognize the second-classness because Xubuntu also experiences this, but unfortunately, Xfce gets far less recognition than KDE and thus Xubuntu is the only Xfce-based distro that really does get user-friendliness right. Being descended from Ubuntu is both a plus and a downside…

    Btw, “Ubuntu X” (8 chars) is longer than “Xubuntu” (7 chars), same goes for Kubuntu 😉

  11. Kellito (Ilya Krylov)
    January 21st, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

    Excellent thinking J!

    Absolutely agree with you on the naming convention. This is what I proposed to Mark on 26th of November 2006:

    I think Mark has his own interests, namely to support Gnome only because it’s enterprise focus.

  12. Kellito (Ilya Krylov)
    January 21st, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

    To Vincent:

    The length of the name does not matter. If it mattered we could ask Mark to rename it something like ubnt. What matters is that Canonical is still not making and money on its Gnome version, so Mark does not want to spend any more money on the KDE version. His reasoning is right somehow for his wallet… But it is really hurting the excellent KDE desktop and its community. Most people hear “Ubuntu this, Ubuntu that” and they just download and install what they have heard about.

    Naming it ‘Ubuntu G’ and ‘Ubuntu K’ AND offering an easy way to try the alternative desktop will boost both marketing and awareness about KDE.

    How about adding an extra launcher button in the LiveCD like – switch to KDE or switch to Gnome. With the current proliferation of broadband it would really be easy for the user to evaluate both desktops with just one live CD.

  13. Bobby
    January 21st, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

    It’s very important especially for new users. Most people know about Ubuntu but not about KUbuntu which seems to have a not-so-high priority in the Ubuntu camp. The Ubuntu guys promote Ubuntu and along with it Gnome but the other DEs like KDE, which people coming Windows would actually get along with better, are placed on the backburner.

    Look at Kubuntu in comparison to Ubuntu, for example. A lot of effort is put into Ubuntu but her unwanted child remains one of the worst KDE distros around. Keeping the name Ubuntu while specifying which DEs is available with the particular version would certainly make a world of difference.

  14. texangod
    January 21st, 2008 @ 11:12 pm

    I agree that there should be more coordination among the names and such. As a new user I find it confusing that there are so many linux distros, many versions of Ubuntu, and every Ubuntu update gets a new animal name. I understand why this is so, but that doesn’t help newbies much (the people Linux and Ubuntu are trying to attract.)

    The argument that more coordination is too Microsoftish has it’s pros and cons too.
    Like it or not, Microsoft sets the standard for operating systems. Even Ubuntu uses a Windows- type desktop, GUIs, etc. Open Office “advertises” itself as a good substitute for MS Office. Any OS will have to balance between being kinda like Microsoft (to attract newbies to the familiar) and having new and innovative designs and options (otherwise, why get Linux).

    On the other hand, the difference between Microsoft and Linux is more about open source vs proprietary and choices vs buy this or screw you. Even a more coordinated Linux movement would not change that. People would still be able to influence the direction of Linux and it would still retain its more democratic and innovative features.

    Again, I am very new to Ubuntu, but so far I love it (conditionally.) As a newbie, I can tell you that Linux and Ubuntu REALLY should get more coordinated if they want more new users. The argument that it already attracts new users (like me) is somewhat valid, but how many millions of people are out there who dislike Microsoft but don’t know that Linux and Ubuntu are even an option? All the confusion in Linux and Ubuntu WILL be a turnoff to many of the less adventurous computer users who might otherwise like the system we so love.

  15. Vincent
    January 21st, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

    @texangod – well, it’s kind of pointless discussing this in the first place because it’s impossible to coordinate all these volunteers who do what they like best. No matter what Mark Shuttleworth says, Xubuntu will not be named Ubuntu X or Ubuntu Xfce Edition. Canonical can forbid the name of Xubuntu, however, they cannot force another name upon the project (well, perhaps by blackmailing).

