UbuntuOne is a new service from Canonical that's currently in Beta testing. It doesn't differ in any important way from similar services like DropBox or Box.net, except that it's integrated and designed specifically for Ubuntu (9.04 Jaunty is required). The client is still immature, but it will probably eventually include useful services like integration into Conduit Sync and desktop settings. Once that kind of integrated functionality appears, people will probably line up to pay the USD10 for 10GB of storage.
Unfortunately, Canonical is playing this on-line service the same way they play their others -- closed source. Just like Launchpad, the server software isn't open (though the client is). Why does it choose to do that?
It's not necessary to keep either closed, you know. Launchpad offers a great way for teams to work together, but its value isn't in the code as much as it's in the community behind it. Facebook could open its code, too without any worry of someone building a copy. Launchpad links teams and code. Nobody is going to replace it.
UbuntuOne will eventually be integrated into Ubuntu. Users will be able to share files with others on the service. It will be half backup and half social. No matter whether there's an open version of the server or not, the vast majority of users will be on UbuntuOne instead of WannabeOne because that's where everyone else is and getting set up is much more convenient to use the included client than downloading a different client setting it up with the other service.
In both cases, Canonical gains little by playing both sides of the fence, offering closed-source solutions as an open-source business, but it loses a lot of community support. Red Hat, on the other hand, is a pure open-source company, and has no problem:
- Offering amazing platforms like the Fedora Directory Server completely openly, and
- Making money off of the software service.
Most Ubuntu users aren't aware of the FOSS philosophical arguments, but that doesn't change the business arguments. You can't promote open source while holding some of your cards close to your chest. How can I trust you when you say one thing and do another?
Ulitimately, it's Canonical's call and it's their code. They get to license it any way they want to. I still think they're shooting themselves in the foot.