Why you should ‘Download for Ubuntu’

Last week we introduced a new ‘Download for Ubuntu’ campaign for upstreams to use on their websites, letting their users know that the app is available in Ubuntu already.  We event generated a list of targeted upstreams we wanted to reach out to in order to spur the adoption of these buttons.  What we didn’t go into much detail about why upstreams should use them.  I hope to remedy that here.

It’s easy

Let’s just get that out of the way, this won’t take a significant amount of work on the part of an upstream.  It’s just a one time change to a website.  You don’t even need to change it every cycle, since the buttons point to the App Directory entry for the application itself, not any specific version of it.

It makes installing your app more appealing

The button isn’t just another way of getting your app, it also tells the user that it will install correctly, all of it’s dependencies are available and will be installed, everything is configured to work with their system, and they will get be getting updates and security fixes to it through a mechanism they already use and trust.  In short, it’s a promise of a good user experience (which I’ll admit we don’t always live up to, more on that below).  Telling 20 million users (and growing) that your app is safe and easy to install is surely worth a few pixels on your website.

It’s good social exposure for your app

By sending users to the App Directory, instead of just immediately installing, new users get to see what others are saying about your app through the ratings and reviews (which will be mostly positive, because your app is awesome right?)  of other Ubuntu users.  Not only does this tell your users that other people like your app, but it’s also telling them that they can add their own ratings and reviews, which will in turn boost your app’s standing.  More reviews leads to more users, which leads to more reviews, it’s a great positive feedback loop.

Users will be looking for it

Not right now, obviously, since we just started this campaign.  But as more upstreams adopt the new button, it’s going to be one of the first things Ubuntu users will be looking for on your website (for all the reasons mentioned above).  With a majority of website visitors leaving in less than a minute (according to a lazy Google search), the promise of a quick and easy install might just be the difference between a new user and a lost opportunity.

This campaign benefits everybody: end users, upstream developers and, yes, Ubuntu too.  So let’s improve these ties, together.  If you’re an upstream, you can copy/paste the following HTML snippet directly into your website (replacing {{pkgname}} with the name of your application’s package in Ubuntu).  If you want to reach out to an upstream developer, please add them to our list so we know who’s contacting them, and what the status is.

<a href="https://apps.ubuntu.com/cat/applications/{{pkgname}}/">
 <img src="http://developer.ubuntu.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/downloadonubuntubutton.png"  title="Download for Ubuntu" alt="Download for Ubuntu button" width="122" height="49" />

Now I know we can’t always give the best user experience possible (see, I told you I’d get to that).  Sometimes our packagin isn’t quite right, or the default configuration of your app is sub-optimal.  Our six month release cadence and package freezes mean that rapidly developing applications will often be out of date in our main repositories.  We’ve taken on a lot of work by distributing apps the way we do, and even though we’re a very large community, it’s still hard to get every package right.  Luckily, you’re not powerless here, if you spot problems with the way we distribute your app, or you need to get a newer version out to Ubuntu users, you can do something about that.

Package fixes

Even though our process locks applications to the version in the archives for that particular release of Ubuntu, we will still allow changes to the packaging itself.  So if we’ve done something wrong on our end that is giving your app a hard time, we’ll fix it and make that available to all of your Ubuntu users as a Stable Release Update.

Backport newer versions

A six-month release cycle means that every Ubuntu release has relatively up to date versions of applications, at least compared to distros that have a longer cadence.  But for rapidly developed applications, where new versions come out more frequently than that, this means their packages can become outdated quickly.  And with the five year lifetime of our LTS releases, most packages will get to be stale by the end.  That’s why we have a special repository just for backporting new versions of packages to stable releases of Ubuntu. And starting with 11.10, this repository is enabled by default.

In order to have your application backported to a stable release, it first has to be accepted into the current development release.  If your new version was in Debian’s unstable repository at the beginning of the development cycle, chances are it’s already there.  If it’s not in Debian you’ll need to submit your package to be included in the development release.  Once it’s there, you can request that it be backported to one more more stable Ubuntu releases.  You can use the requestbackport command line tool (from ubuntu-dev-tools package) to automate much of the process, or if you’re not running Ubuntu simply file a bug to start the request.

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7 Responses to Why you should ‘Download for Ubuntu’

  1. shubham says:


  2. Flimm says:

    Typo: we will still allow changes to the *packaging* itself.

    Feel free to delete this comment once the typo is fixed.

  3. Robert Knight says:

    I like the idea of a common ‘Get this for Ubuntu’ button but I have a couple of criticisms:

    1. The image looks blurry, as though it was poorly downscaled from a larger image. If this appears on a page next to nice sharp icons for other platforms, this doesn’t help Ubuntu’s cause.

    2. The process for ensuring that the ‘Download for Ubuntu’ button leads to a current version of the app is still too involved. Several of the pages in the ‘List of Upstreams using the button’ section of the AppPromotion wiki page immediately follow the button with a ‘But this will probably lead to an out of date version’ caveat, which doesn’t really help Ubuntu’s cause.

    • Michael Hall says:

      Regarding #2, I’ve described how the upstream can get the latest version of their app into the stable releases of Ubuntu, it doesn’t have to be out of date.

      • Jef Spaleta says:

        I’m assuming you are referring to backports specifically.
        Can you namedrop an existing upstream that is using the process effectively? One upstream as a case study for success would be useful.

        Micheal it’s not that the process doesn’t exist. It’s more likely the that process is either too cumbersome or just under-documented. I don’t know which. But Ubuntu friendly ppa-using upstream projects do. Have you asked any upstreams that use the warning about older versions why they aren’t using the backport process you’ve described in your blog post? Their answers will tell you where the process bottleneck is.


  4. nikkius says:

    I think the process still needs a lot of work.

    I bought the humble bundle V last week from their website. To get the games it had the the ‘Download for Ubuntu’ link, which asked me to buy the games again. Pretty confusing – it may have recognised that I’d already bought the games but there was no way of knowing that from the process that was started so I backed out and just downloaded the game files from the humble servers.

    success is in the finesse

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