  16. Vincent
    January 21st, 2008 @ 11:52 pm

    @kellito – as for the length, that was a reply to J’s

    Would be shorter and more original.

    Also, if you want to promote Kubuntu, then mention Kubuntu. People who say “Ubuntu” mean “Ubuntu”, not “Kubuntu”.

    Adding it as an option on the LiveCD is impossible since it wouldn’t fit, but there are LiveDVD’s that do include Xfce and KDE.

    Now, saying “Ubuntu X” or “Ubuntu Xfce Edition” really won’t make a new user more aware of what it is. In the end, it’s just more choice and they have no idea what “Xfce” is. It is up to people recommending a Linux distribution (Ubuntu, Gentoo, Xubuntu, whatever) to recommend one they see fit for the person they’re recommending it to. I’ve recommended my mother Ubuntu specifically because I thought that’d suit her more. There are many other people though who I’d recommend Xfce or KDE and thus Xubuntu and PCLinuxOS respectively.

  17. Kellito (Ilya Krylov)
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 11:02 am

    The problem with names like kubuntu, xubuntu, edubuntu, that they will never stick. To stick the name should have a suffix, not a prefix.

    Sorry Mark, but with the best efforts from your part, Edububuntu will never get traction, unless you change it’s name. It will experience the same fate as kubuntu untill you change the name.

    By the way, I beleive, that Mark will change the names as many of us suggest. Eventually!! All the right things happen eventually.

    Mark is a smart man. He knows what he is doing very well. He wants his projects to succeed. I want kubuntu (and edubuntu with xubuntu) to succeed as well. I know that by just changing the names and doing necesary changes at website a great step will be done in the right direction.

    Kubuntu in its current shape is probably one of the worst KDE distribution, but to people who suggest PCLinuxOS I’d say that it’s nice but supports just 2 languages out of the box – English and Vietnamese (!) No russian language support, nor even french or german. In this regard PCLinuxOS is even worse than Kubuntu.

    I know you are reading this now, Mark. Please respond something on your blog., Many of us would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

  18. Anonymous
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

    I don’t like the idea, but because most people are stupid, it would make sense, and the world is all about dumbing things down for your average American, I mean person. 😛

  19. Just Dave
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

    You know, at this point seeing as how the derivatives are second fiddle, it would make more sense not to change any of the names but to just disassociate themselves from them (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, et’ al)… No more links on Canonical or Ubuntu website, etc, etc.

  20. Vincent
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

    By the way, I beleive, that Mark will change the names as many of us suggest. Eventually!! All the right things happen eventually.

    Please. As I said many times before, he won’t, because he can’t. Mark is no dictator who single-handedly decides the direction of these four distributions. He just added such valuable contributions and vision that the community does listen to him. However, they’d never agree with a name change to something like a subsidiary of Ubuntu (Ubuntu x Edition) – Xubuntu is a separate distribution, not a special edition of Ubuntu.

    You know, at this point seeing as how the derivatives are second fiddle, it would make more sense not to change any of the names but to just disassociate themselves from them (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, et’ al)… No more links on Canonical or Ubuntu website, etc, etc.

    Summing up the disadvantages, this sounds reasonable, however, when Xubuntu and the other derivatives were started, the explicit choice was made to associate the project with Ubuntu.

    Other projects, like MEPIS, did choose to disassociate themselves with Ubuntu and have gained their particular share of the market. Xubuntu being associated with Ubuntu is also one of its powers.

  21. motie35
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

    That’s right, Philipppe. Stick to windows. Stick with Ford Model T because it’s too difficult to differentiate between a 2007 Buick Lucerne CXL and a 2008 Toyota Tundra Crewmax SR5 because all these different models and names are confusing. I understand, it’s just way too confusing to know the difference between Xubuntu and Edubuntu, let alone Redhat Enterprise Linux 5 Server. Yes, you’re way better just sticking with Windows. And when you go to the computer store and say “I want to buy Windows”, and the salesman asks “Do you want Windows XP Pro, or Windows XP Home, or Windows Vista Home Basic, or Windows Vista Home Premium, or Windows Vista Business, or Windows Vista Ultimate, or Windows 2003 Server, or Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 Standard edition, or Windows Server 2008 64bit Datacenter Edition, … ” Just remember how much less confused you are because you chose to stick with Windows.

  22. robert3353
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

    I have a suggestion,
    why not put together a DVD version of Ubuntu that has all the popular desktops so the user has the choice to install them during the initial install instead of hunting around for them, and also why not include during the start up of the live DVD the choice of installing the Nvidia or ATI drivers right off the bat like Sabayon does. And while they are at it put a real disk partitioner like maybe the one that Suse uses so the advanced users can set up LVM from the get go. OH and also be more consistent from one release to the next. Every time I give Ubuntu a try one time all of my hardware works and then the very next release something gets broken. The latest release would not even load into the live CD because it did not know what to do with my ViewSonic 22″ wide screen monitor, in order to get the thing to boot up I had to give it some info at the command line concerning its refresh rate. Most distros I have tried recently have not had any difficulty with it. I personally cannot understand why Ubuntu is considered the most popular distro.

  23. Lurking
    January 23rd, 2008 @ 4:53 am

    That was awesome!!!

  24. Vincent
    January 23rd, 2008 @ 11:28 am

    @robert3353 – see for the DVD.

  25. Dyl
    January 25th, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

    I think most people are missing the point here.

    Mark is a South African, and Ubuntu is as African as it gets, he will never change a name for some poephols who think they know better.

    We are proud to have innovators and leaders like Mark and we welcome anything African, its a great change from everything that has a Yank stamp.


  26. paul
    January 26th, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

    Re: Dyl’s comment

    I agree. Mark is a genius and a pioneer. There is nothing wrong with the name Ubuntu. In the end I don’t care what the name of my Distro is, I just want something that really works and is stable and user friendly. I was a total Ubuntu fan until I discovered PCLinuxOS which I know have very close links with Ubuntu. I changed to PCLinuxOS, because it works better for me and my current laptop. No matter what the name is, it will always have a Linux under the hood and that’s what it is all about. Ditch Windowz, get Linux and use whatever distro with whatever name works for you. Let’s promote Linux in general rather than any one Distro.
    Voorwaaaaarts Linux!

  27. Joe
    February 10th, 2008 @ 7:51 am

    These brand names are very strong. It doesn’t make sense to rename it to be another Windows clone.

  28. Jim
    February 10th, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

    Keep it as it is – the new way is the boring way. The way a big software giant beginning with M would’ve done it.

  29. Jonathan
    February 21st, 2008 @ 10:35 am

    Whohoo! Intrepid Ibex FTW!

  30. krf
    March 21st, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

    Another argument – a really important one in my opinion – FOR the name change is the fact, that it would be easier to maintain development, mailing lists, IRC support channels if you have just Ubuntu.
    If there’s a newbie user who has trouble with his system he just joins #ubuntu IRC channel for example, then states his problem, and then is redirected into different DE channels (#kde, #gnome) IF it is a problem caused by the DE. If it’s not, and Ubuntu – still the base system of all XXXubuntus – is the problem, he can stay and get help there. If there are more channels, #kubuntu, #xubuntu and what ever, there are less people who can react; help users. Most users of kubuntu dont know that they can ask there questions regarding the base system in #ubuntu groups, too (which has a bigger user base at the moment -> more feedback!).
    I’d really like to see the #ubuntu channel on freenode to grow up, merging the users of #kubuntu #xubuntu and whatever.
    So long, I’m using Ubuntu KDE…. errrm I’m sorry, Kubuntu of course…

    Seriously, Ubuntu KDE just sounds better (Leave out the “Edition” if you dont want to sound it commercial)

  31. Jacques Snyman
    April 23rd, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

    The core word “ubuntu” is retained throughout. Personally I think it is fresh and innovative, totally keeping the brand, ama-adding to it in a less serious way.

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